#HiddenFigures Inventors

Written by: Shannon Crowner
Date: February 18, 2017

The movie “Hidden Figures” reminds us that African Americans made significant contributions to history, but are often left out of the story. Each Saturday this month, we’ll be highlight fascinating pioneers in black history whose stories have gone untold.

Part 3: 5 African American Inventors

Wally Amos (1936-)

Wallace “Wally” Amos Jr. is the founder of the “Famous Amos” chocolate chip cookie brand. The first Famous Amos cookie store opened in Los Angeles in 1975. Within months he opened two more stores on the West Coast and Bloomingdale’s department store had begun selling the cookies. Due to mismanagement, Amos was forced to sell his company to the Shansby Group in 1988. The Keebler Company purchased the Famous Amos brand in 1998 and Amos resumed his role as the brand’s spokesperson.

Sarah Goode (1850-1905)

Sarah Goode was the first African American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Goode was born into slavery, but granted her freedom at the end of the Civil War. Her and her husband moved to Chicago where they owned a furniture shop. On July 14, 1885, Goode received the patent for her invention of a folding cabinet bed, similar to a modern Murphy bed.

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1929)

Inventor and engineer Lewis Howard Latimer was born in 1848 to parents who had fled slavery. His father was caught and put on trial as a fugitive, but was defended by abolitionists Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. The father disappeared in fear of being recaptured, so Lewis began working at a young age to help his mother. Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing and drafting and began designing a number of inventions. Latimer helped draft the design for the telephone with Alexander Graham Bell. When he was hired by famous inventor, Thomas Edison, he patented a carbon filament for the incandescent light bulb. The invention helped to make the light bulb more practical and affordable for the average household.

Sarah Boone (1832-1904)

Sarah Boone, a dressmaker, received a patent for an improvement to the ironing board in 1892. Before Boone’s ironing board, most women would use the kitchen table or prop a board between two chairs to iron their clothes. Boone’s ironing board was very narrow and curved to be effective in ironing the sleeves and bodies’ of ladies clothing. Her design included the padded cover and foldable legs.

Garrett Morgan (1877-1963)

Despite his sixth grade education, Garrett Morgan became one of the most successful entrepreneurs and inventors of his time. In 1907, he opened his own repair shop and became the first black man in Cleveland to own a car. He was a member of the NAACP, donated money to black colleges, started an African American newspaper, The Cleveland Call, and opened an all black country club. After witnessing a carriage accident, Morgan invented the three way traffic signal and quickly acquired the patent for it. He sold the rights to the General Electric Company for $40,000.

#HiddenFigures in Sports

Written by: Shannon Crowner
Date: February 11, 2017

The movie Hidden Figures reminds us that African Americans made significant contributions to history, but are often left out of the story. Each Saturday this month, We’ll be highlighting fascinating pioneers in black history whose stories have gone untold.

Part 2: 5 African American contributions that have influenced sports.

Charles Haley (1964-) 

Football player

Charles Haley is the first player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls. Haley was the San Francisco 49ers fourth round draft pick, but developed into one of the NFL’s most talented pass rushers. He won two Super Bowl Championships with the 49ers (Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV)  and three more Super Bowl rings after he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Stories of Haley’s “bad and unpredictable temper” dominated the media while he was in the NFL and caused his trade from San Francisco to Dallas. In 2002, Haley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is now working as an advocate for mental health.

Moses Fleetwood Walker (1856-1924

Moses Fleetwood Walker broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier six decades before Jackie Robinson. After Walker graduated from the University of Michigan he signed with the minor league team, the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883. In the beginning of the 1884 season, the American Association (which would later become the modern-day American League) formed and the Toledo Blue Stockings was one of the first teams added to the franchise. On May 1, 1884, Walker, as starting catcher of the Blue Stockings, officially broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball. When his baseball career ended, Walker used his education to become a successful author, inventor, entrepreneur, and activist.

Issac Burns Murphy (1861-1896)

Isaac Burns Murphy won three Kentucky Derbies and is considered one of the greatest jockeys of all time. After his father died as an Union Army solider in the Civil War, Burns and his mother moved to Lexington, KY. After the move, Burns mother worked at a racing stable. Isaac would often accompany his mother to the stables and his “small size” caught the eye of African American trainer, Eli Jordan. Under Jordan’s training, Burns entered his first race at fourteen. He won the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 1884 and also won the American Derby that year. Murphy won the Kentucky Derby again in 1890 and 1891. Calculations record Burns had 539 wins in 1,538 rides, a record still not broken. At the height of his career, Burns was making $15,000 and lived in a mansion in Lexington. Unfortunately, struggles with alcoholism and weight gain ended Burns career.

1966 Texas Western Basketball

Basketball Team

In 1966, the Texas Western Basketball team made history when they became the first team to win the NCAA championship game with five African American players in the starting line up. Matter of factly, before 1966, no major college team had ever started five African Americans in ANY game, better yet a championship. That starting five line up ended the regular season with a 27-1 record and No. 3 ranking. Their successful season led them to the edge of the Mason Dixon line in a championship game against the all white No. 1 ranking team, Kentucky. Texas Western’s 72-65 victory over Kentucky shocked the country and changed the game of college basketball forever.

Eddie Robinson
HBCU Football Coach

Eddie Robinson, the son of a sharecropper and domestic worker, is one of the most winningest coaches in college football. At the age of 22, Robinson was hired as the football coach of historically black Grambling State University and would spend the next 57 seasons there. By 1949, Grambling’s football team was gaining national attention after Paul “Tank” Younger signed with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, thus becoming the first player from an HBCU drafted to the league. Coach Robinson set the NCAA’s benchmark for wins in Division I with 408 victories. He ended his career with an overall record of 408 wins, 165 losses, and 15 ties. Most importantly, Coach Robinson sent over 200 HBCU players to the NFL and 80% his athletes graduated from college.


#HiddenFigures in the Arts

Written By: Shannon Crowner

Date: February 4, 2017

The movie “Hidden Figures” reminds us that African Americans made significant contributions to history, but are often left out of the story. Each Saturday this month, We’ll be highlighting fascinating pioneers in black history whose stories have gone untold.

Part 1: 5 African American contributions that have influenced the arts.

Ann Lowe (1898- 1981)

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy is known as one of the most fashionable First Ladies in American history. What most Americans don’t know is that her wedding dress was designed by African American fashion designer, Ann Lowe. The wedding dress graced media coverage internationally, yet Ann Lowe died in her old age unknown. A collection of Ann Lowe’s dresses have been gifted to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Charles Alston (1907-1977)

Charles Alston was a painter, sculptor, artist, muralist, and teacher based out of Harlem, NY. In 1934, he cofounded the Harlem Art Workshop. “306” (as it was known) became a center for some of Harlem’s most creative minds, including Langston Hughes, Augusta Savage, Gwendolyn Knight, Ralph Ellison, Countee Cullen, and Richard Wright. In 1990, one of Alston’s most famous works, a bust of Martin Luther King Jr., was put up in the White House. His bust is the first sculpture displayed in the White House by an African American artist.

Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952)

Hattie McDaniel, best known for her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind, was the first African American to receive an Academy Award. The awards ceremony was held in the segregated Cocoanut Grove nightclub, so McDaniel’s agent had to call in a special favor just to have McDaniel allowed in the building. When she arrived, McDaniel and her date were escorted to a segregated table for two apart from the rest of the Gone With The Wind cast. Despite the circumstances, McDaniel delivered a tear filled speech thanking the Academy for its “kindness.” McDaniel’s acting career included 74 maid roles and when she received backlash about it, she claimed she’d rather “play a maid than be one.”

Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899-1993)

The son of a Baptist minister and music teacher, Thomas A. Dorsey is known as the “father of gospel music.” His mother taught him to play the organ at a young age and he eventually mastered playing the piano. Despite his mother’s advice to use his gifts to serve the Lord, his love for music led him into jazz and blues halls of Chicago. A turning point in his personal life caused Dorsey to go back to the church. He wrote over 400 compilations, but “Take my Hand, Precious Lord,” is his most famous work.

The National Negro Network (1954)

Founded by businessman W. Leonard Evans Jr., the National Negro Network, was the first black owned radio network in the United States. The network aired popular soap operas, including The Story of Ruby Valentine, which starred Ruby Dee. While Evans efforts were successful in securing the network, he failed to factor in entertainment’s newest invention- television. Due to the advent of television and integration of radio broadcasts, NNN went off the airways in 1955.

Visit the blog next Saturday (2/11/17) for #HiddenFigures in Sports.

The Student Debt Crisis

Crossing the stage as a college graduate is one of the biggest accomplishments for many millennials, as it  marks their entrance in the “real world” and adulthood. With adulthood, comes major responsibilities: moving out, finding a job, and unfortunately,  finding out an effective way to repay loans, grants, and the like that accumulated during one’s time as a student at the same time.

Student debt in the United States accounts for $1.2 trillion of the country’s $16.7 trillion total debt, and it increases $2,698.30 to be exact, every second. The average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 to pay back, slightly up from $35,000 in 2015. For graduate and professional school students, they carry 40% of total student debt, even though only 26 percent of students pursue postgraduate degrees. Overall, graduate school and professional school students owe more than undergraduate graduates, with debt incurred ranging from $40,000- $60,000, varying on the graduate degree attained.

Why are students who are trying to better themselves by attaining higher education having to face such harsh consequences? The rising cost of higher education.

A November 2015 Time article reports that according to the College Board, a non-for-profit organization that helps students attain college success, tuition and fees during the Fall 2015 semester rose faster than inflation, climbing 3 percent from 2014. At public universities, where 45 percent of undergraduates attended, “sticker price” tuition for in-state students was $9,410, a 2.9% increase from 2014. Adding in other fees- room and board, books, travel etc., students had to shell out up to $24,061, showing a 3 percent increase. For students enrolled in private institutions, where 20% of undergraduate students attended, students were projected to pay as much as $47,831, reflecting a 3.4% increase. Because 80% of private school students get grants, families were paying an average net price of $30,300, up almost 5% in just a year, the article reports.


While 3-5% aren’t terribly large numbers, these increases are indeed significant for students because as prices are rising, the number of avenues for financial aid is falling, much quicker. This is often due to state and federal cuts, which ultimately affect how much the school has to give its students, and unfortunately, it is often students who have little previous financial cushion that suffer the most.  The effect of financial aid cuts also varies by region, with some states suffering more than others. A June 2016 The Guardian article reports that in Pennsylvania, a budget dispute between the governor and legislature caused severe cuts in funding in their colleges. Since 2008, state funding for colleges and universities in the state has plunged a whopping one-third, ultimately affecting Penn State’s accreditation status in 2016.

Many financial experts have a fairly simple solution for prospective college and graduate students looking to lessen the amount of future debt: cost-benefit analysis, the economic concept that forces one to fully examine pros and cons of a choice, as well as alternatives. Unarguably, in the long run, the benefits of obtaining a college and advanced degree will frequently outweigh the consequences of its physical cost. However, taking the time to thoroughly research the end result of obtaining the desired degree, even before beginning, will ensure getting “the bang for their buck.”

Here's what we're doing to combat the problem

Why Aren’t More Black High School Students Going To College?

Written By: Sope Aluko
Date: September 2016

According to a 2014 report for the U.S Department of Education, overall U.S high school student graduation rates are soaring like never before. Black and Hispanic students graduated at a 3.7 and 4.2 percentage point increase, correspondingly, over a two year period. During this same period, White students achieved only a 2.6 increase. Despite the fact that they have graduated from high school, numbers are showing that there are very few Black students going on to attend college.


A July 2016 report from the U.S Department of Education, gives us numbers about the state of higher education for African Americans. This report, which examined post secondary institutions from the 2015-2016 school year, degrees and other awards conferred,  as well as 12 month enrollment numbers from the 2014-2015 school year, reveals that a total  3,810,300 African Americans were enrolled at degree granting institutions in the 2014-2015 school year, with 448,952 of them being in graduate school programs. A more comprehensive release of the report shows that African Americans from 18-24 make up 34 percent of college students total. This is not enough. 

There are many barriers that African American face as they look to attend college that stem from the lack of preparation and knowledge given to them in the school systems and their communities, in a variety of vital area. An example of one of these vital areas is managing financing their college education.  The inability to pay for college is a major struggle that students have, largely due to the lack of financial smarts going into college.

In January 2016, CNBC reported that only 20 states require high school students to take economics, and only 17 states require students to take courses in personal finances, which has been the case since 2014 for both subject areas. Data from TheFinancial Regulatory Authority Investor’s Foundation showed thatstudents aged 18-22 who went to school in states where the financial education curriculum was rigorous, had better average credit scores and lower delinquency rates as young adults.

For Black students in particular, learning financial literacy early is imperative, as Blacks who do finish college struggle the most out of any other racial group in their post grad years, mainly due to financial reasons. Black students owe twice as much as their white counterparts in student debt, and are two times more likely to default on student loans, according to the Brookings Institute. Black students who are not able to fully fund themselves, result to dropping out. Unfortunately, 2/3 of Black drop out of college for financial reasons, according to the Journal of Higher Black Education.

For some black students that are foregoing college, it is because the importance of higher education is not impressed upon them in their communities, experts say. According to Child Trends, a non-profit organization that tracks children’s education, Black youth have very low educational expectations than those of White youth, stemming from the fact that Black parents are often less educated than White parents. These inequalities between the two races can be seen between children as young as four years old, as Black children are more likely to be enrolled in low-quality daycare, compared to White children. As the Black child continues through formal schooling, the struggle continues as the educations foundation because the educational foundation was weak to begin with.

While there are numerous other factors that are causing Black high school graduates to skip college, some issues outside of their control, many issues they face are obstacles that can be knocked down by providing them with the right amount of guidance and support, which will allow them to reach their ultimate level of success in their future endeavors.

Here's what we're doing to combat the problem

Young, Black, Unemployed.

Written By: Sope Aluko
Date: September 2016

Over the last eight years, one of President Obama’s grandest accomplishments was improving the nation’s unemployment rate, touting a 5.0 percent rate, three percent lower than when he first took office in 2008, after the start of the “Great Recession”, which spanned from 2007-2013, taking place in history books as the second worst economic drought since the Great Depression in the 1930s. In addition, the job market has doubled since the beginning of the Obama Administration. The number of job openings was able to reach 5.8 million in July 2015, the greatest amount since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking numbers in 2001, and an astounding 5,445,000 by the end of February 2016, a 97 percent increase from January 2009.


While these numbers may sound promising for the American population as a whole, there is one special group that has suffered consistently, notwithstanding the presidential administration at the helm nor the physical state of the economy: Black undergraduate and graduate school graduates.

According to a  May 2014 study titled, “A College Degree Is No Guarantee” researchers Janelle Jones and John Schmitt of the Center For Economic and Policy Research, data showed that the unemployment rate for Black graduates are more than twice that of their White counterparts, regardless of the educational level reached. The study, which examines black graduates that are 22-29 years old, notes that while this inequality historically been the case, Black grads have it worse today than Whites ever did, immediately following the Great Recession. From 2007 to 2013, the unemployment rate for Black graduates tripled, skyrocketing from 4.6 percent to 12.4 percent, while the highest it was for Whites during the same time period was 9.0 percent. This is lower than the 9.4 percent for Blacks that it stands at now. For those who had a job in 2013 at the end of the Recession, 56 percent reported being underemployed (working a job where a degree is not necessary) whereas before the Recession, only 45 percent reported underemployment. To add insult to injury, younger Black students aren’t faring any better. For Black students 17-20 years old with only a high school diploma, the unemployment rate is 28.4 percent, compared to the 25.9 that White high school graduates experienced at the peak recovery period of the recession.


This “race penalty”, as many researchers have called the struggle that Black grads have historically faced, the level of education received in relation to their White counterparts isn’t  the only discrimination that has a hand in keeping Black grads unemployed. According to a September 2004 field study titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakeisha and Jamal?” conducted by National Bureau of Economic Research,  it was found that resumes belonging to individuals with White names received 50 percent more interview callbacks than those with Black, or otherwise ethnic, names. At the conclusion of their experiment,  researchers Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan simply state, “We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names. These results suggest that racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market.”  Another shocking study, done by Arizona State University researchers from 2011-2014, showed that Black and Hispanic men with criminal records, were determined to be less likely to get a positive response from employers, compared to White men with criminal records.White men with records were found to be more likely to get a favorable response than a Black man that had a clean record.

Despite the discouraging numbers and  factors  presented here, and the others that have come against African Americans in all facets of life, personal, professional that we see daily on the news, it is important to remain persistent and headstrong in pursuing the goal because it is the only way to make it to the top!

Here's what we're doing to combat the problem.