History of African Americans in Hawaii: Part II

With a number of ethnicities calling the Islands home, many are shocked to discover that a number of the most noteworthy people throughout Hawaii’s long history are not Hawaiian. That is not to say that native Hawaiians have not contributed many important pieces of history. This is simply to let it be known that Europeans, Hawaiians, Asians, and African-Americans have all contributed to the wonderful history of the Hawaiian Islands. In our month long commemoration of Black History Month, the achievements of African-Americans during the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s cannot be ignored. In this edition of African Americans in Hawaii, we celebrate citizens that made notable contributions to Hawaii’s progression.

Alice Ball

In her 24 short years, Alice’s accomplishments were great. She received two degrees from the University of Washington, one in pharmaceutical chemistry and one in pharmacy, entered the College of Hawaii (now the University of Hawaii) as a graduate student in Chemistry and soon became the first African American and the first woman to graduate with a Master of Science degree in Chemistry from the school. While pursuing her education, she also became the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution. Alice’s main advisor charged her with a research project, studying the effects of chaulmoogra oil on Leprosy patients. Her research developed a successful treatment for those suffering from the disease. During her research, she become ill and a short time after returned to Seattle where her family was located, passing away on New Year’s Eve, 1916. The Chairman of the Chemistry Department continuously refined the work of Alice, treating many patients with great success at Kalaupapa, a special hospital on the island of Molokai, for those with Hansen Disease. The Ball Method continued to operate as the most effective treatment until the 1940’s, and it has been reported that the method was still used in some remote areas as recently as 1999. Following many years without proper recognition, the work of Alice Ball slowly became acknowledged when researchers uncovered her key contributions. In 2000, the University of Hawaii-Manoa recognized Alice A. Ball as one of its most distinguished graduates.

Anthony D. Allen

In 1810, an ex-slave by the name of Anthony D. Allen came to Oahu from New York, presumably to begin a new life and escape the oppression of the Mainland. During his life in Hawaii, he married a Hawaiian girl and acquired land and livestock, ultimately becoming one of the most prosperous foreign residents on the island. Over the next 25 years, he opened a farm on the plains near Waikiki and aided missionaries. He is credited with building one of the first schools in the islands and creating one of the first carriage roads to Manoa Valley. He was so respected by Hawaiian royalty that they gave him land to hold and pass on to his descendants. That land is the current site of Washington Intermediate School, near downtown Honolulu.

Betsey Stockton

Born into slavery in 1798, Betsey Stockton was an African-American educator and missionary. A servant to Robert Stockton, president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), Betsey was formally freed in 1817, remaining with the Stockton’s daughter and her husband, Dr. Ashbel Green, as a paid domestic servant and learning from the extensive library in their home, in addition to home schooling from Dr. Green. She learned of a Missionary endeavor to Hawaii and expressed a desire to go. She was commissioned by the American Board of Foreign Missions as a Missionary and became the first single American woman sent overseas. Her contract stated that she was sent “neither as an equal nor as a servant, but a humble Christian friend.” Upon arrival, the missionaries settled in Lahaina, Maui, where Betsey was the teacher of the first mission school at Lahainaluna School for commoners, learning the Hawaiian language while working on the Islands, the first woman to do so. She trained native Hawaiian Teachers who eventually took over her teachings once the Missionaries departed. Hawaii’s African-American history runs deep, and has continued to grow throughout the years. We would like to invite you back soon for further education and history of individual accomplishments of an important aspect of our past. With each publication, we will continue to move through the years and explore the achievements and importance of African-Americans in Hawaii. Click here to learn more.

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