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Article

Caroline M. Brown

aviation mechanic and pilot, was born in Quitman, Wood County, Texas, the youngest of three children; both of his parents were teachers. Allen's father died when Thomas was three months old. His mother, Polly, continued to teach school and to run the family farm.

Allen became interested in flying in 1918, when an airplane made a forced landing in a pasture. The pilots paid the two young Allen brothers to guard the plane overnight so that its fabric and glue would not be eaten by cows. From this experience, Thomas Allen decided to become either an aviator or a mechanic.

In 1919 when Allen was twelve the family moved to Oklahoma City where his mother resumed teaching school Allen often bicycled to a nearby airfield In his teens he persuaded the field owner to take a $100 saxophone as partial trade for flying lessons He worked off the ...

Article

Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

neuropsychiatrist specializing in the biological basis of mental disorders, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, to Prince Barker and Brunetta (Watson) Barker. As a young teen he immigrated to New York City on the ship Guiana, arriving on 11 September 1911. His mother, who immigrated to New York in 1912, was at the time of the 1920 U.S. Census a fifty‐year‐old widow and private duty laundry worker.

Prince Patanilla Barker graduated from the Bronx's DeWitt Clinton High School in 1915 and earned his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1918. After one year at Cornell University Medical College, Barker transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C., earning his M.D. in 1923. That year he wed Helen L. Furlonge (3 May 1892–19 February 1978 an immigrant from Montserrat Barker interned at Freedmen s Hospital Washington D C and conducted further postgraduate work ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

doctor of ophthalmology, inventor, medical researcher, and advocate for social equity in health care, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. A one-time merchant marine and global traveler, her father emigrated from Trinidad, taking a position as the first black motorman for the New York City subways, and her mother, a descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Indians, Bath tells her biographers, “was a housewife who worked as a domestic after we entered middle school. … She scrubbed floors so I could go to medical school” (Davidson). A brilliant student, Bath attended New York's Charles Evans Hughes High School and in 1959 was selected for a National Science Foundation summer program at Yeshiva University. Working on a cancer research team, Bath demonstrated the future potential of her work in science and medicine and was recognized as one of Mademoiselle magazine s Merit Award ...

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Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...

Article

William A. Morgan

mechanical engineer and rocket scientist, was born John W. Blanton in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of John O. and Carolyn Blanton.

Blanton attended Purdue University in Indiana, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1943. He began his career at Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo, New York, where he worked from 1943 to 1945 and from 1950 through 1956. Initially involved in the research and development of gas and rocket engines, Blanton helped develop the X‐1, which on 14 October 1947 became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in a human‐operated, level flight.

Two years after marrying Corinne Jones of Mississippi in 1943, Blanton was named the chief engineer of thermo and fluid dynamics at Frederick Flader Incorporated, in Buffalo, New York, where he worked for five years. In 1956 he joined General Electric in Evendale Ohio and continued to make ...

Article

John Bryan Gartrell

engineer, astronaut, and the first African American in space, was born Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Lolita Bluford, a public school special educator, and Guion Bluford Sr., a mechanical engineer. Guion Jr. was raised in a middle class, racially mixed neighborhood in West Philadelphia. Both parents instilled strong values and a powerful work ethic in him and his two younger brothers, Eugene and Kenneth. The boys were encouraged to never allow skin color to deter them from obtaining a successful career.

Throughout his youth the introverted Bluford though well spoken was quiet and often struggled with schoolwork Many teachers did not see much potential in him and indeed one school counselor went so far as to notify his parents that their son was not college potential and advised him to choose a different avenue after his graduation from Overbrook High School Yet ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

pilot, Tuskegee Airman, civil servant, teacher, and juvenile probation officer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest child of Georgia Crane and Earl Bohannon, occupations unknown. Bohannon was the youngest of ten children, although only his oldest sister and a brother were alive when Bohannon was born. One of his greatest influences growing up was his mother, who taught him the importance of principles, hard work, and honesty.

Bohannon began working at eight years of age in a hardware store His next job was working on a laundry truck It was the laundry job that ultimately led Bohannon to his dream of becoming an aviator Bohannon stopped twice a week at Atlanta s Candler Field later William B Hartsfield Airport While picking up the aviators laundry he listened to the pilots discussing their flights the difficulties of flying in adverse weather conditions and other matters that inspired him to ...

Article

Josepha Sherman

astronaut, test pilot, military and NASA Administrator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Charles Frank Bolden Sr. and Ethel M. Bolden, both teachers. A child during the early years of the civil rights movement, Bolden was encouraged by his parents and teachers to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, despite the fact that there were few opportunities at the time for African Americans to fly.

After graduating with honors from C. A. Johnson High School in Columbia in 1964, Bolden entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; he graduated with a BS in Electrical Science in 1968. Following graduation he married Alexis (Jackie) Walker. The couple would later have a son Anthony, born in 1971 and a daughter, Kelly, born in 1976.

In 1968 Bolden accepted a commission in the Marine Corps Quickly rising to the rank of second ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

inventor, lived in New Haven, Connecticut, in the early 1890s. Little is known of her early life; it is not known who her parents were or where she was born. She was, however, one of the first African American women to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office in the nineteenth century. On 26 April 1892 Sarah Boone received her patent for an improved ironing board. As a result, Boone became the fourth African American woman to apply for and receive a patent for a new invention and the first person to receive a patent for an ironing board design.

Those who have written about Boone and her improved ironing board note that her invention was a significant improvement over existing devices According to James Brodie before Boone s ironing board this task normally required taking a plank and placing it between two chairs or simply using the ...

Article

Clare J. Washington

pilot, who made aviation history when she became the first African American woman to fly for a major passenger airline in the United States, the first to be admitted to the U.S. Navy's flight school, and the first in U.S. military history to qualify as a pilot.

Brown was born in Millersville, Maryland. Her family had taken up aviation as a hobby, and she learned to fly small planes with her parents—Gilbert Brown, who was a former U.S. Air Force instrument mechanic and also owned a building construction business, and Elaine Brown, an art resource teacher in the Baltimore public schools—when she was seventeen years old. For her eighteenth birthday, she received a Cherokee 180D airplane. In 1967 Brown flew her first solo flight in a Piper J 3 Cub She had always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot but her mother advised her otherwise and ...

Article

Donald Scott

the first African American U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was born John-Wesley Anthony Brown in Baltimore, Maryland, to William Brown, a truck driver, and Rosetta Shepherd, a seamstress. He was named after-John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of-Methodism from which the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) denomination was established. Owing to his parents’ demanding work schedules, Brown was raised in large part by his maternal grandmother, Katie Shepherd, sometimes called “Mother Shepherd,” a fierce disciplinarian with whom Brown and his parents lived. Through her, Brown developed a high regard for education, a respect for honesty, a quiet assertiveness, and a great work ethic. “You were always wrong if there was a complaint about your behavior,” Brown told the biographer Robert J. Schneller Jr. during a 19 December 1995 interview for the book Breaking the Color Barrier (2005), in referring to his grandmother's no-nonsense attitude.

Brown was taught to read by ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

combat pilot, was born Eugene James Bullard in Columbus, Georgia, the son of William Octave Bullard, a laborer and former slave, and Josephine Thomas. Both parents were of African American and Creek Indian descent. In 1906 Bullard, the seventh of ten children, ran away from home, ending his formal education. He lived for a time with a band of gypsies, who taught him to ride racehorses. He then worked as a horse handler, jockey, and laborer in several southern states. Bullard gained the respect of several employers by his quiet insistence on treatment with dignity and equality, an ethos instilled in him by his father and strengthened by his sojourn with the tolerant, English-born gypsies.

Early in 1912 Bullard made his way to Norfolk Virginia where he stowed away on a freighter bound for Europe Set ashore in Aberdeen Scotland Bullard worked his way south joining a ...

Article

Todd Palmer

architect, planner and developer, was born in Towson, Maryland, and grew up in Baltimore, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. His father drove a coal truck and played trumpet for the Salvation Army Band; his mother brought in extra income doing washing. As a 14-year-old, Cassell expressed an ambition to build at Douglass High, a segregated public vocational school. While studying carpentry he enrolled in a drafting course with Ralph Victor Cook. Cook became a mentor to Cassell and encouraged him to pursue a college education in architecture at Cornell University, where Cook had been an early African American graduate of engineering.

Cassell entered Cornell in 1915, but two years into the program, World War I interrupted his studies. Cassell enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1919 he returned to the United States from France with an honorable discharge Because Cornell ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Coleman, later known as Bessie, was born in Atlanta, Texas. Her mother, Susan Coleman, was African American, and her father, George Coleman, was one-quarter African American and three-quarters Choctaw Indian. While Coleman was still an infant her family moved to Waxahachie, Texas, but a few years later her father returned to an Indian reservation in the Oklahoma Territory. Coleman's mother was left to care for the large family by picking cotton and doing domestic work. Susan Coleman enlisted Bessie's help in these jobs; in return, Bessie was allowed to save the wages she earned to help finance her college education.

Coleman finished high school, but the money she had saved was only enough to pay for one semester at the Colored Agricultural Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma (later Langston University). Coleman left the university for Chicago, Illinois where two of her brothers lived There ...

Article

Constance Porter Uzelac

aviator, was born Elizabeth Coleman in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of George Coleman, a day laborer of predominantly Indian descent, and Susan (maiden name unknown), an African American domestic and farmworker. While Bessie was still very young, the family moved to Waxahachie, Texas, where they built a three-room house on a quarter-acre of land. She was seven when her father left his family to return to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Coleman household was Baptist, and Bessie was an avid reader who became particularly interested in Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. After finishing high school, she studied for one semester at Langston Industrial College, in Langston, Oklahoma.

Between 1912 and 1917 Coleman joined her two brothers in Chicago where she studied manicuring at Burnham s School of Beauty Culture and worked at the White Sox Barber Shop She supplemented her income ...

Article

Elizabeth Hadley Freydberg

Born in Atlanta, Texas Elizabeth Coleman was the twelfth of thirteen children Her mother Susan Coleman was African American Her father George Coleman was three quarters Choctaw Indian and one quarter African While Bessie was still a toddler the Coleman family moved to Waxahachie Texas an agricultural and trade center that produced cotton grain and cattle The town was about thirty miles south of Dallas and was recognized as the cotton capital of the West There the Coleman family made a living from picking cotton George Coleman built a three room house on a quarter acre of land but by the time Bessie was seven years old he had returned to Choctaw country in Oklahoma Susan Coleman continued to raise nine children alone as she also continued to harvest in the fields pick cotton and do domestic work to make ends meet When the children became old enough usually ...

Article

Debra A. Varnado

educator, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, the fifth of seven children of George W. Crouch, a Methodist minister, and Mary Ragsdale Crouch. Known by the nickname “Red,” Crouch graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Jacksonville in 1923, but his family would relocate twenty-six miles to the north in Tyler, Texas, which he considered his hometown.

In Tyler, the Crouches lived in a home with a view of Texas College, a historically black school run by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (later known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church). In 1927 Crouch earned a BA in Biology from Texas College His father an elder in the church wanted him to teach at the school after graduation Instead Crouch left for Dallas for a brief but lucrative stint selling insurance Crouch would later forgo insurance sales for a future in science and education applying to graduate school ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

best known as the reputed inventor of the potato chip, who established his own restaurant in the resort community of Saratoga Springs, New York. His ancestry and ethnicity are a matter of speculation; he may have been best described in Saratoga Springs, New York: A Brief History as “of thoroughly mixed American blood.” He is generally reported in census data from 1850 to 1880 as mulatto and in later censuses as black. It is commonly said that his mother was of Native American descent and that he “looked Indian.”

Crum was born in Malta, New York, to Abraham (or Abram) Speck and his wife Catherine. Although oral accounts suggest Speck was from Kentucky and possibly had been enslaved there, the 1820 Federal Census shows a “Free Colored Person” male, age twenty-six to forty-five, of that name, living in New York, and the 1840 Census shows a free ...

Article

Adam Rosen

astronaut and United States Navy Captain, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of four children of Yvonne Evans and Robert Lee Curbeam, a longtime employee of the Western Electric Company, an electrical engineering corporation later absorbed into Lucent Technologies. In addition to accruing over 3,000 flight hours (including 900 in space) in multiple aircraft and spacecraft, as of 2012, Curbeam held the record for most spacewalks (four) in a single shuttle mission, which he completed as a crew member of the Discovery shuttle in December 2006.

Curbeam was raised in the Baltimore area, and graduated from Woodlawn High School in suburban Baltimore County in 1980. He matriculated at the United States Naval Academy, and earned a degree in aerospace engineering in 1984 Immediately after college graduation Curbeam reported to Naval Flight Officer training for instruction In contrast to Naval Aviators NFOs do not actually fly ...