Category Archives: women

GOOD BYE MY HONEY I’M GONE

Good Bye My Honey I'm Gone

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  “Good Bye My Honey I’m Gone”

Composer:  M.H. Rosenfeld

Lithographer:  C.H. Baker

Publisher:  W.A. Evans

Year & Place:  1885, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-490

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  b0490

Basic Description

This lithograph depicts a well-dressed African American woman, valise and African American boy in tow, boldly walking away from two men: one white, in a policeman’s uniform and holding a billy club to his mouth, and the other black, leaning on the officer and pointing in the woman’s direction.  To the immediate right of the woman three chickens fly away and, in the distance, a sailing ship exits right.  Behind the men are the traceries of two, cottage-like buildings. Gigantic shaving razors are noticeable in the dress and pants’ pockets of the woman and boy, respectively.

Personal Description

Despite the peripheral chaos (i.e., the scattering chickens and expressions of alarm or puzzlement on the men’s and boy’s faces) and the embedded threats of violence (i.e., the razors), there’s a strange calm pervading this image that’s largely located in the fleeing woman.  Is it her pleasant smile, her shapely figure and full bosom, or her Herculean arms and corporeal confidence that assuage what is clearly a scene of domestic dissolution? Her floral corsages, lightning-like ribbons and ruffles, and leather lace-ups sartorially empower her, so one wonders why the artist felt the additional need to fall back on the razor-toting Negro stereotype?

Reality Check

Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)

Mary Eliza Mahoney, America’s first black graduate nurse, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on May 7, 1845.  The eldest of three siblings, Mahoney attended the Phillips Street School in Boston.

At the age of twenty, Mary Mahoney began working as a nurse.  Supplementing her low income as an untrained, practical nurse, Mahoney took on janitorial duties at the New England Hospital for Women and Children: a state-of-the-art medical facility run solely by female physicians.

In 1878, Mary Mahoney was accepted into the New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program.  During her training, Mahoney participated in mandatory sixteen-hour-per-day ward duty, where she oversaw the well-being of six patients at a time.  Days not requiring ward duty involved attending day-long lectures while simultaneously devoting time to her studies.  Completing the rigorous sixteen-month program, Mahoney was among the three graduates out of the forty students who began the program and the only African American awarded a diploma.

Mary Mahoney worked as a nurse for the next four decades.  During her forty-year career she attracted a number of private clients who were among to most prominent Boston families.   A deeply religious person, the diminutive five-foot tall, ninety-pound Mahoney devoted herself to private nursing due to the rampant discrimination against black women in public nursing at the time.

Mary Mahoney was widely recognized within her field as a pioneer who opened the door of opportunity for many black women interested in the nursing profession.  When the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) was organized in New York in 1908, Mahoney was asked to give the welcoming address.  Following her speech at the 1909 NACGN Convention at Boston, Mahoney was made a lifetime member, exempted from dues, and elected chaplain.  Admitted to New England Hospital for care on December 7, 1925, Mahoney succumbed to breast cancer on January 4, 1926 at the age of eighty-one.

GOOD ENOUGH!

GOOD ENOUGH!

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  “Good Enough!”

Composer:  Rollin Howard

Engraver: Clayton’s

Lithographer:  Chicago Lithographing

Publisher:  Lyon & Healy

Year & Place:  1871, Chicago, Illinois

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-498

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  b0498

Basic Description

A dancing, high-kicking couple are shown in an interior space.  Upon closer inspection it appears as if the woman is wearing a nineteenth-century styled slip and petticoats, which is further suggested by the hoop-skirt frame sitting on the table behind her, and in the shelving and racks in the room holding linen, socks, and possibly other forms of apparel.  Both the man and the woman wear big, black brogans and garishly striped stockings.

Personal Description

The abandonment which is expressed in this couple’s dance moves, along with her undressed state, his clown-like outfit, and their shared gnome-like, diabolical features, all conveyed a kind of idiocy and madness surrounding African Americans that, in the post-Reconstruction era, contributed towards the complete dismantling of what few legal rights and social courtesies black still had circa 1871.

Reality Check

ADarlingJohnMaryJones

John Jones (1816-1879) & Mary Richardson Jones (1819-1910)

John Jones – tailor, writer, and politician – was born in 1816 in Green City, North Carolina to a German father and an African American mother.  Born free, he taught himself to read and write, started his own tailoring business, and eventually became one of the wealthiest African Americans in the antebellum United States.

While working as a tailor in Memphis, Tennessee in 1841, John Jones met Mary Jane Richardson, the daughter of a free African American blacksmith.  Although the Richardson family shortly thereafter moved to Alton, Illinois, Jones remained in Memphis for three years to complete the requirements of his apprenticeship.  In 1844 Jones moved to Alton and married Mary Jane Richardson.  Although they were free, both John and Mary obtained certificates of freedom, posted a $1,000 bond in Madison County, and gained the privileges of traveling and living in the state.

After moving to Chicago in 1845, the highly skilled tailor soon had a thriving enterprise, catering to many of Chicago’s elites.  By 1860 Jones’s business was one of the city’s oldest and most financially solvent, having accumulated between $85,000 and $100,000.  The great Chicago fire of 1871 affected his wealth, yet he was left with enough money to be called one of the country’s wealthiest African Americans and Chicago’s undisputed black leader.

Jones used his house and his office, both located on Dearborn Street, as stops on the Underground Railroad through Chicago.  His home was known as a meeting place for local and national abolitionist leaders including Frederick Douglass and John Brown.  He also authored a number of influential anti-slavery pamphlets.  Mary Richardson Jones was also a suffragette, and leaders in the suffrage movement such as Susan B. Anthony stayed in the Jones’ home when visiting Chicago.

Although a dedicated abolitionist, John Jones also actively campaigned against racial discrimination as expressed in the Black Laws of Illinois.  Jones dedicated a considerable amount of his wealth to overturn Illinois laws that denied voting rights to black men and banned them from testifying in court.  His efforts were successful in 1865 when the Illinois Legislature repealed the Black Laws restricting civil rights.  Five years later, in 1870, after ratification of the 15th Amendment, Jones and other Illinois black men also voted for the first time.  In 1871, in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire, Jones was elected to the Cook County Commission on the Union Fire Proof ticket, becoming the first African American officeholder in the state’s history.  While holding this post, he helped enact the law that abolished segregated schools.

Reelected to a full three-year term in 1872, Jones was defeated in his 1875 reelection bid.  John Jones died on May 31, 1879, and was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.  Mary Richardson Jones died in 1910, and is also buried at Graceland Cemetery.

I’m from Missouri and You Gotter Show Me

I'm From Missouri

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  I’m from Missouri and You Gotter Show Me

Composer: Vanderpool, Fred

Illustrator: Leff

Publisher: M. Witmark

Year & Date:  1902, New York, New York

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music #B-625

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0625

Basic Description
The full-body profile of a well-dressed African American woman is shown before a highly abstracted townscape in the distance. The ribbons on her hat and cape flutter behind her and her torso is bent forward into a stride. The navy, black, and white colors of her dress give her a serious, reserved air, but the white hand muff at her backside exaggerates the curviness of her form. From the tip of her hat to the point of her shoe, her body is a wave of curves–draped artfully in fabric–that resists becoming seductive. The blue stripes that fill the border and form the sky pulse against the pattern of tiny squares that comprise the abstracted townscape. There is an energy and vitalism in this contrasting pattern that the townscape itself seems to lack.

Personal Description
The song itself is about an African American lady from Missouri who moves to a new town and meets a womanizing African American man, from whose perspective the story is told. The story ends with the “western” lady telling him to get lost. The self-possessed appearance of the woman in the illustration, however, makes the bigoted lyrics of the song seem like a non-sequitur. The woman’s dress is fancy and feminine, but its colors, her veil, and her composure imply dignity and reserve. She is attractive and seems cosmopolitan. There is nothing visibly degrading or caricatured about her. Thus the racist references to African American men in the lyrics have a disruptive and almost random quality.  Is the cover image a stereotype of a different order (a haughty African American woman from the “west,” preoccupied with being a lady)? Or does this image resist caricature? If she is intended as a foil to emphasize a caricature about black men, it fails.  Monumental, dignified, and self-possessed, the cover image works against the stereotypes of the lyrics inside.

Reality Check

Sissieretta Jones (1869-1933)
Sissiereta Jones was a world-famous soprano who in June 1892, became the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Touring internationally in the late 1800s and early 1900s, she sang both classical opera and performed in musical comedies with her own troupe.

Born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner on January 5, 1869, in Portsmouth, Virginia, she was the child of Jeremiah Joyner, a pastor, and Henrietta Joyner, a singer in the church choir. After moving with her family to Rhode Island when she was six, Sissieretta began singing in the church choir, which was directed by her father. When only fourteen, she married David Richard Jones, who became her first manager. Later, she formally studied voice at the Providence Academy of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the Boston Conservatory.

Following her New York City debut on April 5, 1888 in Steinway Hall, she was nicknamed “the Black Patti” after being compared to the Italian prima donna Adelina Patti, well-known at the time. The nickname stayed with her throughout her 30-plus year career, although she preferred to be called Madame Jones. During the 1880s and 1890s, Jones performed at Madison Square Garden, Boston’s Music Hall and the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She first performed at the White House in February 1892 for President Benjamin Harrison and returned to appear before Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. She also appeared before the British Royal Family. Jones’s international tours took her to the Caribbean, South America, Australia, India and Southern Africa as well as London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Munich, and St. Petersburg. By 1895 Jones had become the most well known and highly paid African American performer of her day.

In the 1890s, she formed Black Patti’s Troubadours, taking advantage of the popularity of black musical comedies, originally called “coon shows.” Jones sang opera selections and spirituals at the end of the show, rather than closing with the typical cakewalk. The group was one of the most popular shows on American stage, touring throughout the United States; the careers of numerous black performers were launched by their initial appearances with the Black Patti troupe.

African Americans began to see the black musical comedies as reflecting negatively on their race, and the group’s tours wound down, with a 1915 last performance at New York City’s Lafayette Theater. Jones moved back to Providence, Rhode Island and cared for her mother and her two adopted children. Sissieretta Jones died in 1933 at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

(Source: http://www.blackpast.org)

Way down south; Characteristic march, cake-walk and two-step

Way Down South

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  Way down south; Characteristic march, cake-walk and two-step

Composer: Clark, J.F.

Illustrator: L.S. Fisher

Publisher: G.W. Setchell

Year & Date:  1899, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music #B-160

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0160

Basic Description
A group of stiff, grinning men line up on the left. A group of women on the right lean or gesture toward them. The two central figures, a man and a woman, are tilting forward in an unnatural way as if they are wood or paper cutouts. It’s unclear if the man,  holding a cake, is a dance contestant or presenting a prize to the woman.  There is a number 11 on his lapel and a number 44 on the lapel of the man behind him, implying they are contestants in a cakewalk dance, a couples’ competition with a cake as the winner’s reward. There is a sketchy awkwardness to the scene—a woman in the distant background is so haphazardly drawn that her head looks like a puff of smoke. The man to the far left wears a monocle that makes him look bug-eyed. A man in the distant background appears bug-eyed and pencil-necked.

Personal Description
This is a deeply conflicted image. The title “Way Down South” implies that we’re seeing a regional practice indigenous to the southern United States. The use of the word “characteristic,” suggests these poses are “typical” or archetypal vis a vis African American social life. What’s ironic, then, is the striking differentiation among the figures in terms of scale and physical characteristics. The woman in the flowered skirt is at least 15 percent larger than the man holding the cake. Their complementary gestures imply that they are interacting, yet the divergence in size makes them appear disconnected. The women lack stereotypical facial characteristics, yet the men seem to possess them in varying degrees.  From one figure to the next and within the individual figures themselves, representations veer between elegant and vulgar. This may result from the artist’s lack of skill, but it may also reflect an ambiguous attitude toward African Americans and, by extension, confusion about the meaning of the cakewalk dance. Was it performed to mock white culture? Was it a pathetic struggle to match the whites’ culture? Or did it reflect African American mastery over that culture?

Reality Check

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Niagara Movement delegates, Boston, Massachusetts, 1907

The Niagara Movement was an African American civil rights organization founded in 1905 by a group led by W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter.  It was named for the “mighty current” of change the group wanted to effect and the Niagara Falls in New York was near the site of their first meeting.

The Niagara Movement was a call for opposition to racial segregation and disenfranchisement and to the policies of accommodation and conciliation promoted by African American leaders like Booker T. Washington. The philosophies of the group were in direct contrast to more conciliatory philosophies that proposed patience over militancy.

In July 1905 a group led by W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope, Fred L. McGhee, and William Monroe Trotter met in Fort Erie, opposite Buffalo, New York on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, to discuss full civil liberties, the end of racial discrimination, and the recognition of human brotherhood.  Twenty-nine people attended the first meeting.

The Niagara Movement eventually split into separate committees and divided among the states, establishing chapters in twenty one states by mid-September and reaching 170 members by year’s end. By 1910 however, due to weak finances and internal dissension the group was disbanded.

The second meeting of the Niagara Movement was held at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the site of John Brown’s raid.  The three-day gathering began on August 15, 1906 at the campus of Storer College, now part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The group discussed how to secure civil rights for African Americans and was later described by Du Bois as “one of the greatest that American Negroes ever held.” Those who attended walked from Storer College to the nearby Murphy Family Farm, the site of the historic fort where John Brown’s quest to free four million enslaved African Americans reached its climax. They removed their socks and shoes at the site to honor the hallowed ground and participated in a ceremony of remembrance.

The Niagara Movement had a number of organizational flaws including a lack of funding and central leadership. Booker T. Washington’s opposition drew support away from the group. Following the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, the movement admitted its first white member, Mary White Ovington, a settlement worker and a socialist. In 1911 the remaining membership of the Niagara Movement joined with a number of white liberals to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP].

South Car’lina tickle: Cake walk

South Car'Lina Tickle

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  South Car’lina tickle : Cake walk

Composer: Geibel, Adam

Publisher: Theodore Presser

Year & Date:  1898, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music # B-376

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0376

Basic Description
A tall, lanky man in a three-piece suit and a woman in a blouse with puffed sleeves and a long patterned skirt “strut their stuff” with their heads tilted upward. The man holds his right hand up daintily, showing off a glimmering jewel on his pinky finger. The luminosity of the jewel matches the gleaming button or brooch at the center of his ruffled shirt. With his head slightly raised and a smile on his face, he seems proud of his appearance. His yellow-dappled bow-tie and the poufy flower on his lapel nearly rival his head in size. Something that appears to be a medal dangles from his waist and his coat tails flare out jauntily. The woman’s skirt is patterned with what appear to be gourds, and her elaborately-clothed figure casts a dark shadow on the ground.  She too holds out her right hand, drawing attention to a ring on her finger, but her attention seems to be caught by the large flower in her left hand.

Personal Description
The self-importance of the couple seems to be a theme in this image, emphasized by the man’s jewels and the almost haughty posture of both figures.  However, the presence of three large flowers and the gourd-like design on the woman’s skirt seem to water down or distract from these overt connotations of extravagance and material wealth, almost giving the figures a slightly folksy quality. By 1898, the year this song sheet was published, the cakewalk as a couples dance had become popular in ballrooms and also as a stage act. Couples stepped high to a tune, while judges eliminated them one by one, presenting the best pair with a cake. Couples were judged on their inventiveness, elegance and grace, so the exaggerated poise and costume of the two figures in this image may be a highly exaggerated and caricatured interpretation of the qualities of the dance itself. This could be an ironic reversal of the original meaning of the cakewalk if the theory that it originated among slaves as a satire of white ballroom culture is true.

Reality Check

Gertrude Bustill Mossell (1855-1948) and Nathan Francis Mossell
Gertrude Bustill Mossell was a journalist, author, and member of the women’s suffrage movement. She was born in Philadelphia to a prominent African American family. After graduating from the Robert Vaux Grammar School, she taught school for seven years. In 1893 she married a leading Philadelphia physician, Nathan Frances Mossell. They married in 1893 and had four children together. The marriage ended her career as a teacher since married women were not allowed to teach. In 1894 she published the first of her books, The Work of the Afro-American Woman, a collection of essays and poems illustrating the contemporary work of black women. The book chronicles the achievements of thousands of African American women in different fields.

Bustill was also a journalist, and her articles on political and social issues were published in a number of periodicals including the AME Church Review, the Philadelphia Echo, the Indianapolis Freeman, the Franklin Rankin Institute, and Our Women and Children. Bustill edited the New York Freeman, the Indianapolis World, and the New York Age. In Philadelphia, she wrote syndicated columns in the Echo, the Philadelphia Times, the Independent and the Press Republican. Mossell also assisted in editing the Lincoln Alumni magazine, a journal of the Lincoln University, a prestigious institution for educating black men, such as Bustill’s husband, Nathan Mossell.

Because most hospitals in Philadelphia refused care to black patients, Bustill and her husband raised funds to open the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School. The hospital opened in 1895 with an academic program to help black women become nurses.

Bustill’s husband, Nathan Francis Mossell was a prominent Philadelphia physician born in Canada. After graduating from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Mossell entered the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and became the first African-American physician to be elected to the Philadelphia County Medical Society.  Dr. Mossell served as superintendent and medical director of the Douglass Memorial Hospital for 47 years. He was a founder of the Philadelphia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people and co-founder of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine and Allied Sciences. He died in 1946. His wife Gertrude died two years later, in 1948.

(Sources: http://www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1800s/mossell_nathan_f.html, New York Times, Dr. Nathan F. Mossell, Oldest Active Negro Physician, Uncle of Paul Robeson, Was 90, October 29, 1946)

Hie away old Satan; Galop; Good bye Nancy Jane

Hie Away Old Satan

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  Hie away old Satan; Galop; Good bye Nancy Jane

Composer: Rosenfeld, M.H.; Blake, Charles D.

Publisher: White, Smith & Company

Year & Date:  1885, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music# B-538

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0538

Basic Description
An African American woman reels from a man with devil horns and a long coiled tail. The man wears a jester suit. His body is lumpy and badly drawn, making him an absurd villain. He thrusts his claw-like hand toward the woman as she pulls away so forcefully that her heel slips out of her shoe. Her gaping, terrified mouth reveals missing teeth. The little boy she is trying to protect straddles the handle of a  razor.  The devil-man’s face is rendered differently from the cartoon-like faces of his potential victims, and has an almost photographic realism.

Personal Description
The woman is caught between a man with a long coiling tail and a baby boy with a razor popping from his mid-section. Is this a phallic reference and are the men (one darker-skinned, one lighter-skinned) fighting over the sexual ownership of this African American woman? While the lyrics describe a mother pleading Satan to leave her sleeping child alone, the image almost seems to shift the focus to stereotypes about African American male power and virility–the boy (who has the face of an adult man) seems better equipped to ward off the demon than his mother. Like the image, the title text is naively drawn. Perhaps the woman’s melodramatic reaction to this chubby “Satan” was an awkward attempt to caricature the perceived superstition and excessive religiosity among African Americans.

Reality Check

W.E.B. DuBois, son Burghardt DuBois, and Nina Gomer DuBois

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was the first African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University and helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people. He founded the Niagara Movement in 1905 and the NAACP’s official journal, The Crisis in 1910. He was a scholar, writer, editor, and civil rights pioneer.

While teaching classics and modern languages at Wilberforce University in Ohio, DuBois met Nina Gomer, a student at the college, whom he married in 1896 in her home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The above photograph shows DuBois with his first wife, Nina Gomer, and their son, Burghardt in 1899, while they were living in Great Barrington. Burghardt died in 1899, the year Gomer gave birth to their daughter Yolande.

In his 1903 collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, DuBois addresses the role of religion in the African American community, stating that the African American church that arose within the narrow limits of the slave system for decades antedated as a social institution the “monogamic Negro home.”  He writes that “for fifty years Negro religion thus transformed itself and identified itself with the dream of Abolition, until that which was a radical fad in the white North and an anarchistic plot in the white South had become a religion in the black world. Thus, when Emancipation finally came, it seemed to the Freedman a literal Coming of the Lord. His fervid imagination was stirred as never before, by the tramp of armies, the blood and dust of battle, and the wail and whirl of social upheaval.”

Nina Gomer DuBois died in 1950. In 1952, he married the writer Shirley Graham. In 1961, DuBois became a resident of Ghana in 1961. He died there in 1963 at the age of 95.

(Sources: W.E.B. DuBois Global Resource Collection (http://www.duboisweb.org); African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford University Press, 2004.)

My Home in Alabam’

My Home in Alabam'

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  My Home in Alabam’

Composer: Putnam, James S.

Publisher: John F. Perry

Year & Date:  1881, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies: Music#  B-666
Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0666

Basic Description
A man sits on a wooden chair in a sparse garret bedroom with a banjo on his lap and his head in his hand. He stares at the viewer with a distant, troubled look, in a pose like Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The town-like setting in the window contrasts with the plantation scene above— a dream space corralled by a dense frame of cloud-like circles.  The cracks and exposed bricks in the wall, along with the jagged hemlines of the man’s pant legs set depressing tone.  Rather than being integrated with the picture, the title text is set in the white space around the image. Two title options, “My Dear Savannah Home,” and “My Home in Alabam” are listed in sober typeface.

Personal Description
Each title option can lead to a different and contradictory interpretation of the image. Interestingly, this pamphlet includes two song sheet covers for other “plantation melodies” printed by the same publisher. This imagery makes light of the plantation experience, showing caricatured African Americans dancing or filling pails with berries. Like the song illustrated on the main cover, these songs also have two titles each that contrast oddly with each other. “De Huckleberry Picnic”  implies a recreational activity at one’s own free will but “Since I Saw de Cotton Grow” suggests the forced labor of slavery or the exploitation of sharecropping.  “My Dear Savannah Home” implies that the seated man is nostalgic for plantation life. But “My Home in Alabam” is vague, allowing the plantation memory invading the scene to be interpreted not as a cherished dream but rather an oppressive nightmare.

Reality Check

Edward Alexander Bouchet
(1852-1918)
Edward Alexander Bouchet was an educator and scientist who was born in New Haven Connecticut. His family was a member of the Temple Street Congregational Church, a stopping point for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad.

In 1868, Bouchet was accepted into Hopkins Grammar School, a private institution that prepared young men for the classical and scientific departments at Yale College. He graduated first in his class at Hopkins and graduated from Yale in 1874, ranking sixth in his class. In 1876, he completed a dissertation on geometrical optics,  becoming the first African American to earn a PhD from an American University and the sixth American of any race to earn a PhD in Physics.

Bouchet moved to Philadelphia in 1876 to teach at the Institute for Colored Youth, the city’s only high school for African American students.  Bouchet gave public lectures to his community in Philadelphia on scientific topics and was a member of the Franklin Institute, a foundation for the promotion of the mechanic arts, chartered in 1824.

In 1908, he became principal of Lincoln High School in Gallipolis, Ohio, where he remained until 1913, when an attack of arteriosclerosis compelled him to resign and return to New Haven. He died in his boyhood home in 1916.

(Source: African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford University Press, 2004.