Wendell Oliver Scott
August 29, 1921 – December 23, 1990
Wendell Oliver Scott was an American stock car racing driver. He was one of the first African-American drivers in NASCAR, and the first African-American to win a race in the Grand National Series, NASCAR’s highest level. Scott began his racing career in local circuits and attained his NASCAR license in around 1953, making him the first African-American ever to compete in NASCAR. He debuted in the Grand National Series on March 4, 1961, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. On December 1, 1963, he won a Grand National Series race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, becoming the first black driver to win a race at NASCAR’s premier level. Scott’s career was repeatedly affected by racial prejudice and problems with top-level NASCAR officials. However, his determined struggle as an underdog won him thousands of white fans and many friends and admirers among his fellow racers. He was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
May 10, 1874 – February 28, 1941
Wallace A. Rayfield, believed to be America’s second formally trained African-American architect. Rayfield designed hundreds of structures throughout the South prior to the Great Depression, among them theaters, schools, residences for prominent black professionals, one of the country’s first black-owned banks, and many, many churches. His buildings were backdrops for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s; a few became synonymous with the struggle. The most famous Rayfield building still stands. Completed in 1911, the 16th Street Baptist Church was the site of a 1963 bomb blast that killed four black teenage girls. It immediately became an icon for the civil rights struggle. He was also a community leader, supporting African-Americans through a marketing newsletter called The Colored Mechanics of Birmingham, in which he promoted the skills of local black contractors. Some of his residential projects became the first to be designed, financed, and built by blacks.
Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation
W. Montague Cobb
1906- November 20, 1990
Dr. William Montague Cobb was a pioneering 20th-century physical anthropologist. As the first African American to earn a Ph.D in anthropology, and the only one until after the Korean War, his main focus in the anthropological discipline was studying the concept of race and the negative impact it has on communities of color. Cobb continued to apply his science to social issues, showing how racism was harming African American health and thus negatively impacting all American society. He initiated the Imhotep Conferences on Hospital Integration in 1957. This annual conference sought to end hospital and medical school segregation and continued until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Cobb also provided expert testimony to Congress on health care legislation, culminating in the passage of Medicare in 1965. The epitome of Cobb’s social activism was serving as President of the NAACP from 1976 to 1983.Cobb prolifically wrote both popular and scholarly articles during the course of his career and trained an untold number of students.
Source: Wikipedia.com, Blackpast.org
March 20, 1957 –
Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee is a producer, actor, and director. His first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn, was completed while he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College. Lee’s production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983. Lee has also produced commercials for a number of companies including Nike, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry’s. Lee’s first feature film was the comedy She’s Gotta Have it (1986). His next films included the 1988 movie, School Daze, followed by his 1989 hit, Do the Right Thing and the 1990 movie, Mo’ Better Blues all of which all received critical acclaim. Lee is known to use his movies to take a critical look at race relations, political issues, and urban crime and violence. The most ambitious and expensive of Lee’s films was Malcolm X (1992) which starred Denzel Washington in an biographical look at the life of the 20th Century’s most famous Black Nationalist leader. His documentary 4 Little Girls was nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Academy Award in 1997.
March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987
Bayard Rustin was one of the most important, and yet least known, Civil Rights advocates in the twentieth century. Rustin along with FOR members George Houser, Bernice Fisher, and James L. Farmer helped create the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) which pioneered the civil rights strategy of non-violent direct action. In 1944, he traveled to California to help protect the property of Japanese Americans interned during the war. In 1947, he and Houser organized the Journey of Reconciliation, the first Freedom Ride testing the Supreme Court decision outlawing racial discrimination in interstate travel. After organizing FOR’s Free India Committee, he traveled to India to study nonviolence; and to Africa meeting with leaders of the Ghanaian and Nigerian independence movements. As a pacifist, Rustin was arrested for violating the Selective Service Act and was imprisoned at Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary from 1944 to 1946. Throughout his civil rights career he was arrested twenty-three times, including a 1953 charge for vagrancy and lewd conduct in Pasadena, California. Rustin was openly gay and lived with partner, Walter Naegle, at a time when homosexuality was criminalized throughout the U.S. He also served as a member of the AFSC task force that wrote one of the most widely influential pacifist essays in U.S. history, “Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence,” in 1955. In 1956, Rustin went to Montgomery, Alabama and advised Martin Luther King, Jr. on nonviolent strategies of resistance during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King and Rustin helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). However, in 1960 New York Congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. forced him to resign from SCLC due to concerns shared by many black leaders about Rustin’s homosexuality and communist past. Due to the combination of the homophobia of these leaders and their fear he might compromise the movement, Rustin would not receive public recognition for his role in the movement. Nevertheless, Rustin continued to work in the Civil Rights Movement, organizing the seminal 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with A. Philip Randolph. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin remained politically active. Although he often shared their commitment to human rights, Rustin was a vocal critic of emerging black power politics. Toward the end of his life he continued to work as a human rights advocate, while serving on the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame. The year before he died he testified in favor of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill.
Nov 30, 1933 –
Sam Gilliam grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and studied art in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1962 he moved to Washington, D.C., and created abstract paintings inspired by the Washington Color School artists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. These artists, among others, broke the rules of abstract expressionism by pouring thinned paint directly onto unprimed canvas instead of applying thick, vigorous brushstrokes. Gilliam pushed this method even further by folding and draping the canvas before it dried, creating unusual “tie dye” effects. He started working with very large canvases in the late 1960s, hanging vast pieces of painted cloth across walls and ceilings to emphasize the relationship between the work and its environment.
Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Percy Lavon Julian
April 11, 1899 – April 19, 1975
Percy Lavon Julian was an African American research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He developed an inexpensive process to prepare cortisone, which is used in the treatment of arthritis. He also developed a flame retardant used by the U.S. Navy in World War II which saved the lives of a number of sailors. In 1953, Percy Julian established the Julian Laboratories, which produced steroid-containing compounds. He subsequently hired many African American scientists who shared his interest in a career in the scientific field. In 1961, he sold Julian Laboratories for two million dollars. Over the course of his career, Dr. Percy Julian had over 100 peer-reviewed publications and 115 research patents. In 1973 he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Wikipedia.com, Blackpast.org
November 4, 1942 –
Patricia Era Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist and innovative research and laser scientist, was the first African American woman physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. The start of Bath’s medical career has been one that broke many racial and gender grounds. From 1970 to 1973, she completed her training at New York University School of Medicine as the first African American resident in ophthalmology. Bath noticed the contrast between the eye clinic of Harlem where half of the patients were visually impaired or blind and Columbia, where only a few patients suffered from blindness. Because of this, Bath conducted a study and found that blindness among blacks was double that among whites due to the lack of access of proper eye care in black communities. In an attempt to remedy this alarming problem, she proposed a new worldwide system known as community ophthalmology in which trained eye care volunteers visit senior centers and day care programs to test the vision and screen for cataracts, glaucoma, and other serious eye conditions. Through this community outreach program, underserved populations whose eye conditions would have gone untreated have a better chance to prevent blindness. In 1977, she and three colleagues founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. In 1983, she chaired the ophthalmology residency training program at Drew and UCLA, becoming the first woman to hold that position in the nation. On May 17, 1988, Bath received a patent for her invention, the Laserphaco Probe, and the new technique used for cataract surgery. The device restored the sight of thousands of patients worldwide and was the only one available for the removal of cataracts. Bath’s contributions changed the field of ophthalmology. In 1993, Bath retired from UCLA Medical Center and continues to advocate for fighting blindness. In 2001, she was inducted into the International Women in Medicine Hall of Fame.
Norma Merrick Sklarek
April 15, 1928 – February 6, 2012
Norma Merrick Sklarek, a pioneer in the field of architecture, was the first registered black female architect in New York. In 1962 she became the first black female licensed architect in California. In 1990 she became the only black woman elected to the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) College of Fellows. Among many prominent designs, her best known projects are Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the U. S. Embassy building in Tokyo, Japan.
June 3, 1906 – April, 1975
Born Josephine Freda MacDonald, Josephine Baker was an entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent. Young Josephine was a talented dancer who loved to perform. When presented with the opportunity to join the Jones’ family band, she dropped out of school, packed up her belongings and, at the age of 13, left to perform on the road. Taking the surname of her second of five husbands, Willie Baker, Josephine Baker performed on tour with the band until they split in 1921. Later that year she performed in the hugely successful all-black musical Shuffle Along, written by Noble Sissle with music composed by Eubie Blake. After Shuffle Along Baker performed in the 1924 musical Chocolate Dandies where she earned rave reviews for her comedic performance. Her big break came on October 2, 1925 when she opened in “La Revue Negre” at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. Baker both exploited and promoted European colonial fantasies of the sensual and exotic African. She brought jazz and the Charleston to Paris and soon became known for her uninhibited performances and scanty costumes. In 1931 Baker released J’ai deux amours which became her most successful recording. Over the next decade Baker appeared in three films, The Siren of the Tropics (1927), ZouZou (1934) and Princesse TamTam (1935). Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Langston Hughes and Christian Dior all announced themselves fans of Baker after seeing her performances. Baker’s success in Europe did not carry over to the United States when she returned in 1936. Despite top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies with Fanny Brice and Bob Hope, American audiences did not embrace her performances. Baker was replaced by Gypsy Rose Lee. Josephine Baker also faced racial discrimination in the United States. She was barred from many hotels and refused service at clubs and restaurants. In protest, Baker renounced her American citizenship and moved permanently to Paris in 1937. During World War II Josephine Baker used her fame as an entertainer to gather intelligence for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Using her celebrity as a cover, she carried sensitive documents to neutral countries and allied occupied areas, sometimes using invisible ink on sheet music. After the war Baker was decorated for her work by the French government. After the war she began adopting orphans from around the world whom she called her “Rainbow Tribe.” In August 1963 Baker was one of only two women to speak at the March on Washington.
Source: Wikipedia.com, Blackpast.org
October 6, 1949 –
In 1979, Johnson joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked on the Galileo spacecraft, which was launched on a flight to Jupiter. In 1982, he returned to the US Air Force, where he worked until 1987. It was during this period that Johnson came up with the idea for the Super Soaker water gun. He worked on the Mars Observer spacecraft and the Cassini mission to Saturn, where his job was to make sure that all systems on the spacecraft were redundant. Meanwhile, he was feverishly promoting the Super Soaker to toy manufacturers. In 1989, Johnson successfully licensed the Super Soaker to Larami, a company which is now a subsidiary of Hasbro. He also formed his own engineering firm, Johnson Research and Development. The Super Soaker became a tremendous success after its release in 1990. In 1991 and 1992, it was the best-selling American toy. Since its release, the Super Soaker has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. In the wake of his success, Johnson currently runs several companies, which are researching energy-related topics such as batteries and power-conversion techniques. Johnson holds dozens of patents for his various inventions, and the number is sure to grow.
July 9, 1936 – June 14, 2002
June Meyer Jordan was a writer, editor, poet, educator, environmental and social activist. In the 1960s Jordan also became a Civil Rights activist, joining busloads of “Freedom Riders” to Baltimore as they traveled demanding enforcement of Supreme Court decisions on desegregation. In 1963, Jordan worked as a production assistant for “The Cool World,” a documentary film about how environmental changes could benefit poor Black families in Harlem. Jordan wrote her first book of poetry Look at Me, a book on African American life, in 1969. The next year she edited an anthology of poetry by children, youth and well-known poets, entitled, Soulscript; A Collection of African-American Poetry. In 1971 Jordan wrote a novel for young adults, His Own Where, once more addressing her interest in environmental concerns. During her career Jordan authored twenty eight books, and published numerous short stories in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Partisan Review. By 1967 Jordan was an instructor at the City College in New York. She later taught at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and in 1989 she became a Professor of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkley where she founded and directed the Poetry for the People Program. Jordan received numerous awards and honors, including a Rockefeller Grant and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
August 13, 1960 –
Re-examining photography as a conceptual medium, Lorna Simpson’s works explore the experience of African American women in contemporary society. Simpson’s imagery is culled from both original photographs and those she collects from eBay and flea markets. In order to make her subjects elusive or adaptable to any narrative, Simpson rarely depicts them from the front, and instead shows them from behind or with their faces and eyes obscured or omitted. Placing an emphasis on the social and political implications of African hairstyles and textures, her 1994 piece Wigs (Portfolio) presents an almost scientific study of hairpieces, aiming to underscore the wig as a tool of conformity and agent for physical transformation. Simpson’s work often presents a fragmented or open-ended story, which the viewer is to complete based on his or her own expectations.
October 17, 1956 –
In September of 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African American woman in space during her flight on the STS-47, Spacelab-J. During this flight, she logged 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds in space. She resigned from NASA in 1993. In 1994, she founded and ran The Earth We Share, a space camp for students aged 12-16. From 1995-2002 she taught environmental studies at Dartmouth College. Mae Jemison is currently the director of the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in developing countries.
Marie Van Brittan Brown
October 22, 1922 – February 2, 1999
Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit TV. Brown’s security system was the basis for the two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security. Marie and Albert Brown filed for a patent on August 1, 1966, under the title, “Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance.” Their application was approved on December 2, 1969. Brown’s invention laid the foundation for later security systems that make use of its features such as video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication. Her invention is still used by small businesses, small offices, single-family homes, and multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and condos. The Browns’ patent was later referenced by thirteen other inventors including some as recently as 2013.
June 8, 1950-
Marshall E. Purnell, FAIA is considered one of the most accomplished architects in America today. He is a former national President of The American Institute of Architects (2008) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (1985, 1986). He served as Design Principal of Devrouax & Purnell Architects Planners for thirty-five years. More than twenty million people a year live, work, play, or otherwise move through spaces and structures his firm designed. Firm projects include; the $850 million Washington Convention Center, the $700 million Washington Nationals Baseball Park, the Washington NBA and NHL venue Verizon Center, PEPCO Energy’s corporate headquarters, FreddieMac corporate Headquarters The National Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, several projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, a New Town in Turkey, modernization projects at U.S. Embassies in Moscow and the former Yugoslavia, Cabinet drawing updates for 86 different Ambassadorial Residences world wide, a marina, restaurant, luxury housing, and golf course in the Bahamas’; and many mix use residential, institutional, educational, industrial, transportation, and commercial projects on both the east and west coasts. The firm has won AIA Design Awards at the local, regional and national level. Additionally, at the same time Mr. Purnell was a Principal of the graphics design firm Design Communications for over ten years.
September 6, 1957 –
Michaëlle Jean is a Canadian stateswoman and former journalist who is the third and current Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, after succeeding Abdou Diouf in January 2015; she is the first woman to hold the position. From 2005 to 2010, Jean was Governor General of Canada, the 27th since Canadian Confederation. Jean was a refugee from Haiti—coming to Canada in 1968—and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence. In 2005, she was appointed governor general by Queen Elizabeth II, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine and she occupied the post until succeeded by David Johnston in 2010. Michaëlle Jean was sworn in as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on September 26, 2012, giving her the accordant style of The Honourable; however, as a former Governor General of Canada, Jean is entitled to be styled for life with the superior form of The Right Honourable.
Clarence Matthew Baker
December 10, 1921 – August 11, 1959
Clarence Matthew Baker was an American comic book artist who drew the costumed crimefighter Phantom Lady, among many other characters. Active in the 1940s and 1950s Golden Age of comic books, he is the first known African-American artist to find success in the comic-book industry. He also penciled an early form of graphic novel, St. John Publications’ digest-sized “picture novel” It Rhymes with Lust (1950). Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.
Jean- Michel Basquiat
December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988
Artist Jean Michel Basquiat was began his artistic career as a graffiti artist in lower Manhattan under the pseudonym SAMO in 1976 and over the next three years he gained notoriety and fame. Basquiat and a friend, Al Diaz, invented SAMO (Same Old Shit) in an article for a school newspaper in 1977. It became Basquiat’s notorious graffiti signature on the streets of New York. His first entry into the art world after his stint as a graffiti artist came with his exhibit at the “Times Square Show” in 1980. From 1982 to 1985, Basquiat collaborated with Andy Warhol on a series of paintings that were poorly received. He also produced some of his own most recognizable work, including Arroz con Pollo (1981), Philistines (1982), Untitled (Angel) (1982), and Notary (1983). By 1985, he was a featured artist on the front page of The New York Times Magazine, which paid homage to him as an emerging artist of the 1980s’ international art market boom. A Postmodern artist, Basquiat rejected the Western art world’s rules, engaging in a critique of systems of racism, colonialism, and capitalism in works such as Slave Auction (1982), Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983), and Toussaint L’Ouverture v. Savonarola (1983). Themes of wealth and poverty, racial segregation, and class struggle dominated his work. His black identity is also manifest throughout his art. Four years after his death, the Whitney Museum in New York created a retrospective traveling exhibition of his work. Ten years after his death, one of his self-portraits sold for a record $3.3 million. And, in June of 2013, his painting Dustheads sold for a record $48.8 million. His work remains widely revered.
Feb 26, 1971 –
Self-described as a “mother first”, Erica Abi Wright, also known as Erykah Badu is a touring artist, DJ, teacher, community activist, 25 year vegetarian, recycler, and conscious spirit. The New York Times described Badu’s groundbreaking debut, 1997’s Baduizm, as “traditional soul vocals, staccato hip-hop rhythms and laid-back jazzy grooves.” Yet, hindsight reveals that Badu’s debut was more than just an album, it was the introduction of a new lifestyle. The music evoked speakeasies, incense, head wraps, and boho coffee shop culture all in one easy breath. In 2003, she founded her non-profit group, B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development), which is geared toward creating social change through economic, artistic, and cultural development. Among B.L.I.N.D.’s many accomplishments, the organization has provided arts, crafts, and dance classes to children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Also in 2004, Badu’s charitable efforts helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the scholarship fund at St. Phillips School and Community Center in Dallas, Texas. Badu continues to use her platform as an alter. By incorporating instruments such as tuning forks, crystal singing bowls, and gem stones and more into her music, she has created a wave of healing energy throughout the planet. But her true instrument is the ‘intent’ with which she sings. She has become a spiritual midwife, aiding in the rebirth of moral and spiritual consciousness for her generation.
Source: Official FB page of Erykah Badu
April 15, 1915 – April 2, 2012
Elizabeth Catlett Mora was a prominent black political expressionist sculptor and print-maker in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1940, Catlett became the first student to receive a master’s of fine arts in sculpting from the University of Iowa. Catlett began focusing her sculptures primarily on black women. Her thesis project, a limestone sculpture titled Mother and Child, won a sculpture prize at the 1940 American Negro Exposition in Chicago. Catlett spent the majority of her adult life in Mexico, after winning a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship in 1946 to study wood and ceramic sculpting at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura in Esmerelda, Mexico. In 1947 she married artist Francisco Victor Mora and became a Mexican citizen. Her artwork did not attain the same degree of fame in the United States as she enjoyed in Mexico until 1993, when her sculptures were selected for an exhibition at New York’s June Kelly Gallery. Since then, her work has been featured in solo exhibitions in Cleveland, Ohio, San Francisco, California, Chicago, Illinois, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and she has works featured in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art. Her African American inspired sculptures and prints have been recognized by the Women’s Caucus for Art and the International Sculpture Center, from whom she received the 2003 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award.
Source: Wikipedia.com, Blackpast.org
Apr 16, 1916 – Feb 13, 2006
Edna Lewis was an African-American chef and author best known for her books on traditional Southern cuisine. She was born in 1916 in Freetown Virginia, a farming settlement created by newly emancipated African Americans. At age sixteen, she made her way to New York City and worked at a variety of jobs including seamstress, caterer, and journalist until she found her calling as the chef at Cafe Nicholson, a restaurant patronized by Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and the bohemian elite of the day. There, she excelled at translating the tastes of her Freetown childhood for a world that was jaded by and fed up with the tastes of ersatz French cuisine and “Continental” cooking. Following her departure from the Café Nicholson, she worked at a variety of jobs, volunteered as a docent at the Museum of Natural History, and sold food at the Ninth Avenue Street Fair. But when time came for her first foray into the world of cookbooks, The Taste of Country Cooking, Lewis chose to poetically detail the daily life and food of her beloved Freetown. Published in 1976, the book establishes her as a preeminent voice in American cooking. Three other books would follow, along with fame and a return to the professional kitchen in such places as Brooklyn’s Gage and Tollner, South Carolina’s, Middleton Plantation, and Atlanta’s Horseradish Grill. Her increased renown arrived with the advent of renewed pride in American regional food, and she becomes the poster girl for a movement, garnering a multiplicity of culinary awards in the process.
Source: Wikipedia.com, Epicurious.com
Charles Luther Sifford
June 2, 1922 – February 3, 2015
Charles Luther Sifford was a professional golfer who was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour. He won the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the Los Angeles Open in 1969. He also won the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times, and the PGA Seniors’ Championship in 1975. For his contributions to golf, Sifford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004. He was awarded the Old Tom Morris Award in 2007, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, and an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews. Lee Trevino referred to Sifford as the “Jackie Robinson” of golf, and Tiger Woods acknowledged that Sifford paved the way for his career.
Beverly Loraine Greene
October 4, 1915 – August 22, 1957
Beverly Loraine Greene, believed to be the first African American woman architect in the United States. Greene earned a Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1936. One year later she earned a Master’s of Science degree in city planning and housing from the same university. On December 28, 1942, at the age of twenty-seven, Greene was registered in the State of Illinois as an architect. She received a Master’s Degree in Architecture from Columbia on June 5, 1945. She also worked with Edward Durell Stone on the arts complex at Sarah Lawrence College and in 1952 on a theater at the University of Arkansas. During her time with the architectural firm headed by Marcel Breuer she worked on the UNESCO United Nations headquarters in Paris, France which was completed in 1958. Her next projects included buildings at New York University (NYU) which were completed between 1956 and 1961. Greene never saw most of the buildings at NYU she helped design. Beverly Loraine Greene died on August 22, 1957 at age forty-one in New York City. Ironically she had also designed the Unity Funeral Home, the building in which her memorial service was held.
Bernadine Coles Gines
1927 – Jan 23, 2015
In 1954, Ms. Gines became the first black American female CPA in the state of New York and the 34th African-American CPA in the United States. She spent most of her career in the employ of the Comptroller of the City of New York, where she held various titles in the accounting service and in the computer programming service. During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, she worked closely with outside vendors to restructure the city’s accounting records. In 1946, Ms. Gines received a B.S. in business administration from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), ranking No. 1 in her class. In 1947 she received an MBA from NYU. She is the sister of Dr. Ruth Coles Harris, the first African-American female CPA in the state of Virginia.
Source: National Association of Black Accountants, Inc.
Richard Henry Austin
May 6, 1913 – April 20, 2001
After graduating from the Detroit Institute of Technology in 1937, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 1941 (the first African American to do so in Michigan), and founded his own accounting firm. Austin then helped other blacks in the Detroit area form businesses, foundations, and civic groups. In 1971 Austin garnered a 300,000 vote majority over his opponent to become Michigan’s first African American Secretary of State. He was subsequently reelected four times. During his term he led a 14 year campaign to enact a vehicle safety belt law which was passed in 1985. He also was a leading advocate for Michigan’s child passenger safety law, supported stiffer penalties for drinking drivers, and led the effort to retain the state motorcycle helmet law.
February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992
Audre Lorde was an American feminist poet. The youngest of three daughters, Audre Lorde was nearsighted to the point of legal blindness. She also didn’t speak till she was five, having first been inspired to speak by a short story that was read to her by a local librarian. During her lifetime, Audre Lorde published twelve books. A number of her poems were also published in anthologies. Lorde described herself as “a black feminist lesbian mother poet.” She claimed that poetry was her first language, saying that when she was young she often responded to questions in the form of poetry to avoid reprimands from adults about occasional stuttering. Her poetry embodied themes of emotions including love, fear, racial and sexual oppression, survival, and urban struggle. She was a prolific writer who explored the feelings and suffering of marginalized groups. She also focused on her experiences as a woman, a lesbian, an African American, and a mother. Her poetry reflected all of these experiences as well as events unfolding over time. Her writing described the necessity for social action again racism and sexism.
Sept 22, 1891 – Feb 24, 1978
Alma Thomas grew up in Columbus, Georgia, then moved to Washington, D.C., in 1907 with her family. In high school, she described the art classroom as a “beautiful place” that was just like “entering heaven” (Munro, Originals: American Women Artists, 1979). In 1921 she was the first student to enroll in Howard University’s fine arts course, where she painted still lifes and made ceramic sculptures. Thomas taught art to junior high school students in Washington for more than thirty years, postponing any serious painting until after her retirement in 1960. She organized several marionette plays for the students, combining her love for theater and stage design with her skills as a sculptor. (Foresta, A Life in Art: Alma Thomas, 1891-1978, 1981) Thomas started out as a representational painter but soon turned to abstraction, creating colorful images inspired by the patterns in nature. In 1972 she was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York.
Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum