1. Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919) - She became the first female African-American to become a millionaire by inventing a line of cosmetic and hair care products aimed at black consumers in the first decades of the 20th century. She also pioneered the use of female traveling, sales agents who covered the United States and the Caribbean, going door-to-door selling her products. Additionally, Ms. Walker was also an early champion of employee development and business offering training and other opportunities to her employees. C. J. Walker was also a philanthropist.
2. George Washington Carver (1861-1943) - Mr. Carver became one of the leading agronomists of his time. (How's that for a 50-cent word?) He was a pioneer in finding uses for peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. He was born into slavery but still managed to attend school where he was the first African-American to obtain his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University. After receiving his master's degree he went to work for Alabama's Tuskegee Institute where he made his greatest contributions to science, developing more than 300 uses for the peanut alone, including soap, skin lotion, and paint.
3. Charles Drew (1904-1950) - Charles Drew was a doctor and medical researcher whose pioneering research into blood helped save thousands of lives during World War II. He worked as a researcher at Columbia University (New York City) in the 1930s where he invented a means of separating plasma from whole blood, allowing it to be stored for up to a week, far longer than had been possible up until that time. Drew also discovered that plasma could be transfused between persons regardless of blood type and helped the British government establish their first national blood bank. Drew worked briefly with the American Red Cross during World War II but resigned to protest the organization's insistence on segregating blood from white and black donors.
4. Thomas L. Jennings (1791-1856) - Mr. Jennings holds the honor of being the first African-American to hold a patent. A tailor by trade in New York City, Jennings applied for and received a patent in 1821 for a cleaning technique he'd pioneered called "dry scouring." It was a precursor to today's dry cleaning. His invention made Jennings a wealthy man and he used his earnings to support early abolition and civil rights organizations.
5. George Edward Alcorn, Jr. (1940- living) - Mr. Alcorn is a physicist whose work in the aerospace industry helped revolutionize astrophysics and semiconductor manufacturing. He is credited with 20 inventions, eight of which he received patents for. Perhaps his best-known innovation is for an x-ray spectrometer used to analyze distant galaxies and other deep-space phenomena, which he patented in 1984. Alcorn's research into plasma etching, for which he received a patent in 1989, is still used in the production of computer chips, also known as semiconductors.
These scientists and inventors have given much to the world. But they aren't the only ones. If you want to know more about the significant contributions of African- Americans, check with your local library or simply visit your favorite search engine. You'll find more than you can imagine!
Please join me tomorrow for another life lesson from my wise friend and teacher, The Dharma Frog. Until then, I wish you