Edward Bouchet (first African-American to earn a Ph.D.)


Edward Alexander Bouchet was born September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of four and only son to Williams Francis and Susan (Cooley) Bouchet. He was born just twelve years before United States 16th president Abraham Lincoln Emancipated the slaves. The Bouchet family was quite prominent in New Haven’s small African American community. In addition to holding the position of deacon at the Temple Street Church, the oldest black church in the city, and a stopping point for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad, William Francis Bouchet was also employed at Yale College as a janitor and Susan did the laundry for Yale Students. William and Susan had hoped their son would one day join the ranks of the Yale College student body. The fulfillment of this aspiration would be no small feat given the fact that no African American had ever attended Yale.

During the 1850s and 60s New Haven had only three schools that black children could attend. Edward enrolled in the Artisan Street Colored school, a small un-graded school with one teacher. He attended the New Haven High School from 1866 to 1868 and then Hopkins Grammar School, a private institution, where he studied mathematics and history in addition to learning Latin and Greek, he attended from 1868 to 1870, where he graduated first in his class and was named valedictorian.

In September of 1870 Bouchet entered Yale College (later renamed Yale University) in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree, a remarkable endeavor for the time, as there were few opportunities for African Americans seeking higher education. Bouchet graduated from Yale with his bachelor’s in 1874, ranking sixth in a class of 124. After graduating from Yale Bouchet stayed at Yale for two more years and completed his Ph.D. in physics, making his the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in the United Stated.


Despite his impressive achievement, Bouchet could not land a college professorship due to his race. He instead went to work at the School for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. For more than 25 years, Bouchet taught chemistry and physics at one of the few institutions that offered African Americans a rigorous academic program. But the school changed its direction in 1902 to focus on offering vocational training. After leaving the school, Bouchet held a variety of jobs. He worked for Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri, and later for the St. Paul Normal and Industrial School in Virginia. From 1908 to 1913, Bouchet served as principal of Lincoln High School. In poor health, Bouchet retired from work and returned to his hometown of New Haven.


He died there in 1918. Since his passing, Bouchet has received numerous honors. Yale University installed a tombstone to remember him in 1998, and the school’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences established the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society in his name. Yale also gives out the Bouchet Leadership Award to academics who help advance diversity in higher education.




Sarah Boone (African-American Inventor)


Sarah Boone was born Sarah Marshall in the deep south of Craven County, North Carolina in February 1834. Sarah was an African American inventor who on April 26, 1892, obtained United States patent rights for her improvements on the ironing board.

Sarah’s ironing board was designed to improve the quality of ironing sleeves and the bodies of women garments. The board was very narrow, curved, and made of wood. The shape and structure allowed it to fit a sleeve and it was reversible, so one could iron both sides of the sleeve.

In her patent application, she wrote that the purpose of her invention was “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”

Prior to her invention, people was forced to resort to simply using tables or being creative in laying a plank of wood across two chairs or small tables. The registration filling was U.S. Patent #473,653 on July 23, 1891.

On November 25, 1847, in New Bern, she married a freedman named James Boone, they would have eight children. The Boone family left North Carolina for New Haven, Connecticut before the outbreak of the American Civil War. James worked as a brick mason until his death in 1874, while Sarah worked as an dressmaker.

Sarah Boone died in New Haven Connecticut in 1904 and was buried in a family plot in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven.

1836 Cincinnati Riots


The Cincinnati Riots of 1836 were caused by racial tension at a time when African Americans, some of whom had escaped from slavery in the southern states of United states, were competing with whites for jobs. The anti-abolitionist rioters, worried about their jobs if they had to compete with more blacks, attacked both the blacks and white supporters. The racial riots occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio in April and July of 1836 by a mob of whites against black residents.

Blacks in southern Ohio suffered from severe restrictions to their freedom due to the “Black Code” of 1804. Under this legislation, the testimony of any black person was invalid in a court of law. A black person could not defend himself against a charge, and could not bring action against a white man. If he managed to acquire property, he was taxed for school support, but his children were not allowed to attend the schools. A black person moving to the state was required to obtain the signatures of two white men on a $500 bond. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was enforced, and steep fines were imposed on anyone who assisted a runaway slave.

James Gillespie Birney, a former slave owner from Alabama, had become an abolitionist. In January 1836 he set up the Cincinnati Weekly and Abolitionist, a newspaper sponsored by the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. At first, the newspaper was printed in nearby New Richmond. It was distributed across the Ohio River in Kentucky and was filled with anti-slavery propaganda. This angered local Cincinnati businessmen, who were keen to do business with the southern states. In late January 1836 some of the most prominent citizens organized a meeting opposing abolition; it was attended by over 500 people. Birney attended the meeting but was not allowed to give his views.


In April, Birney moved his press to Cincinnati. On 11 April 1836, a mob entered a black community, attacked people, burned buildings, and forced many of the occupants to leave their homes. Irish rioters burned down a tenement in the Ohio River bottom section of the lower West End. Several blacks died. The riot was not brought under control until the governor intervened and declared martial law. The anti-abolitionist paper the Daily Cincinnati Republican described the tenement that was burned as “notorious as a place of resort of rogues, thieves, and prostitutes – black and white”. The paper said the arson was viewed by a “large concourse of our citizens” who made no effort to extinguish the flames.

On 5 July, a race riot began when African Americans observed an Independence day celebration. Although this had long been the custom of the blacks, some whites considered it as a demonstration that the blacks wanted full integration. James Birney attended the event, which helped stir up passions as he was a noted abolitionist. On 12 July 1836, about forty men broke into the building housing Birney’s press, and destroyed it. The men were described as “respectable and wealthy gentlemen”. They shredded newspapers, broke the press in pieces, and dragged the damaged parts through the streets. Birney lost an estimated $1,500 in damage. He agreed to continue producing the paper only when his property was guaranteed to the value of $2,000 by the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.

Following the press smashing, placards appeared saying “The Citizens of Cincinnati … satisfied that the business of the place is receiving a vital stab from the wicked and misguided operations of the abolitionists, are resolved to arrest their course.

The destruction of their Press on the night of the 12th instant, may be taken as a warning”. On 17 July a placard was posted on the street corners:


“The above sum will be paid for the delivery of one James G. Birney, a fugitive from justice, now abiding in the city of Cincinnati. Said Birney in all his associations and feelings is black; although his external appearance is white. The above reward will be paid and no questions asked by


At a public meeting on 23 July chaired by the city mayor, resolutions were passed that included promises to use all legal means to suppress abolitionist publications. On 30 July a mob again attacked and destroyed Birney’s press, scattering its type. The rioters threatened to burn down Birney’s house, but were dissuaded by his son. Men from Kentucky had a prominent role in the mob. The angry whites marched to a black neighborhood nicknamed the Swamp, where they burned down several houses. They went on to Church Alley, where they met resistance from armed blacks, but again destroyed their property.


It took several days for things to calm down. The authorities made no arrests.

The aftermath of the riot brought varied reactions as the city’s newspapers published their accounts of the violence. Some praised the city Mayor remarks and intervention, while others felt the violence was justified.

The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society published a description of the riots, and commented on possible causes. Among these, they noted that while the colored people of the city were preparing for their procession on the fifth of July (that being their custom), they were approached by a white citizen of “standing” who began to violently abuse them. One of the colored men answered back in the same spirit, and this may have started the chain reaction.












Miriam Benjamin (the second African-American woman to receive a patent in United States)


Miriam Benjamin was born in Charleston, South Carolina on September 16, 1861, the eldest of five children born to Francis and Eliza Benjamin. In 1873 the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where Miriam attended high school. Later Miriam moved to Washington D.C. where she was a schoolteacher in the segregated municipal school system.

In 1888 while living in Washington D.C. Miriam received a patent for an invention called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. Making Miriam the second African-American woman to receive a United States Patent. Her chair as she stated in her patent application would “reduce the expenses of hotels by decreasing the number of waiters and attendants, to add to the convenience and comfort of guest and to obviate the necessity of hand clapping of calling aloud to obtain service.”

By pressing a small button on the back of the chair, a relay signal would be sent to an attendant while a light on the chair would allow the attendant to see which guest pressed the button. The chair was installed in the United States House of Representatives and was the forerunner of those used today on airplanes for flight attendants.

Miriam Benjamin never married. For most of her life she lived with her widowed mother Eliza Jane Benjamin (1840-1934) in the Boston area.

Miriam died in 1947.




Sarah E. Goode (first African-American woman to receive a United States patent)


Sarah Goode was born into slavery in 1855, in Toledo, Ohio. Her birth name was Sarah Elizabeth Jacobs. Sarah was the second of seven children born to Oliver and Harriet Jacobs. Her father was a carpenter and a native of Indiana. When the American Civil War ended the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she met and married Archibald ‘Archie’ Goode, who was a stair builder and originally from Wise County, Virginia. Together they had six children.

Sarah realized that living space in urban apartments in Chicago was limited. Sarah came up with a idea out of necessity of times. She invented a folding cabinet bed that helped people who lived in tight housing to utilize their space efficiently, with hinged section that were easily raised and lowered. Known today as the hide-away bed or Murphy bed. When the bed was not being used, the invention could easily be used as a desk, with room for storage where there was small compartments for storing supplies.

On July 14, 1885, Sarah was granted patent number 322,177 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for her folding cabinet bed, making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent in the U.S.

With both her father and her husband as carpenters, this could have influenced her knowledge about furniture construction.

Aside from Sarah invention and lineage, little is known about her life.

It is believed that Sarah Goode died in Chicago on April 8, 1905.

Freedom’s Journal (The first African-American Owned and operated newspaper)


The Freedom’s Journal was founded by a group of free black men in New York City. It published the first issue on March 16, 1827. As a four-page, four-column standard-sized weekly, Freedom’s Journal was established the same year that slavery was abolished in New York State. The newspaper founders selected Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm as senior and junior editors. Both men were community activists: Cornish was the first to establish an African-American Presbyterian church and Russwurm was a member of the Haitian Emigration Society.

Cornish and Russwurm argue in their first issue: “Too long have others spoken for us, too long the public been deceived by misrepresentations…” They wanted the newspaper to strengthen the common identity of African Americans in society. “We deem it expedient to establish a paper,” they remarked, “and bring into operation all the means with which out benevolent creator has endowed us, for the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race…”

Freedom’s Journal provided it’s readers with regional, national, and international news and with news that could served to both entertain and educate. It sought to improve conditions for over 300,000 newly freed black men and women living in the North. It also discussed current issues, such as the proposal by the American Colonization Society, a mostly white pro-emigration organization founded in 1816 to repatriate free black people to Africa.

McGraw Dominick881085 Figure 4-4
McGraw Dominick 881085 Figure 4-4

As a paper of record, Freedom’s Journal published biographies of prominent blacks such as Paul Cuffee, a black Bostonian who owned a trading ship staffed with free black people, Touissant L’Ouverture and poet Phyllis Wheatley. The newspaper published listings of the births, deaths, and weddings announcements in the African-American community in New York, helping celebrate their achievements. It also printed school, jobs and housing listing.

At various of times the newspaper employed between 14 to 44 agents to collect and renew subscriptions, which cost

$3 per year. One of its agents was David Walker from Boston, eventually became the writer of ” David Walker’s Appeal,” which called for slaves to rebel against their masters. Freedom’s Journal was soon calculated in 11 states. A typical advertisement cost between 25 to 75 cents.

Russwurm became sole editor of Freedom’s Journal following the resignation of Cornish in September 1827, and began to promote the colonization movement. The majority of the newspaper’s readers did not support the paper’s radical shift in support of colonization, and in March 1829, Freedom’s Journal ceased publication. Soon after, Russwurm emigrated to the American Colonization Society of Liberia, and became governor of the Maryland Colony. Cornish returned and attempted to revive the newspaper in May 1829 under the new name “The Rights of All,” but the paper folded after less than a year. Freedom’s Journal’s two-year existence, however, helped spawn other papers. By the start of the Civil War over 40 black-owned and operated papers had been established throughout the United States.

African Grove Theater



The African Grove Theater also known as the African Company, was founded in lower Manhattan, New York in 1821 and operated by William Henry Brown.

William Brown was a pioneering actor and play writer from the West Indies. He worked as a ship’s stewards at times. Working as an ship’s stewards, he traveled to England and the Caribbean, so he had opportunity see theater more than the typical African American. Brown left his job on a Liverpool ship and brought a house in New York, at 35 Thomas Street in lower Manhattan. At the start, Brown held performances at his home in his tea garden on Sundays afternoons, attracting a sizeable audience. He offered food and drinks, but also Poetry, short drama pieces, variety of instrumental, and vocal entertainments. At the suggestion of James Hewlett both entertainer and a regular customer at the theater, together they hired other black actors. The African Grove Theater was attended by all types of blacks New Yorkers free and slaves, middle-class and working-class.



In 1821, Brown moved to Mercer and Bleeker Street into a two-story house with a spacious tea garden. He converted the second floor into a 300-seat theatre and renamed the enterprise The African Grove Theatre. Opening the season with a performance of Richard III (21 September 1821), the company mounted productions ranging from Shakespeare, to pantomime, to farce. Brown followed with Tom and Jerry; or, Life in London; The Poor Soldier; Othello; Don Juan; and Obi, or, Three-Finger’d Jack.

White audience members who attended the African Grove Theater were confined to a separate section because, in the words of the theater’s management, “whites do not know how to conduct themselves at entertainments for ladies and gentlemen of color.”


When Brown moved his theatre from 38 Thomas Street to Bleeker and Mercer Streets, he had a dilemma. Realizing that his theatre now was located too far from its core audience (“free persons of color”), he constructed a theatre building which was near an white theater called the Park Theatre.

When the Park Theatre—New York City’s leading theater of the time— put on Richard III starring the English tragedian Junius Brutus Booth, the African Company rented a hall next door for its own production of the same play the same night. Theatrical competition was stiff; Stephen Price, owner of the Park, orchestrated (and paid for) a disturbance over the rival productions so that the police would shut down the African Grove.


Brown also wrote and staged the first African American play, The Drama of King Shotaway (1823), a historical drama based on the Black Caribbean war in St. Vincent in 1796 against both English and French settlers. The Company’s principal actors were James Hewlett (1778-1836), the first African American Shakespearean actor; and, a young teenager, Ira Aldridge (1807-1865).


After begin frequently harassed by police and shut down numerous of times by City Officials, because of complaints about conduct by white New Yorkers, and after only three years of begin open, The African Grove Theater mysteriously burned to the ground. There is no record of the theater after 1823.


Henry Blair(Second African American to Receive a Patent)


Henry Blair was born free in Glen Ross, Maryland, United States in 1807. Blair invented the Seed- Planter. He received his first patent on October 14, 1834, which allowed farmers to plant more corn using less labor in a smaller amount of time. The machine also help with weed control.

Little is known about Blair private life, except that he was probably a free man since the patent would not have been approved to be in the name of a slave.

Blair was the only inventor to be identified in the patent records as “a colored man.” He was illiterate, unable to read and write. At the time he filed his patent application, Blair had signed his patent with a simple “X”.

Blair had a gift for invention and did not allow his race, lack of education or other negative factors of the time to hold him back.

Two-years later, on August 31,1836, Blair obtained a second patent for a Cotton Planter. This invention worked by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades, which were pulled along by a horse. A wheel-driven cylinder followed behind which dropped the seeds into the newly plowed ground.

Henry Blair died in 1860 of unknown causes.



Robert Blake (First African American to receive the Medal of Honor)


Robert Blake was born into slavery in Virginia. In June 1862, his owner’s plantation was burned during a Union naval expedition up the Santee River. About 400 slaves from the plantation, including Blake, were taken as contraband onto Union ships and sent to North Island in Winyah Bay. While on North Island, Blake answered a call for twenty single men to serve on the USS Vermont.

By December 25, 1863, Blake had been transferred to the gunboat USS Mablehead and was serving as a steward to Lieutenant Commander Richard Worsam Meade. Early that morning, in the Stono River, the Marblehead came under fire from a Confederate howitzer at Legareville on Johns Island. As Lieutenant Commander Meade jumped from his bed and ran onto the quarter deck to give the order to return fire, Blake followed behind him, handed him his uniform, and urged him to change out of his night clothes.

Blake then went to the ship’s gun deck and was immediately knocked down by an exploding Confederate shell. The explosion had killed a power-boy manning one of the guns. Blake had no assigned combat role and could have retreated to relative safety below decks, but he instead chose to take over the powder boy’s duties. He stripped to the waist and began running powder boxes to the gun loaders. When Lieutenant Commander Meade asked him what he was doing, he replied “Went down to the rocks to hide my face, but the rocks said there is no hiding place here. So here I am, Sir.” The Confederates eventually abandoned their position, leaving a gun behind. For his actions during the firefight, Blake was awarded the Medal of Honor four months later, on April 16, 1864.

Blake was later promoted to seaman and re-enlisted for another term in the Navy. During his second enlistment, he served again on the USS Vermont. Nothing is known of his further life.

Hard Scrabble and Snow Town Riots of 1824 and 1831

Build Nation


Hard Scrabble and Snow Town was a predominately black Towns in the Providence of Rhode Island.

History of Rhode Island

Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post- Revolution Era. Slavery was extant in Rhode Island in the 17th century. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first abolition law in the thirteen colonies, banning African slavery. In the late 18th century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably was the Brown’s, for whom the Brown University is named) began actively engaging in the triangle slave trade.

In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchant’s controlled between 60 to 90 percent of the American trade in African Slaves. The 18th century Rhode Island’s economy depended largely upon the triangle slave trade, where Rhode Islanders distilled rum from molasses, sent the rum to Africa to trade for slaves, and then traded the slaves in the West…

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