Albert Antoine (Finding Aid)

Albert Antoine

1925 -

Favorite Color: Purple

Favorite Food: Grapefruit

Favorite Time of Year: Spring

Interview Length: 114 minutes

Interview Date(s): March 18, 0004

Interview Location(s): Cleveland, Ohio


Albert Antoine was born on January 14, 1925 in New York City. His mother, Wilhelmina Marie Antoine, was born in 1904 and his father, Emmanuel Evans Antoine, was born in 1896. Both of his parents grew up in the British West Indies but moved to New York, New York for opportunities for a better life. His family attended the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church community was very strong but the rules were very strict as the church forbade dancing, and there were dietary restrictions like not eating pork or shellfish. The rules relaxed over time and the family danced on his older brother's, Lawrence Nathaniel Antoine, twenty-first birthday in 1944. During elementary school at Public School 184 and Cooper Junior High School, his mother always encouraged him to get good grades. Antoine attended Townsend Harris High School, which was a preparatory school for City College of New York.

Albert Antoine says he received a high quality education at Townsend Harris High School that prepared him well for life. He lived far away and took the train to attend high school and City College of New York. Most of his fellow students commuted as well, so there was a limited sense of community. Antoine joined the Frederick Douglass Society where he and other black students learned about African American history. He was drafted into the Army at the end of college and trained to be an infantry replacement for the 92nd Division, however, he was never sent into combat. The Army tested him and he qualified for the Officers Candidate School and the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Antoine chose the ASTP because it provided language or engineering training. He asked to have language training, but the Army sent him to Ohio State University to study civil engineering.

Albert Antoine served in a segregated military during World War II because black chemists were not allowed in the chemical warfare units. Antoine and a few other black soldiers accidentally desegregated a restaurant at Ohio State University by sitting down at the lunch counter and eating without realizing they were not allowed. After the military and after obtaining his Ph.D. degree, Antoine experienced more racism during his job search. He applied for a job through the mail and the company paid for his flight to come interview in person. When he arrived, they were shocked he was black and did not offer him the job. Antoine went to Clark College to teach chemistry, in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoyed teaching and taught for one year but left to find a job in research.

Albert Antoine started as a research chemist at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA, which was the predecessor of NASA. It changed from NACA to NASA when space research was added in the 1960s. Antoine's research focused on fuel efficiency for aircraft, alternate hydrocarbon fuels, alternate fuel sources, and batteries and fuel cells. He worked at NASA for forty-two years, the last thirteen as an employee of Cleveland State University as a research associate at the NASA Laboratories. Antoine has four children, and though he did not push them toward the sciences, they all became engineers; a chemical engineer, a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer. He has five grandchildren. Even though he is retired, Antoine still reads chemical news magazines and research about renewable energy sources.

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