Elijah McCoy was born to George and Emilia McCoy in Colchester, Ontario, Canada on May 2nd, 1844. The son of former slaves, he showed an interest in engineering at an early age, taking apart toys and other items, putting them back together, and studying them. His interest was recognized by his parents early, and he was sent to Edinburg, Scotland, to study mechanical engineering. Upon finishing his studies and becoming a “Master Mechanic and Engineer”, he moved back to the United States and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, just at the beginning of the “Emancipation Proclamation”. Despite his master skills Mr. McCoy was unable to find a job, but he never lost his imagination which he later used to change history forever.
Mr. McCoy was forced to take a position that didn’t match his “Master skill set”, but he had to earn a living, so he worked as a fireman/oilman on the Michigan Central Railroad. The Fireman’s duty was to shovel coal into fires to help give off steam and make the train move while the Oilman was required to lubricate the axles and bearings of the train. The trick, however, was that the train had to stop in order to be oiled. Being the genius he that was, McCoy used his imagination and intelligence to boost efficiency which eliminated the need to stop the train for lubrication. In 1872 the “lubricating cup” was invented, and was designed to continuously drip oil on the axles and bearings. McCoy received a patent for the object and was met with great success, receiving requests from railroads all over the country to use his product. His skill was so trusted that others created their version of the cup, but the railroads told them they wanted the “Real McCoy”.
In 1868, McCoy became married to Ann Elizabeth Stewart who unfortunately died four years into their marriage. In 1873, Mr. McCoy married again to Mary Eleanor Delaney, they moved to Detroit where they lived for the next 50 years. With continuous success Mr. McCoy had a tough decision to make, he had to sell some percentages of his patent to finance a workshop which allowed him to make improvements to the “lubricating cup”. He changed the way trains were operated and made the rides shorter and more efficient. The “lubricating cup” was altered to fit other machines such as naval vessels, oil-drilling rigs, mining products, and it could also be used in construction and factories across the country. In 1916 he invented the graphite lubricator which allowed super heater trains and devices to be oiled, and in 1920 McCoy started the “Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company”, through which he upgraded and sold the graphite lubricator and other inventions. Using an idea he got from his wife he created and patented the movable ironing board, and later invented and patented the lawn sprinkler. Mr. McCoy died in 1929, but he left a legacy that will never be forgotten or underestimated. Our American railroad systems, American people and travelers all over owe Mr. McCoy gratitude. He improved the way we travel by train and exist in our everyday lives. Elijah Mr. McCoy, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Alessandro de Medici was born in Florence, Italy in 1510 to a mother who was a servant girl. His mother served the de Medici family, his father was said to be Pope Clement VII, the nephew of Lorenzo de Medici “The Magnificent.” Alessandro was nicknamed the “Moor” by his peers because of his prominent African features. He was appointed regent of Florence in 1523 after Pope Clement was forced to relinquish his power. Clement assigned Alessandro as regent to maintain his influence. In 1527 Emperor Charles VII sacked Rome forcing Alessandro and members of his family to flee for safety. The city remained under siege until 1530 when Pope Clement mended his relationship with Emperor Charles. The emperor used his military power to restore the Medici family as heads of state. The emperor also used his power to appoint Alessandro as Duke of Florence.
He began his reign in 1531 and within six months was made hereditary duke by the emperor. This move helped the Medici’s overthrow the opposing republican government. The Duke’s reign was not received very well by his enemies and those exiled by Emperor Charles. Alessandro and his supporters were viewed as oppressive and incompetent by those that despised there position. The people of Florence didn’t agree with the many actions of the Duke. His cousin Ippolito was sent to appeal his reign to Emperor Charles. Upon his journey Ippolito was killed and Alessandro was suspected of orchestrating his death. Pope Clement died in 1534 creating an opportunity for Alessandro’s enemies to attack him. In 1536 he married Emperor Charles’ daughter to help cement Alessandro as the absolute Prince of Florence.
Months after Alessandro’s marriage, he was assassinated by his cousin Lorenzo De Medici. They lured him into bed with another woman, assassinated him, and quietly moved his body to a designated burial ground. Emperor Charles held a small funeral in the memory of Alessandro in his courts. Lorenzo later fled to Venice where he was killed by supporters of the Medici family. The family remained in power by ensuring Cosimo De Medici became Duke of Florence. Alessandro and his family was an example of the African diaspora in Europe, rising to prominence. The family was able to survive the sacking of Rome by Emperor Charles, and the uprising of a Republican government to remain the rulers of Florence. Alessandro was not well liked or highly thought of by his enemies, but he was effective in helping to maintain his family’s power. Alessandro de Medici, we stand on your shoulders.
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April 11, 1908 Jane Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York to parents Matilda Emery and Giaus Bolin. A top student at her high school, Jane graduated early and headed to Wellesley-College. After enrolling into college she maintained her academic excellence and managed to earn a Bachelors of Arts in 1928. After graduating from Wellesley-College she attended Yale Law School, at Yale she managed to graduate within three years despite facing racism from her peers. Her graduation made her the first African-American woman to gain a degree from Yale Law School. With her father being an attorney who was head of the Dutchess County Bar Association and owned his own practice, she was able to work with her father until she married Ralph E. Mizlelle and moved to New York.
As she settled in with her new husband she faced hard times as she pursued at state assembly seat; ten years passed until she finally became the first African-American woman to assist in corporate council work for New York City. In 1939 Bolin appeared before Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at The World’s Fair, the judge swore Bolin in as a judge as a surprise to her. Bolin made history once again; becoming the first African-American female judge in the history of the United States. Bolin used her position and influence to help the people she served; assigned to family court she helped eradicate the plight of the black kids within the juvenile system. She changed policies that segregated the children based on skin color; she also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to support the Wiltwyck School to end crime among young boys.
In 1943 Ralph E. Mizlelle died, leaving Bolin to raise her son on her own; In 1950 Bolin was remarried to Walter P. Offutt, Jr. Bolin remained a judge for 40 years and served on the board of the NAACP and the New York Urban league. At the age of 70 Bolin retired from her bench but not life, she worked as a consultant and School volunteer; she also worked on the New York Board of Regents. Bolin died on January 8, 2007 in New York leaving behind a trailblazing legacy, her legacy is one that cannot be erased from American History. She made it possible for women in the State of New York to work in law and hold positions of influence in the State of New York. She fought for the equality of black children within the New York state juvenile system. She used her intelligence and vigor to make others’ lives better; Judge Jane Bolin we stand on your Shoulders.
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William Patrick Foster was born on August 25, 1919 in Kansas City, Kansas. His family endured poverty even though both of his parents worked. Despite the hard financial conditions Dr. Foster faced, he managed to find a love for music. At the age of twelve he used the money he saved to buy himself a used saxophone; a decision that changed his life forever. He honed his skills and gained an opportunity to train with the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. During his high school years Foster begin playing the clarinet which became his primary instrument. Dr. Foster improved his skills so much that he was appointed first chair clarinetist in his school’s orchestra.
Dr. Foster would soon begin learning more and more about music and improving his skills. By the age of seventeen, his improvements were noticed by his band director who named him as a student director of the summer high school orchestra. His next step was to become director of the All-City Band in 1937. In 1941, Dr. Foster received his Bachelor of Music Education Degree from the University of Kansas. In 1950, he received a Master of Arts in Music Degree from Wayne State University. In 1955, he received a Doctor of Education Degree with a major in music from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Foster’s career as a marching band director started at Fort Valley State University. His next stop was becoming the director of the marching band at Tuskegee Institute. During a football game between Tuskegee and Florida A&M University the sound, style and precision of Tuskegee’s band caught the eye of Florida A&M’s President William Gray.
A meeting was arranged between Dr. Foster and President Gray, which eventually lead to the hiring of Foster as the director of Florida A&M’s marching band. In 1946 Dr. Foster debuted as the leader of a band without a reputation and only sixteen members. But Dr. Foster had vision and the encouragement of a president who wanted him to succeed. He incorporated 30 new marching techniques that would revolutionize marching bands worldwide. By incorporating fast-tempo marching, high-stepping, dancing and showmanship; over time the band gained a new nickname, “Marching 100’s.” The band was also the most talked about and mimicked black college band in the land. By 1960 Dr. Foster’s vision changed the way black college bands performed. He created a culture that still stands to this day.
Because of Dr. Foster “The Marching 100’s” became the most popular marching band in the world. The band has traveled across the world sharing Dr. Foster vision with others. The band has been featured in over 30 nationally televised programs, received features in magazines newspapers and films, performed at halftime at the Super Bowl, and performed at two presidential inaugurations. In 1985 The Marching 100’s” received the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Trophy; which is the highest honor a marching band can receive. In 1989 Dr. Foster’s band represented the United States at the French Bastille Day Parade in Paris. This event was the celebration the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Dr. Foster was also an author, he wrote the book Band Pageantry, A Guide for the Marching Band; this book is considered the “Bible” for marching bands. He also authored 18 articles for professional journals and published 4 marching band shows. He is also the composer the four pieces, Marche Brillante, National Honors March, March Continental, and Centennial Celebration. Dr. Foster is a true legend. He was named to the National Association for Distinguished Band Conductors hall of fame. He was also inducted into the Florida Music Educators Association and the Afro-American Hall of Fames. He was elected president of the American Bandmasters Association in 1994. In 1996 he was appointment by President Clinton to serve on the National Council on the Arts.
In 2001 Dr. Foster retired from directing the world renowned “Marching 100’s” but his legacy never stopped. He was succeeded by Dr. Julian White who continued to lead the band to prominence. In 2010 Dr. Foster died at the age of 91 having realized his dreams and much more. He had a vision and he trusted his talents enough to change the way bands in America performed at half-time. Dr. Foster made half-time “show-time” and created a culture that many have tried to duplicate. Florida A&M University is known for its academics, athletics, civil rights history, but most of all it is known for the “Marching 100’s.” Dr. William P. Foster we stand on your shoulders.
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Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BCE as a son of the Empire of Carthage, which encompassed all of North Africa and Southern Spain. Hannibal was the son of the great Carthaginian military leader Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar lead the Carthaginian army in the First Punic War against Rome. Carthage suffered an embarrassing loss to the Romans which included loss of control the city of Sicily. It is widely stated that as a youth Hannibal’s father instilled within him an unrelenting hatred for Rome. When Hannibal was 17 Carthage was able to conquer Hispania which is now the modern day Iberian Peninsula. During the conquest Hamilcar drowned and Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal the Fair became the commander of the army. This victory was able to expand the Carthaginian Empire which remained a formidable opponent for Rome. Hasdrubal further strengthened the numbers of Carthage by intermarrying the Carthaginians with the conquered Iberians.
In 221 BCE Hasdrubal was murdered and Hannibal was elected to assume command of the army at the age of twenty-six. His first campaign was the capturing of the city of Salamanca in 220 BCE. Carthage’s next conquest was of Saguntum which was a close ally of Rome’s. Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum was considered to be a violation of a peace treaty signed between Hasdrubal and Rome. They demanded that Carthage expel Hannibal from the empire. As Hannibal’s fate was being decided, he continued to conquer territories expanding Carthage as far as he could. Hannibal’s brother was appointed as a military commander on the Iberian Peninsula. This move helped the forces of Carthage conquer the peninsula as a whole. Hannibal was determined to bring war to Rome; he remembered what his father told him about the Romans so he launched a military campaign. His conquest of the Iberian Peninsula was an example of his advancement towards conquering the Roman Empire.
Because Hannibal conquered the Iberian Peninsula the Roman government declared war against Carthage. This declaration was the beginning of the Second Punic War. Hannibal and his forces invaded Italy in a surprise attack on the Romans, who expected an attack at Sicily. His next move was to cross the Pyrenees Mountains. Before he could cross, his army had to defeat the tribes who dwelled along the foothills of the mountains. His army crossed the Pyrenees and reached the river Rhone. Along the way he managed to pacify the Chiefs of the Gaul’s. This strategic move helped to stall Roman advancement against Carthage. It is said that Hannibal’s army consisted of 50,000 infantry men, 9,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants. Next, Hannibal led his army across the treacherous Alps which took a toll on his army. He lost a number of his solders and some of his war elephants.
It is said that he led 38,000 soldiers into the town of Turin, Italy. The Romans became aware of the alliance between the Gaul’s and Carthage, and sent troops of 80,000 to defeat Carthage and the Gaul’s. Their plans were spoiled because Hannibal was able to defeat the forces. This victory gave the Gaul’s confidence in Hannibal so they volunteered the join his army. The Gaul’s were able to add the strength to the army that Hannibal lost crossing the Alps. His army was able to defeat the Romans a second time in a battle at the river Trebbia. In 217 BCE Hannibal and his army crossed the Apennines Mountains and conquered modern day Tuscany. During these battles he lost of one of his eyes but not his hatred for Rome. The Romans retaliated with their own attack against Carthage but was defeated once again at the Trasimene Lake. As Hannibal’s army crossed the Apennines for a second time, Roman forces attacked Iberia and cut off his access to his allies and supplies. In the city of Cannae 80,000 Roman solders attacked Hannibal’s army. Despite being outnumbered, Hannibal’s forces were able to once again gain a victory over Rome. This victory caused Roman allies to pledge their allegiance with Hannibal. The Italian city of Capua became Hannibal’s new military base. In 214 BCE the city of Syracuse became a city of Carthage. 215 BCE King Philip V of Macedonia pledged his allegiance with Carthage.
The Romans managed to secure a decisive victory against Carthage. Hannibal was not able to capture the port cities of Cumae and Puteoli. His army was not able to receive reinforcements or supplies. Carthage was losing resources and allies fast. The cities of Syracuse and Capua were regained by the Romans, further weakening Hannibal’s forces. The four year campaign in Italy was taking a toll on his solders. Hannibal sent for his brother located in Iberia to help him fight. Unfortunately Hannibal’s’ brother was defeated crossing the Alps. Rome was able to reclaim Iberia as well as again an ally in the King of Namibia. Aligned with Rome, Namibia attacked Carthage forcing Hannibal to bring his troops home to defend his land. A final battle was fought between Rome and Carthage at Zama in 202 BCE. The Carthaginian forces were weakened from the Punic War and they fell in defeat to Rome. A peace treaty was signed in 201 BCE which forced Carthage to compensate Rome for the damages its forces caused. Also the treaty forced Hannibal to resign as the leader of the Carthaginian army.
The mighty Hannibal was able to instill terror into the Roman empire. Rome was the world power at the time and Carthage was a thorn in their side. The size and arrogance of Rome caused them to underestimate the brilliance of Hannibal. He is considered one of the most brilliant military leaders in history. His crossing of the Alps was a feat many may have envisioned but never attempted. Hannibal was determined to keep his promise to his father and annihilate Rome. Though he did not reach his ultimate goal he accomplished more than many military leaders can only dream of. His Empire covered North Africa, Spain and parts of Italy. Hannibal was a true African warrior and a skilled politician. He will never be forgotten within the pages of history. Hannibal was able to show Rome the full potential of his African might. Hannibal Barca the Great, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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