1) Dr. Dorothy L. Brown, (1914 - 2004), distinguished herself as a surgeon and community leader. She graduated with honors from Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee in 1948. After interning in New York City, she returned to Tennessee to Meharry's Hubbard Hospital. Brown rose to become Clinical Professor of Surgery, and the first woman chief resident in general surgery at Meharry from 1957 - 1983. Dr. Brown was the first single mother in Tennessee to adopt a child in the 1950s. She adopted the newborn daughter of a patient. In the 1960's, Brown became the first African American woman elected to the Tennessee General Assembly. 2) Dr. Charles R. Drew, (1904-1950), founded the first blood bank (1940) and invented the blood plasma bag. He received his M.D. and Master of Surgery degrees from McGill University, Montreal. Dr. Drew did the bulk of his blood plasma research at Columbia University in New York City. 3) Dr. Robert L. Kimbrough received his DDS, (Doctor of Dental Science), from the Illinois College of Dentistry in 1951. He entered the Army Dental Corps. in the early 1950's. After service, he went into private practice in Chicago. In 1984, Dr. Kimbrough became President of the Chicago Dental Society. 4) Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, (1846-1926), is credited with being the first African American to graduate with a diploma in nursing. In 1879, she received her degree from the New England Hospital in Boston. 5) Dr. Daniel H. Williams, (1856-1931), founded the first medical training school for African American nurses. He is credited with performing the world's first heart operation on an injured man who was stabbed in the chest (1893). 6) Dr. Jane Cooke Wright is well known in the medical profession for her work in cancer chemotherapy. She was Director of Cancer Research and Associate Professor of Research Surgery At New York University Medical Center. Dr. Wright was the first African American woman to become an associate dean at a major medical college: The New York Medical College (1967). 7) Dr. Louis T. Wright, (1891-1952), excelled in the field of medicine and brain trauma. He graduated from Clark University in Atlanta in 1911. Wright is famous for inventing a brace for patients with neck injuries. His expertise included treating patients with skull fractures.
Here are 10 top technologies created by important black inventors. We salute them all during black history month. 1) Fire extinguisher (aero-foam) - Dr. Percy L. Jullian Dr. Percy L. Julian, (1899-1975), elevated the quality of American life with many discoveries through his research in chemistry. Dr. Julian earned his Masters Degree at Harvard in 1923, and his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in 1931. During World War II, from a soybean protein, he developed a life saving, fire-fighting foam used by the U.S. Army and Navy. His resulting fire extinguisher was used to put out gas and oil fires. Dr. Julian also developed low cost cortisone to treat arthritis. He developed drugs to treat rheumatic fever, and glaucoma. 2) Electric lampbulb - Lewis Latimer New York City native Lewis H. Latimer, (1848-1928), invented and patented the first electric light bulb with a carbon filament (March 21, 1882). He joined the Thomas A. Edison Company in 1886. Edison later developed the carbon filament into the modern light bulb. Latimer is credited with publishing the first electric lighting system textbook. 3) Lantern - Michael C. Harney Michael C. Harney made significant improvements to wicks, and was granted a patent for a lantern/lamp on August 19, 1884. The St. Louis, Missouri resident created a wick raising device to improve the efficiency of the lantern. 4) traffic light - Garrett Morgan Garrett Morgan lived in Cleveland, Ohio when he was granted U.S. patent # 1,475,024 on November 20, 1923 for the three-way traffic signal. He patented a three-armed signal mounted on a T-shaped pole that indicated "stop" and "go" for traffic in two directions. Morgan also had another signal for stopping traffic in all directions before the stop and go signals changed. This is similar to today's yellow light. General Electric bought Morgan's patent for $40,000, and his traffic management device was used throughout North America until it was replaced by the red, yellow and green-light traffic signals currently used around the world. 5) Gas mask - Garrett Morgan Garrett Morgan also invented the gas mask a decade earlier in 1912, (U.S. patent 1,113,675 issued in 1914). His mask was used during World War I to protect soldiers from chlorine gas fumes. 6) Automatic gear shift - Richard Bowie Spikes On December 6, 1932, Richard Bowie Spikes received patent # 1,889,814 for an automatic gear shift which improved transmission design in cars. 7) Gamma-electric cell - Henry T. Sampson Henry T. Sampson, of El Segundo, California, along with Dr. George H. Miley received United States Patent # 3,591,860 on July 6, 1971, for using a gamma-electric cell for producing a high-output voltage from a source of radiation. 8) Air conditioning unit - Frederick McKinley Jones Frederick McKinley Jones of Minneapolis, Minnesota received several U.S. patents for air conditioning technology. This particular patent, # 2,336,735, granted December 14, 1943, was given for a compact and removable portable cooling unit that could easily be placed at the top of compartments on trucks and in railroad cars. 9) Thermostat control - Frederick McKinley Jones Jones won another patent on February 23, 1960, for a thermostat that could regulate refrigeration. 10) Paints, stains, and cosmetic creams - George Washington Carver George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was born in Missouri in the closing days of the Civil War. He rose from slavery to become the first nationally known African American scientist. In 1896, Booker T. Washington selected the then young graduate student Carver, (who at the time was the only black American with advanced training in scientific agriculture), to head the newly created agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute. Dr. Carver remained at Tuskegee for nearly 50 years. His research work with various fruits, vegetables, and legumes, most notably the peanut, commanded international attention. On January 6, 1925, Dr. Carver was granted U.S. patent # 1,522,176 for a process that produces a cosmetic cream made from peanuts. Carver describes his creation in the patent as a "vanishing cream of any desired or usual tint." Two years later on June 14, 1927, Carver received U.S. patent # 1,632,365 for the process of producing paints and stains from clays. His plan was to use clays of different colors found in different parts of the USA combined with his patented process "for treating wood or other materials."
Here are 5 outstanding African Americans who made contributions during the 20th century to change our world. These 5 black history people usually rise to the top in the spotlight during black history month. 1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil rights movement. He was born Michael Luther King, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia. Dr. King earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955 (a Doctorate in Theology). He married Coretta Scott King in 1953. The young 26 year-old Martin organized the Montgomery bus boycott with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and the NAACP in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to whites. King became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. By 1961, he was supporting freedom rides to integrate Southern lunch counters and rest rooms. His famous "I Have a Dream Speech" was delivered on the Washington D.C. mall in 1963. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968 as he was preparing to lead a labor protest march on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. 2) Rosa Parks The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation on common carrier buses was illegal. The decision was reached primarily because of the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted one year. Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger (December 1, 1955). Arrested for her act, Parks eventually found justice in the courts. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a U.S. civilian. 3) Thurgood Marshall Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993), was born in Baltimore, Maryland. "Mr. Civil Rights," changed history in 1954 when he successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Brown case outlawed segregation in schools. Marshall was educated at Lincoln University and Howard Law School. He began practicing law in 1933, became assistant special counsel for the NAACP in 1936, then chief counsel in 1938. He was the first director/chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1940-1961). In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals judge. By 1965 he was appointed solicitor general in the Department of Justice. Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 becoming the first African American on the court. Thurgood Marshall is considered the most prominent civil rights lawyer of the 20th Century. 4) Jackie Robinson U.S. Army Lieutenant and former UCLA football great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), entered major league baseball in 1945 by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals. Robinson, the first ever black player at the start of the 1947 season, was one of three African Americans on the roster of a major league baseball franchise by the end of 1947 (joined by Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, and Henry Thompson of the St. Louis Browns). 5) Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960. He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time. Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman. "The Greatest" became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978. Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds). He was stripped of his first title in 1967.
Long before the presidential aspirations of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, Alan Keyes, Barack Obama, and others, there was Shirley Chisholm. Shirley St. Hill Chisholm, (1924-2005), was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968. She was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924. Shirley was the first African American woman elected to Congress, and the first black to wage a serious campaign for the 1972 Democratic nomination for president. Chisholm retired from Congress in 1982. Listen to Congresswoman Chisholm's historic 2 minute announcement for her candidacy for President of the United States, recorded 36 years ago, in 1972, outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. What remarkable parallels can you hear between Chisholm's diplomatic words and so many similar voices of the candidates of today? Chisholm is truly a black history pioneer in American politics.
In 2008, we'll mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In June of 1972, inspired by the life of Dr. King, Tommy Butler began a 9-month effort to write Selma, the musical. After opening in a small theater in Los Angeles in 1976, Selma was brought to the attention of comedian Redd Foxx, who thought the production would be perfect for the 1976 bi-centennial celebration. Selma the musical, who's title comes from the famous march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, chronicles the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other civil rights activists of the era. Watch the story of Selma, the musical tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., produced by BlackHistoryPeople.com for Black History Month 2008.
Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications have announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. Oprah is pictured with David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, who stated at a January,15, 2008 press conference: "At Discovery, our goals are to improve the quality of the networks while expanding the reach and success of our web presence. This venture does both, and having Oprah as Chairman and creative leader makes OWN a very unique property in a crowded media landscape." OWN's mission is to create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles. In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN's programming, branding and creative vision. Winfrey will serve as Chairman of The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC and the venture will be 50/50 owned by Discovery and her production company, Harpo. The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC will be an independent company. Announced on Martin Luther King Jr.'s (real) birthday, January 15th, 2008, this is another historic move for Ms. Winfrey. I'm glad to see Oprah has taken the lead to provide more programming alternatives to established cable TV channels. We know who they are: BET, TV One, and others. However, OWN will probably be broad in scope, appealing to that mass audience Oprah knows how to attract just like a magnet.
2008 is the centennial of the birth of author Richard Wright. Richard Nathaniel Wright, (1908-1960), was born on September 4, in Adams County, Mississippi. Wright was the first African American author to gain a large mainstream audience. He accomplished this by writing honestly about black inner city life. Wright spent his early years on a sharecropper farm in Natchez, Mississippi. His family moved from Natchez to Memphis, Tennessee, then to Jackson, Mississippi. As an eighth grader in 1923, he wrote The Voodoo of Hell’s Half Acre, a short story that was published in Jackson’s Southern Register (a weekly newspaper targeted towards blacks). After High School graduation, Wright returned to Memphis for a couple of years. While in the South, Southern Editor H.L. Mencken had a significant impact on Wright’s consideration of writing as a career. Wright realized through Mencken’s literary journalism that words were an effective weapon in the social struggle for equality. As a young man, Wright’s fascination with writing and literature led him to unsuccessfully attempt prose in the style of many authors he admired including Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis. In 1927, Wright moved to Chicago. He got a job in the Post Office. Postal service friends who were members of the Communist Party encouraged him to join the party too. Artists, writers, and intellectuals of the day who sympathized with communism became affiliated with the John Reed Club (a group sponsored by the party). Wright joined, and had his poems published in Left Front, a John Reed Club publication (1934). In 1936, the WPA assigned him to the Federal Theater Project where he worked as a public relations writer. Late in 1936, Wright’s short story Big Boy Leaves Home appeared in The New Caravan anthology. A November 1936 review by The New York Times and The New Republic called his story the best in the collection. By 1937, Wright was in his right career as a writer. His first novel, Native Son, was published in March of 1940. The stage adaptation of Wright’s best seller opened in 1941 at New York City’s St. James Theater. John Houseman produced and Orson Welles directed. The National Urban League picketed the production expressing their dissatisfaction that "Native Son" portrayed blacks in an unfavorable light. Wright toured Brazil, Paris, and Europe in 1946. After writing 12 Million Black Voices, Wright was kept under surveillance by the FBI. By 1947, he decided to move to Paris. During the 1950’s he traveled to Africa and Indonesia. He was a Pan Africanist who refuted Africa’s arbitrary border divisions (imposed by Europeans). Wright excelled in authoring Japanese poetry, writing over 4,000 haiku poems. He died in Paris on November 28, 1960. For the 2008 Wright centennial, Harper Collins Publishers has released A Father’s Law, (on sale January 8, 2008). This unfinished and previously unpublished novel was found by Wright’s daughter Julia after his death. A Father’s Law, and Richard Wright, are great black history month projects.
Harriet Tubman, (1820-1913), helped nearly 300 slaves escape bondage from the Southern United States by using a network of safe houses, homes, and churches known as the Underground Railroad. Through ingenious disguises, she evaded capture while leading slaves along the Underground Railroad into the North. Some were lead as far north as Canada (outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fugitive Slave Law). Frances E. Harper, (1825-1911), (the first black woman to publish a novel in 1860 - Iola Leroy...The Shadows Lifted), was also very active in the Underground Railroad in 1853. Catherine Harris, (1809-1907), operated an Underground Railroad station in Jamestown, New York, (beginning in 1835), for 25 years. Harriet Tubman, Frances E. Harper, and Catherine Harris are three black history people who engineered the secret success of the Underground Railroad.
Many have come since, but in November, 1967, 40 years ago, these 3 black history people were elected as the first African American mayors of major U.S. cities. Carl B. Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Floyd McCree was elected mayor of Flint, Michigan. Richard B. Hatcher was elected mayor of Gary, Indiana. The mid 20th century civil rights movement helped lead to these important political gains.
Azie Taylor Morton, (1936 - 2003), was the first African American woman Treasurer of the United States (1977). Blanche Kelso Bruce was the first black appointed to the position in 1881. Before her post as the 36th Treasurer, Morton, a Dale, Texas native, was a teacher, a U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) investigator, and a special assistant to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Morton’s signature appeared on $1, $5, and $10 bills issued between September, 1977 - August 1979. If you have one of these bills, they are very rare.