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                Harriet Tubman

Civil Rights Activist (c. 1820–1913)

Title. Double click me.


Escape from Slavery and Abolitionism


Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849, fleeing to Philadelphia. Tubman decided to escape following a bout of illness and the death of her owner in 1849. Tubman feared that her family would be further severed, and feared for own her fate as a sickly slave of low economic value. She initially left Maryland with two of her brothers, Ben and Henry, on September 17, 1849. A notice published in the Cambridge Democrat offered a $300 reward for the return of Araminta (Minty), Harry and Ben. Once they had left, Tubman’s brothers had second thoughts and returned to the plantation. Harriet had no plans to remain in bondage. Seeing her brothers safely home, she soon set off alone for Pennsylvania.


Tubman made use of the network known as the Underground Railroad to travel nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia. She crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled later: “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”


Rather than remaining in the safety of the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue her family and others living in slavery. In December 1850, Tubman received a warning that her niece Kessiah was going to be sold, along with her two young children. Kessiah’s husband, a free black man named John Bowley, made the winning bid for his wife at an auction in Baltimore. Harriet then helped the entire family make the journey to Philadelphia. This was the first of many trips by Tubman, who earned the nickname “Moses” for her leadership. Over time, she was able to guide her parents, several siblings and about 60 others to freedom. One family member who declined to make the journey was Harriet’s husband, John, who preferred to stay in Maryland with his new wife.


The dynamics of escaping slavery changed in 1850, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. This law stated that escaped slaves could be captured in the North and returned to slavery, leading to the abduction of former slaves and free blacks living in Free States. Law enforcement officials in the North were compelled to aid in the capture of slaves, regardless of their personal principles. In response to the law, Tubman re-routed the Underground Railroad to Canada, which prohibited slavery categorically.


In December 1851, Tubman guided a group of 11 fugitives northward. There is evidence to suggest that the party stopped at the home of abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.


In April 1858, Tubman was introduced to the abolitionist John Brown, who advocated the use of violence to disrupt and destroy the institution of slavery. Tubman shared Brown’s goals and at least tolerated his methods. Tubman claimed to have had a prophetic vision of Brown before they met. When Brown began recruiting supporters for an attack on slaveholders at Harper’s Ferry, he turned to “General Tubman” for help. After Brown’s subsequent execution, Tubman praised him as a martyr.


Harriet Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.



Early Life

Harriet Tubman was born to enslaved parents in Dorchester County, Maryland, and originally named Araminta Harriet Ross. Her mother, Harriet “Rit” Green, was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess. Her father, Ben Ross, was owned by Anthony Thompson, who eventually married Mary Brodess. Araminta, or “Minty,” was one of nine children born to Rit and Ben between 1808 and 1832. While the year of Araminta’s birth is unknown, it probably occurred between 1820 and 1825.

Minty’s early life was full of hardship. Mary Brodess’ son Edward sold three of her sisters to distant plantations, severing the family. When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son, Moses, Rit successfully resisted the further fracturing of her family, setting a powerful example for her young daughter.

Physical violence was a part of daily life for Tubman and her family. The violence she suffered early in life caused permanent physical injuries. Harriet later recounted a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast. She carried the scars for the rest of her life. The most severe injury occurred when Tubman was an adolescent. Sent to a dry-goods store for supplies, she encountered a slave who had left the fields without permission. The man’s overseer demanded that Tubman help restrain the runaway. When Harriet refused, the overseer threw a two-pound weight that struck her in the head. Tubman endured seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life. She also experienced intense dream states, which she classified as religious experiences.

The line between freedom and slavery was hazy for Tubman and her family. Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben, was freed from slavery at the age of 45, as stipulated in the will of a previous owner. Nonetheless, Ben had few options but to continue working as a timber estimator and foreman for his former owners. Although similar manumission stipulations applied to Rit and her children, the individuals who owned the family chose not to free them. Despite his free status, Ben had little power to challenge their decision.

By the time Harriet reached adulthood, around half of the African-American people on the eastern shore of Maryland were free. It was not unusual for a family to include both free and enslaved people, as did Tubman’s immediate family. In 1844, Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman. Little is known about John Tubman or his marriage to Harriet. Any children they might have had would have been considered enslaved, since the mother’s status dictated that of any offspring. Araminta changed her name to Harriet around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.

Harriet Tubman

Frederick Douglass stood at the podium, trembling with nervousness. Before him sat abolitionists who had travelled to the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. Only 23 years old at the time, Douglass overcame his nervousness and gave a stirring, eloquent speech about his life as a slave. Douglass would continue to give speeches for the rest of his life and would become a leading spokesperson for the abolition of slavery and for racial equality.

The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, "Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey" was born in February of 1818 on Maryland's eastern shore. He spent his early years with his grandparents and with an aunt, seeing his mother only four or five times before her death when he was seven. (All Douglass knew of his father was that he was white.) During this time he was exposed to the degradations of slavery, witnessing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time cold and hungry. When he was eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. There he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists. "Going to live at Baltimore," Douglass would later say, "laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity."

Douglass spent seven relatively comfortable years in Baltimore before being sent back to the country, where he was hired out to a farm run by a notoriously brutal "slavebreaker" named Edward Covey. And the treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was "broken in body, soul, and spirit."

On January 1, 1836, Douglass made a resolution that he would be free by the end of the year. He planned an escape. But early in April he was jailed after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass.

Always striving to educate himself, Douglass continued his reading. He joined various organizations in New Bedford, including a black church. He attended Abolitionists' meetings. He subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal, the Liberator. In 1841, he saw Garrison speak at the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society's annual meeting. Douglass was inspired by the speaker, later stating, "no face and form ever impressed me with such sentiments [the hatred of slavery] as did those of William Lloyd Garrison." Garrison, too, was impressed with Douglass, mentioning him in the Liberator. Several days later Douglass gave his speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket-- the speech described at the top of this page. Of the speech, one correspondent reported, "Flinty hearts were pierced, and cold ones melted by his eloquence." Before leaving the island, Douglass was asked to become a lecturer for the Society for three years. It was the launch of a career that would continue throughout Douglass' long life.

Despite apprehensions that the information might endanger his freedom, Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. The year was 1845. Three years later, after a speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Douglass published the first issue of the North Star, a four-page weekly, out of Rochester, New York. 

Ever since he first met Garrison in 1841, the white abolitionist leader had been Douglass' mentor. But the views of Garrison and Douglass ultimately diverged. Garrison represented the radical end of the abolitionist spectrum. He denounced churches, political parties, even voting. He believed in the dissolution (break up) of the Union. He also believed that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document. After his tour of Europe and the establishment of his paper, Douglass' views began to change; he was becoming more of an independent thinker, more pragmatic. In 1851 Douglass announced at a meeting in Syracuse, New York, that he did not assume the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, and that it could even "be wielded in behalf of emancipation," especially where the federal government had exclusive jurisdiction. Douglass also did not advocate the dissolution of the Union, since it would isolate slaves in the South. This led to a bitter dispute between Garrison and Douglass that, despite the efforts of others such as Harriet Beecher Stowe to reconcile the two, would last into the Civil War. 

Frederick Douglass would continue his active involvement to better the lives of African Americans. He conferred with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and recruited northern blacks for the Union Army. After the War he fought for the rights of women and African Americans alike. 

Frederick Douglass 
       1818 - 1895

Anna Murray Douglas                        (Wife)  

Frederick Douglass

       Dred Scott 

Civil Rights Activist 

    (c. 1795–1858)

Early Life

Dred Scott was born in sometime around the turn of the century, often fixed at 1795, in Southampton County, Virginia. Legend has it that his name was Sam, but when his elder brother died, he adopted his name instead. His parents were slaves, but it is uncertain whether the Blow family owned them at his birth or thereafter. Peter Blow and his family relocated first to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to St. Louis Missouri. After Peter Blow's death, in the early 1830s, Scott was sold to a U.S. Army doctor, John Emerson.

In 1836, Scott fell in love with a slave of another army doctor, 19-year-old Harriett Robinson, and her ownership was transferred over to Dr. Emerson when they were wed.

In the ensuing years, Dr. Emerson traveled to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territories, both of which prohibited slavery. When Emerson died in 1846, Scott tried to buy freedom for himself and his family from Emerson's widow, but she refused.

'Dred Scott v. Sandford'

Dred Scott made history by launching a legal battle to gain his freedom. That he had lived with Dr. Emerson in free territories become the basis for his case.

The process began in 1846: Scott lost in his initial suit in a local St. Louis district court, but he won in a second trial, only to have that decision overturned by the Missouri State Supreme Court. With support from local abolitionists, Scott filed another suit in federal court in 1854, against John Sanford, the widow Emerson's brother and executor of his estate. When that case was decided in favor of Sanford, that Scott turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December 1856, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech, foreshadowing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, examining the constitutional implications of the Dred Scott Case.

On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandfordwas issued, 11 long years after the initial suits. Seven of the nine judges agreed with the outcome delivered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who announced that slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore had no rights to sue in Federal courts: "... They had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

The decision also declared that the Missouri Compromise (which had allowed Scott to sample freedom in Illinois and Wisconsin) was unconstitutional, and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery.

The Dred Scott decision sparked outrage in the northern states and glee in the south—the growing schism made civil war inevitable.

Too controversial to retain the Scotts as slaves after the trial, Mrs. Emerson remarried and returned Dred Scott and his family to the Blows who granted them their freedom in May 1857. That same month, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech discussing the Dred Scott decision on the anniversary of the American Abolition Society.

Eventually, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution overrode this Supreme Court ruling.

Dred Scott

        Antony Burns

        Fugitive Slave

    (b. 1834– d.1862)


Anthony Burns was not the first fugitive slave arrested in Boston and returned to his "owner." But he was the last. More than any other city in the North, Boston was considered a haven for runaways; its black community was especially strong and well organized and it was a city where black and white abolitionists were willing to act on their convictions. All this came into play in May of 1854.

In an attempt to find a compromise that would save the Union, Congress had passed the Fugitive Slave Act in September of 1850. The new law gave slave owners or their agents the right to seize runaway slaves merely by presenting sworn testimony proving ownership. Law-enforcement officials throughout the North were required to arrest suspected fugitives and help return them to their masters. Anyone who aided an escaped slave or interfered with his or her arrest was subject to fine and imprisonment. The law significantly increased anti-slavery sentiment among Northerners. Vigilance Committees were formed to aid fugitive slaves, and some of the more militant abolitionists turned to civil disobedience.

In the early spring of 1854, Anthony Burns escaped from his owner in Alexandria, Virginia, by hiding on a ship bound for the North. He arrived in Boston at the end of March; before long, his owner learned of his whereabouts and came to reclaim him. Marshalls arrested Burns and confined him to the federal courthouse.

Word of the arrest spread quickly. Handbills announcing "The Kidnappers Are Here!" appeared all over the city. Slavery opponents hastily dispatched letters seeking support from abolitionists in other towns. The pioneering black lawyer Robert Morris and the white lawyer Richard Henry Dana, both active members of Boston's Vigilance Committee, volunteered to defend Burns.

Two days after the arrest, close to 5,000 abolitionists, most of them white, gathered at Fanueil Hall. A smaller group, mostly black men and women, met at the Tremont Temple. While the Fanueil Hall group debated strategy, those meeting at the church decided to act: they would march to the courthouse and free Burns.

A small group of blacks and the white minister Thomas Wentworth Higginson used a huge beam to create an opening in a door of the courthouse. A shot rang out. Half a dozen sheriff's deputies beat back two men who attempted to enter the building. Meanwhile, those meeting at Fanueil Hall had learned of the rescue-in-progress, and several hundred headed to the courthouse. Police later reported that protesters threw bricks, fired pistols, and attacked another door with axes.

It was all in vain. After the successful rescue of Shadrach Minkinsin 1851, federal authorities were better prepared. Order was restored but only after one deputy was shot dead, several men wounded, and 13 arrested. Burns remained in custody.

A week of court hearings followed. Believing that resistance was "of no use" and that "I shall fare worse if I do [resist]," Burns sealed his own fate by identifying Charles Stuttle as his owner. The simple statement was all it took for Stuttle to meet the criteria of the Fugitive Slave Act. The defense lawyers pressed the presiding judge to declare the law unconstitutional, but he refused. His decision returned Anthony Burns to slavery.

The week's events were widely covered in the northern and southern press. Some in the South recognized that "victories" such as this one would prove short-lived. Northerners' resolve increased when they saw that if slaveholders' power could reach Boston, it could reach anywhere. Determined that federal law be upheld, President Franklin Pierce ordered troops to maintain order and insisted that a U.S. Navy ship transport Burns back to Virginia.

On the day of Burns's departure, an estimated 50,000 people filled the streets between the federal courthouse and Long Wharf. To keep them from interfering with the "vile procession," as Richard Henry Dana called it, took 1,500 Massachusetts militiamen, the entire Boston police force, 145 federal troops with cannon, and 100 special deputies. Black crepe covered store and office windows and American flags hung upside down. Protesters suspended a coffin across State Street, with the word "Liberty" painted on its side.

Within nine months, the Reverend Leonard Grimes, minister of one of Boston's black Baptist churches, traveled south and purchased Burns's freedom with $1,300 raised by the church. Burns's supporters published a book about the case and used the proceeds to help pay his expenses for two years study at Oberlin College. He served first as pastor of a black Baptist Church in Indianapolis and then moved across the border to a small settlement in Canada, where he was pastor of another Baptist Church. In poor health since his days of enslavement, Anthony Burns died there on July 17, 1862 at the age of 28.


Antony Burns

      Joseph Bologne



Joseph Bologne: The Chevalier de Saint-Georges of France

Joseph Bologne: The Chevalier de Saint-Georges of France
In an essay titled The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Edward Scobie documented the life of the African French composer, conductor, violinist, swordsman, equestrian and soldier of 18th century France, one of the most remarkable figures of the 18th century. Incredibly, this son of an enslaved African woman (Nanon, widely considered the most beautiful woman on the island of Guadeloupe) and a father who was a member of a wealthy family from the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe, rose to the top of French society through his mastery of fencing and his genius for classical European music. His diverse career is illustrated in the famous portrait done in London in 1787 by the American artist Mather Brown. In the portrait, Saint-Georges is dressed for a concert but holds a sword in place of a conductor’s baton.
Joseph Bologne, who was to become the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was born on Christmas Day 1745 and moved to France in 1755. In spite of his father’s status, Saint-George’s African heritage made him ineligible for the nobility and its titles under French law. Eventually, legal or not, he took the titles anyway. This was the age of Enlightenment in France, and yet philosophers like Voltaire were among those who argued that Africans were genetically inferior to Europeans.
A Code Noir [Law of Blacks], restricting and regulating the lives of African people, had been on the books in France since the 17th century. It is undeniable that he was gifted, but his inborn talents were magnified by relentless effort, permitting him not only to be better, but above all to overcome the racial barrier that put him in the disdained social class of “Mûlatres” (“Mulattos”) because his father was white and his mother was Black. Interracial marriage was officially prohibited, although some married in spite of the ban.
Because of his father’s wealth and status, St. Georges received the advantage of a superior education. At the age of 13, he entered an elite fencing academy and boarding school. Mornings at the academy consisted of classes in mathematics, history, foreign languages, music, drawing and dance. Afternoons were devoted to fencing. One of his classmates wrote that Saint-Georges was the most extraordinary man of arms ever seen. Eventually, he would be called “the god of arms.”
In all things athletic, he seemed to excel. He could often be seen swimming across the River Seine with only one arm, and in skating, his skill exceeded all others.  As to the pistol, he rarely missed his target. In running, he was reputed to be one of the leading exponents in the whole of Europe.
In addition to his skills as an athlete, Saint-Georges was also an excellent dancer. Indeed, in regards to music, and despite racial barriers, Saint-Georges soon mastered both the harpsichord and the violin, and composed a sonata for flute and harp. He became one of the earliest French composers of string quartets.
Much has been made of Saint-Georges’ reputation as a Don Juan Noir [Black Don Juan]. Saint-Georges did have at least one serious romantic relationship, but racial attitudes made it impossible for him to marry anyone at his level of society.
By 1778, Saint-Georges had reached his professional peak as a composer. He published two symphony concertantes in 1776 and two more in 1778. In 1777, he wrote three violin concertos and six string quartets. Some people call Saint-Georges the Black Mozart. Early in 1779, Saint-Georges began performing music with Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles, at her request. He was one of the first Black Masons in France.
Saint-Georges’ trips to England introduced him to the anti-slavery movement. Eventually, he helped found a French group called the Société des amis des noirs [Society of the Friends of Black People]. Saint-Georges’ support for the liberation of enslaved Africans was well known in England, and no doubt sufficiently irritating to Britain’s slave cartel to make them try to eliminate him.
In September 1791, a delegation of Blacks asked the National Assembly of France to allow them to fight in defense of the Revolution and its egalitarian ideals. The Assembly approved a corps comprised mainly of Blacks, with 800 infantry and 200 cavalry personnel. Saint-Georges was appointed to be its colonel. Its official name was légion franche de cavalerie des Américains, but it soon became known to all as the légion Saint-George [Saint-George Legion]. The colonel chose his friend and protege Alexandre Dumas as lieutenant-colonel. Like his colonel, he was the son of a French aristocrat and an enslaved African woman. He later had a son, also named Alexandre Dumas, who won fame as author of The Three Musketeers.
Saint-Georges lived alone in a small apartment in Paris during the last two years of his life. In late spring 1799, an untreated bladder infection caused him to become weak and feverish. He died on June 10, 1799 (the year that Alexandre Pushkin was born). The newspapers celebrated his memory with respect and emotion. Since 1912, a street in Guadeloupe bears his name. In December 2001, the Paris City Council voted to change the name of a Paris street name from Rue Richepance to Rue du Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The name change was requested by African people from the French Caribbean.

     Alexander Dumas

        French General

    (b. 1802– d.1870)

Alexaner Dumas

The Dumas Family in France
“The name Alexandre Dumas is more than French — it is universal.” –Victor Hugo
“When I discovered that I was black I determined to so act that men should see beneath my skin.” –Alexandre Dumas, pere
Just a short distance from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is the Pantheon, one of the most significant buildings in the whole of Paris. It was commissioned in 1750 and completed in 1789. Two years later, the Constituent Assembly converted it into a secular mausoleum for what they considered “the great men of the era of French history.”
My interest in the Pantheon began a few years ago when I found out that the African French writer par excellence Alexandre Dumas, pere, was being interred there.
Alexandre Dumas, pere (1802-1870), who lived a near-legendary life, is one of three outstanding men of African descent to bring distinction to that name in what has been called the golden age of France — that period from the mid-18th to the end of the 19th century. The first was born in Haiti and became General Thomas Alexandre Dumas (1762-1806), called “Alexandre the Greatest.”
He was the son of a plantation owner, Alezandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and enslaved African woman, Marie-Cessette Dumas. After his father brought him to France, a dispute broke out between father and son regarding whether the mixed-race boy would be his father’s true heir. This dispute led to the son breaking off the relationship and, in 1786, enlisting in the army. The revolution in 1789 enabled gifted men of humble origin to rise rapidly, and, by 1792, Dumas was a lieutenant colonel and married Marie-Louise Labouret. The next year, he was promoted to general of the Army in the western Pyrenees. Eventually, he joined Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy, and later in Egypt where he questioned Bonaparte’s policies. The break between them was permanent. Denied a decent pension, the general soon died a man broken in spirit.

General Dumas
Gen. Dumas is the father of the great writer, Alexandre Dumas, pere, and the grandfather of Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895). The latter Dumas is called the “remaker of the modern French stage.” He was the author of Camille, became president of the French Academy (the highest possible intellectual honor for a Frenchman) and the recipient of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Alexandre Dumas, pere, the grandson of Marie-Louise Labouret, produced more than 250 literary works including plays, novels, political tracts and a cookbook. He was the writer of such immortal works as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Black Corsican and The Black Tulip. Of course, he is the author of the deep, profound and famous expressions “One for all and all for one” and “Your work may be finished but your education is never completed.” Of course, my favorite expression by Dumas is “A man’s mind is elevated to the status of the women with whom he associates.”
As to how Dumas (nicknamed the “Mulatto”) saw himself, the distinguished African historian Dieudonne Gnammankou provided an excellent example. Gnammankou informed me that the outstanding African Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge once gave a performance of Othello at the palace of Versailles with Dumas sitting in the front row. According to Gnammankou, the performance was of such a superlative nature that Dumas leapt upon the stage and embraced Aldridge in an enormous hug and exclaimed that “I too am a Negro!”
Another interesting account is provided by Joel Augustus Rogers in his Nature Knows No Color-Line. “Alexander Dumas the Elder was rather proud of his Negro ancestry. When his daughter was to marry into an aristocratic family, he invited a large number of the Negroes of Paris. The bridegroom’s mother was shocked. To make it still worse, Dumas told her, `They are my relatives who wish to be present.’”
Toward the end of his life Dumas, pere, is said to have become a gourmet chef and wrote a cookbook that he considered, perhaps jokingly, his finest work!  He was, by all accounts, a man who lived life fully.
In the Pantheon, Dumas’ sarcophagus lies just between those of his friend, writer Victor Hugo, and Emile Zola. I am proud to have taken two groups place flower bouquets atop it. On display just outside the crypt is a copy of the cover of Claude Ribbes’ book on Alexandre Dumas’ father, Gen. Alexandre Dumas, emblazoned with a reproduction of the elder Dumas on horseback and splendidly uniformed looking both heroic and decidedly African.


Henry T. Sampson

     Henry T. Sampson

       Nuclear Engineer

            (b. 1934)


On April 3rd, 1973, Motorola engineer Marty Cooper placed the first public call from a cellphone according to the Verge. In midtown Manhattan, Cooper called Joel Engel — head of rival research department Bell Labs — saying “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.” The call was placed on a Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, which weighed 2.5 pounds, a far cry from today’s 4-ounce handsets.

If it wasn’t for Dr. Henry T. Sampson we wouldn’t have cell phone technology today. Isn’t it funny how the mainstream media hasn’t made him a icon based off of his invention? Cellular telephony has spawned a Multi-billion dollar industry and has freed tens of millions of people, both at home and at work, to communicate anywhere, any time. I would of thought he would on the Times and Forbes magazines next to Bill Gate and Steve Jobs for discovering one of the greatest creations of our time


Henry T. Sampson, the Black man who invented the cell phone

On July 6th, 1971, Henry T. Sampson invented the “gamma-electric cell”, which pertains to Nuclear Reactor use. According to Dr. Sampson, the Gamma Electric Cell, patented July 6, 1971, Patent No. 3,591,860 produces stable high-voltage output and current to detect radiation in the ground.

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University in 1956. He went on to the University of California, Los Angeles where he graduated with an MS degree in engineering in 1961; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, MS in Nuclear Engineering in 1965, and a PHD in 1967.

Mobile Communications took a big step forward in 1983 with the invention of the Cellular System regulating the portable telephones, which use radio waves to transmit and receive audio signals. Before this time, mobile telephone service in the United States, consisting mainly of car phones, was extremely limited because metropolitan areas had only one antenna for these purposes. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigned only 12 to 24 frequencies to each area, which meant that only that many calls could occur at a time. These limitations often meant a wait of up to 30 minutes for a dial tone and a five to 10 year waiting list just to acquire the service. With the invention of cellular phone service in 1983, personal communications no longer depended on wires. In the 1990s it would become possible to connect to the Internet from virtually anywhere in the world using a portable computer and a cellular modem with satellite service. Technologies that developed from different fields, such as personal communications, computation, and space exploration often worked together to serve the constantly evolving human needs of the information age.

Henry T. Sampson worked as a research Chemical Engineer at the US Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California. 1956-61. Henry T. Sampson then moved on to the Aerospace Corp, El Segundo, California. His titles include: Project Engineer, 1967-81, director of Planning and Operations Directorate of Space Test Program, 1981-, and Co-inventor of gamma-electric cell. He holds patents related to solid rocket motors and conversion of nuclear energy into electricity. He also pioneered a study of internal ballistics of solid rocket motors using high-speed photography. He was also a producer of documentary films on early black filmmakers and films, a member of the board of directors of Los Angeles Southwest College Foundation, and a technical consultant to Historical Black Colleges and Universities Program.

Sampson’s Awards and Honors:
Fellow of US Navy, 1962-1964
Atomic Energy Commission, 1964-1967
Black Image Award from Aerospace Corp, 1982
Blacks in Engineering, Applied Science, and Education Award, Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers, 1983




Dr Shirley A  Jackson


Dr Shirley Ann Jackson

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist and famous black inventor, has been credited with making many advances in science. She first developed an interest in science and mathematics during her childhood and conducted experiments and studies, such as those on the eating habits of honeybees. She followed this interest to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received a bachelor, and doctoral degree, all in the field of physics. In doing so she became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT.

Jackson conducted successful experiments in theoretical physics and used her knowledge of physics to foster advances in telecommunications research while working at Bell Laboratories. Dr. Jackson conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

Currently, Jackson is the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States, and recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation's top 50 universities. The mission of Rensselaer since its founding in 1824 has been to "apply science to the common purposes of life." Dr. Jackson's goal for Rensselaer is "to achieve prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier world-class technological research university, with global reach and global impact."

     Frederick M Jones


Anytime you see a truck on the highway transporting refrigerated or frozen food, you're seeing the work of Frederick McKinley Jones.

One of the most prolific Black inventors ever, Jones patented more than 60 inventions in his lifetime. While more than 40 of those patents were in the field of refrigeration, Jones is most famous for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long haul trucks and railroad cars.

Before Jones' invention, the only way to keep food cool in trucks was to load them with ice. Jones was inspired to invent the system after talking with a truck driver who lost his whole cargo of chicken because he couldn't reach his destination before the ice melted. As a solution, the African-American inventor developed a roof-mounted cooling system to make sure food stayed fresh.

In addition to that refrigerator invention, Jones also invented an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals, a refrigerator for military field kitchens, a self-starting gas engine, a series of devices for movie projectors and box-office equipment that gave tickets and made change. Jones was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991 – the first Black inventor to ever receive such an honor.

Frederick McKinley Jones

Dr Charles Drew

It's impossible to determine how many hundreds of thousands of people would have lost their lives without the contributions of African-American inventor Dr. Charles Drew. This physician, researcher and surgeon revolutionized the understanding of blood plasma – leading to the invention of blood banks.

Born in 1904 in Washington, D.C., Charles Drew excelled from early on in both intellectual and athletic pursuits. After becoming a doctor and working as a college instructor, Drew went to Columbia University to do his Ph.D. on blood storage. He completed a thesis titled Banked Blood that invented a method of separating and storing plasma, allowing it to be dehydrated for later use. It was the first time Columbia awarded a doctorate to an African-American.

At the onset of World War II, Drew was called upon to put his techniques into practice. He emerged as the leading authority on mass transfusion and processing methods, and went on to helm the American Red Cross blood bank. When the Armed Forces ordered that only Caucasian blood be given to soldiers, Drew protested and resigned.

     Dr Charles Drew


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