Henry Blair

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

Henry Blair, one of the earliest black inventors to receive a patent, was born in Montgomery County, Md. around 1807. Little is known about his personal life. Blair is assumed to have been free since slaves could not legally obtain patents. He received two patents, one in 1834 for his seed planter and another in 1836 for a cotton planter. For many years he was thought to be the first black American to receive a U.S. patent. Later,it was recognized that Thomas L. Jennings received his patent in 1821 for the invention of the dry cleaning process. Many people are unaware of this and still cite Henry Blair as the first black patent holder.  Continue reading

Shirley Graham

Shirley Graham DuBois and  her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois

Shirley Graham DuBois and her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois

was born November 11, 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana on a farm which had been part of the underground railroad and had served as a stopping point for runaway slaves on their way to Canada. It belonged to her grandfather, a former slave who had been freed prior to the Civil War.

Over the years she studied at the Sorbonne, Oberlin, and attended Yale on a Rosenwald Fellowship in Creative Writing. She received both her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music from Oberlin. After receiving her MA degree, she was appointed Head of the Fine Arts Department at Tennessee State College.  Continue reading

Anna Ella Carroll

Anna Ella Carroll

Anna Ella Carroll

More than a century following her death, after being ignored, oppressed, and–literally–erased from history, Anna Ella Carroll is finally getting the last word. Carroll was an intriguing and atypical 19th century woman who emerged from the male-dominated realm of war, politics, and diplomacy.

As a key military strategist, Presidential advisor, and “unofficial” member of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet, Carroll was probably the most powerful woman in American during the Civil War. Biographers note that she could “scheme, connive, and maneuver as well as any man.”  Continue reading

Prudence Crandall

Prudence Crandall

Prudence Crandall

(1803-1890) opened an academy on the Canterbury Green in 1831 to educate daughters of wealthy local families. The school was extremely successful until the following fall when she admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year-old black woman. Sarah had hoped to become a teacher with the help of the education the academy could provide. Reflecting the attitudes of the times, Sarah’s admittance to the academy led parents to withdraw their daughters.

Miss Crandall made contacts throughout the northeast’s free black communities to attract young black women students. They came from as far away as Boston, New York City and Philadelphia. The state responded by passing the “Black Law” which made it illegal for Crandall to operate her school.  Continue reading

The Pittsburgh Courier

Four boys outside Courier

Four boys outside Courier

The Pittsburgh Courier was established in 1907 by Edwin Harleston, a security guard and writer. The newspaper gained fame after Robert Lee Vann took over the paper in 1910 and eventually became the nations most widely circulated black newspaper at almost 200,000.

The Courier was always an organ for the wellbeing of the average African-American. It would call for housing improvements and the opening of black hospitals. The Pittsburgh Courier also sought to improve the black peoples’ financial and political skills.  Continue reading

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