Roger Arliner Young was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in zoology, after years of juggling research and teaching with the burden of caring for her invalid mother. Her story is one of grit and perseverance.
Roger Arliner Young grew up in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. In 1916, she entered Howard University. In 1921, she took her first science course, under Ernest Everett Just, a prominent black biologist and head of the zoology department at Howard. Although her grades were poor, Just saw some promise and started mentoring Young. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1923.
Her relationship with Just improved her skills, and he continued working with her. According to his biographer, Just probably chose a woman protÃ©gÃ© because he thought men more likely to pursue lucrative careers in medicine than to remain in academe.Â Just helped Young find funding to attend graduate school.
In 1924 she entered the University of Chicago part-time. Her grades improved dramatically. She was asked to join Sigma Xi, an unusual honor for a master’s student. She also began publishing her research. Her first article, “On the Excretory Apparatus in Paramecium,” appeared in Science in September 1924. She obtained her master’s degree in 1926.Â Continue reading
Dr. Ernest Just was a pioneer in the fields of biology and chemistry at a time when it was extremely difficult for African Americans to get a scientific education. He overcame many obstacles to leave a scientific legacy for generations to come studying cell life and human metabolism. In addition, he explored egg fertilization. In fact, he was the first person to unlock the secrets of cell function and structure.
Ernest Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1883 to Charles and Margaret Just. His early life was not easy. When he was just four years old his father died. In order for his family to survive, Ernest had to work as a field hand to make money.
Once the family got back on its feet again, Ernest’s mother sent him North to prepare for college. He went to the Kimball Hall Academy in New Hampshire where his brilliance shined. He completed four years of course work in only three and graduated valedictorian. He went on to Dartmouth College where he graduated in 1907 magna cum laude with degrees in Biology and History. He was the only person in his class to receive such high standing.Â Continue reading
Although he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in a field of the biological sciences, Alfred Oscar Coffin ended his career as Professor of Romance Languages at Langston University in Oklahoma.Â Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi on May 14, 1861, Coffin earned his bachelorâ€™s degree at Fisk University and his masterâ€™s and Ph.D. in biology at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1889.Â Beginning in 1887, Coffin taught for two years at Alcorn Agricultural & Mechanical College in Mississippi.
From 1889 to 1895 he was Professor of Mathematics and Romance Language at Wiley University in Marshall, Texas where he found time to write a treatise on the native plants there.Â Back at Alcorn A&M from 1895 to 1898 he worked as the campus disbursement agent.Â From 1898 to 1909 Coffin was a public school principal in San Antonio, Texas and in Kansas City, Missouri.Â Continue reading
Born December 2, 1917 Muriel, the daughter of a Chicago policeman, was one of the first women to graduate from the prestigious John Marshall Law School in Chicago, IL. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana at the age of 21, she worked as a social worker while studying law. After passing the bar Muriel went into the legal profession full time and spent over 50 years practicing law, becoming one of the best known divorce lawyers in the state.
Oddly enough, two of her best friends, both black women, were also John Marshall graduates. Her cousin went on to become an acclaimed criminal lawyer (Bernice Z. Leaner) and her best friend went on to be Chicago’s first Black Alderwoman (Anna Langford).
The First black Masonic Lodge was founded at Prince Hall, Boston, in 1787. Â It was named afterÂ Prince Hall, who is recognized as the Father of Black Masonry in the United States. He made it possible for African Americans to also be recognized and enjoy all privileges of Free and Accepted Masonry.
Many rumors of the birthÂ of Prince Hall have arisen. Few records and papers have been found of him either in Barbados where it was rumored that he was born, but no record of birth, by church or state, has been found there, and none in Boston. All 11 countries of the day were searched and churches with baptismal records were examined without a find of the name of Prince Hall.Â Continue reading