Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Scottron, Samuel R.(1843–1905) - Inventor, entrepreneur, Inventions, Chronology

Education Called Key to Success

scottron black york school

Reflecting on his life, Scottron noted in the Colored American Magazine : “I did not begin business life as a manufacturer, but as a merchant and trader.” He cautioned that “whatever line, professional or business, a man enters upon, he should have such education as befits that line, if he wishes to succeed.” When he recognized that he had “inventive genius” and used it to make adjustable mirrors, which he says he patented, he acquired the education he needed by studying mechanics under a master mechanic. He became skilled in work with brass, iron, and glass by working in various foundries in Springfield, Massachusetts. That set the foundation for his prosperous future. He continued his studies for seven years at Cooper Union, a free school that Peter Cooper established in New York to provide public education, and graduated in May 1875, with a degree that Gail Lumet Buckley called “Superior Ability in Algebra.” Some sources claim that he graduated in 1878. He was awarded one of the four medals given at graduation.

His interest in education caught the eye of Mayor Charles A. Schieren, who in 1894 appointed Scottron to the Brooklyn board of education. He was reappointed by Mayor F. W. Wurster and again by Mayor Van Wyck, of the consolidated city of Greater New York. Altogether he held the post for eight years, serving as the board’s only black member; he never missed any regular or special meetings. He also attended all committee meetings and served on several of the board’s most important committees. Although his duties remain unidentified in published sources, Scottron was actually placed in charge of many schools. Five black schools were in the system at the time of his appointment, and by the end of his term all except one was closed and the black teachers distributed to racially mixed schools and classes. When his term ended, New York City mayor Seth Low refused to renew his appointment, which some viewed as a result of pressure from the predominantly white district in which Scottron lived. The fact that only one black school remained in the district by then may also have had some influence on the mayor’s decision. Fellow inventor Lewis Latimer (1848–1928) of electric light fame came to his defense in 1902, according to Rayvon Fouché in Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation , to “defend a gentleman of his social, intellectual, and professional class.” As an advocate for Scottron, Latimer facilitated the submission of a petition appealing to the mayor’s “sense of humor” stressing that, due to his “good and faithful service” he should be given “a position equally honorable.” He should retain the prestige that the school board post provided, the petitioners believed. Although they were unsuccessful in their attempt, the petitioners and others held a tribute to honor Scottron on May 9, 1902. Clearly, Scottron and Latimer had a common bond and deep respect for each other.

Scottron consistently fought for better educational facilities for blacks. In doing so, he joined local African Americans of prominence, including Edward Valentine Clark Eato, Peter Guignon, Peter W. Ray, Charles Lewis Reason, and Philip A. White. These men and their families were school administrators, teachers, druggists, and members of various professional groups. While New York, especially Harlem, was pro-Booker T. Washington and supported at least some of his views and strategies, Brooklyn, where the city’s black aristocrats lived, opposed him, the exception being Samuel Scottron. In fact, the Booker T. Washington Papers , Volume 7, shows that about fifteen people, including philanthropist George Foster Peabody, W. E. B. Du Bois, Scottron, and others, attended a private conference to discuss the welfare of blacks in New York City. Out of this and similar meetings grew the Committee for Improving the Industrial Condition of Negroes in New York City—an organization in which Booker T. Washington had an interest.

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