The National Society of Black Engineers boasts a nationwide membership of 35,000-plus members but it started out with just a couple of students in the 70’s on the grounds of Purdue University.
The late Edward Barnette (also spelled Barnett is some printings) and Fred Cooper, both engineering students approached the dean of their program about creating a group for Black students. The pair observed that in the late 1960s, 80 percent of Black engineering freshmen dropped out of school.
With the stated goal of recruiting and retaining students, Barnette, Cooper and a Black faculty member created the Society of Black Engineers (SBE).
By 1974, the group had grown in size and was expanded further by the efforts of the “Chicago Six.” Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A. Coleman, and George A. Smith were a successful group of SBE members who wanted to expand their efforts nationally.