Edward Gay Robinson was born in Jackson, Louisiana in 1919 to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who was a domestic worker. At the age of six Robinson’s family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where Robinson would be introduced to the game of football. He would become intrigued by the head football coach of the local high school team who visited his elementary school class. This was the beginning of a journey that would change his life and the lives of others. As a high school student Robinson was known for organizing football games for the local children in his neighborhood; at the same time he was a standout player on the McKinley High School football team. He graduated from McKinley in 1937, then attend Leland College in Baker, Louisiana on a football scholarship where he would play as an elite quarterback for the team.
Robinson would develop a friendship with a minister named Ruben turner who taught Robinson the importance of learning and developing his team’s playbook, as well as taking Robinson to his first coaching clinic. He would graduate from Leland College and began looking for a coaching job but did not find any luck. Because of the Jim Crow laws he could only get a coaching job at an HBCU, but all of the head coaching jobs we filled. Robinson began working at a feed mill for twenty-five cents an hour but his luck would soon change. The Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute was searching for a new head coach, Robinson applied for the job and became the head coach of what is now known as Grambling State University, in 1941. At the age of twenty-two Robinson would begin his legendary coaching journey without the help of any assistant coaches to relieve him of some of the duties. Coach Robinson was determined to create a culture of hard work and success despite his obvious challenges, he did everything from coaching the team, mowing the lawn they played on, and he even wrote the teams press releases for the local media.
Robinson’s first season as the head coach of Grambling State the football team only won three games. The following season Robinson completely turned around the football program, his team went from a three win team to an undefeated nine win team, who did not allow an opposing touchdown. Because of World War II the Grambling football team didn’t take the field for two years because his players were being recruited for the war. The team returned to the field in 1945 and posted a ten win season, this was a vivid picture of the future of Grambling State football. Under the direction of Eddie Robinson Grambling State University’s football team saw 45 winning season and 19 South Western Athletic Conference championships in fifty-five seasons. He was instrumental in helping 200 of his players reach the professional football ranks; he was also the college football coach of Doug Williams the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
A trailblazer in the world of football Robinson became the first college football head coach to reach the four hundred win mark; he ended his career with a 408-167-16 record as a head coach. In 1998 the Los Angeles Football Classic Foundation named their black college football national championship trophy after Eddie Robinson. In 1992 Eddie Robinson was named the Bobby Dodd coach of the year. In 1994 the black college football national player of the year award was renamed the Eddie Robinson award. In 1997 the Football Writers Association of America renamed their national coaching award after Robinson. Between the years of 1995 and 1997 Robinson posted 3 losing seasons and retired under the scrutiny of being forced out by the University. Robinson retired from coaching football at the age of 78 but left a legacy even the most celebrated white football coaches were forced to respect. April 3rd, 2007 Coach Eddie Robinson passed away, but the seeds of the greatness he planted continue to harvest to this day. Robinson raised the standards of coaching and football expectations for black college football. Despite all of the obstacles in front of Robinson he pushed through to claim his spot at the top of the college football coaching mountain. Coach Edward Robinson, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Born in the late 1500’s, Mathieu Da Costa was a remarkable man. He was a translator who used his skills to become the first person of African descent to reach Canada in recorded history. A Liberian by birth, he was a free African Seaman during the time of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Little is known about his life, but we do know, in the early 1600’s Da Costa was employed by the French until the Dutch kidnapped him. Da Costa signed a three year contract to work for the Dutch as a translator. He spoke French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Pidgin Basque; a language used in the Americas for trade.
It is still a mystery as to how Da Costa came to learn languages of the Americas, but he used them well to help guide himself, Du Gua de Monts and Samuel de Champlain through Acadia and the St. Lawrence River area. Using the navigation skills he possessed, he was able to lead his employers on expeditions throughout North America during a time when the average African in North America was enslaved. While employed by De Monts, he was able to accumulate some wealth to sustain a decent life until he was imprisoned in December of 1906.
There is no information to show why he was imprisoned, but many suggest that he spoke his mind and was accused of insolence. De Costa was able to use his genius to make a life for himself. He also was a pioneer in reaching the land many enslaved Africans would eventually call home, Canada. Mathieu De Costa, we stand on your shoulders.
Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1890 to parents Dr. William Lofton and Mrs. Lavina Day Lofton. Her father was a dentist and a strong supporter of black businesses, her mother was active within the Catholic Church. Dr. Haynes followed in her mother’s footsteps and also became active in the church; she was even awarded the Papal Medal for her excellent service within her community. In 1907 Dr. Haynes would graduate from M. Street High School, she would next attend and graduate from Minor Normal School in 1909, later in 1914 she would earn her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and with her minor in psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Three years later she would marry her longtime friend Mr. Harold Appo Haynes who was a school principal and deputy superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C.
In 1930 Dr. Haynes would earn her master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago, she also founded the mathematics department at Minor College that same year. The mathematics department was an astute training ground for African-American math teachers whose job was to prepare the teachers to prepare the students to succeed. Dr. Haynes was a professor of mathematics at Minor College as well as head of the math department for thirty years; she also taught within the Washington D.C. school system for 47 years. In 1943 at the age of fifty-three Dr. Haynes earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Catholic University of America, this made her the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in the United States. As a teacher within the Washington D.C. school system she made a significant impact on the students and the communities. She was a math teacher at Armstrong High School, an English teacher at Minor Normal School, Chairperson and teacher of the math department at Dunbar High School, and finally mathematics professor and chair of the math and business departments at District of Columbia Teachers College.
Dr. Haynes developed a strong reputation for using her influence to fight racism and inequality within the D.C. school systems. She constantly led the charge challenging the school systems policies that were rooted in segregation. From 1960 to 1968 Dr. Haynes would serve as the president of the Washington, D.C. Board of Education; this made her the first African-American women to hold that position. Under her presidency Washington D.C. school teachers earned collective bargaining rights, teachers now had the power to control their working conditions. She was one of the leaders pushing to desegregate the Washington D.C. school system as well as a strong opponent of the “track system.” This “track system” placed black students on a vocational track based off of their grades early in their school career. This system was designed to block black children from going to college or studying subjects that lead them away from a life of servitude.
Dr. Haynes used her platform to help make a significant difference in the lives of the people she came in contact with on a regular basis. In 1962 she was elected a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1980 at the age of ninety Dr. Haynes passed away and left a legacy that would open doors for black women in science and mathematics for years to come. She would leave at $700,000 donation to the Catholic University of America, which they used to establish a student loan fund. Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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