Many stagecoach routes throughout America’s West covered a variety of terrain on often narrow and rugged trails, through deep sands, endless mud, and along steep inclines. These areas were mostly isolated, making stagecoaches a bandit’s favorite target.

The job of stage driver was not one for every person interested. It required excellent horsemanship, driving skills, and great courage. Many areas of the West were considered hostile country and drivers were often ambushed and killed by robbers. But would-be mail thieves met their match in one carrier: Mary Fields (c. 1832–1914). …


Cornelius Vanderbilt, a wealthy steamship owner, sat in the dining room of Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, NY, waiting for his meal. It was the summer of 1853. In the kitchen was George Crum (1824–1914), the establishment’s cook.

The meal being prepared was likely woodcock or partridge from the restaurant’s grounds, served with French fries. But when the dish was served, Vanderbilt refused it. “The French fries are too thick,” he lamented.

This angered Crum, so much so that he would prepare the potatoes again, but this time cut into slices as thin as he could make them. He…


Historians estimate that one in four cowboys was black, yet little is known about their lives and adventures in the Wild West.

The cowboy lifestyle evolved in Texas. White Americans hungry for cheap land had moved into the state’s Spanish (later Mexican) territory during the first half of the 19th century. The Mexican government opposed slavery, but Americans needed slave labor to establish cotton farms and cattle ranches. Once the Civil War reached Texas, many white Texans began to fight alongside their brethren in the East. The slaves were left to maintain the land and cattle herds.

It was this…


It wasn’t until after the Civil War that black soldiers could enlist in the US Army as more than volunteers. These men enlisted for five years and paid a salary of $13 per month. For many this represented a personal dignity: they earned a steady salary and the chance to be treated with greater respect.

In 1869, the US Army restructured the troops. This included consolidating black troops into two cavalry units and two infantry units. …


Of the many creative people who collaborate on a motion picture, the director is regarded as the pivotal individual who serves as both the guiding force behind the project’s effective content and box-office success. Historically, Hollywood has opened its doors to only a small number of African-American film directors. The first to break through the cinematic ceiling was author, film director, and independent producer Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (1884–1951). His first film, The Homesteader (1919), a black-and-white silent, prompted a series of nationwide tours of black neighborhoods.

An ad for the film placed in the Chicago Defender read: “Destined to mark…


Counting down to liftoff. Dangerous trips to the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Gravitational forces powerful enough to pull blood from the eyes. The sound of immense power unleashed in barely controlled fury. Thundering toward the sun. Zero gravity.

This was the thrill Edward Joseph Dwight (September 9, 1933), a Kansas City, Kansas–born altar boy turned airman, sought. As a child, he visited the local airport every day, where he studied and drew the airplanes. He loved art, but his dream was to fly. “This was a white man’s world,” he said of his early passion. “I never thought for…


Thurgood Marshall didn’t know it then, but when he boarded an Oklahoma-bound train in 1941, he was just days away from the W.D. Lyons case, one that would fortify his commitment to overhauling the criminal justice system as he knew it. This son of a steward and schoolteacher was on a mission to defend a young, black sharecropper accused of murdering a white family and burning down their home. Losing the case was a devastating defeat, but it did not stop the young lawyer from leaving Oklahoma with an unbridled hope for the future.

Despite the loss, the lesson in…


“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor…”

Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, delivering this order on June 19, 1865. Unbeknownst to him, he was establishing the basis for the holiday, Juneteenth (June plus nineteenth), today an annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. …


McCoy’s invention enabled trains to run faster and more efficiently.

Elijah McCoy was born in 1844 in Ontario, Canada. He was the son of fugitive slaves who escaped slavery from Kentucky to safety and freedom in Ontario. They returned to the U.S. in 1847 and settled in Michigan.

As a young boy, Elijah was often found taking things apart and putting them back together again. Realizing Elijah had some special skills, his parents saved enough money to send him to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied mechanical engineering. …


Dr. Daniel Hale Williams III

James Cornish had a stressful day at work; so much so that instead of going home to cool his temper, he went to his favorite bar. It seemed that everyone was irritated because on that particular day in Chicago, the heat remained oppressive long after dark.

A fight broke out that evening, one that left a knife in Cornish’s heart. It was July 6, 1893, and surgery on the heart was unheard of; a stab in the heart was nearly always fatal. There was also no precedent for opening the chest. …

Tamara Shiloh

Author,speaker — Just Imagine…What if there were no Black People in the World! a children’s book series about African American inventors and scientists.

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