The first black woman to become a Certified Public Accountant in New York died late last month and was recently honored at Manhattan’s Marble Collegiate Church.
Bernadine Gines graduated when New York became the first state to require four years of higher learning to take the CPA exam. Despite exceeding the qualifications, Gines struggled to find a position at a CPA firm due to adversity.
Being among the first in her class to graduate from Virginia University and earn a MBA from NYU was not enough for Gines’ applications to be accepted. When she learned of a Black-owned CPA firm in Manhattan, her reality was intensified when she discovered they only hired men. But the rejections that blatantly stemmed from racism and sexism did not discourage her.
“Her Christian faith was unwavering,” her son R.E. Gines said. The former radio broadcaster described his mother as a very happy and loving individual whose support as a parent was unconditional. She was also one who refused to let people walk all over her.
After two years of rejection, Gines was accepted into a predominantly Jewish CPA firm. Her presence was unexpected, but the establishment fired those who objected. Her experiences during and before working at the firm prepared Gines to have a long and successful career with the City of New York Office of the Comptroller.
The New York State Society of CPAs honored her on September 18th for the 60th anniversary of her acquiring the CPA. Michael Kirkland, the immediate past president, claims he is a better person after meeting Gines and learning of her story.
Mr. Gines expresses that it is extremely important for his mother’s story to be told so the younger generation knows these opportunities exist.
“The only thing wrong with my mother being an example is that she is no longer a living example,” he says.
Rumbi Bwerinfa-Petrozello, the vice president of the NYSSCPA Brooklyn-Queens Chapter, credits Gines as a trailblazer and history maker.