Monday, February 6, 2012

Granville T. Woods

Granville T. Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910), was an African-American inventor who held more than 60 patents. Most of his work was on trains and street cars. Woods also invented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between train stations and moving trains. Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry.

Granville T. Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. During his youth he also went to night school and took private lessons. Although he had to leave formal school at age ten, Woods realized that learning and education were essential to developing critical skills that would allow him to express his creativity with machinery. In 1872, Woods obtained a job as a fireman on the Danville and Southern Railroad in Nebraska, eventually becoming an engineer. He invested his spare time in studying electronics. In 1874, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, and worked in a rolling mill. In 1878, he took a job aboard the Ironsides, a British steamer, and, within two years, became Chief Engineer of the steamer. Finally, his travels and experiences led him to settle in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became dedicated to modernizing the railroad.

Woods developed several improvements to the railroad system, and was referred to by some as the "Black Edison."

In 1885, Woods patented an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which he called "telegraphony", would allow a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. He sold the rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains. Thomas Edison later filled a claim to the ownership of this patent. In 1888, Woods manufactured a system of overhead electric conducting lines for railroads modeled after the system pioneered by Charles van Depoele, a famed inventor who had by then installed his electric railway system in thirteen U.S. cities. In 1889, he filed a patent for an improvement to the steam-boiler furnace.

Woods is sometimes credited with the invention of the electric third rail, however, many third rail systems were in place in both Europe and North America at the time Woods filed for his patent in 1901. Thomas Edison had been awarded a patent for the third rail almost a decade earlier, in 1882.
By the time of his death in 1910, Woods had made a successful career as an engineer and inventor.

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, March 14, 2011

Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler was born with few material advantages, but through determination and a sense of purpose she was able to create institutions needed for her own and her child’s welfare. In doing so, she served the needs of black women and children nationwide.
Selena was born in Thomasville, Georgia, some time around 1872, a few years after slavery was abolished. Her mother was a woman of African and Indian descent. Her father was a white man who supported his children and their mother but did not live with them. Selena’s mother died while she was still a child.

Under difficult circumstances, Selena put what resources she had to work. She received elementary school training from missionaries in Thomas County. Then, under sponsorship of a minister, she attended Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College). Graduating at age 16 she embarked on a career in teaching English and elocution, first in Atlanta, then in Florida.
In Atlanta Selena met Henry Rutherford Butler. They married, and she accompanied him to Boston, where he attended Harvard. In 1895 they returned to Atlanta, where Henry became one of the most prominent black physicians in the city.

As their son, Henry, Jr., approached school age, Selena looked for a preschool. Finding none in her neighborhood—or in any black neighborhood in the city—she started a kindergarten in her home.
When Henry entered the Yonge Street Elementary School, Selena began seeking ways to help parents get involved in their children’s education. Enlisting support from other parents, she organized the first black Parent-Teacher Association in the United States at Yonge Street School.

Using her teaching experience, Selena worked toward establishing a statewide black Parent-Teacher Association. With her help, a group named the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers appeared a few years later. This group maintained close contact with the white Parent-Teacher Association and modeled its policies in cooperation with that organization. Though the two national organizations did not merge until after her death in 1964, Selena was named one of the national founders of the national Parent-Teacher Association.

Selena was also active in educational issues throughout her lifetime. She was a delegate to the founding convention of the National Association of Colored Women; the first president of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs; a member of the Georgia Commission on Interracial Cooperation; a member of the Chatauqua Circle of Atlanta; and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

After her husband’s death, Selena joined her son, also a physician, who was stationed at an Army hospital base in Arizona. There she organized the first black women’s chapter of the Gray Ladies Corps.

Selena died at the age of 92 and is buried with her husband at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Her portrait hangs in the Georgia State Capitol. She has been honored by President Hoover, the American Red Cross and Spelman College.

Source:Goergia women.Org

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Black Signature On US Currency


Today's page looks at the pioneering political career of Sen. Blanche Kelso Bruce of Mississippi.

Blanche Kelso Bruce was a man of firsts. Although not the first black to serve in the United States, Senate (Hiram Revels did that in 1870), Bruce was the first black to be elected to a full six-year term. He was also the first black man to have his signature printed on money when, in 1878, he served as the register of the US Treasury.

Bruce was a powerbroker who amassed a fortune in real estate. Wealthy and well-connected, he organized a strong black political machine and went on to build America's first black dynasty.

Bruce was born on March 1, 1841, in Farmville, Va. His mother, Polly, was a slave. His father, Pettus Perkinson, was her owner and the son-in-law of her first owner, Lemuel Bruce.

Bruce was the personal servant of his brother, William and was schooled by his private tutor. Bruce was a good student and loved to read.

When the Civil War broke out, Bruce tried to enlist with the Union Army, but was rejected because he was black. He went to Lawrence, Kan., and became a teacher. He later went to Hannibal, Mo., where, in 1864, he organized the first school for black children in that state. He attended Oberlin College but when his money ran out, he became a steamboat porter. He later moved to Mississippi in search of better employment.

Bruce heard a speech by Republican gubernatorial candidate James Alcorn in 1869 that would change his life and inspire him to go into politics. Bruce was articulate and charismatic. His political star began to rise quickly.

Adelbert Ames -- himself a Mississippi governor and senator -- became Bruce's mentor. Bruce became a registrar of voters in Tallahatchie County and was later elected sergeant at arms. By 1871, he was elected sheriff and tax collector. The following year, he became the county superintendent of education, turning it into one of the best school systems in the state of Mississippi for both blacks and whites.

While Ames was governor, he offered the popular Bruce the lieutenant governor seat in 1873, but Bruce declined, eyeing Ames' vacated Senate seat instead. In 1874, Bruce was overwhelmingly elected to fill the full six-year senate term, but Alcorn, who was a rival of Ames, refused to escort him to the podium to be sworn in. New York's Sen. Roscoe Conkling did the honors, and the two men formed a lasting friendship. Through Conklin, Bruce received appointments on the Education and Labor, Manufacturers and Pension committees. Bruce would name his only son after Conklin.
In 1878, Bruce married Josephine Beal, the first black teacher in the Cleveland public-school system and the daughter of a prominent dentist. The two became fixtures on the Washington society scene hosting lavish parties.

Bruce supported the rights of black war veterans, promoting integration and fair treatment for servicemen. In 1878, he tried unsuccessfully to desegregate the Army. He was also one of the few members of Congress to defend the rights of Native Americans from unfair government laws.

On Feb, 14, 1879, Bruce enjoyed another first by becoming the first black to preside over a Senate session.

Bruce's land holdings made him a wealthy man with his worth valued at an unheard-of $150K -- $2.5 million in today's dollars, an astounding amount for anyone, black or white at that time. But his support among black constituents was beginning to collapse. He was a man of means and, as such, was viewed as out of touch with his constituents, who were not as financially well off.

After his Senate career came to an end, Bruce spent much time traveling across the country on speaking engagements and working to enhance and preserve his political legacy. He remained active in Mississippi politics, serving as a presiding officer at the 1880 Republican National Convention. He even received eight votes nominating him for vice president.

Bruce had long enjoyed the friendship of President Ulysses S. Grant and was nominated to President James Garfield's Cabinet. He served as registrar of the treasury, during which time his signature appeared on US currency. He later served in the cabinets of Presidents William McKinley, James Garfield, Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison.

Blanche Bruce died on March 1, 1898, at age 57 from a kidney ailment due to complications from diabetes

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First African American Governor

First African American Governor

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was the first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. What makes this fact all the more astounding is that the state was Louisiana, a Southern state.

Pinchback was born on May 10, 1837, the son of a slave and her master who lived as husband and wife with their five children. The family lived in Mississippi, where the elder Pinchback purchased a large plantation. The Pinchbacks lived well, a far cry from the conditions in which other blacks subsisted during that time.

The elder Pinchback died in 1848 and his family disinherited Mrs. Pinchback and her children. Fearing that the children would become slave property, as there was no emancipation yet, she fled to Cincinnati with her family.
Young Pinchback began working on the boats that stopped along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and became an experienced hustler, specializing in con games like three-card monte and chuck-a-luck.

In 1860, Pinchback married Nina Hawthorne. The following year, the Civil War broke out and Pinchback hoped to fight with the Union troops against the South. He went to Louisiana and formed several companies, which became part of the Louisiana National Guard. He was the only black person in the ranks, but he resigned after growing tired of the constant prejudice he encountered.

After the war ended, he and his wife moved to Alabama to test out their newly found freedom. But conditions had not changed with emancipation. He found that occupying Union forces were as prejudiced as their Southern counterparts, often dressing in Confederate uniforms at night to terrorize the newly freed slaves. Pinchback began organizing and speaking out at public meetings, urging blacks to organize and fight politically.

Pinchback returned to New Orleans as a committed Republican. He was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention, and he accepted the nomination for state senator during the 1867-68 Constitutional Convention. He campaigned vigorously for himself and his mentor and ally, Gov. Henry Clay Warmoth.

Pinchback lost by a narrow margin and cited voting fraud. The new legislature agreed, and allowed him to take his oath of office and join the Louisiana Senate, which had 42 African-American representatives. By 1871, however, the state legislature fell victim to the political corruption common during the Reconstruction era.

After the sudden death of the state's lieutenant governor, Pinchback was recommended by Warmoth as the replacement, becoming the first African-American lieutenant governor.

But Republicans were not happy with Gov. Warmoth and sought to impeach him. Pinchback became the acting governor, drawing hate mail from all over the country and death threats from his community. By 1873, Pinchback's historic gubernatorial run was over, and another Republican, William Kellogg, was elected governor.
In 1874, Pinchback ran for a US House seat and two years later for the Senate. He won both, making him his state's first African-American representative in Washington. But each victory was contested and he was removed, amid allegations of fraud, in favor of a white candidate. This was the beginning of a reversal of the many political gains blacks had made since the end of the Civil War.

At nearly 50 years of age, Pinchback began studying law and in the early 1890s, moved his family to New York City, where he served as a US Marshal. Later, they settled in Washington. Sadly, he watched as the achievements he had sought for African Americans were legally and illegally reversed. The number of registered black voters in Louisiana alone fell from 130,000 to 1,300 in eight years.
Pinchback continued the fight for equal rights for blacks. He was chairman of the Convention of Colored Newspaper Men, which led to the formation of the Associated Negro Press.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback died on Dec. 21, 1921, and was buried in New Orleans. He should always be remembered for his struggles and accomplishments during the Reconstruction era.

The poet Bruce Grit declared, "The civic and political experiences of Gov. Pinchback should serve as a guide to our young men in the future and help them to break down the barriers which were set up by designing white men of his own political faith."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Father Of Harlem Real Estate


February 28, 2008 -- The famed Village of Harlem did not become the black capital of the world overnight. An overextended real-estate market and the ingenuity of Phillip Peyton, Jr. provided its surge.

NEWYork's famed Harlem has come a long way from its beginnings. It was first settled by Dutchman Hendrick de Forest in 1637. It became Nieuw Haarlem (New Harlem) in 1658. Right from the start, the name was synonymous with good living.

Harlem was the scene of a battle during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought on Sept. 16, 1776, on what is now 125th Street.
During the early 1800s, Harlem was occupied by wealthy farm owners, but by the late 1800s, the area began to decline. Most of Harlem's early residents were Jewish. Blacks began arriving around 1880, living in the Negro tenements. But a real-estate boom was under way by the turn of the century, with elegant apartments intended for well-to-do whites. Harlem was one of the most expensive places to live in New York City. Average rents downtown were between $10 and $18 dollars a month. Harlem rents started at $80.

Most blacks in Manhattan lived in the rundown San Juan Hill area near what is today Lincoln Square. Blacks migrated to Harlem in droves in the early 1900s, but were not welcomed by landlords outside of the tenements. But what goes up eventually comes down, and Harlem's real-estate bubble burst, leaving landlords with few tenants or buyers. Enter Phillip Peyton, Jr.
Born in Westfield, Mass., on Feb. 17, 1876, Peyton was a barber by trade, but also worked as a handyman and custodian. Peyton eventually became a real-estate agent, managing the colored tenements.

"My first opportunity came as a result of a dispute between two landlords onWest 134th Street. To 'get even,' one of them turned his house over to me to be filled with colored tenants," Peyton said.
He opened his Afro-American Realty Co. at 67W. 134th St., and began filling the empty buildings with black tenants. Two years later, he began buying his own buildings.

Peyton still faced opposition from white real-estate agents who did not want blacks in their buildings. So began a game of one-upmanship.
Peyton sold three buildings on 135th Street to the white-owned Hudson Realty Co., which, in turn, evicted the black tenants and filled the buildings with whites. Peyton reciprocated by buying two adjacent buildings and evicting the white tenants and filling it with blacks. Whites were now leaving Harlem and Hudson Realty sold the buildings back to Peyton and took a loss. Peyton's reputation was established, and his company grew to be worth more than $1 million. And he was not yet 30 years old.

Eventually, Peyton became as overzealous with his purchases as his white counterparts had been, and he soon found himself stuck with empty buildings and angry stockholders. His enterprise crashed with the 1907-08 recession.

But the wheels were in motion, and there was no stopping the migration of blacks to Harlem. By 1915, more than 50,000 African-Americans lived there, including many of the great artists, musicians and writers who would spur the storied Harlem Renaissance.

Peyton did not live to see his dream of a black Harlem fully realized. He died in 1917, at age 41. But there is no doubt that his efforts in opening Harlem's doors to blacks led to Harlem becoming the Black Capital of the World.

The Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender, which became the world’s largest black newspaper.

Robert S. Abbott started the Chicago Defender in 1905 with just twenty-five cents.
February 26, 2008 -- Today’s page looks at the Chicago Defender, which became the world’s largest black newspaper.

The Chicago Defender was founded by Robert S. Abbott on May 5, 1905, and lauded itself as the "world’s greatest weekly." The Defender was the nation’s most influential black weekly newspaper at the start of World War I. Abbott started the paper with 25 cents and 300 copies, working out of a small kitchen in his landlord’s Chicago apartment.

The first editions were handbills containing local news items gathered mostly from other papers. The Defender did not use the words "black" or "Negro." African-Americans were referred to as "the Race." It was militant in its decry of racial injustice and famous for blazing headlines and graphic images that depicted the injustices blacks suffered in the United States, including lynchings. The paper soon attracted national attention.

The Defender provided firsthand coverage of the infamous Red Summer Race Riots of 1919, which broke out in cities across the country.
The paper was in full support of the Great Migration (1915-1925), urging Southern blacks to leave the racially oppressive South and head North for better opportunities. The paper featured job listings and train schedules, and referred to the famed migration as the "Great Northern Drive." More than 110,000 blacks came to Chicago alone, nearly tripling the city’s African-American population.

It was no surprise that distributors in the South refused to circulate the paper. The Defender was smuggled in by Pullman porters and entertainers, passed from person to person and read aloud in barber shops and churches. The Chicago Defender was the first black newspaper to have a circulation of more than 100,000, a health column and a full page of comics.

Famed writers Langston Hughes and Walter White were columnists. The paper also published the early poems of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Gwendolyn Brooks.
Abbott’s nephew and heir, John H. Sengstacke, took over the paper in 1940 and continued its policy of championing full equality for African-Americans. Among his accomplishments were influencing President Harry Truman to issue an order ending segregation in the military and helping to integrate Chicago’s city government.

Sengstacke became the first president of the National Negro Publishers Association, an organization founded to establish unity among the black newspapers. There are more than 200 black newspaper members in the organization, known today as the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

On Feb. 6, 1956, The Defender became the Chicago Daily Defender, the largest black-owned and-operated daily in the world.

Sengstacke established his own newspaper empire with Detroit’s Michigan Chronicle, the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Tenn., and the Pittsburgh Courier. He served as publisher of the Defender until his death in May of 1977.

On Feb. 13, the Chicago Defender returned to its roots as a weekly publication, but its mission to serve the African-American community remains as strong as it has always been.