Honoring Black Trades Pioneers
As we enter Black History Month, we must take the time to celebrate those who have made history in the trades industry. Individuals like those listed below have paved the way for many of our students to train for successful building trades careers.
Charles Vernon Stewart
Born in 1910 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, Charles was the first African American admitted into Greer College, a trade school for electricians. In 1929, Black electricians in Illinois were not allowed to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 134 so Charles helped organize twenty other Black electricians and they persuaded their elected officals to grant them a charter that allowed them to legally practice as electricians. He was hired by Berry Electric in 1942 and soon became the first black foreman for one of the largest electrical contractors in Chicago.
Mary Ezra Mahoney
Born in 1845 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Mary was the first African-American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States. In 1908, Martha Minerva Franklin and Adah B. Thoms, two of Mahoney’s colleagues, founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). The three women worked to improve access to educational and nursing practices and raise standards of living for African American registered nurses. Mary was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
Alice H. Parker
Alice Parker was an African American inventor known for her patented system of central heating using natural gas. Parker’s patent was filed on December 23, 1919 for her heating system invention. Her design allowed cool air to be drawn into the furnace, then conveyed through a heat exchanger that delivered warm air through ducts to individual rooms of a house. The concept of central heating was around before she was born, but her design was different because it used natural gas as its fuel instead of coal or wood which was previously used.
At the age of 30 Adrienne became the first black female master plumber in the United States. She was also the first woman to successfully complete a plumbing apprenticeship program in the state of Michigan. She experienced discrimination because of her age, race, and gender, but she never gave up on making her dreams come true. She worked as a project manager, plumbing inspector, journeyman plumber, code enforcement office, and master plumber for the City of Detroit and finally became an independent plumbing contractor and started her own business, Benkari LLC.