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Voices of Historical and Contemporary Black American Pioneers

by Vernon L. Farmer and Evelyn Shepherd-Wynn, Editors
Foreword by Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. | Afterword by Guion S. Bluford, Jr.


Born a slave, Booker T. Washington was, by law, not allowed to learn to read. He said "no" to that law and eventually wrote his own book, Up from Slavery. Benjamin S. Carson said "no" to a college advisor who suggested he drop out of medical school. Today, he is an internationally renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University. There are many such inspiring stories—and it is time they were told.

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May 2012


Pages 1465
Volumes 4
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Race and Ethnicity/African American Studies

The stories of black American professionals, both historic and contemporary, reveal the hardships and triumphs they faced in overcoming racism to succeed in their chosen fields.

This extraordinary four-volume work is the first of its kind, a comprehensive exploration of the obstacles black men and women, both historic and contemporary, have faced and overcome to succeed in professional positions. Voices of Historical and Contemporary Black American Pioneers includes the life and career histories of black American pioneers, past and present, who have achieved extraordinary success in fields as varied as aviation and astronautics, education, social sciences, the humanities, the fine and performing arts, law and government, and medicine and science. The set covers well-known figures, but is also an invaluable source of information on lesser-known individuals whose accomplishments are no less admirable.

Arranged by career category, each section of the work begins with a biographical narrative of early black pioneers in the field, followed by original interviews conducted by the editors or autobiographical narratives written by the subjects. In all, more than 150 scholars and professionals share inspiring insights into how they persevered to overcome racism and succeed in an often-hostile world.


  • Stories of 150 outstanding black American scholars and professionals from varied career fields, drawn from biographies, autobiographies, and original interviews
  • Excerpts from six original works
  • 160 photographs


  • Introduces readers to black pioneers past and present, including such well-known contemporary figures as Colin Powell, Carol Moseley Braun, and Lani Guinier, all in one source
  • Gives readers a true understanding of what life was like for black Americans attempting to become educated in a hostile and racist environment from the eve of slavery into the 21st century
  • Uses a blend of personal interviews and biographical/autobiographical essays to underscore the extraordinary accomplishments and contributions of black American pioneers to the making of America
  • Shows how men and women have overcome both overt and covert racism to make their mark in the professional world
Author Info

Vernon L. Farmer, PhD, is professor of educational leadership in the College of Education at Grambling State University, Grambling, LA. He earned his degree at the University of Michigan's Distinguished Center for the Study of Higher Education. Dr. Farmer's publications include The Black Student's Guide to Graduate and Professional School Success and Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Higher Education in the New Millennium. He co-edited Selected Models of Developmental Education Programs in Higher Education and Teaching Culturally Diverse College Students in a Pluralistic Society.

Evelyn Shepherd-Wynn, EdD, is assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at Grambling State University, Grambling, LA, where she earned her degree. Shepherd-Wynn's publications include a number of book chapters and an edited book, Teaching Culturally Diverse College Students in a Pluralistic Society.



"This four-volume reference resource examines the lives of some 150 black professionals, offering important information from the standpoint of their careers and also very clear and succinct points of view to which readers may not be exposed in the formal college or university classroom setting. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended."Choice

"The expansive work covers a multitude of professionals whose influence has spread across the United States and around the world, and even those who have visited outer space, portraying those who have experienced notable success in their fields while overcoming significant adversity. . . . This work will be a worthy addition to black history collections as well as secondary libraries that need to expand their contemporary biography sections."Library Journal

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