Celebrating Black History Month
In recognition of Black History Month 2023, it's our great privilege to feature some of the black men and women who pioneered the path in supply chain management and logistics.
We recognize those like Mary Fields, Elijah McCoy, Andrew Beard, and Edwina Justus, who made their mark in this integral and growing industry.
Mary Fields was the first Black woman to work as a route mail carrier for the United States Postal Service. After being emancipated in the 1860s, she became a groundskeeper for a convent in Ohio then eventually found her way to the USPS as a star route carrier. Mary traveled by stagecoach to defend and protect mail from thieves and bandits, whilst also delivering mail.
Known as Black Mary and Stagecoach Mary, she had a tough demeanor, fearlessly spoke her mind, and enjoyed her spare time at shooting ranges. While she exhibited an intimidating exterior, she was also known to be a generous and kind mail carrier who paved the way for female minorities in the distribution field.
Elijah McCoy was an iconic inventor who helped trains move faster and more efficiently with his invention of an automatic oil lubricator in 1872. He was born in Canada to parents who had fled enslavement in Kentucky. At three years old his family returned to the states where he became a citizen and resident.
At the age of 15, after showing some interest in mechanics, he was sent to Scotland to learn mechanical engineering. Upon his return to the States, he worked as a fireman and an oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad, during which time he invented his automatic lubricator. He continued to improve and refine his inventions and designs, holding several patents for locomotive lubrication, as well as the folding ironing board and the lawn sprinkler.
The phrase "the real McCoy" is attributed to his oil-drip cup invention alerting people to avoid inferior copies.
An inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Andrew Beard was born into slavery until he was emancipated at the age of 15. While he covered the gamut of careers as a carpenter, blacksmith, railroad worker, and businessman, Beard was also a prolific inventor.
His most notable invention was a mechanism that connects the cars on a train, which later became famously known as the Jenny Coupler. Prior to this invention, connecting railroad cars was a manual process, one that was deemed dangerous and life-threatening. Beard himself lost his leg in a coupling accident, inspiring him to create the Jenny Coupler which saved thousands of railroad workers' lives.
This life-saving invention transformed railroad safety, prompting Congress to pass the Federal Safety Appliance Act mandating the use of automatic couplers on any railroad car.
Edwina Justus, now 70 years old, was the first Black female locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. She spent 22 years hauling an array of goods including cars, airplane wings, and livestock from Nebraska to Wyoming and Denver, loving the open landscapes along the way.
To land the job at Union Pacific she had to start out as a Traction Motor Clerk, working her way up to an engineer in just a few years. In 2016, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Iowa opened an exhibit titled “Move Over, Sir: Women Working on the Railroad” that highlighted Justus’s life experiences and achievements at the company.
Justus was an emblematic icon who fought against racial and gender inequalities throughout her career. Her personal mantra “I have always been a daydreamer, and I still am”, holds true to her spirit and dedication to her beliefs.
Join in with celebrating the memory of influential figures throughout Black History Month 2023 by sharing your notable individuals and organizations with us on Linkedin.