Be Inspired


Henry_O._Flipper2nd Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper became West Point’s first African American

Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, on March 21, 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1873. Over the next four years he overcame harassment, isolation, and insults to become West Point’s first African American graduate and the first African American commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army. Flipper was stationed first at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later served at Forts Elliott, Quitman, and Davis, Texas. He served as a signal officer and quartermaster, fought Apaches, installed telegraph lines, and supervised the building of roads. At Fort Sill, the young lieutenant directed the construction of a drainage system that helped prevent the spread of malaria. Still known as “Flipper’s Ditch,” the ditch is commemorated by a bronze marker at Fort Sill and the fort is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Joseph Bologne the Chevalier

Joseph Bologne the Chevalier

December 25, 1745 – Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman, and equestrian, was born in Guadeloupe, but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI, but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first black colonel and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute June 10, 1799. Biographies of Saint-Georges include “Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

Sadie Tanner Mossell AlexanderSadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

January 2, 1898 – Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Alexander earned her Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1918, her Master of Science degree in economics in 1919, and her Ph.D. in economics in 1921, all from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1927, Alexander became the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and be admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. From 1919 to 1923, Alexander served as the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. From 1928 to 1930 and from 1934 to 1938, she served as assistant city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. In 1947, she was appointed to President Harry Truman’s Committee on Human Rights and from 1952 to 1968 served on the Commission on Human Relations of the City of Philadelphia. Alexander retired in 1982 and died November 1, 1989. An elementary school, the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School, is named in her honor.