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Black History Month Trailblazers

They Paved the Way in Accounting





Throughout history, there have been those driven to make a difference in the world, and others who simply acted with courage and dignity at some point during their lives. In either case, the result was the same – they left a legacy – they paved the way for another to succeed because they did something first. For Black History Month, we are celebrating trailblazers, both past and present, who are paving the way.









Trailblazers: They Paved the Way in Accounting


John Cromwell, Jr.

Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor

John Cromwell Jr. was the first Black person to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Cromwell graduated from Dartmouth in 1906 as the best student in science. In 1907, he earned a Master’s degree from Dartmouth. Fifteen years later, he became a CPA.

The road to becoming a CPA was not easy. Cromwell was not allowed to sit for the CPA exam in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. Moreover, since all places had experience requirements, the biggest barrier to African Americans becoming CPAs was a catch-22. In 1921, New Hampshire passed legislation no longer mandating the experience requirement, which allowed Cromwell the opportunity to travel to the state and take the exam.


Kimberly Ellison-Taylor became the first Black chairman (or rather, chairwoman) of the AICPA in 2016 and was recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today. She is also the youngest, the fifth female, and only one of a few chairs from business & industry.

Ellison-Taylor is currently the Global Accounting Strategy Director for the Financial and Professional Services Industries for Oracle America, and was just elected to the board of US Bancorp in January 2021. Prior to Oracle, she worked in leadership roles at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Motorola, KPMG, and Prince George's County Government.




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