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Article

Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

Article

A 1996 book by the National Research Council, Lost Crops of Africa, draws attention to the potential of the continent's little-known indigenous crops for improving regional and global food supplies. Featured prominently among the 2,000 native grains, roots, and fruits utilized as food staples is African rice (Oryza glaberrima), “the great red rice of the hook of the Niger.” Yet, despite its plant-breeding potential, there are other compelling reasons for a research focus on glaberrima.

This overview of rice history in the Americas raises several issues that bear on prevailing conceptions of the Columbian Exchange the period of unparalleled crop exchanges from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries Scholarship on the Columbian Exchange has long emphasized the economically viable crops of American Asian and European origin the role of Europeans in their global dispersal and thus the diffusion of crops to rather than from Africa The slight attention ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dream of flying became a reality and the nation's expectations of the new technology were enormous—some thought it would even eliminate warfare. African Americans hoped to enter this new arena, in part to put to rest society's deeply held belief that blacks were an inferior race. In 1992, however, the Organization of Black Airline Pilots stated that only 600 of the nation's 70,000 commercial airline pilots were African American. The number rises when private and military pilots are considered, but numbers remain small.

The earliest African American pilot is thought to have been Charles Wesley Peters in 1911. Eugene J. Bullard (1894–1961) was the only black fighter pilot in World War I, having flown for the French. The first black woman to obtain a license (in 1921) was Bessie Coleman (1892–1926 she too had ...

Article

Janice L. Greene

first African AmericanPatent Examiner, a lawyer, and author of The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) and other works on black inventors and scientists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Little is known of his parents or his early life in Columbus, except that he attended public schools and the Columbus Union Academy. Toward the end of Reconstruction, in June 1874, he was selected to attend the Annapolis, Maryland, naval academy by white Congressman Henry W. Barry R Mississippi who had commanded black troops for the union Army during the Civil War Despite government and naval policies during this period directing the military to integrate the first two African American cadets failed to survive intense hazing taunting assaults and social isolation from classmates and left before graduation Still Congressman Barry originally from New ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall

inventor, was born in Jefferson County, Alabama, the son of Milton Beard and Creasey Tatum, both former slaves on the Beard family plantation. He adopted the name of his former master at age fifteen after he was liberated by Union forces. A year later, he married Edie Beard, about whom nothing else is known. The couple raised three children: John, Jack, and Andrew Jr.; the latter died following graduation from high school. Like most former slaves, however, Beard was illiterate and remained so throughout his life.

After the Civil War, Beard worked as a sharecropper on his former master's farm until he was about eighteen years old and then moved to St. Clair County, Alabama. In 1872 he made a three week journey from Birmingham to Montgomery on an oxcart that carried fifty bushels of apples which he sold for approximately two hundred dollars He eventually ...

Article

Rita Kohn

designer, businesswoman, and civic leader, was born Alpha Coles in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of Alphonso Carroll Coles and Minnie Pugh Coles. Growing up, Blackburn attended a segregated school system, and went on to win a scholarship to Howard University, from which she graduated with honors, attaining a bachelor of arts in Design and a master of fine arts in painting and Art History. In 1964 she moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Walter Scott Blackburn, who had completed his degree in architecture at Howard. She commenced work as a freelance designer of clothing and interiors.

Blackburn's petite figure and radiant good looks created opportunities for her to model, and she accepted a steady job at the prestigious L. S. Ayres & Company in downtown Indianapolis. Concurrently, she hosted a half‐hour daily talk show from 1972 to 1978, Indy Today on WISH ...

Article

Donna L. Halper

was born in Dallas, Texas, one of eleven children of Walter and Sarah (Cox). Otis graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, where he was valedictorian of his class, in 1938. He then attended Fisk University in Nashville. While some sources say he graduated, records from Fisk show he attended for two years, focusing on chemistry and physics, and then left in 1941. He moved to Chicago, where he first worked as a clerk at the Electro Manufacturing Company and then as a laboratory assistant for the Majestic Radio and Television Corporation, where he rose to the position of factory foreman. His next move was working as an engineer for P. J. Nilsen Research Laboratories. At some point in the 1940s Boykin married Pearlie Mae Kimble, but little information about his personal life has emerged. He also attended two semesters at Illinois Institute of Technology, around 1946–1947 ...

Article

Miriam Sawyer

Bragg, Janet (24 March 1907–11 April 1993), aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts Harmon and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Bragg's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Bragg's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. Bragg, the youngest of seven children, had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called African Americans in Aviation in Arizona, Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”

Independence was encouraged in the Harmon household The children ...

Article

Miriam Sawyer

aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Janet's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Janet's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. The youngest of seven children, Janet had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called “African Americans in Aviation in Arizona,” Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”

Independence was encouraged in the Harmon household The children were allowed to attend any church they chose They were ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

naturalist, agricultural chemurgist, and educator. With arguably the most recognized name among black people in American history, George Washington Carver's image is due in part to his exceptional character, mission, and achievements; in part to the story he wanted told; and in part to the innumerable books, articles, hagiographies, exhibits, trade fairs, memorials, plays, and musicals that have made him a symbol of rags-to-riches American enterprise. His image has been used for postage stamps, his name has been inscribed on bridges and a nuclear submarine, and he even has his own day (5 January), designated by the United States Congress in 1946.

Thanks in large part to Linda O. McMurry's 1981 book, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol it is now possible to separate legend from fact and discover the remarkable child youth and man behind the peanut McMurry concludes that Carver ...

Article

Camille Hazeur

mathematician, computer programmer, and consultant, was born Laura Cheatham on the west side of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three daughters of Gertrude Richey and James Hammond Cheatham. Gertrude was born in Williamston, South Carolina, in 1888 to Mary Roberts and Mak Richey, who sent her to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta, Georgia, from grade school through normal school. After receiving her teaching certificate, Gertrude took a job in Anderson, South Carolina, where she married James Hammond Cheatham, son of a wealthy white plantation owner, James Hammond Freeman, and a Cherokee woman named Emma Lenier. Previously married to a man of mixed race named Cheatham, Lenier had a long-established liaison with James Hammond Freeman, with whom she had five children. James Hammond Cheatham unable to take his biological father s name because of concubinage laws was apparently taught ...

Article

Susanne Freidberg

Until the end of World War II, the term development generally referred to biological growth processes, and its economic significance was only metaphorical. But development acquired a new meaning when President Harry Truman introduced a term that implied the antithesis in his inaugural speech in 1949:

We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of the underdeveloped areas. More than half of the people of the world are living in conditions approaching poverty. … Their poverty is a handicap and a threat to both them and to more prosperous areas….

Thus development was defined as a need and a goal as soon as certain areas among them the entire African continent were defined as underdeveloped Within several years development became an important field of study in economics sociology and other social sciences ...

Article

Samir Amin and Jesse Ribot

At the end of four decades of postwar development, the results are so varied that one is tempted to reject the common expression “Third World” when describing all the countries that have been the subject of development policies over these decades. Today, we justifiably oppose a newly industrialized competitive Third World to a marginalized “Fourth World,” to which Africa in its entirety belongs.

Article

Garland L. Thompson and William Roger Witherspoon

In the last half of the twentieth century, technology in all its facets—the discovery and expansion of underlying scientific principles, their application, and the development of new fields of endeavor using these principles and products—came to the fore as the driving force in the global economy. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the United States, the apex of the modern technological society.

It is often lamented that African Americans are being left behind by the surging technological revolution. Indeed, Emerge, the black newsmagazine, has cautioned that blacks are in danger of becoming “road kill on the information highway.” The perception that African Americans are not latching onto this revolution presupposes, however, that blacks are not a part of and did not contribute to the development of this innovative era.

But this perception now as it was in the past is not accurate in light of three factors ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

James Forten was born into a free black family in Philadelphia. When he was eight he began working alongside his father at a sail loft owned by Robert Bridges. While working with his father, Forten attended the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet's school for free blacks. With the death of his father, Forten, at age ten, ended his formal schooling and worked in a grocery store to support his mother.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Forten convinced his mother to let him fight. He joined the crew of the American privateer vessel Royal Louis as a powder boy Captured by the British he languished on a prison ship for several months before being released Following the war he spent a year in England and upon returning to Philadelphia worked as a sailmaker s apprentice for Bridges s firm There he invented and perfected gear that made ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

inventor and entrepreneur, blazed a path for black female inventors, yet little is known of her early life. Neither her parents' names nor her exact date or place of birth are known one biographer indicates that she was born in the 1850s and grew up in slavery. After the Civil War ended and former slaves in the South were emancipated, Goode, like thousands of African Americans, made her way north, taking up residence in Chicago by the early 1880s. In Chicago, she owned and operated a furniture store, and her entrepreneurial endeavors led to her become the first African American woman to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office. On 14 July 1885 Goode received her patent for a Folding Cabinet Bed comparable to modern sofa or hideaway beds The first of five black women to patent new inventions in the nineteenth century she was a ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Jeffrey R. Yost

chemist, was born in Elgin, Illinois, to Augustus Hall, a Baptist minister, and Isabel Hall. In the 1830s his paternal grandfather had been a founding member and later pastor of the first African American church in Chicago, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME). Hall developed an interest in chemistry while attending East High School in Aurora, Illinois, where he was a debater and athlete, competing in football, baseball, and track.

After receiving a number of scholarship offers, Hall chose to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He graduated with a BS in Chemistry in 1916 He continued his studies in chemistry taking graduate courses at the University of Chicago During World War I he served in ordnance as a lieutenant working on explosives in a Wisconsin weapons factory He suffered from racial harassment at this factory and requested and was granted a transfer after which things improved ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

chemist and businessman, was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of William Anthony Hill II, the headwaiter at a local hotel, and Kate Anna Evans. Hill attended public elementary and secondary schools in St. Joseph and graduated from Bartlett High School in 1931. After completing his first year of college at Lewis Institute in Chicago (later a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology), he attended Johnson C. Smith University, an all-black institution in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated in 1936 with a BS cum laude in Mathematics and Chemistry.

Hill spent the 1937–1938 academic year as a special student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The following year he studied at the University of Chicago, where he was one of two African American graduate students in the chemistry department. While the other black student, Warren Henry went on to earn a PhD at ...