Tag Archives: Black History Month

Black History Month–Day 19

In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:

Bessie Stringfield

The Motorcycle Queen of Miami

(1911–1993), nicknamed “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami”,[1] was an African American woman credited with breaking down barriers for both women and African American motorcyclists. She was the first African-American woman to ride across the United States solo and during World War IIshe served as one of the few motorcycle despatch riders for the United States military. The award bestowed by the American Motorcyclist Association for ‘Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist’ is named in her honour. In 2002 Stringfield was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.  Stringfield was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1911, but her parents migrated to Boston when she was still young. Her parents died when Stringfield was five and she was adopted and raised by an Irish woman.  At the age of sixteen Stringfield taught herself to ride her first motorcycle, a 1928 Indian Scout. At the age of nineteen she commenced travelling across the United States and eventually rode through the 48 lower states. During this time she earned money from performing motorcycle stunts in carnival shows.[2] Due to her skin colour, Stringfield was often denied accommodation while travelling, so she would sleep on her motorcycle at filling stations. Continue reading

Black History Month–Day 18

In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:

George Washington

Date: Thu, 1872-11-07, on this date we recall the birth of George Washington in 1817. He was an African-American farmer, businessman and the founder of the town of Centralia, Washington.
Born a slave in Virginia, George Washington escaped and was raised by a white family in Missouri. Unable to attend school, he was tutored and eventually ran a sawmill in St. Joseph, MO. He struggled under the racial restrictions of that slave-holding state, and in 1850 joined a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. After reaching the northwest, George Washington again entered the lumber business and established a homestead on the Chehalis River. But his farm lay in the path of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
He and the company came to terms and with the settlement he received, Washington planned a new town in 1872. He called it Centerville, and he laid out 2,000 lots, setting aside sites for parks and churches. The town thrived, though the name was changed to Centralia.
George Washington spent the rest of his life there as an honored citizen. When he died in 1905, the town, 30 miles south of Olympia, shut down for a day of mourning. George Washington Park (named after him) is in the heart of Centralia, at Pearl St. and Harrison St. Continue reading

Black History Month–Day 17

In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:

Granville T. Woods

Granville T. Woods was such a prolific inventor, he is often called the black Thomas Edison. Woods holds more than 50 patents for such inventions as the egg incubator and a steam boiler furnace. But his most significant invention, the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph (patented in 1887), allowed railway stations to communicate with moving trains. Because dispatchers were better able to locate trains, rail accidents were significantly reduced.

Dr. James E. West

Electret Microphone Inventor

Dr. James E. WestNinety percent of microphones used today are based on the ingenuity of James Edward West, an African-American inventor born in 1931 in Prince Edwards County, VA. If you’ve ever talked on the telephone, you’ve probably used his invention.
Dr. James E. West and a colleague, Gerhard Sessler, developed the mic (officially known as the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone) while with Bell Laboratories, and they received a patent for it in 1962. The acoustical technologies employed became widely used for many reasons including high performance, acoustical accuracy and reliability. It is also small, lightweight and cost effective. Continue reading

Black History Month–Day 16

In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:

Elijah McCoy

(1843-1929)- invented a device that lubricated train machinery automatically while it was still in operation.  Before his invention all trains had to be stopped from time to time so they could be oiled by hand.  His invention was used around the world and resulted in the train industry saving millions of dollars.  Others tried to copy his invention, but many people did not except them and created a phrase that is used in the American language today.  They said they wanted “The Real McCoy.”

Silicon Valley Engineering Council

Roy L. Clay

Clay helped launch Hewlett-Packard’s computer division in the late 1960s and is known to some as the godfather of black Silicon Valley for helping break down barriers for African Americans in technology. His recruitment and development of talent has helped usher in the next generation of black technology innovators.

John Henry Thompson

Computer Programming and Software Inventions

John Henry ThompsonEven in high school, John Henry Thompson was interested in computer programming languages. He taught himself several programming languages such as FORTRAN, PLI, COBOL and JCL while working in a New York research facility. Thompson’s goal was to absorb as much knowledge as possible so he could invent his own computer language.
After graduating from High School, he attended MIT where he obtained a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Visual Arts. By combining these two seemingly disparate disciplines, Thompson wanted to bridge the gap between art and technology. Four years later as a chief scientist at Macromedia™, he was able to make progress towards this goal. He developed a number of products, many of them based on his most famous invention, Lingo programming: a scripting language that helps render visuals in computer programs. Thompson used Lingo in one of his better-known computer inventions, Macromedia™ Director. Macromedia™ Director is able to incorporate different graphic formats (such as BMP, AVI, JPEG, QuickTime, PNG, RealVideo and vector graphics) to create multi-media content and applications, thus combining computer programming language with visual art.
Lingo is now used with many programs that have interactive simulations with graphics, animation, sound, and video. Along with Macromedia™ Director, Thompson has helped develop MediaMaker, Actions, VideoWorks Accelerator, and Video Works II. Lingo has also been used to create flash and shockwave programs that now are prevalent in video games, web design, animation, and graphics.

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

Black History Month–Day 15

In honor of Black History Month, here are few profiles of contributors to history of African descent:

Percy L. Julian

One of the most important scientists of the 20th century, Julian was one of the first to harness the power of plants using the process of synthesis. Synthesis was critical to the medical industry because it allowed scientists to create chemicals that were rare in nature. The chemist’s work led to the birth control pill and improvements in the production of cortisone. In 2007 PBS’s NOVA made a documentary on his life called Forgotten Genius

Valerie Thomas

Inventor of the Illusion Transmitter

Valerie ThomasDid you ever think of what it might be like if your television could project the on-screen image directly into your living room as a 3-Dimensional image? Maybe not, but if it happens, you’ll have African-American inventor Valerie Thomas to thank for it.
From 1964 to 1995, Thomas worked in a variety of capacities for NASA where she developed real-time computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments and managed various operations, projects and facilities. While managing a project for NASA’s image processing systems, Thomas’ team spearheaded the development of “Landsat,” the first satellite to send images from space.

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