Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928), inventor, scientist; born in Chelsea, Mass. Latimer served in the Union Navy in 1863, studied drafting, and later invented and patented an incandescent light bulb with a carbon filament in 1881.

He served as an engineer for the Edison Company for many years, and while with Edison supervised the installation of the electric light system in New York, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Montreal, Canada; and London, England.

Latimer wrote the first textbook on the lighting system used by the Edison Company, and he was employed by Alexander Graham Bell to make patent drawings for the first telephone. He also served as chief draftsman for General Electric and Westinghouse companies.  (more…)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825 to free parents. A few years later, she was orphaned. Harper received her education at a school for free African-Americans run by her uncle, William Watkins. The school was located at the present day site of the Baltimore Convention Center.

At the age of 13, Harper’s formal education came to an end when she took a job as a nursemaid.

Harper’s first publication was a collection of poetry and prose entitled Autumn Leaves. It was published while she was a teenager. Harper moved to Philadelphia. She published another volume of poems entitled Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1857). This work sold over 10,000 copies within its first five years of publication. In 1860, Harper married the love of her life, Fenton Harper.  (more…)

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion centered in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, spanning the 1920s. At the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement”, named after The New Negro, a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke. The movement also included the new African-American cultural expressions across the urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest United States affected by the Great Migration, of which Harlem was the largest.

Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood, many francophone black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the movement,which spanned from about 1918 until the mid-1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this “flowering of Negro literature”, as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, took place between 1924—when Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance—and 1929, the year of the stock-market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. The Harlem Renaissance is considered to have been a rebirth of the African-American arts.

Larry Doby

Larry Doby

Larry Doby

Born on Dec. 13, 1923, in Camden, S.C., Doby grew up in New Jersey. He didn’t start out in life longing for a career in professional baseball. He once said that he grew up wanting to teach and coach in high school.

But in 1942, a Negro League umpire recommended to the owner of the Newark Eagles that Doby, still in high school at the time, get a tryout. “They gave me a tryout, and I made the team,” Doby said. “That’s how I got involved in Negro League Baseball.”

Doby proved he was star material early in his Negro League days. He was an All-Star second baseman whose baseball credentials might have been better than Robinson’s.  (more…)

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Civil rights activist and reformer. Parks is best known for instigating the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 in protest of segregation laws. Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskagee, Alabama. Her father, James, was a carpenter, and her mother, Leona, a teacher. Parks attended a liberal private school as an adolescent.

After briefly attending Alabama State University, she married Raymond Parks, a barber and activist, in 1932, and the couple settled in Montgomery, Alabama. Besides working as a seamstress and a housekeeper, Parks was involved in several African-American organizations. She served as secretary for her community chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and also worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council, and other civic and religious groups.  (more…)

Samuel Ringgold Ward

Samuel Ringgold Ward

Samuel Ringgold Ward

In 1817, Samuel Ringgold Ward was born into slavery in Maryland. He was treated harshly and resented the entire system of chattel slavery. To escape this horrible system, Ward ran away, using the Underground Railroad to reach New York City. In New York, Ward became a school teacher and later a preacher.

His interest in journalism led him to the job of an editor of the Farmer and Northern Star. Wars became involved with the abolitionist movement that was very popular in New York. He, along with others founded the Liberty and Free-Soil parties, edited the Impartial Citizen in Boston and credited the Alienated American. Ward moved to Canada.  (more…)