Celebrating Diversity: Black History Month
Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent the majority of his childhood working in the Kentucky coalmines. At the age of twenty, he enrolled in high school and graduated within two years. Years later, he went on to earn his doctorate in history from Harvard University. Dr. Woodson was disappointed that throughout his studies, history books largely ignored the contributions of the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.
To remedy this, he decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation’s history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.
Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It later became a month-long celebration in 1976.
Honoring the Stories of African Americans in Veterinary Medicine
African-Americans have played an important role in the veterinary profession. As a college, we wanted to create a space to honor a few of these great stories. Each week throughout the month of February, we will showcase several African Americans within the profession that have been advocate for inclusion and positive change.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson (1901-1988)
Founder of Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine
Named after the famed journalist and anti-slavery leader, Dr. Patterson was born in 1901 and was raised by his older sister after being orphaned at age two. Overcoming hardship, he went on to attend Iowa State College, where in 1923 he earned his DVM. His academic career also included earning a Master of Science from Iowa State and a second doctorate degree from Cornell University. Dr. Patterson began teaching at Tuskegee University in 1928 and in 1944 he founded the Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine, which to this day has graduated an estimated 75% of African American veterinarians. Among his many accomplishments was the founding of the United Negro College Fund, which today remains a major financial supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 1987, Dr. Patterson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan. Dr. Patterson has an extensive list of accomplishments in his life; please click the link below to learn more about this pioneer in veterinary medicine.
(Special thanks to Jess Martini for crafting the profile)
Dr. Earl H. Rippie, Jr. (1941-2016)
Dr. Earl H. Rippie, Jr. graduated from Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine in 1967. Dr. Rippie built a successful 45 year career as veterinarian, owner, and director of the Pennsauken Animal Hospital in New Jersey. During his career as a veterinarian, Dr. Rippie served as President of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association and served 9 years as a delegate for the AVMA. In 1999, Dr. Rippie was elected president of the North American Veterinary Association where he went on to serve as secretary-treasurer for 13 years. Among his many accomplishments and contributions to veterinary medicine, he was a founding member of the Latin American Veterinary Association. Dr. Rippie was posthumously honored for his contribution to veterinary medicine at the opening ceremony of this year’s NAVC Conference.
(Special thanks to Shonte Bishop for recommending Dr. Rippie and to Jess Martini for crafting the profile)
Alfreda Johnson Webb (1923-1992)
Alfreda Johnson Webb was born in 1923 in Mobile, Alabama. After completing a bachelor of science degree at the Tuskegee Institute (now University) she attended the Tuskegee Institute College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1949, Dr. Johnson Webb graduated as the first African American woman to graduate from veterinary school, becoming the first African American woman licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the US. Dr. Johnson Webb remained at the Tuskegee Institute where she taught anatomy until 1959, completing her tenure at there as an Associate Professor. She then served as a professor of biology at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) from 1959-1978. During her time at NC A&T, she was a member of the planning committee which founded the School of Veterinary Medicine of North Carolina State University. Dr. Johnson Webb went on to serve as a legislator, holding several positions within the Democratic Party of North Carolina. In 1971, she became the first African American woman in the North Carolina General Assembly, serving on many committees including serving as the Chairperson of Minority Affairs, president of the Democratic Women of NC, and a member of the NC Council on Sickle Cell Syndrome. We honor Dr. Johnson Webb as a pioneer in our field and a champion of justice and democracy.
(Thanks to Dr. Sarah Beatty for recommending Dr. Johnson Webb for our series)
Iverson C. Bell (1916-1984)
Iverson C. Bell was born in northeast Texas in 1916 and after graduating high school, began his undergraduate education at Kansas State University. He left KSU to serve in the US Army during World War II and returned from war to complete his education at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1949, using his GI bill benefits, Bell earned his DVM from Michigan State University. After graduation, Dr. Bell went on to be a founding professor of Small Animal Medicine at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. After relocating to Indiana to start a family, Dr. Bell built a private veterinary practice which would thrive for 35 years under his management. Dr. Bell was very active in veterinary leadership, political and social justice organizations. He held several positions within the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association and served with honor as the Vice President of the AVMA from 1971-1973. Dr. Bell valued education, working as a mentor to countless future veterinarians and helping to found the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. He held a vast array political leadership positions including those for fair housing and criminal justice, and was honored with an ambassadorship to Nigeria by President John F. Kennedy. Throughout his life, Dr. Bell worked hard to combat the discrimination of his era, serving as chairman of the executive board his local chapter of the NAACP. In recognition of his accomplishments as a veterinarian and champion of the marginalized, a biannual Iverson Bell Symposium is held by the AAVMC, honoring and continuing his commitment to diversity within veterinary medicine.
(Thank you to Dean Lloyd for recommending that Dr. Bell be honored in our series)
*PLEASE RETURN EACH WEEK THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY FOR MORE PROFILES HONORING THE STORIES OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN VETERINARY MEDICINE*