On October 13, 1898, Edith Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, the first black woman elected judge to a municipal court.Â She was born Edith Spurlock, one of seven children.
Her father, Louis Spurlock, earned $75 per month as a shipping clerk in a cleaning, pressing, and dyeing business. Her mother, Elizabeth Spurlock, worked at home making buckram hat frames and twisting switches of false hair.
Edith graduated from Peabody High School, and three years later married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute.Â She also attended the New York School of Social Work. There, one of her instructors was George W. Kirchwey, also a professor at Columbia University Law School. After distinguishing herself in his criminology class, he told her she had the talent to be a lawyer.Â Continue reading
From 1932 to 1972, 399 poor black sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama were denied treatment for syphilis and deceived by physicians of the Unites States Public Health Service. As part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, designed to document the natural history of the disease, these men were told that they were being treated for “bad blood.”
In fact, government officials went to extreme lengths to insure that they received no therapy from any source. As reported by the New York Times on 26 July 1972, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was revealed as “the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.”Â Continue reading
Despite being born a slave on May 16, 1855, Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr. was a post-reconstruction pioneer and trailblazer, who made remarkable contributions in education, banking, politics, publishing, journalism, real estate, and civic affairs. Among his many accomplishments, he founded a high school, a college, and a bank; and owned several newspapers.
He also founded the National Freedom Day Association, and worked toward establishing a national day to commemorate freedom for all people.
On February 1, 1941, Major Wright invited national and local leaders to meet in Philadelphia to formulate plans to set aside February 1st each year to memorialize the signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution by President Lincoln on February 1, 1865. One year after Wright’s death in 1947, a bill passed both U.S. Houses of Congress, making February 1st National Freedom Day, and was signed into law on June 30, 1948.Â Continue reading
Granville T. Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910), was an African-American inventor who held more than 60 patents. Most of his work was on trains and street cars. Woods also invented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between train stations and moving trains. Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry.
Granville T. Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. During his youth he also went to night school and took private lessons. Although he had to leave formal school at age ten, Woods realized that learning and education were essential to developing critical skills that would allow him to express his creativity with machinery.
In 1872, Woods obtained a job as a fireman on the Danville and Southern Railroad in Nebraska, eventually becoming an engineer. He invested his spare time in studying electronics. Â Continue reading
Since its beginning in 1898, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company has grown to become one of the nation’s most widely-known and successful business institutions. It is the only insurance company domiciled in North Carolina with a charter dated before 1900. North Carolina Mutual is the oldest and largest African American life insurance company in the United States.
The Company’s seven organizers were men who were active in business, educational, medical and civic life of the Durham community. An early financial crisis tested their resolve and the company was reorganized in 1900 with only John Merrick and Dr. Aaron M. Moore remaining. Charles C. Spaulding was named General Manager, under whose direction the company grew and achieved national prominence.Â Continue reading
The year was 1861. The American Civil War had shortly begun and the Union Army held control of Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. In May of that year, Union Major General Benjamin Butler decreed that any escaping slaves reaching Union lines would be considered “contraband of war” and would not be returned to bondage. This resulted in waves of enslaved people rushing to the fort in search of freedom. A camp to house the newly freed slaves was built several miles outside the protective walls of Fort Monroe. It was named “The Grand Contraband Camp” and functioned as the United States’ first self-contained African American community.
In order to provide the masses of refugees some kind of education, Mary Peake, a free Negro, was asked to teach, even though an 1831 Virginia law forbid the education of slaves, free blacks and mulattos. She held her first class, which consisted of about twenty students, on September 17, 1861 under a simple oak tree. This tree would later be known as the Emancipation Oak and would become the site of the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Today, the Emancipation Oak still stands on the Hampton University campus as a lasting symbol of the promise of education for all, even in the face of adversity.