Compiled By NAN News Editor
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Feb. 23, 2018: This week we put the spotlight on another five West Indians in US Black History who many have forgotten but whom we must remember this and every Black History Month.
Stanley Herbert Adams
Stanley Herbert Adams was a Barbados national who went on to serve as registrar of the Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. He was also part of the founding members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., serving as the Sixth District Representative from 1935 – 1943. Adams also received a $250 scholarship from the Fraternity to aid in the completion of doctoral studies at New York University and a definitive work on the office of the registrar in American colleges. Prior to migrating to the US, he attended Harrison College in Barbados and received the A.B, and A.M. degrees at Durham University, England. He also spent four years as a Latin instructor in then British Guiana, S.A in 1923.
Ira Lunan Ferguson
Ira Lunan Lamontanio Ferguson is a Jamaican immigrant who became a psychologist in the US and was the author of multiple autobiographies as well as several novels and many published essays and journal articles.
He is perhaps best known for his autobiographical trilogy, ‘I Dug Graves at Night to Attend College by Day (1968–70).’ Ferguson was classified as “functionally blind,” as his vision could be only partially corrected. Nevertheless, he often said, “I always felt I was only half blind, and never considered myself handicapped.” He was married twice and lived in Alabama at one point. After the infamous fire-bombing of the church in Birmingham, Alabama in September 1963, he and his wife decided to leave the South and settled in San Francisco, where there was less racial tension and interracial marriage was more accepted. He died in 1992.
Hugh Nathaniel Mulzac
Hugh Nathaniel Mulzac was born in St. Vincent & The Grenadines and went on to become a member of the United States Merchant Marine following his migration here in 1918. He earned a Master rating in 1918 which should have qualified him to command a ship, but this did not happen until September 29, 1942 because of racial discrimination.
He joined with Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and served as a Captain on the SS Yarmouth of the Black Star Line. However, disagreements with the UNIA lead to his resignation in 1921. For the next two decades, the only shipboard work Mulzac could get was in the steward’s departments on several shipping lines. He was continuously harassed by the American CIA and FBI.
In 1942, Mulzac was offered command of the SS Booker T. Washington, the first Liberty ship to be named after an African-American. He refused at first because the crew was to be all black and insisted on an integrated crew, stating, “Under no circumstances will I command a Jim Crow,” and the authorities relented. With this, he became famous for being the first ever black captain, the first black man to obtains a ships masters license and the first black man ever to command a fully integrated vessel. Under his command, over 18,000 troops were transported around the world, and additionally “carrying vital war supplies such as tanks, aircraft and ammunition to the European front.” He died in 1971.
Mabel Keaton Staupers
Barbados born Mabel Keaton was a pioneer in the American nursing profession. She migrated to the United States at age 13 with her parents and attended the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC, where she graduated with honors. After graduation, she worked as a private duty nurse. Keaton, faced with racial discrimination after graduating from nursing school, became an advocate for racial equality in the nursing profession.
She fought for the inclusion of black nurses in World War II to the Army and Navy as the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NAGCN) and continued fighting for the full inclusion of nurses of all races in the U.S. military, which was granted in January 1945.
In 1948, the American Nursing Association followed suit and allowed African-American nurses to become members. In 1950, Staupers dissolved the NAGCN because she believed the organization had completed its mission. In 1951, the NAACP honored Stauper with the Spingarn Medal in recognition of her efforts on behalf of black women workers. Staupers died at the age of 99 in 1989.
John Alexander Somerville
John Alexander Somerville was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States around 1900. He went on to graduate from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, graduating with honors in 1907 and becoming the first black graduate. His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles in the African American community. When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.
In addition to developing other properties in the Los Angeles area, throughout the years both he and his wife, Vada Watson, were active in community affairs and civil rights work. In 1949, he published his autobiography, Man of Color, and in addition to being the second African American on the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, served on the Police Commission from 1949 to 1953. In 1953 he was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.