Saturday, February 11, 2012


Morgan - signalMorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963), was an African-American inventor and businessman. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal. He also developed the gas mask (and many other inventions).
Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky, and was the son of former slaves (and the 7th of their 11 children). His formal education ended during elementary school.
As a a teenager (in 1895), Morgan moved north to Cincinnati, Ohio, looking for opportunity. His incredible ability to repair machinery led to many job offers from factories. In 1907, he started his own sewing equipment and repair shop. His business expanded in 1909; he employed 32 people, who used equipment that Morgan made (and invented) himself.
In 1920, Morgan went into the newspaper business, starting the "Cleveland Call." He was very successful, and eventually bought a car. While he was driving along the streets of Cleveland, he realized how unsafe intersections were, and was determined to make driving safer.
MorganMorgan patented a traffic signal on November 20, 1923 (U.S. patent No. 1,475,024, issued in 1923) - this was the first traffic signal patented, but not the first invented. His traffic signal was a T-shaped pole with arms (but with no lights) that has three signs, one or more of which popped out at a time: a red "stop," a green "go," and another red "stop in all directions." This last signal let pedestrians cross the street. It was controlled by an electric clock mechanism. This device became very popular, and was used all around the USA. Morgan sold his device to the General Electric Corporation for $40,000 (a huge sum at that time). His device was used until the three-light traffic light was developed.
Morgan developed many other inventions, including a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters (patent No. 1,113,675, in 1912), a gas mask (patent No. 1,090,936, in 1914). He also developed a zig-zag sewing machine attachment, a hair straightener, hair dying lotions, de-curling hair combs (patent No. 2,763,281, in 1956), and other inventions.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Black History Month Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy (1843 or 1844-1929) was a mechanical engineer and inventor. McCoy's high-quality industrial inventions (especially his steam engine lubricator) were the basis for the expression "the real McCoy," meaning the real, authentic, or high-quality thing.
McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada, to former slaves (George and Emillia McCoy), who had fled the USA. McCoy was educated as a mechanical engineer in Edinburgh, Scotland; he then moved to Detroit, Michigan, USA. Despite his education (and due to racism - he was of African descent), he could only get a job as a fireman and oilman on a steam-engine train, shoveling coal into a train's engine and periodically lubricating the engine.
McCoy's first invention (1872) was a revolutionary way of lubricating steam engines without having to shut them down - this automatic lubricator saved an enormous amount of time and effort in transportation and in industrial production. McCoy eventually had a total of 57 patents, and was known throughout the world for his inventions. In 1920, McCoy opened his own company, the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Black History Month Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a great man who worked for racial equality and civil rights in the United States of America. He was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Martin had a brother, Alfred, and a sister, Christine. Both his father and grandfather were ministers. His mother was a schoolteacher who taught him how to read before he went to school.
Young Martin was an excellent student in school; he skipped grades in both elementary school and high school . He enjoyed reading books, singing, riding a bicycle, and playing football and baseball. Martin entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, when he was only 15 years old.
Martin experienced racism early in life. He decided to do to something to make the world a better and fairer place.
After graduating from college and getting married, Dr. King became a minister and moved to Alabama.
During the 1950's, Dr. King became active in the movement for civil rights and racial equality. He participated in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and many other peaceful demonstrations that protested the unfair treatment of African-Americans. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Commemorating the life of a tremendously important leader, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day each year in January, the month in which he was born. August 28, the anniversary of Dr. King's 1963 I Have a Dream speech, is called "Dream Day."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Thurgood MarshallThurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 - January 24, 1993) was a prominent civil-rights lawyer and the first African-American justice of the US Supreme Court.
Thurgood Marshall was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. His name was originally spelled Thoroughgood, but Marshall shortened it to Thurgood when he was in elementary school. Thurgood Marshall's parents were William and Norma Africa Marshall; William was the chief steward at a private club and Norma was an elementary school teacher.
In 1930, Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania; he got his law degree from Howard University (in Washington, DC) in 1933. He then began a law practice in Baltimore, and joined the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1936.
Marshall was the legal director of the NAACP from 1940 until 1961. He was on the team of lawyers in the historic Supreme Court trial concerning school desegregation, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). As a result of this trial, the "separate but equal" doctrine in public education was overthrown.

Thurgood Marshall stamp
The US Post Office issued a stamp honoring Thurgood Marshall on January 7, 2003 .
In 1961, after many successful years as a lawyer and judge fighting for civil rights and women's rights, Marshall was appointed to the Second Court of Appeals (by President John F. Kennedy). In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall the U.S. solicitor general (the chief legal officer of the United States working under the Attorney General, in charge of appeals to the Supreme Court). In this position, Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases that he argued for the government.
Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court in June, 1967 (by President Johnson). He was the first African-American on the Supreme Court. In the high court, Marshall continued his fight for human rights until he retired on June 27, 1991; he served on the Supreme Court for 24 years.
Marshall died of heart failure at the age of 84. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetary (in Arlington, Va), near the graves of other Supreme Court Justices.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Black History Month Dr. Charles Richard Drew

Dr. Charles Richard DrewDr. Charles Richard Drew (June 3, 1904 - April 1, 1950) was an American medical doctor and surgeon who started the idea of a blood blank and a system for the long-term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept longer than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and have saved many, many lives.
Dr. Drew set up and operated the blood plasma bank at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, NY. Drew's project was the model for the Red Cross' system of blood banks, of which he became the first director. Drew resigned his position as director after the US War Department issued a directive stating that blood taken from white donors should not be mixed with blood taken from black donors. Dr. Drew strongly objected, and stated "the blood of individual human beings may differ by blood groupings, but there is absolutely no scientific basis to indicate any difference in human blood from race to race." Dr. Drew also formed Britain's blood bank system.
Dr. Drew died on April 1, 1950, after a car accident in in rural North Carolina. Although there is a legend that he died as a result of being denied a blood transfusion and medical care from a "whites-only" hospital, Dr. Drew got immediate medical attention, in part from the other doctors (his friends) who were in the car accident with him (but were less severely injured). Dr. Drew was admitted to a mixed-race hospital, but died after being treated for massive internal injuries. A U.S. postage stamp was issued in 1981 to honor Dr. Drew.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Black History Month - MAE C. JEMISON

Mae Carol Jemison (October 17, 1956 - ) was the first African-American woman in space. Dr. Jemison is a medical doctor and a surgeon, with engineering experience. She was accepted into NASA's astronaut program in 1987. She flew on the space shuttle Endeavor (STS-47, Spacelab-J) as the Mission Specialist; the mission lifted off on September 12, 1992, and landed on September 20, 1992.
Jemison was the youngest of three children; she was born in Decatur, Alabama, but was brought up in Chicago, Illinois. In 1977, she graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering and Afro-American studies. She received a medical degree in 1981 from Cornell University. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) selected Jemison for astronaut training in 1982.
In addition to her native English, Dr. Jemison speaks fluent Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. Jemison appeared on an episode of the TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1993.
Dr. Jemison founded the International Science Camp in Chicago in 1994; it is a program designed to interest children in science and space. Jemison has practiced medicine in Western Africa and founded the Jemison Group to research an develop technology and the Jemison Institute for Advanced Technology in Developing Countries at Dartmouth College.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Black History Month - FREDERICK DOUGLAS

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey Douglass (Feb. 7, 1817-Feb. 20, 1895) was an abolitionist, orator and writer who fought against slavery and for women's rights. Douglass was the first African-American citizen appointed to offices of high rank in the U.S. government.
Douglass was born into slavery and was originally named Frederick Washington Bailey. His mother was a slave and his father was white. He never knew his father and left his mother at an early age. He was raised by his grandmother and was taught to read by the wife of the man he worked for.
In 1838, Douglass escaped slavery in Maryland and moved to New York and then to Massachussetts, where he soon became an international figure in the fight against slavery. Douglass lectured extensively against slavery in the US and in Great Britain. During the Civil War, Douglass met with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln many times, discussing Lincoln's efforts to abolish slavery and the arming of former slaves to fight the Confederacy.
In 1847, Douglass started an anti-slavery newspaper called the North Star (it was later called Frederick Douglass's Paper); it was published until 1860. Douglass served as the assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission (1871). He was later appointed marshal (1877-81) and recorder of deeds (1881-86) of Washington, D.C. His last government appointment was as the U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti (1889-91). Douglass' autobiography, "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass," was published in 1882.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Chisholm, Shirley
ChisholmShirley Chisholm (Nov. 30, 1924 - Jan. 1, 2005) was the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress. Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York. After being a teacher and serving as a New York state assemblywoman, Chisolm was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives. She served in Congress for seven terms, from January 3, 1969, until January 3, 1983. In 1972, Chisholm was the first African-American woman to run for a major-party presidential nomination. During her long political career, she fought for the rights of women and minorities.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February is Black History Month GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER

Carver, George Washington
George Washington Carver (1865?-1943) was an American scientist, educator, humanitarian, and former slave. Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans, and soybeans; his discoveries greatly improved the agricultural output and the health of Southern farmers. Before this, the only main crop in the South was cotton. The products that Carver invented included a rubber substitute, adhesives, foodstuffs, dyes, pigments, and many other products.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February is Black History Month - JAMES BALDWIN

James Baldwin (Aug. 2, 1924-Dec. 1, 1987) was a very important American author who wrote about the struggle of being black in America. James was the oldest of nine children and was born into poverty in Harlem, New York. He spent much of his youth reading. James' mother was a domestic worker (a maid) and his strict, cruel stepfather was a factory worker and preacher (who died in a mental hospital in 1943). James was a preacher himself for three years when he was a teenager. The author Richard Wright was James' early writing mentor. Baldwin's first book, the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It On the Mountain, was published in 1953 and is considered to be a classic American novel. Baldwin lived in France for many years, distancing himself from American life in order to examine it; Baldwin wrote, "Once you find yourself in another civilization, you're forced to examine your own." A pacifist, Baldwin participated in the Southern school desegregation struggle of the 1960s and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin wrote extensively about the Civil Rights Movement, including The Fire Next Time andNotes of a Native Son. Throughout his life, Baldwin used his enormous writing talent to work for racial equality. Baldwin wrote, "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." and "Artists are here to disturb the peace." Baldwin died at the age of 63 at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.