Wiss Celebrates Black History Month
by Michelle Antico, Marketing Coordinator
This February, we’d like to take the time to recognize Black History Month and the impact African Americans have had in the accounting field. As citizens of America, it is within the people’s hands to continue creating a home of equality for every race, ethnicity, and culture. Therefore, while it is important to recognize all the major milestones the African American community has hit in accounting, it is also crucial to spread awareness on the struggles they have faced since the beginning of the accounting profession, which began back in 1896 and continues today.
Through their struggles to attain a CPA license, simply due to lack of experience and education, the biased opinions of the whites, and clear inequality, African Americans formed a united front in 1969 when they created the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). The NABA has founded many opportunities for African American accountants. The Association, now consisting of over 8,000 members, was once a small-minded, nine-person operation hoping to make a difference in the accounting field. Now, over 200,000 African Americans are working in the accounting field and over 5,000 have earned their CPA license due to the dedication of the Association, identifying as official accountants.
There are many influential names throughout the African American community participating within the accounting field. Perhaps the most suitable name to recognize, John Wesley Cromwell, was the first Black accountant in the United States to ever exist. Cromwell always remained patient throughout his journey of obstacles to becoming a CPA. He overcame tremendous battles to ultimately get to where he yearned to be all his life. John Wesley Cromwell will persist to be a name to remember in the world of accounting.
Mary Thelma Washington was the first Black woman to earn her CPA license in the year 1943. Looking through a bigger lens, she is also recognized as the 13th African American CPA in the country. She founded one of the largest African American firms in 1968, known as Washington, Pittman, & McKeever, where she was able to achieve many other milestones throughout her career.
Another impressive recognizable figure is Nathan Garrett. In 1962, he became the first African American to open his own practice in North Carolina. Garrett sits in the ranking of being the 63rd African American CPA in the country.
More recently, we recognize Rumbi Bwerinofa-Petrozzello as the first African American woman to be appointed as President of the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA). On June 1st, 2021, she stood proud of her achievement as she became the 102nd president of the society. As President, Bwerinofa-Petrozzello promises to make the NYSSCPA a community where all CPA’s can come together and use their backgrounds, skills, talents, and experiences to achieve innovation, growth, and development both individually and as a team. She remains an admirable advocate for everyone within the field of accounting.
This month, Wiss is taking part in recognizing the importance of racial equality in not only the field of accounting, but every profession. We sympathize for our fellow African Americans who still feel the effects of racial inequality and we remain hopeful that our country only continues to move in the right direction, allowing each and every person a chance to achieve their professional dreams. Black History Month is and always will be a time of remembrance to all those in the African American community who have experienced racial inequality and a time of celebration for all the significant milestones the community has overcome and achieved, despite the struggles.