"A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste"

This quote popularized by The United Negro College Fund illuminates a very important concept. It reinforces the fact that our mind will always be the greatest gift that we are given in life. And to waste it by not reaching or striving toward our full potential is to not show gratitude for the gift. In celebration of Black History Month and Black Excellence this is the first of a literature and merchandise series provided to expand our understanding and consciousness of the role that African-Americans have played in shaping life as we know it. We will start by sharing the lives and work of five exemplary black men totally dedicated and invested in the idea of psychological freedom in particular through the use of education. These men by name are Dr. Norman C. Francis, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, Inventor George Washington Carver, and The Honorable Thurgood Marshall. 

Dr. Norman C. Francis 

Dr. Norman C. Francis is an African-American university president, thought-leader, policy maker, humanitarian, and philanthropist. 

Dr. Francis served as Xavier University of Louisiana's President for 47 years. As the president of Xavier, he more than doubled the enrollment, expanded the campus landscape, and embedded a culture of academic excellence. In large part to Dr. Francis' efforts Xavier continues to rank first nationally in the number of African-American students earning undergraduate degrees in biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics, and pharmacy. In addition, Xavier is ranked #1 nationally for African-Americans finishing medical school. 

Dr. Francis was also the first African-American to integrate Loyola University Law School, and became the first to receive a juris doctorate from Loyola University Law School in 1955.

In 1961, Dr. Francis played a key role in Xavier University of Louisiana's decision to house the Freedom Riders, an integrated group testing application of the Supreme Court decision banning discrimination in interstate rail and bus travel. This decision was made after a mob of white segregationists firebombed the Freedom Riders bus. The Freedom Riders were housed in St. Michael's dormitory, known to Xavierites as "St. Mikes".

Dr. Francis, has received 40 honorary degrees from other universities and more than 20 major awards for his achievements as a leader in higher education. In 2006, President George W. Bush presented him with the nation's highest civil award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The City of New Orleans has officially renamed Jefferson Davis Parkway to Norman C. Francis Parkway to honor his work in civil rights and education. 

In 2015, Xavier University of Louisiana's board of trustees honored Dr. Francis' legacy by naming him President Emeritus. 

Dr. Francis has been an exemplary model of what Black Excellence and achievement is. 

 


 

Dr. W.E.B. Dubois 

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, MA in 1868. His given name is William Edward Burghart Du Bois. He is best known as a scholar and activist. Growing up, he identified as mulatto and was able to earn his education openly. 

Du Bois moved to Nashville, TN in 1885 to attend Fisk University. In the South, Du Bois came face to face with the harsh realities of the Jim Crow Laws. Following undergrad, he matriculated into Harvard University for a master’s program.

In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and his dissertation focused on "The Suppression of The African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870". In 1903 he published the popular The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, which is still considered one of the most outstanding collections of American essays. 

In 1909, DuBois was among the founders of the NAACP and from 1910 to 1934 served as its director of publicity and research. He was also the founder and editor of The Crisis the NAACP's monthly magazine. 

DuBois' attitude and zeal for academic excellence has paved the past for intellectuals around the world. 


 

The Honorable Judge Thurgood Marshall

The Honorable Judge Thurgood Marshall was an African-American lawyer, activist, and policy-maker. 

Marshall attended Howard University in Washington D.C., after being denied by University of Maryland Law School on the basis of his race. This in many ways set the precedent for his life's work.

Through perseverance, grit, and work-ethic he was granted a position in 1934 working for the Baltimore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1936, Marshall moved to New York City to work full time as legal counsel for the NAACP. 

In one of the most monumental cases in court history Marshall won his landmark 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. This case challenged the doctrine of separate but equal established by the 1836 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson. On May 17, 1954 the supreme court unanimously ruled that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and racial segregation of public schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. In effect, this ruling signaled the end of legalized racial segregation in the schools of the United States. 

In 1967, President Johnson nominated Judge Marshall to serve on the bench of the Supreme Court. And on October 2, 1967 Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, becoming the first African-American to serve on the nation's highest court. 

With gratitude, we should always honor the memory of Thurgood Marshall for his work in ensuring that students have access to a fair and equitable education. The Honorable Judge Thurgood Marshall has been an extraordinary example of how educational freedom can be achieve through intelligent application of the law. 

 

 

Inventor George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was born in Missouri around 1860. Carver is most widely known for his life long career as an agricultural chemist and agronomist. He revolutionized the way the world viewed and utilized common crops like sweet potatoes, soybeans and of course peanuts. Carver also spent more than four decades as a professor and research scientist at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now Tuskegee University.

Carver was born to Mary, an enslaved woman living on a plantation owned by Moses Carver. During the Civil War, Carver and his mother were kidnapped and taken to Arkansas where they were to be sold. He was eventually returned back to the Carver plantation where he was raised as an orphan until the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1861.

Carver continued to live on the plantation until he was 10 or 12 years old. He then left to gain an education. Carver supported himself by working in various capacities as a household worker, farm laborer, laundryman, hotel cook and even homesteader. It was also during this time he developed his passion for the land. While working as a farm hand, Carver earned his high school diploma in Kansas. Carver attended Simpson College in Iowa and later transferred to Iowa State Agricultural College, now Iowa State. In 1894, Carver graduated with a bachelors in agricultural sciences and a master’s degree in 1896.

On an offer from Tuskegee University, he chose to dedicate his life to inventions that would improve the lives and minds of others. 

As a famous inventor Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut including flour, paste, insulation, paper, shaving cream, and skin lotion. 

Mr. Carver, sets a beautiful presentation of what an imaginative and strong mind can do.