Founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is known as the first institution for higher learning for African Americans. The founding of Cheyney University was made possible by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000, one tenth of his estate, to design and establish a school to educate the descendents of the African race.
Born on a plantation in the West Indies, Richard Humphreys came to Philadelphia in 1764. Having witnessed the struggles of African Americans competing unsuccessfully for jobs due to the influx of immigrants, he became interested in their plight. In 1829, race riots heightened and it was that year Richard Humphreys wrote his will and charged thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution: “…to instruct the descendents of the African Race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic Arts, trades and Agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers….” Continue reading
Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard (January 27, 1894 – May 11, 1986) was the first African American head coach in the National Football League (NFL). Pollard along with Bobby Marshall were the first two African American players in the NFL in 1920. Sportswriter Walter Camp ranked Pollard as “one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen.”
Pollard was born in Chicago on January 27, 1894. He attended Lane Tech High School where he played football, baseball, and ran track. Pollard attended Brown University, majoring in chemistry. Pollard played half-back on the Brown football team, which went to the 1916 Rose Bowl. He became the first black to be named to the Walter Camp All-America team.
He later played pro football with the Akron Pros, the team he would lead to the NFL (APFA) championship in 1920. In 1921, he became the co-head coach of the Akron Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back. He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros, Gilberton Cadamounts, Union Club of Phoenixville and Providence Steam Roller. Some sources indicate that Pollard also served as co-coach of the Milwaukee Badgers with Budge Garrett for part of the 1922 season. He also coached the Gilberton Cadamounts, a non-NFL team. In 1923 and 1924, he served as head coach for the Hammond Pros. Continue reading
Founded in 1881, Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, historically Black, four-year liberal arts college for African American women. For more than 118 years, the College has focused on professional development and leadership both inside and outside the classroom and Spelman has a long-standing tradition of cultivating leaders and providing activities that complement the classroom experience. The college repeatedly appears on “Best Of” lists for academic excellence and value.
With 1,900-plus students, Spelman is a predominately residential college with 12 on campus residence halls which house approximately 1,200 students. Other structures encompass Bessie Strong Hall, Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ph.D. Academic Center, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Fine Arts Building, Sisters Chapel, Albert E. Manley College Center, and the Sally Sage McAlpin, Manley, and Howard-Harreld Halls, among many others on this 33-acre campus. Continue reading
South Africa’s First Black President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (7/18/1918 – 12/5/2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election.
His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. Continue reading
Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known by his stage names 2Pac and briefly as Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. Shakur has sold over 75 million albums worldwide as of 2010, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. MTV ranked him at number two on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time and Rolling Stone named him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time. His double disc album All Eyez on Me is one of the best selling hip hop albums of all time.
Shakur began his career as a roadie, backup dancer, and MC for the alternative hip hop group Digital Underground, eventually branching off as a solo artist. The themes of most of Shakur’s songs revolved around the violence and hardship in inner cities, racism and other social problems. Both of his parents and several other of his family were members of the Black Panther Party, whose ideals were reflected in his songs. Continue reading
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 protégé because he thought men more likely to pursue lucrative careers in medicine than to remain in academe. 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. 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. Continue reading