Hazel Lee loved to swim, play handball, play cards, and play pranks. And she loved to fly planes.
During WWII, the U.S. didn’t have enough male pilots. So the Women Airforce Service Pilots was created. And Hazel was invited to join.
Her job was to deliver aircraft to points of embarkation, from which they would be shipped to Europe and the Pacific. The group worked 7 days a week with little time off.
“I’ll take and deliver anything,” she said. Which was her attitude, work hard, get everything necessary done.
On November 23rd, 1944, flying in bad weather in North Dakota, she crashed with another plane upon landing. She passed away two days later, the last of 38 female pilots to die during WWII.
“I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience.”
– Frederick Douglass
In the spring of 1955, Jonas Salk, an American physician and researcher, introduced the first safe and reliable polio vaccine. Polio, a debilitating virus that caused paralysis and death in a percentage of its victims who were mainly children, was by that time a national epidemic in the United States, and a serious problem in countries around the world. Hoping to help their ailing population, the US government licensed the vaccine the same day Jonas introduced it. Canada and European countries quickly followed suit. The vaccine was so effective, it dropped polio cases by 75%.
Jonas was celebrated around the world as a “miracle worker”. Despite his success, he never patented the vaccine.
When asked in an interview about who owned the patent, Jonas answered, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
Primarily self taught after the age of ten, Granville Woods became a mechanical engineer and an inventor with over 50 patents. Two of his most notable inventions were a “telegraphony” device which allowed communication by voice over telegraph wires, and a Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph that helped trains communicate with stations and other trains about their whereabouts and problem on the track. The first was purchased by Alexander Graham Bell, and the second was challenged in court by Thomas Edison. Woods successfully defended his patent, leading Edison to offer him a prominent job within his company. Woods declined preferring to work independently.
Maggie Lena Walker, the daughter of a former slave and cook, was the first woman to charter a bank in the United States in 1902. The bank offered loans and mortgages to black residents of Richmond, Virginia who were otherwise denied service by white-owned banks.
A year later she started a department store allowing black customers to shop with dignity: To enter through the main doors instead of a side entrance, to try on clothing before buying, and to eat at lunch counters. Her store displayed clothing on brown-skinned mannequins and hired exclusively black women to work as clerks.
Later the same year, Walker utilized her newspaper to urge Richmond residents to boycott the city’s segregated streetcar system. The boycott was so effective the company operating the street cars declared bankruptcy two months later.