In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:
Rebecca J. Cole
(16 March 1846–14 August 1922) was an American physician. In 1867, she became the second African American woman to become a doctor in the United States after Rebecca Crumpler‘s achievement three years earlier.
Cole was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and would overcome racial and gender barriers to medical education by training in all-female institutions run by women who had been part of the first generation of female physicians graduating mid-century. Cole attended the Institute for Colored Youth, graduating in 1863. She then went on to graduate from the <a title="Drexel University College of Medicine" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drexel_University_College_of_Medicine” target=”_blank”>Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867, under the supervision of Ann Preston. Her graduate medical thesis was titled The Eye and Its Appendages. Afterwards Cole interned at Elizabeth Blackwell‘s New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children.
Cole went on to practice in South Carolina, then returned to Philadelphia, and in 1873 opened a Women’s Directory Center to provide medical and legal services to destitute women and children. In January 1899, she was appointed superintendent of a home, run by the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C.. The annual report for that year stated that she possessed “all the qualities essential to such a position-ability, energy, experience, tact.” A subsequent report noted that:
Dr. Cole herself has more than fulfilled the expectations of her friends. With a clear and comprehensive view of her whole field of action, she has carried out her plans with the good sense and vigor which are a part of her character, while her cheerful optimism, her determination to see the best in every situation and in every individual, have created around her an atmosphere of sunshine that adds to the happiness and well being of every member of the large family.
Although Cole practiced medicine for fifty years, few records survive, and no images of her remain.
In addition to having acted in many films, McDaniel was a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she received screen credits for only about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.
McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.
McDaniel died at age 57 from breast cancer, in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, on October 26, 1952. She was childless and was divorced from her fourth husband. She was survived by her brother, Sam McDaniel. Thousands of mourners turned out to remember her life and accomplishments. In her will, McDaniel wrote: “I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses. I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery”. The Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood was the resting place of movie stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and others. Hollywood Cemetery refused to allow her to be buried there, because it, too, practiced racial segregation. It did not accept the bodies of black people. Her second choice was Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today.
In 1999, Tyler Cassity, the new owner of the Hollywood Cemetery, who had renamed it Hollywood Forever Cemetery, wanted to right the wrong and offered to have McDaniel interred in the cemetery. Her family did not want to disturb her remains and declined the offer. Hollywood Forever Cemetery instead built a large cenotaph memorial on the lawn overlooking the lake in honor of McDaniel. It is one of the most popular sites for visitors.Rebecca J. Cole (16 March 1846–14 August 1922) was an American physician. In 1867, she became the second African American woman to become a doctor in the United States after Rebecca Crumpler’s achievement three years earlier.
Thanks to Tanisha and Bryan Jones and their daughter Sinai for compiling these profiles from the following sources:
1) The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, by Susan Altman
2) The Roots website, theroots.com
3) Famous Black Inventors website, black-inventor.com