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.  Continue reading

E. Franklin Frazier

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

Edward Franklin Frazier (September 24, 1894 – May 17, 1962), was an American sociologist. His 1932 Ph.D. dissertation The Negro Family in Chicago, later released as a book The Negro Family in the United States in 1939, analyzed the historical force that influenced the development of the African-American family from the time of slavery.

The book was awarded the 1940 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for the most significant work in the field of race relations. This book was among the first sociological works on blacks researched and written by a black person. He helped draft the UNESCO statement The Race Question in 1950.

E. Franklin Frazier was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 24, 1894. Frazier was one of five children of James H. Frazier, a bank messenger, and Mary Clark Frazier, a housewife. Edward Franklin Frazier attended Baltimore public schools. Upon his graduation from Colored High School, June 1912, Frazier was awarded the school’s annual scholarship to Howard University in Washington, DC, from where he graduated with honors in 1916. E. Franklin Frazier was an excellent scholar, pursuing Latin, Greek, German and mathematics. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Shaw University

Shaw University

Shaw University

Shaw University, founded as Raleigh Institute, is a private liberal arts institution and historically black university (HBCU) in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. Founded in 1865, it is the oldest HBCU in the Southern United States.

Shaw University is affiliated with the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and a member of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. which supports the Shaw University Divinity School. Along with Howard University, Hampton University, Lincoln University, PA and Virginia Union University, Shaw was a co-founding member of the NCAA Division II’s Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Conference, the oldest African American athletic association in the U.S. The university has won CIAA championships in Football, Basketball (women’s and men’s), and Men’s Tennis.

The University won a 5-year grant with University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to create a Partnership for the Elimination of Health Disparities for minorities, and a 7-year grant with Johns Hopkins University for Gerontological Research. In 2007, Shaw received $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation to support its Nanoscience and Nanotechnology program. In 2004, Shaw University received $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to develop an Upward Bound Program.

SS Leonard Roy Harom

USS Harmon

USS Harmon

First warship named for a black person, the SS Leonard Roy Harom, launched in Quincy Mass, 1943.

USS Harmon, a 1400-ton Buckley class destroyer escort, was built at Quincy, Massachusetts. Commissioned in August 1943, she conducted her shakedown in the western Atlantic and was then assigned to the southwest Pacific area for escort duties with the Third and Seventh Fleets. As war fronts moved northward, Harmon participated in the January 1945 landings at Lingayen Gulf, Leyte. In March, she operated off Iwo Jima.

Beginning in mid-1945, in preparation for further invasion services, Harmon was modified to increase her gun firepower. World War II ended while this work was being done, and, upon completion of the overhaul, the ship was assigned to training duties in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Decommissioned in March 1947, Harmon remained inactive until she was sold for scrapping in January 1967.

USS Harmon was named in honor of Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon, a hero of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

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.

Miles V Lunk

Miles V Lunk

Miles V Lunk

Miles Vandahurst Lynk was born near the small town of Brownsville, TN on June 3, 1871 in Haywood County. He was the first-born son of former slaves who made their living off of a small family farm. At the age of six, Miles Lynk’s father was killed in an accident and the young boy was forced to take on adult responsibilities in helping his mother on the farm.

In spite of the hard times, Lynk’s mother insisted that her son attend the rural black schools in the region at least five months a year. She spent much of her time tutoring him herself. She covered the gaps in his education with what books she could acquire and the young boy became a voracious reader. They made enough money from the farm to hire a private tutor and Miles’ was able to study advanced academic subjects and gained an able education.  Continue reading