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Black History
Moorestown, NJ  08057

    Contemporary African American firsts, important contributions to American society and important inventions by African Americans


    First African American President of the United States ! ! !

    Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States. Obama repeated the oath with his hand on the Bible used in President Lincoln's first inauguration.

    Barack Obama became the first African American President on January 20, 2009.


    Early photo of Andrew Young

    Mary Frances Berry First woman to head a major research university, University of Colorado, 1976.

    Guion Bluford, Jr. First African-American astronaut in space, 1983.

    Jacquelyn Barrett First African-American woman sheriff, Fulton County, Georgia, 1992.

    Rita Dove First African-American U.S. Poet Laureate, 1993.

    Joycelyn Elders First African-American U.S. Surgeon General, 1993.

    Patricia Roberts Harris First African-American woman in presidential cabinet, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 1977.

    Reginald Lewis First African-American to make the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, 1992.

    John Singleton Youngest and first African-American nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, for 'Boyz in the Hood,' 1992.

    Franklin Thomas First African American to head a major foundation, The Ford Foundation, 1979.

    Andrew Young First African American U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 1977.

    Condoleeza Rice confirmed as the first Black female Secretary of State in 2004



    Shani Davis on ice.
    Shani Davis Makes History at 2006 Winter Olympics

    Davis makes Games history
    By Karolos Grohmann Sat Feb 18, 3:15 PM ET
    Shani Davis made history on Saturday by becoming the first black male to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics when he cruised to victory in the speedskating 1,000 meters.
    Confirming his status as the best skater over the distance, Davis, the 1,000 meters world record holder, was slow at the start but accelerated in the final 400 meters to cross the line with a time of 1:08.89.
    'Since I was a kid I joked around saying one day I am going to win the 1,000. Now it's happened,' he told reporters. 'A childhood dream comes true.'
    Fellow American Joey Cheek was second, grabbing another medal following his gold in the 500 meters on Monday.
    Cheek's close friend, Erben Wennemars, squeezed into the medals after battling it out with fellow Dutchman Jan Bos.
    Davis, from Chicago's South Side, skated over to Wennemars following his race, hugged him and waved to the thousands of Dutch fans who had packed into the Oval Lingotto for what they consider the most exciting race in speedskating.
    'Joey (Cheek) gave me a fright with how fast he was going in the beginning of the race. But finally I get rewarded for my hard work,' he said.
    American 5,000 meters gold medallist Chad Hedrick, who fell out with Davis over his refusal to race in the team pursuit, set the pace early on with a moderately fast race of 1:09.45.
    But Davis, who has not lost a single 1,000 meters race he has entered this season, was too good to be denied the top spot.
    Asked how he felt to be the first black man to win a gold medal, Davis said: 'I don't know. I think it's cool to have a gold medal regardless of the color. Although African-Americans choose basketball or some other sport I chose a different route,' he said.
    'Regardless of the color I wake up in the morning and work as hard as anybody.'
    'It's still a breakthrough though.'


    Dr. Ruth J. Simmons President, Brown University
    Ruth J. Simmons

    Dr. Ruth J. Simmons serves as the 18th president of Brown University and the first African American to lead an Ivy League institution. Dr. Simmons was unanimously elected by the Corporation of Brown University during a special session, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2000. Dr. Simmons began her duties July 1, 2001.

    The 12th child born to sharecroppers in the small East Texas town of Grapeland, Simmons moved with her family to Houston when she was of school age. Simmons entered public school as her father found employment as a factory worker and her mother worked as a maid. With strong family and community support, Simmons continued her education, earning her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude at Dillard University in New Orleans (1967) and her master’s and doctorate in Romance languages and literatures at Harvard University (1970 and 1973).

    Simmons began her academic career at the University of New Orleans as an assistant professor of French and later served as assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts. She moved to California State University in Northridge in 1977 as visiting associate professor of pan-African studies and acting director of international programs. From 1979 to 1983, she was assistant and later associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Southern California.

    In 1983 she returned to the East Coast, settling at Princeton University, where she directed Afro-American studies and rose to become associate dean of the faculty. After two years as provost at Spelman College in Atlanta, Simmons returned to Princeton as vice provost, a position she held until her move to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., in 1995.

    Her achievements in higher education have brought her dozens of honors and awards including Danforth and Fulbright fellowships and nine honorary doctorates.


    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

    Colin L. Powell was nominated by President Bush on December 16, 2000 as Secretary of State. After being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he was sworn in as the 65th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001.

    Prior to his appointment, Secretary Powell was the chairman of America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of young people.

    Secretary Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held myriad command and staff positions and rose to the rank of 4-star General. He was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from December 1987 to January 1989. His last assignment, from October 1, 1989 to September 30, 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including Operation Desert Storm in the victorious 1991 Persian Gulf war.

    Following his retirement, Secretary Powell wrote his best-selling autobiography, My American Journey, which was published in 1995. Additionally, he pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing audiences across the country and abroad.

    Secretary Powell was born in New York City on April 5, 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. Secretary Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology. He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. His further academic achievements include a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University.

    Secretary Powell is the recipient of numerous U.S. and foreign military awards and decorations.

    Secretary Powell’s civilian awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. Several schools and other institutions have been named in his honor and he holds honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the country.

    Secretary Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. The Powell family includes son Michael; daughters Linda and Anne; daughter-in-law Jane; son-in-law Francis; and grandsons Jeffrey and Bryan.


    Lt Col. Michael P. Anderson
    IN HONOR: LT COl Michael P. Anderson

    Michael P. Anderson, 43, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was a former instructor pilot and tactical officer, and a veteran of one space flight. He served as Payload Commander and Mission Specialist 3 for STS-107. As payload commander he was responsible for the success (management) of the science mission aboard STS-107. Anderson received a bachelor of science in physics/astronomy from University of Washington in 1981 and a master of science in physics from Creighton University in 1990. Anderson, as a member of the Blue Team, worked with the following experiments: European Space Agency Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Combustion Module (CM-2), which included the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX); Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM); and the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which included Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk.

    Selected by NASA in December 1994, Anderson flew on STS-89 in1998 - the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. Prior to STS-107, Anderson logged over 211 hours in space.


    Dr. Benjamin Carson
    Dr. Benjamin Carson

    Dr. Benjamin Carson, one of the world's most gifted surgeons, made medical history in 1987 when he performed the first successful separation of occipital craniopagus (joined at the head) Siamese twins. A specialist in pediatric neurosurgery, Carson also established a remarkable success record in peforming the procedure called hemispherectomy, or removal of half the brain, to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Nineteen of the first 20 patients Carson operated on survived.

    If it were not for the determination of his mother, Carson might never have discovered his gift. She worked domestic jobs to support Carson and his brother after their father abandoned the family, and she insisted that they study and read books regularly. Carson had been a poor student in elementary school, but he ended up graduating third in his high school class.

    Carson credits prayer with helping him to overcome another threat to his future: his violent temper as a teenager. An episode in which he nearly stabbed a friend during an argument over a radio show shook him so much that he locked himself in the bathroom for three hours, reading the Bible and praying to God for help. Afterward, he says, the rage never returned, and he focused on achieving his dream of becoming a doctor.

    He won a scholarship to Yale University and, after graduating, went on to obtain a medical degree from the University of Michigan.

    In 1984, Carson joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University and soon became director of pediatric neurosurgery-- the youngest in the country, at age 33.

    Carson has written an autobiography, Gited Hands, and a motivational book, Think Big. He is currently an associate professor at Johns Hopkins. He often speaks to groups of young people to share with them the lessons he learned about how to see obstacles 'as hurdles that strengthen you each time you go over one.' (Pazrade, December 25, 1988). According to Carson, it's that kind of vision that leads to success.


    Dr. Mae C. Jemison
    Dr. Mae C. Jemison

    Born in Decatur, Alabama in 1956 and raised in Chicago, Mae is the youngest of three children. Her parents, Dorothy and Charlie Jemison, encouraged, stimulated, and supported their extraordinary varied interests. Mae loved to read and to dance. She enjoyed science fiction as well as pure science. She loved learning about the formation of the universe with its variety of geological periods. Visits to the planetarium helped her learn about the stars and planets, and her ballet and modern dance lessons helped her express her passion for dancing.
    She entered Stanford University as a scholarship student at age 16. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and fulfilling requirements for an A.B. in African and Afro-American studies, she earned her doctorate in medicine at Cornell University Medical College.
    Prior to joining NASA in 1987, Dr. Jemison worked in both engineering and medicine. Following two and a half years (1983-1985) as Area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa, she worked as a General Practitioner in Los Angeles.
    As the science mission specialist on the STS-47 Spacelab J flight, a US/Japan joint mission, she conducted experiments in life sciences, material sciences, and co-investigated the Bone Cell Research experiment. After serving six years as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, Dr. Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993 to start The Jemison Group, Inc. The Jemison Group, Inc. was established to focus on the beneficial integration of science and technology into daily life.
    In 1994, Dr. Jemison founded and chairs The Earth We Share (TEWS), an annual international science camp where students, ages 12 to 16, work together to solve current global dilemmas. The four-week residential program builds critical thinking and problem solving skills through an experiential curriculum. TEWS is a program of the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
    As a former professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College (1995–2002), she directs the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame, Dr. Jemison also holds a number of honorary doctorates. She serves on several corporate boards of directors as well as on the Texas Governor’s State Council for Science and BioTechnology Development.
    Dr. Jemison’s first book, Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life was published in 2001. The book which includes autobiographical anecdotes was written for teenagers, but is equally engaging for adults. Dr. Jemison loves cats and resides in Houston.
    As a woman pioneering the future, Dr. Jemison speaks nationally and internationally on vital 21st Century issues including science literacy; sustainable development; education; achieving excellence; the importance of increased participation of women and minorities in science and technology fields; and investing in the present to secure the future.


    Dr. Clifton Wharton
    Clifton Wharton

    If Clifton Wharton's impressive string of 'first' achievements has the kind of influence he envisions, then he has paved the way for other African Americans to reach the top in a wide range of fields. In 1987, Wharton took the helm of largest private pension program in the U.S., the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA- CREF), and became the first African American to head a Fortune 100 company. In that position, Wharton was also the highest paid African-American executive in the country.

    Before Wharton started blazing trails in the business world, he was making history in higher education. In 1958, he was the first African American to earn a PhD in economics from University of Chicago and, in 1970, the first African-American president of a major, predominantly White university--Michigan State. He also was the first African American chancellor of the State University of New York, and the first to chair the board of a major foundation--the Rockefeller Foundation.

    Wharton left TIAA-CREF in 1993 to make history again, this time in politics and foreign policy. That year he became Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state, the second highest official in the State Department. There, he was involved in reorganizing the Department and restructuring the Agency for International Development. After eight months at the post, he resigned, amid controversy over his role in the Clinton administration's foreign policy.

    Wharton, the son of a career diplomat, maintained an interest in foreign affairs, speaking out on such issues as the crisis in Rwanda and U.S. policy in Africa.


    Former Governor Lawrence Douglas Wilder
    Lawrence Douglas Wilder

    Lawrence Douglas Wilder, named in honor of two great African-American historical figures--the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar--made the pages of history himself, when,in 1989, the people of the Commmonwealth of Virginia chose him as the first African-American elected governor in the United States. For this grandson of slaves to become governor of a Southern state was, indeed, an inspiring achievement.

    As fellow Richmond, Virginia native Arthur Ashe recalled in Days fio Grace: 'I did not think that any [B]lack could ever be elected governor of reactionary, segregated Virginia. I never dreamed that one of the older boys who came to play at Brook Field on the courts my father tended could become governor of our state. But Doug Wilder did so.'

    Before becoming governor, Wilder had served for three years as his state's first African-American lietenant governor. And 30 years before his gubanatorial election, he became Virginia's first African-American state senator since Renconstruction.

    He ran briefly for president in 1991 and was an Independent candidate in the 1994 Senate race against Democrat incumbent Charles Robb (who retained his seat) and Republican Oliver North.

    While he is out of the political spotlight for now, Wilder's accomplishments--and his determination to reach for even greater heights--make him an outstanding role model for the next generation of African American leaders


    Thurgood Marshall

    Civil-rights advocate and judge, born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The great-grandson of a slave, he graduated as valedictorian from Howard University Law School (1933) and soon began to represent civil-rights activists. Becoming a counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1938), during the next 23 years he won 29 of the 32 major cases he undertook for that organization; several of the cases set constitutional precedents in matters such as voting rights and breaking down segregated transportation and education. His finest moment came with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and its separate but equal ruling that perpetuated segregated institutions and facilities. President John F Kennedy named him to the US Court of Appeals, a seat he finally took despite the resistance of Southern senators (1962-65). President Lyndon Johnson appointed him US solicitor general (1965-67) and then to the US Supreme Co!
    urt, the first African-American to hold such an office (1967-91). Consistently voting with the liberal block, he found himself increasingly isolated as the court's make-up changed, and he was forced by ill health to retire and see his seat taken by the conservative Clarence Thomas.


    A. Phillip Randolph
    A. Philip Randolph

    Labour leader and social activist, born in Crescent City, Florida, USA. The son of a minister, he worked at a variety of jobs while gaining an education in Florida and then at City College of New York. He began his efforts on behalf of African-American labourers when, while working as a waiter on a coastal steamship, he organized a protest against their living conditions. In World War 1 he tried to unionize African-American shipyard workers in Virginia and elevator operators in New York City, and founded the Messenger (1917), a magazine initially designed to encourage African-American labourers to demand higher wages. After the war, he became more convinced than ever that unions would be the best way for African-Americans to improve their lot. In 1925 he founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and served as the president until 1968. A civil-rights leader also, he organized the March on Washington movement (1941), which forced the government to set up the Fair Employment Practices Committee, and he is credited with pressing President Truman to integrate the armed forces in 1948. He was a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.


    Bayard Rustin
    Bayard Rustin

    Institute head and civil-rights activist, born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. Schooled in literature and history at Cheyney State (Pennsylvania) and Wilberforce (Ohio) colleges, he joined the Young Communist League (1936) and became an organizer (1938). He also sang occasionally at a New York City nightclub with notables Josh White and Leadbelly. He left the Communist Party (1941), joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a non-violent anti-war group, and helped A Philip Randolph plan a threatened march on Washington to demand better job opportunities for blacks in the defence industry (1940–1). He served several jail terms in the 1940s: for conscientious objection during World War 2 (released 1945); for demonstrating in the American Indian independence movement; and for participating in a North Carolina ‘freedom ride’ (1947). He was involved in various pacifist movements (1947–55), then joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1955) as Martin Luther King's special assistant, serving as the organizational co-ordinator for the SCLC March on Washington (1963). Named executive director of the newly founded A Philip Randoph Institute (1964–87), he worked to promote programmes to cure America's social and economic ills. Although over the years he advocated the orderly seizure of political power by activist blacks, white liberals, religious parties, and labour unions to effect a rebalance of national priorities, he never favoured black separatism


    Reginald F. Lewis on the cover of his book.
    Reginald F. Lewis (1942-93)

    Lawyer and financier, born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. A Harvard Law School graduate, he specialized in venture capital in his New York law career. He became one of the country's richest businessmen through his brief but profitable ownership of McCall Pattern Co (1983–7) and his $1 billion acquisition of the Beatrice Companies (1987). He was sometimes criticized for not taking a more prominent and activist role on behalf of his fellow African-Americans, but he preferred to serve as a role model and work quietly behind the scenes.


    Elbert Frank Cox

    Mathematician. Born December 5, 1895 in Evansville, Indiana. After graduating from the University of Indiana in 1917, Cox served in World War I and then pursued a career in teaching. In 1925, he earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University, becoming the first African American to earn the degree in the United States and, in fact, the world.
    After earning his degree, Cox taught at West Virginia State College and then at Howard University, where he remained until his retirement in 1965. Ten years later, the Howard University Mathematics Department established the Elbert F. Cox Scholarship Fund to encourage young Black undergraduates to pursue mathematic studies at the graduate level. Cox died on November 28, 1969, and though he did not live to see his scholarship or the Ph. D. program launched, it is certain that it was he who made it possible.


    Condoleeza Rice
    Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

    US academic and Republican politician, born in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. She studied political science at the University of Denver, graduating at the age of 19, then continued in political science at Notre Dame (MA) and again at Denver (PhD). She started political life as a Democrat, but changed parties in 1982 as a result of Jimmy Carter's Afghanistan policy. She joined Stanford University in 1981, becoming a professor in the political science department and a Hoover Institution fellow (1985–6, 1991–3), and was the first woman and first African-American to become a Stanford provost (1993–9). After a period in Washington in the mid-1980s as a fellow attached to the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, she became director of Soviet and East European affairs with the National Security Council (1989), and special assistant to George Bush. She is co-author (with Philip Zelikow) of Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995). She was appointed national security adviser by George W Bush in 2001, and became secretary of state in 2004.


    Frederick Scott Douglass High School Year Book Portrait
    Frederick I Scott

    Frederick Scott:
    Johns Hopkin's University's First Black Undergraduate

    Frederick Scott is among those individuals who forever changed Johns Hopkins University. A native of Baltimore, Mr. Scott graduated from Douglass High School and applied to Johns Hopkins University on a dare from his friends who believed he would be rejected on the basis of his race.
    Mr. Scott took them up on their challenge. Inquisitive by nature, he first approached the administration at Hopkins by asking, in his characteristically forthcoming way, if they “accepted Negroes in here.” Replying that they hadn’t had any applications from Negroes, the Registrar sent him an application and told him to try his luck. After successfully completing the application process and scoring high on the entrance exam, Mr. Scott entered Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate freshman on February 1, 1945.

    During his time at Hopkins, Mr. Scott was involved in a range of organizations both on campus and in the community of Baltimore. As one of the founding fathers of Beta Sigma Tau, the first interracial fraternity in Baltimore, Mr. Scott sought to incorporate members from Loyola College, Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins in an organization that precluded race as a basis of collectivity and fraternity.
    Mr. Scott also participated in activities with the YMCA, student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and JHU's Honor Commission. Today, his legacy continues to inspire students, faculty and staff through the eponymous Frederick Scott Brigade.

    Important Inventions by African Americans

    Black History Month, held each year during the month of February, celebrates African American cultures and heritage and recognizes the many contributions African Americans have made to this nation.
    In conjunction with Black History Month, the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is recognizing some very special African Americans whose inventions have made a great contribution in making this country the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

    Granville T. Woods, born in Columbus, Ohio in 1856, was known as the 'Black Edison.' During his lifetime he received over 30 patents and successfully fought suits brought against him by Thomas Edison for the rights to certain electrical inventions, including railway telegraphy (patent no. 388,803), which allowed dispatchers to communicate by telegraph and warn train engineers of oncoming trains. Another of Wood's better-known inventions is the air brake (patent no.701,981).

    Ivan Yaeger, who was born and still resides in Miami, received (patent no. 4,685,928) for an artificial arm and hand assembly in 1987. This revolutionary prosthetic arm is designed to move drive motors to a level that improves range, variety, and speed of motion and allows for better toleration by the wearer.

    Dr. Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist from New York, but living in Los Angeles when she received her patent, became the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. Dr. Bath's (patent no. 4,744,360), a method for removing cataract lenses, transformed eye surgery, using a laser device making the procedure more accurate.

    Dr. James West, born in 1931 in Prince Edward County, Va., received (patent no. 3,118,022) in 1964 (while an employee at Bell Laboratories), along with Gerhard Sessler, for the electro acoustic transducer, an electret microphone, which offered greater reliability, higher precision, lower cost and smaller size. The electret microphone revolutionized the microphone industry, with almost one billion manufactured each year. West and Sessler were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

    These patents, as well as the more than six million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Website at: Last year USPTO issued 187,824 patents and registered 102,314 trademarks.

    'Minority Inventors: America's Tapestry of Innovation,' a video produced by the USPTO that tells the story of minority inventors of the past and the present, is available from the agency's Office of Public Affairs by calling 703-305-8341.

    Publications   (types avail: Items of Interest, )

    Items of Interest
        Gone But Never Forgotten
    click to download Gone But Never ForgottenThe Deaths of Blacks in 2006.ppt
    Size = 3,054,080 Bytes (approx. 28 minute(s) to download by modem, and 51 second(s) by Cable Modem/DSL Line)
      Last updated: Saturday, Mar 03, 2007, 2:19PM by Ed Armstead

        A Fable Based On Black History Facts
    click to download A Fable Based On Black History FactsA FABLE BASED ON BLACK HISTORY FACTS.doc
    Size = 22,016 Bytes (approx. 13 second(s) to download by modem, and 1 second(s) by Cable Modem/DSL Line)
      Last updated: Saturday, Mar 03, 2007, 1:41PM by Ed Armstead

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