John W Cromwell

John W Cromwell

John W Cromwell

In 1921, John W. Cromwell, Jr., became the first African-American to earn the designation of CPA, some 25 years after the first CPA certificate was granted in the United States. Cromwell was a member of one of the leading African-American families in the country. His father was a teacher, political activist, attorney, and chief examiner for the U.S. Post Office. Cromwell’s older sister, Otelia, was the first African-American alumna of Smith College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in English at Yale. Cromwell was exceptional himself. He graduated from Dartmouth as the best student in science in the class of 1906. A year later he completed his master’s degree there.

The profession most open to African-Americans at the time was teaching. After finishing at Dartmouth, Cromwell returned home to Washington, D.C., and became a mathematics teacher at the Dunbar School, the most prestigious black high school in the country.

Fifteen years passed before John Cromwell became a CPA. He was not allowed to sit for the CPA exam in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. In addition, all those places had experience requirements. The biggest barrier to African-Americans in becoming CPAs has always been the experience requirement: In order to become a CPA you have to work for a CPA, and for the first two-thirds of the last century, most firms would not hire African-Americans.  (more…)

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles, who contributed to the elevator industry, was an African-American inventor of the late 19th century who was able to transcend racial barriers in the United States.

Miles attached a flexible belt to the elevator cage, and when the belt came into contact with drums positioned along the elevator shaft just above and below the floors, it allowed the elevator shaft doors to operate at the appropriate times. The elevator doors themselves were automated through a series of levers and rollers.

Before working on elevator engineering, Miles experimented with the creation of hair products. The influence of his elevator patent is still seen in modern designs, since the automatic opening and closing of elevator and elevator shaft doors is a standard feature.

Miles, who was born in Duluth, Minnesota, designed an elevator that was able to open and close its own doors and the elevator shaft doors. When the elevator would arrive or depart from a given floor, the doors would move automatically. Previously, the opening and closing of the doors of both the shaft and the elevator had to be completed manually by either the elevator operator or by passengers, contributing greatly to the hazards of operating an elevator.

William Sill

William Sill

William Sill

William Still (October 7, 1821 – July 14, 1902) was an African-American abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist.

The date of William Still’s birth is given as October 7, 1821, by most sources, but he gave the date of November 1819 in the 1900 Census. He was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, to Sidney(later renamed Charity) and Levin Still. His parents had come to New Jersey from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. William was the youngest of eighteen siblings, who included Dr. James Still (1812-84) known as “the Doctor of the Pines,” Peter Still, Samuel Still, Mary Still, a teacher and missionary in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Mahala Still (Mrs. Gabriel Thompson) and Kitturah Still, who moved to Pennsylvania.

William’s father Levin was the first of the family to move to New Jersey. A free man, he had been manumitted in 1798 in Caroline County, Maryland. Levin eventually settled in Evesham near Medford. Later Charity and their four children at the time joined Levin when she escaped; Charity was recaptured and returned with her four children to slavery, but she escaped a second time and, with her two daughters, found her way to Burlington County, to join her husband; the two sons she left behind, Levin and Peter, were sold to slave-owners in Lexington, Kentucky, and then later, sent to Alabama in the Deep South. Following her return to New Jersey Charity and Levin went on to have fourteen more children, of whom William was the youngest. (more…)

Watts Riots

Watts Burns

Watts Burns

The Watts Riots (or Watts Rebellion) took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from August 11 to 17, 1965. The six-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage. It was the most severe riot in the city’s history until the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

In the Great Migration of the 1920s, major populations of African-Americans moved to Northern cities like Detroit, Chicago, and New York City to escape racial segregation, Jim Crow Laws, violence, and racial bigotry in the Southern States. This wave of migration largely bypassed Los Angeles. In the 1940s, in the Second Great Migration, black Americans migrated to the West Coast in large numbers, in response to defense industry recruitment at the start of World War II. The black population in Los Angeles leaped from approximately 63,700 in 1940 to about 350,000 in 1965, making the once small black community visible to the general public.

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Juanita Lucy was the first black student to attend the University of Alabama, in 1956. She was born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama and graduated from Linden Academy in 1947. She went on to attend Selma University in Selma, and the all-black Miles College in Fairfield – where she graduated with a BA in English in 1952.

Later in 1952, at the encouragement of and along with a Miles classmate, Pollie Ann Myers, she decided to attend the University of Alabama as a graduate student but, knowing that admission would be difficult due to the University’s admission policies, she and Myers approached the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for help. Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, and Arthur Shores were assigned to be their attorneys. While they started preparing her case, she worked as a secretary. Court action began in July 1953.  (more…)

Thomas Elkins

 patent #221,22

patent #221,22

Thomas Elkins designed a device that helped with the task of preserving perishable foods by way of refrigeration. At the time, the common way of accomplishing this was by placing items in a large container and surrounding them with large blocks of ice. Unfortunately, the ice generally melted very quickly and the food soon perished.

Elkins’ device utilized metal cooling coils which became very cold and would cool down items which they surrounded. The coils were enclosed within a container and perishable items were placed inside. The coils cooled the container to a temperature significantly lower than that inside of a room thereby keeping the perishable items cool and fresh for longer periods of time.

chamber commode

chamber commode

Elkins patented this refrigerated apparatus on November 4, 1879 and had previously patented a chamber commode in 1872 and a dining, ironing table and quilting frame combined in 1870.

An improved chamber commode (toilet) was patented by Thomas Elkins on January 9, 1872. Elkins’ commode was a combination bureau, mirror, book-rack, washstand, table, easy chair, and chamber stool. It was a very unusual piece of furniture.