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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Jason Philip Miller

astronaut and pilot, was born Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr. into a middle-class home in Washington, D.C., to Muriel and Benjamin Drew Sr. Drew attended local schools and one day in class was inspired by viewing the launch of Apollo 7 (1968), the first manned space flight after the Apollo 1 disaster (1967) killed all three members of the crew. Drew later reported that from that day on, the path of his life was set. Everything he did in his education was aimed at flying in outer space. That was no simple goal. Applicants to the astronaut-training program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were legion, but NASA selected only a tiny fraction of them to participate. The number of successful African American applicants was fewer still.

Drew graduated from Gonzaga College High School in 1980 and from there he matriculated in the U ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

physician and U.S. surgeon general from 1993 to 1994. Born in rural Arkansas to sharecropper parents, Minnie Lee Jones received a scholarship to attend Philander Smith College in Little Rock at the age of fifteen. While in college she added “Joycelyn” to her name and ultimately used only that. After receiving a degree in biology in 1952, she worked briefly in a Veterans Administration hospital and then in 1953 enlisted in the U.S. Army, where she received training as a physical therapist.

After leaving the army in 1956, Jones attended the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) and received her MD in 1960. Also in 1960 she married Oliver Elders, with whom she had two sons. In 1967 she earned a master of science degree in biochemistry and also joined the faculty of the UAMS in 1967, becoming a full professor in 1976 ...

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John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

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Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist and engineer, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was one of four children. His father worked at various maintenance and painting jobs and his mother was a teletype operator. After classes at Brooklyn Technical High School, Gourdine often worked long hours with his father on cleaning and painting jobs. This experience led him to focus on his studies as well as athletics in hopes of an easier life.

His talent in swimming earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan but he instead chose to attend Cornell University He paid his own tuition early in his college career working for a radio and telegraph firm prior to receiving a scholarship for track and field Gourdine competed in sprints low hurdles and the long jump The six foot tall 175 pound Gourdine earned the nickname Flash as a result of both his speed and his favorite ...

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Flint Whitlock

the first African American commercial passenger airline pilot, was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of McKinley Green, a domestic servant for a wealthy El Dorado dentist and oilman, and Lucy Longmyre. In 1944, due to the influence of a charismatic priest, the five Green siblings, with the exception of one brother, converted from Baptism to Roman Catholicism. Green later earned a scholarship to complete his senior year of high school at the Xavier Preparatory School, affiliated with Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Xavier Prep Green did well academically graduating at the top of his class His goal was to attend Epiphany Apostolic College a Josephite seminary in Newburgh on the Hudson New York and study for the priesthood However during his first semester he was wrongly diagnosed with a medical condition and was dismissed from the school Seeking a new direction for his ...

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William E. Bankston

air force pilot and first officer of United Airlines Flight 93 on 11 September 2001, was born LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr. in Long Island, New York, one of nine children of Ilse and LeRoy Homer. On 11 September 2001 Officer Homer, along with Captain Jason M. Dahl, piloted United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked by four terrorists while coming from Newark en route to San Francisco. Overwhelmed by the terrorists, Flight 93 eventually crashed outside Stonycreek and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving no survivors.

Homer grew up in Long Island New York with nine siblings seven of them girls As a child he had a deep passion for flying He would read literature on aviation assemble model airplanes as well as collect aviation memorabilia Homer s father would often take him to the town of Islip s MacArthur Airport to view the takeoffs and landings He was only ...

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Patricia Carter Sluby

inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, and nuclear engineer, was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the third of six children of David Johnson a driver for the Air Force and Arline Washington Johnson a nurse s assistant Johnson attended W H Council Elementary School and Williamson High School in his segregated hometown Guided by tolerant and patient parents who encouraged him during his early creative years when he fiddled with junk Johnson was painfully aware of racial inequities but that did not deter his curiosity about how things worked His mother ingrained in him and his siblings the importance of knowledge emphasizing what one puts in the brain counts in life Likened to a child prodigy nosy young Johnson habitually tinkered with his siblings toys to see how they functioned In project after project he monkeyed with old jukeboxes plastic pipes compression motors and explosive rocket fuel ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of John Wesley Sr. and Emma Laverne Scott Lee. His parents also adopted a son, Albert Lee Blount. Lee's parents had a wide disparity of educational attainments. His mother, who had a master's degree, was a schoolteacher. His father, a grocer, had dropped out of elementary school and was barely literate. As a youngster, Lee grew up in Indianapolis and in 1940 graduated from segregated Crispus Attucks High School. Lee then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where he spent three years studying mostly science and mathematics as part of an intended pre-med course. He lived in a rooming house, because the university's dormitories were not open to black students.

In April 1944 Lee enlisted in the navy influenced to join by his friends and by his brother Albert s experience in that branch of ...

Article

Elizabeth D. Schafer

aerospace surgeon, was born at Fort Washikie, Wyoming, the son of Vance Hunter Marchbanks Sr., an army cavalry captain, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). Marchbanks Jr. was influenced by the military career of his father, who was a veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I. A childhood operation inspired Marchbanks's passion for medicine, after which he operated on cherries in his backyard, opening them up, removing the stones, and sewing shut the incision.

Marchbanks encountered discrimination when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1927. Not allowed to live in the dormitories or participate in normal student activities, he lived in an off-campus boardinghouse. He ate at the railroad station restaurant, where he was expected to enter through the back door and was harassed; he often found cockroaches in his soup. Marchbanks graduated in 1931 and was accepted at the Howard University ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

educator and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Lewis Bradner McKinney, an employee of the U.S. Printing Office, and Blanche Elaine Hunt. McKinney attended Dunbar High School, the all-black grammar school on M Street in Washington. Dunbar's faculty, composed of highly motivated African American scholars, inspired generations of black youth to strive for academic excellence. McKinney himself recalled the atmosphere of “hopeful purpose and tremendous encouragement” that pervaded the school.

After graduating in 1917, McKinney enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike many other white colleges at the time, Bates admitted African American students. Some of McKinney's Dunbar teachers were Bates graduates; Benjamin E. Mays later the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta was a year ahead of McKinney at Bates and other blacks were to follow Nevertheless McKinney found race to be an issue in at least one Bates program ...

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Jason Philip Miller

astronaut and military pilot, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, one of two children of Deems and Grace Melvin, both middle-school teachers. He attended the local Heritage High School, where he was a strong student and an outstanding athlete. Melvin set his sights on a career in the National Football League, and when he graduated from high school in 1982, he matriculated at the University of Richmond on a football scholarship.

As a wide receiver for the Richmond Spiders, Melvin set a number of school records, including one for number of receptions, some of which continue to stand as of this writing. In his senior year, he was named National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I All-American. He graduated from Richmond in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He entered the National Football League draft and was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986 but a hamstring injury in ...

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Lisa M. Bratton

instructor pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Adolph J. Moret Sr., a printer, and Georgianna Perez. Moret grew up in an integrated neighborhood in the Creole community in New Orleans's Seventh Ward, but he attended segregated schools and used segregated public transportation. He attended Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Xavier Prep Catholic schools in New Orleans. As a pole vaulter in high school, Moret won a bronze medal at the Tuskegee Ninth Relays at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1935.

From 1935 to 1937 Moret attended Xavier University in New Orleans After completing nearly two years of college Moret found employment as a spotter at the Pinkerton Detective Agency the leading agency at that time His primary responsibility was to observe bus drivers to ensure that they placed fares in the designated receptacle This was an uncommon position for ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

president of Niger, was born to a Hausa family in Zinder (a city dominated by the Hausa ethnic community) on 20 January 1950. After completing primary school, he attended secondary school in Niamey, the capital of Niger. He passed his baccalaureate examinations in 1969, and then went to France to continue his studies. Ousmane received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Nantes in 1974, and continued his studies by turning to economics. Ousmane graduated in 1978 with two advanced degrees, in statistics and economics. Later, he moved to Canada, where he received two different business management degrees from schools in Quebec City and Montreal.

In the 1980s Ousmane was not involved in politics Instead he worked as an economic analyst for the government and helped develop and maintain development projects as well as coordinate census activities Ousmane briefly lived in Gabon where he worked ...

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Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

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Lisa M. Bratton

Tuskegee Airman and prisoner of war, was born Luther Henry Smith Jr. in Des Moines, Iowa, the second child of Luther Henry Smith Sr., a black-eyed pea salesman, and Ida. His father's sales territory included the Midwest, and visiting Des Moines, Iowa, he found that since there were so few African Americans, the effects of segregation and discrimination were minimal and opportunities for economic progress were strong. Smith's mother was from Dubuque, Iowa. Her father had been a trader who later made his home in Des Moines. Smith's parents met in 1918.

Young Luther exhibited an interest in aviation as a child At the age of seven he drew a picture of an airplane and showing it to his second grade teacher announced that it was a picture of the airplane in which he planned to fly his family to Africa At the age of ...