James Derham


James Derham was the first Black person to receive a certificate to practice medicine in the U.S. He won his freedom and set up his own practice in New Orleans. He was the first African-American to formally practice medicine in the United States though he never received an M.D. degree. Derham was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was owned by several doctors and by working as a nurse/medical assistant, he saved enough money to purchase his freedom by 1783. In the same year he ended up in New Orleans with a Scottish physician, to perform medical services. He opened his own medical practice, and by age 26 his annual earnings exceeded $3,000. He was a popular and distinguished doctor in New Orleans, at least in part for his knowledge of English, French, and Spanish. In 1789, Durham saved more yellow fever victims in New Orleans than any other physician in colonial Philadelphia.

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Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave in Jefferson County, Alabama, and spent the first 15 years of his life as a slave on a small farm. A year after he was emancipated, he married and became a farmer in a small city outside of Birmingham. Beard was a farmer near Birmingham, Alabama for some five years, but recalled making a difficult trip to Montgomery in 1872 with 50 bushels of apples drawn by oxen. He said, “It took me three weeks to make the trip. I quit farming after that.” As a result of his extensive farming experience, he was able to develop and champion his first invention, a plow. In 1881, he patented one of his plows and sold it, in 1884, for $4,000. Three years later, on December 15, 1887, Beard invented another plow and sold it for $5,200. With this money he went into the real estate business and made about $30,000.

Beard’s most important invention would be patented in 1897, the “Jenny” coupler. In the early days of American railroading, coupling of rail road cars was done manually. Car coupling, an extremely dangerous practice, required a railroad worker to brace himself between cars and drop a metal pin into place at the exact moment the cars came together. Few railroad men kept all their fingers; many lost arms and hands. Even more were caught between cars and crushed to death during the hazardous split-second operation. His idea secured two cars by merely bumping them together.

Beard invented the Automatic Railroad Car Coupler, commonly called the “Jenny” coupler, and the patent for his invention was issued on November 23, 1897. Andrew Beard’s invention, which was improved in 1899, is the forerunner of today’s automatic coupler. Unfortunately, Beard’s life, after 1897, is a virtual mystery. He died in 1921 yet no record has been found of where it happened. Beard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio for his life-saving invention.

beard invention 2

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Ella P. Stewart

Ella P. Stewart

Ella P. Stewart

Ella Nora Phillips Stewart was born on March 6, 1893 in Stringtown, West Virginia. With a love of nature and an exceptional interest in learning, she attended high school at the age of twelve at the Storer College – the only school in the region that accepted black students. Rather than continue her training and education as a teacher, she chose to marry and begin a family. She had one child, a daughter, who unfortunately died at a young age from whooping-cough. After the death of her child, Stewart began working as a bookkeeper in a local pharmacy. It was at this time she developed an interest in becoming a pharmacist herself. Stewart wished to attend the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy but was met with discrimination when she was told admissions were closed. She would remain persistent in her task and would desegregate the University of Pittsburgh by being the first black student admitted in 1914. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1916 earning her Ph.D and in the same year would go on to pass her state exam to become the first licensed African-American female pharmacist in Pennsylvania and one of the earliest practicing African-American female pharmacists in the country.

Stewart worked in Pittsburgh and then Braddock, Pennsylvania where she was employed at the General Hospital and managed a drugstore. Her hard work enabled her to eventually purchase this drugstore, and was later able to open several of her own pharmacies. She learned that there were no black-owned drugstores in Toledo, Ohio, so she traveled to Toledo, purchased a commercial building and in 1922 and opened the Stewart’s Pharmacy with her second husband. The business did well and was welcomed by the neighborhood. As Ella became more important in the community she became more and more interested in the problems that it faced. She became involved in the Enterprise Charity Club, a black women’s philanthropic club which provided assistance to Toledo families. Through her work with this club, Stewart developed a reputation of leadership that led to her eventual election in 1944 as President of the Ohio Association of Colored Women and from 1948 to 1952, as President of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).

For Ella, her most cherished achievement and honor was the naming of a Toledo elementary school after her; a school she visited often, serving as a role model to its young students. Despite Stewart’s extensive club work and numerous honors, she was continually met with the discrimination she had worked all her life to end. She never accepted the racism she found, instead, she succeeded in her own quiet way to overcome it.

– Supreme Soul

The Alexandria Library Sit-in

The Alexandria Library sit-In 1939

The Alexandria Library sit-In 1939

Well before the famous Woolworth’s counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina occurred, the first organized sit-in by African-Americans happened 21 years earlier approximately 300 miles away. On March 17, 1939, attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker and retired Army Sergeant George Wilson (both African-American), walked through the doors of a segregated Queen Street library in Alexandria, Virginia. Each requested an application for a library card, but library policy was to not issue these cards to persons of colored race. Tucker had passed the newly erected Alexandria library on a daily basis, yet as an African-American, he had to travel to the District of Columbia to obtain access to library facilities. Unsatisfied with the unequal access to educational facilities, Tucker decided to battle the system of Jim Crow through the legal system.

Organized and instructed by Tucker, five young black men entered the Barrett Branch Library on Queen Street one by one and politely requested library cards. When refused, each one took a book off the shelf and sat down in the reading room. As the men sat down to read, police officers were called. William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange would each be arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Tucker had instructed the men to dress well, speak politely and offer no resistance to the police to minimize the chance of the men being found guilty of disorderly conduct or resisting arrest. Tucker defended the men in the ensuing legal actions which resulted in the protestors not being convicted of disorderly conduct.

A lawsuit would be filed in the local court to force the librarian to issue a library card to Sergeant Wilson as a taxpaying citizen of the City of Alexandria. When the case was eventually heard on January 10, 1940, the judge rejected the petition for a library card for “technical reasons”, but affirmed that “there were no legal grounds for refusing the plaintiff or any other bona fide citizen the use of the library.” The Virginia Public Assemblages Act of 1926 stated that both races were to be segregated within the same facility, therefore according to the law African-Americans were unlawfully barred from the Alexandria Library. Within two days of the judge’s decision, two African-Americans applied for library cards. Yet, they were refused by being informed that a new colored branch of the Alexandria library was under construction and that their applications was under consideration. The city would go on to open a segregated library for African-Americans. That same segregated library (the Robinson Library) is now the site of the Alexandria Black History Museum.

– Supreme Soul

the 1939 alexandria library sit-in e-88

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller

Here at 3GW, it was decided to give readers some information about influential African-Americans for Black History Month. I will try to keep it brief and informative and hope you all enjoy.

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D.

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. was the nation’s first African-American psychiatrist and a neurologist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. He also focused his research on the organic causes of disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Fuller’s knowledge of venereal disease later helped diagnose syphilis in black World War II veterans who had been previously misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders. The mental health facility at Boston University is now officially known as the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center.

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