Insights > Arthur Craig Lit Up Lives for Nearly 90 Years

Arthur Craig Lit Up Lives for Nearly 90 Years

02/08/2019

In honor of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting a hidden figure in African-American history.

Arthur Ulysses Craig was an electrical engineering pioneer. Craig was born in Missouri in 1871. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Kansas. In 1895, he became one of the first African-Americans in the country to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering. 

Teaching at Tuskegee

After graduation, Craig began teaching at Tuskegee University (then Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute). He added electrical engineering to the curriculum and ran the electrical engineering department.

In 1898, Craig designed and installed the university's first electric lighting plant. The plant initially lit up Tuskegee's chapel – the first building in the county to be fitted with interior electrical lights. His students operated the plant.

Working in Washington, D.C.

Craig moved to Washington, D.C., where he dedicated the next 17 years of his life to educating and improving the lives of African-Americans in the nation's capital.

He introduced mechanical and architectural drawing in Washington's African-American schools and helped develop manual training courses for schools in other cities.

He was a founder of Washington's Colored Social Settlement and was a member of the American Negro Academy, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Masons, National Education Association, and the Teachers' Association of D.C. He even established public playgrounds throughout the city.

Making Lasting Contributions

Craig later lived in New York, working as an engineer, draftsman, mechanic, teacher and newspaper editor.

During his life, he studied abroad; pursued graduate courses in ethics, psychology and philosophy; helped design an automobile; and taught at three historically black institutions. He even ran a poultry farm and dairy at one point.​

Craig died in 1959. His contributions to society were not well known until recently and, even today, details of his later life remain unclear. What is clear, however, is his unwavering dedication to improving the education and lives of African-Americans and his commitment to the communities where he worked and lived.