Cromwell (1883-1971) was the son of a former slave John Cromwell Sr. who received a law degree from Howard University. Cromwell Jr. became the nation’s black CPA in 1921, 25 years after the first CPA law was passed in New York in 1896.
Cromwell, who taught himself accounting, graduated from college in 1906, but was blocked from qualifying to take the CPA exam because most states required exam candidates for work for a licensed CPA at an accounting firm. Firms generally refused to hire blacks.
Finally Cromwell was able to take the Uniform CPA Examination when New Hampshire dropped its experience requirement. He continued to teach and spent three years as the comptroller of Howard.
He also performed accounting services for business in the black community in Washington D.C.
Following Cromwell, it took 45 years for the first 100 accountants to be licensed in the United States. Still, blacks represent less than 1 percent of accountants in this country.
The Centennial is a year-long awareness campaign that has been brought about by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Diverse Organization of Firms Inc., Illinois CPA Society, National Association of Black Accountants Inc., and National Society of Black CPAs Inc.