First black member of the Fed Reserve Board considered education the pathway the economic success

Andrew F. Brimmer, who became the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board when he was appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, passed away last Sunday according to the New York Times.

Born in 1926, Dr. Brimmer grew up in rural segregated Louisiana and likely attended Rosenwald schools as a child. Many sources list him as graduating from the Tensas Rosenwald High School in St. Joseph, Louisiana in 1943. The Times article explains that “the economic conditions of poor, powerless, uneducated blacks was an abiding concern,” of Dr. Brimmer’s career, and his time spent in segregated schools likely instilled this ethic in him.

 Brimmer being sworn in as a member of the Federal Reserve Board in 1966
Photo credit: LBJ Presidential Library

Brimmer also served on the board of Tuskegee University for four decades. Later in his career, the Washington Post reports, he became the director of the Washington D.C. financial control board, a federal authority that took over decision-making for the D.C. city government. At the time he faced fierce criticism from Mayor Marion Barry and Eleanor Holmes Norton, but since then the progress the city government made under his watch has been recognized by economists.

By Michael Rose

Rosenwald Fund helped launch Tuskegee Flight-Training Program

The stylish new action blockbuster Red Tails follows the story of the famed African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The Rosenwald Fund has an interesting role in the back-story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Moton Field, the basic training site for newly formed unit of Tuskegee pilots, was funded initially in 1941 through a loan of $175,000 from the Rosenwald Fund. According to J. Todd Moye’s new book about the Tuskegee Airmen entitled Freedom Flyers, the board of the Rosenwald Fund met in the spring of 1941 at the Tuskegee Institute with its new trustee, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a flight enthusiast and a well-known supporter of civil rights for African Americans and she was eager to help secure the funding for the nascent flight-training program at Tuskegee. In a publicity stunt, Roosevelt took a half hour flight in the rear seat of a biplane piloted by head Tuskegee instructor C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson.

An image of Roosevelt in the cockpit of Anderson’s Waco biplane circulated around the country in newspapers and visually affirmed the skill and potential for African American pilots. Soon after, the Rosenwald Fund’s trustees voted to appropriate the necessary money in the form of a loan to purchase 650 acres of land and construct an airfield and hanger to be used for primary training of new pilots. The new facility was operational and accepted its first cadets in July of 1941.

Eleanor Roosevelt with Chief AndersonEleanor Roosevelt with Chief Flight Instructor at Tuskegee, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson
Photo Credit: United States Air Force, April 19th, 1941

Moton Field, located just outside Tuskegee, Alabama, is open daily to visitors and tourists. For more information, visit Red Tails is playing movie theaters around the country.

By Michael Rose