Alexander L. Twilight

TWILIGHTAlexander Lucius Twilight is the first African American to graduate from a U.S. college, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. Also a pioneer in Vermont politics, Twilight became the first African American to win election to public office in 1836, joining his home-state legislature. He died in Brownington, Vermont, on June 19, 1857.

Born on September 23, 1795 (though sources vary on the month and day of his birth, with some saying September 26 and others noting July 15), in Corinth, Vermont, where he also grew up, Alexander Lucius Twilight was one of six children born to Ichabod and Mary Twilight. The Twilights were one of the few African-American families living in the area at the time. According to the Old Stone House Museum’s website, Ichabod Twilight served in the American Revolutionary War.  Continue reading

Maria Stewart

Maria StewartMaria W. Stewart (Maria Miller) (1803 – February 6, 1880) was an African-American journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. Although her career was brief it was very striking. Maria W. Stewart started off her career as a domestic servant. She later became an activist.

She was the first American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, whites and black. She was also the first African- American woman to lecture about women’s rights, make a public anti-slavery speech and the first African-American woman to make public lectures. Stewart has had two pamphlets published in the Liberator, including “Religion and Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build”. In this pamphlet she advocated abolition and black autonomy. Her second pamphlet was more religious-based. Continue reading

Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake was one of the most important figures in early-20th-century African-American music, and one whose longevity made him a storehouse of the history of ragtime and early jazz music and culture. Born in Baltimore in 1883, Blake began playing piano professionally when he was 16; he wrote his first composition, “Sounds of Africa,” (later retitled “Charleston Rag”) around the same time. His career did not really take off until he met Noble Sissle in 1915. Together, Blake and Sissle wrote many hits. Blake also collaborated with Andy Razaf (on “Memories of You”), Henry Creamer, and other writers, composing more than 350 songs.

Blake, Sissle, and Europe began collaborating on the musical Shuffle Along in 1916, but were interrupted by World War I and Sissle and Europe’s military service overseas. Europe and Sissle returned to the United States in 1919. Europe died shortly after returning from Europe; Blake and Sissle continued working on the musical until its premiere in 1921.  Continue reading

Thomas C. Cannon Jr.

tofcDr. Thomas C. Cannon Jr. lead a group of engineers that developed the Tactical Optical Fiber Connector (TOFC). The TOFC was designed to terminate optical fiber cables used in military combat. Optical fiber cables are preferable to conventional copper cables because they are immune to electrical interference, lightweight, have a high signal carrying capacity, and do not radiate any electromagnetic energy which might be detected by the enemy.

TOFC was the first fiber optic connector actually deployed under battlefied conditions, and saw action in the Gulf War where it was used to transmit firing signals to the Patriot missile.

Elias Neau

elias_neau_sigFrench colonish Elias Neau opened a school for enslaved African Americans in New York City. It was a catechizing school. As early as 1703 he called athe attention of the Society to the great number, of slaves in New York ” who were without God in the world, and of whose souls there was no manner of care taken” and proposed the appointement of acatechist to undertake their instruction. Neau’s task was not an easy one. At first he went from house to house, but afterwards arranged for some of the slaves to attend him.

In that colony, the instruction of the Negro and Indian slaves to prepare them for conversion, baptism, and communion was a primary charge oft repeated to every missionary and schoolmaster of the Society. In addition to the general efforts put forth in the colonies, there was in New York a special provision for the employment of sixteen clergymen and thirteen lay teachers mainly for the evangelization of the slaves and the free Indians. For the Negro slaves a catechizing school was opened in New York City in 1704 under the charge of Elias Neau.  Continue reading

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