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George Branham III:  1st African American Bowler To Win A Major PBA Title

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george branham III
George Branham, III (1962 – )

George Branham III (1962 – ) was the first African American to win the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title. Branham was born in Detroit, MI. His father, George Branham, Jr., taught him how bowl in 1968. The family relocated to San Fernando Valley, CA. After high school, Branham played on bowling leagues, and worked at bowling alleys to perfect his skills. He turned pro at age 23. His pro career started with eight consecutive tournament wins between 1985-1987. In 1986, he became the first African American to win a major PBA event.

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1886 Carroll County Courthouse Massacre

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Carroll County Courthouse – Carroll County, MS

On March 17, 1886, in Carroll County, Mississippi, 23 people lost their lives in the “Carroll County Courthouse Massacre”. The circumstances leading up to the massacre occurred in January 1886 when two brothers Ed and Charley Brown dropped molasses on Robert Moore, a white man. The brothers transporting the molasses to a saloon. Ed and Charley were of Native American and African American ancestry. The situation was initially resolved without incident. Moore did mention the incident to a friend as well as Carollton attorney James Liddell. Liddell decided to take matters into his on hands.
Liddell challenged Ed and Charley, accusing them of dropping the molasses on Robert Moore intentionally. The men began to argue but the verbal altercation was broken up by bystanders before it became physical. Later in the day, Liddell heard that the Brown brothers had been speaking negatively about him, after which an argument ensued. The argument resulted in shots being fired. All 3 men were wounded. The Brown brothers pressed charges against Liddell for attempted murder. The white residents of the town were not happy that black men had decided to press charges against a white person.
On the day of the trial, March 17, 1886, over 50 white men armed with guns ran into the courtroom and began firing at the Brown brothers and other blacks in attendance. The Brown brothers were killed. Other blacks in the courtroom tried to escape by jumping out of second floor windows but were shot by armed white men outside of the courthouse. 23 blacks lost their lives during the massacre. No whites were injured. There were no arrests from the incident nor was anyone ever charged. Bullet holes on the courtroom walls were not covered until the courthouse renovation in the early 1990s. Governor Robert Lowry stated that the “riot” was initiated by the the “conduct of negroes”. News of the massacre received national press attention. However, there was no formal investigation of the incident. African American U.S. Senator Blanche K. Bruce requested federal action from President Grover Cleveland. The president denied his request. The massacre has received little attention and remains unsolved.


Gladys West:  African American Mathematician Who Helped Develop GPS Technology 

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Gladys and Ira West
Gladys & Ira West

There is no doubt of the pivotal role GPS technology plays in so many facets of our lives. Gladys West, an African American mathematician, was part of the scientific and engineering team that developed Global Positioning System (GPS) technology during the 1950’s and 60’s. 87 year old Gladys West worked at the naval base in Dahlgren, Virginia for 42 years. West’s career started in 1956. She was the second African American woman hired at Dahlgren Naval Base. At the time, she was one of only four black employees; one of which, named Ira West, would become her husband. Gladys West’s work in the development of GPS technology, was discovered when she was preparing a bio for a sorority function. West is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

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Black Panther: 1st Black Superhero In Mainstream American Comics

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Black Panther was the first major black superhero in mainstream American comics. He made his debut in Fantastic Four No. 52 in July 1966. His debut preceded Marvel’s Luke Cage, the Falcon, Storm and Blade; and DC Comics’ Tyroc, Black Lightning and John Stewart.

Dr. George Carruthers:  Developed The 1st Moon-Based Space Observatory Used In The Apollo 16 Space Mission

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George Carruthers (1939 – )


George Carruthers (1939 – ) was born in Cincinnati, OH.  His father was a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corp.  He was the oldest of four children.  His father encouraged his interest in science.  At the age of 10, Carruthers built his first telescope with cardboard tubing and a mail-order lens with money he earned as a delivery boy.  Carruthers was not an especially strong student in math and physics as a child.  Still he won awards at several science competitions.

His father died when he was 12 years old.  Carruther’s mother, relocated the family to her hometown of Chicago, IL where she began working for the U.S. Postal Service.  Carruthers graduated from Englewood High School and then enrolled in the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  There he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961, a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and a doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964.  Continue reading “Dr. George Carruthers:  Developed The 1st Moon-Based Space Observatory Used In The Apollo 16 Space Mission”

Richard R. Wright, Sr.: Educator, College Founder & Banker

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Richard R. Wright, Sr. (1855 – 1947)



Richard R. Wright, Sr. (1855-1947) was born enslaved near Dalton, GA.  Following the Civil War, he and his mother moved to Atlanta, GA.  There he enrolled in Storrs School.  Storrs was founded by the American Missionary Society to educate the children of free blacks.  Storrs would eventually become Atlanta University.  Union General Oliver Otis Howard visited the school in 1868.  While there, he asked the students if they had any thoughts they would like him to share with the North.  Wright replied, “Sir, tell them we are rising.”  Wright was the valedictorian of Atlanta University’s first graduating class in 1876.  He also married Lydia Elizabeth Howard in 1876.  Together they had nine children.

Wright founded the Georgia State Industrial College For Colored Youth in 1891.  The college was located in Savanah, GA.  Today the school is known as Savannah State University.  Wright served as the university’s first president from 1891 – 1921.  By the end of Wright’s time as president, the college had grown its enrollment to 400+ students, a significant increase from the 8 students who entered the school in 1891.  Continue reading “Richard R. Wright, Sr.: Educator, College Founder & Banker”

John S Rock:  1st African American Lawyer To Argue A Case Before The Supreme Court

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john s rock

 John S. Rock was born to free parents in Salem, NJ. He began his professional career at age 19 working as teacher from 1844-1848.  While still a teacher, he began studying medicine with two white doctors.  Initially denied entry, he, was eventually admitted to American Medical College in Philadelphia, PA.  Rock graduated from medical school in 1852.  He also married Catherine Bowers in 1852.  While attending medical school Rock maintained a dental practice and also continued to teach classes for blacks at a night school.  Continue reading “John S Rock:  1st African American Lawyer To Argue A Case Before The Supreme Court”

“A Red Record”:  A History of Lynching Documented By Ida B. Wells Barnett

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Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931)

Published in 1895, by journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), “A Red Record” was a pamphlet designed to recount America’s history of lynching African Americans. The term “lynching” dates back to the late 1700’s. The term was named after a frontier judge named Charles Lynch. Lynch was known for quickly dispensing of jury trials, preferring instead to use hangings as a way to quickly mete out justice. Thus, the hangings, came to be known as lynchings. Lynching is really an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of ways that someone could be put to death. Ida B. Wells Barnett made it her life’s work to speak out against this unjust practice. She was a skilled orator and journalist. “A Red Record” served as another way in which she could fight against the unjust practice of lynching.

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Ethel Lois Payne:  “The First Lady” Of The Black Press

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ethel lois payne 1

Ethel Lois Payne (1891-1991)

Ethel Lois Payne (1911-1991) embarked on a career in journalism that would ultimately position her as one of the leading African American journalists of her era. She was born in Chicago, IL. Her father was a Pullman Porter. Her family resided in the all black community of Englewood. She was the 5th of 6th children. Her father died when she was 12, leaving her family with little financial support. Her mother worked as a domestic and also took in borders to help support the family following her husband’s death. Payne’s mother recognized her talent for writing early-on and encourage her to perfect her skills. Payne attend Lindblom High School. To get to school, she had to walk through a segregated neighborhood each day where she was subjected to racial slurs and having rocks thrown at her.

ethel lois payne 2

Despite these challenges, she excelled in English and History. Her English teacher urged her to submit one of her stories to a magazine. Her submission was approved for publication. Initially Payne decided to pursue a law degree. However, her application to the University of Chicago Law School was denied because of her race.

Payne began working as a journalist for the Chicago Defender in 1951. She covered many significant events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, March On Washington, Vietnam War, Apartheid, and many other stories. She also accompanied Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on a six nation tour of Africa in 1976. Payne was well known for asking tough questions. Payne considered her role as a journalist to also be a platform for civil rights advocacy and she didn’t hesitate to use it as such. In 1972 she became the first African-American woman radio and television commentator on a national network, working on CBS’s program Spectrum from 1972 to 1978, and after that with Matters of Opinion until 1982. She ws the first African American woman to serve in those roles. She remained with CBS for 10 years. A few years before her death, Payne said,

I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased . . . when it comes to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.

–Ethel Lois Payne


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