Illinois CPA Society Honors Centennial of First Black CPA With $93,000 in Scholarships


The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) is distributing more than $93,000 in scholarships to 100 aspiring Black CPAs across the country. The money was raised through donations from individuals and organizations to the Black CPA Centennial Fund as part of a year-long celebration honoring John W. Cromwell Jr.’s achievement of becoming the first Black CPA in the country in 1921.

“Our intent was to help pave the way for more Black individuals to pursue the CPA credential and succeed in a more diverse and inclusive CPA profession,” says ICPAS CEO and president Todd Shapiro. “The 100 scholarships we’ve been able to award, in honor of the 100-year commemoration, are going directly to deserving students and professionals to provide meaningful financial assistance to each of them as they strive to overcome their unique financial barriers during their pursuit of the coveted CPA credential.”

The scholarships will provide financial support for expenses related to preparing for or taking the CPA exam, including college tuition toward CPA eligibility, classroom materials, CPA exam preparation courses, CPA exam application fees, tutors and more. See the full list of scholarship recipients.

ICPAS has created an extensive repository of materials related to the history and influence of Black CPAs, including articles, podcasts and videos on achieving success against the odds. Following Cromwell, who served as comptroller of Howard University and helped Black-owned businesses in Washington, it took another 45 years for the first 100 Black accountants to be licensed as CPAs, ICPAS points out.

Noting an AICPA survey in 2019 that found only 2% of CPAs were Black, the centennial aimed to raise awareness and work for more diversity in a predominantly white profession. Partners in the commemoration also include the AICPA, Diverse Organization of Firms, National Association of Black Accountants and National Society of Black CPAs.


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