African American Firsts
African American Firsts
As history progresses, African Americans are making greater strides in achieving firsts while at the same time those who preserve such events are taking greater care to record their accomplishments The list that follows gives a wide spectrum of pioneering events and people in history and include such areas of contribution as the arts, education, law, media, medicine, politics, religion, science, and sports. The records include those of people who were the first by race or gender to set a particular mark, thus giving a useful perspective to those who study history.
1619, August 20. At Jamestown colony, the first 20 Africans arrive in English North America from the Caribbean as indentured servants.
1623. The first African American child in the colonies to be baptized a Christian becomes a member of the Anglican Church in Jamestown. The child’s name is William, son of Isabel and William.
1624. William Tucker, who is believed to have been the first African American child born in the American colonies, is born in Jamestown, Virginia.
1746. Slave poet Lucy Terry writes Bars Fight, a commemorative poem recreating the Deerfield (Massachusetts) Massacre. In doing so, she is considered to be the first African American poet in America.
1746. Organized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Free African Society is considered the first African American organization in the United States.
1752. Benjamin Banneker builds the first grandfather clock.
1758. Born in 1702 to free parents in Jamaica, Frances Williams graduates from Cambridge University and becomes the first black college graduate in the Western Hemisphere.
1770. While leading fellow patriots in protest against British soldiers, Crispus Attucks is killed, thus becoming the first American to die during the Revolutionary Period. This event is later memorialized as the Boston Massacre.
1773. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by 17-year-old Phyllis Wheatley is published in London. It is the first book of poetry published by an African American.
1783. James Derham, born a slave in Philadelphia in 1762, becomes the first African American physician in the United States. Having served as an assistant to his master (a doctor by profession), Derham purchases his freedom in 1783 and goes on to develop a thriving practice with both black and white clientele.
1785, May 15. The first African American missionary minister to work with Native Americans is John Morront of New York. He was ordained a Methodist minister in London, England. Among his converts to the Christian faith are a Cherokee chieftain and his daughter.
1786. Lemuel Haynes, who served during the American Revolution as a minuteman in Connecticut, becomes the first African American minister with a white congregation.
1787. Prince Hall organizes the first African American Masonic Lodge in America.
1789. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself is published. It is considered to be the first autobiography written by an African American. The
work becomes a best-seller, with nine English editions and one American edition including translations in Dutch, German, and Russian.
1794. The First African Church of St. Thomas is dedicated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the first African American Episcopal (AME) congregation in the United States.
1802. Pierre Bonza and his wife become the parents of the first non-Native American and the first African American child to be born in North Dakota. Bonza is known for riding wild Buffaloes and in 1804 becomes an interpreter for the Northwest Fur Company.
1817. The African Methodist Episcopal Church organizes the A.M.E. Book Concern in Philadelphia, the first African American-owned book publishing enterprise in the United States. The Book Concern publishes its first book that same year, The Book of Discipline.
1821. New York City’s free African American community establishes the first African American theater, the African Grove Theatre, located at Mercer and Bleecker streets.
1823. The first play written and produced by an African American, The Drama of King Shotaway, is presented by the African Grove Theatre in New York City. The playwright is Henry Brown.
1827. The first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, is published in New York City.
1829. The first African American congregation of Catholic nuns, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, is founded in the United States by Mary Rosine Boegues, Mary Frances Balas, Mary Theresa Duchemin, and Elizabeth Lange.
1829. The first National Negro Convention meets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1831. The first Annual Convention of the People of Color meets at Wesleyan Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Delegates from five states resolve to study African American conditions, explore settlement possibilities in Canada, and raise money for an industrial college in New Haven.
1834. The first African American believed to have been granted a patent from the U.S. Patent Office is Henry Blair of Greenross, Maryland.
1839. The first anti-slavery political organization, the Liberty Party, is founded in Warsaw, New York. Among its leading supporters are African American abolitionists Samuel R. Ward and Henry Highland Garnet.
1845. Macon Allen becomes the first African American formally admitted to a state bar, after he passes the state bar examination in Worcester, Massachusetts.
1847. Frederick Douglass publishes the first issue of his abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, in Rochester, New York.
1847. David John Peck graduates from Rush Medical College, becoming the first African American to graduate from an American school of medicine.
1853. Lincoln University, the first African American college to be established and remain in its original location, is founded as Ashmum Institute in Oxford, Pennsylvania.
1853. The first novel written and published by an African American is a work by William Wells Brown, entitled Clotel, Or, the President’s Daughter.
1854. John Mercer Langston, who is believed to have been the first African American elected to public office, is elected clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio.
1855. Berea College is the first college established in the United States for the specific purpose of educating blacks and whites together.
1860. The first African American baseball team to tour various parts of the country is called the Brooklyn Excelsiors.
1861. Nicholas Biddle becomes one of the first African Americans wounded during the Civil War. An escaped slave, Biddle attaches himself to a troop unit heading for the defense of Washington, but is stoned by an angry mob in Baltimore. He manages to escape death only with the aid of his white comrades-in-arms.
1861. In Boston, Massachusetts, William C. Nell is appointed postal clerk, becoming the first African American to hold a federal civilian post.
1862. Mary Patterson becomes the first African American woman in the United States to earn a master of arts degree, awarded by Oberlin College.
1863. The first African American appointed a chaplain in the U.S. Army is Henry McNeal Turner.
1863, July 18. The first African American recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor is Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He is given the honor for combat valor at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.
1864. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, believed to be the first African American woman physician, graduates from New England Female Medical College.
1865. Martin R. Delany becomes the first African American to attain the rank of major in the U.S. Army. A graduate of Howard University Medical School, Delany served in the Medical Corps. He was also a writer.
1865. Alexander T. Augusta becomes the first African American to hold a medical commission in the U.S. Army. A surgeon and physician with the rank of major, he then becomes the highest ranking African American officer in the Civil War on March 13, when he is promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel.
1865. John Rock becomes the first African American lawyer admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. His admittance is moved by Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presides.
1865. The first African American newspaper in the South—The Colored American—is published in Augusta, Georgia, and edited by J. T. Shutten.
1866. Edward G. Walker and Charles L. Mitchell are elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, becoming the first African Americans to serve in a legislative assembly.
1867. Robert Tanner Freeman becomes the first African American to graduate from Harvard University’s School of Dentistry.
1868. Howard University opens its College of Medicine, the first African American medical school in the United States.
1869. George Ruffin graduates from Harvard Law School and becomes the first African American to earn an LL.B. from the university—perhaps the first to graduate from a university law school in the United States.
1869. Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, believed to be the first African American to receive an appointment in the diplomatic service, becomes U.S. minister to Haiti.
1869. Harriet E. Adams Wilson becomes the first African American to publish a novel in the United States. It is entitled Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North, Showing That Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There.
1870. Richard Greener becomes the first African American to receive a degree from Harvard. Active as a teacher and editor, Greener is admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1876 and becomes dean of Howard University Law School in 1879.
1870. Hiram R. Revels, of Mississippi, becomes the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate. Joseph H. Rainey, of South Carolina, and Jefferson F. Long, of Georgia, are the first black elected members of the House of Representatives.
1871. Alcorn College, now Alcorn State University, is founded as the first African American land grant college.
1872. The first African American midshipman to attend the U.S. Naval Academy is James Henry Conyers of South Carolina. Conyers does not graduate, however, and leaves the academy on November 11, 1873.
1872. Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback becomes the first African American governor upon impeachment of the incumbent.
1872, February. The first African American woman lawyer, Charlotte E. Ray, receives her degree from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. She is regularly admitted to practice law in any U.S. jurisdiction on March 2, and to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court on April 23.
1872. The first African American delegates to the presidential nominating convention of a major party appear at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia.
1873. The first African American municipal judge, Mifflin W. Gibbs, is elected in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1873. Susan McKinney, believed to be the first African American woman to formally enter the medical profession, is certified as a physician. (Records at the medical college of the New York Infirmary indicate that Rebecca Cole was the first African American woman physician in the United States, having practiced from 1872 to 1881.)
1874. Republican Blanche K. Bruce is elected by the Mississippi state legislature to the U.S. Senate. He becomes the first African American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate.
1875, May 17. Oliver Lewis, an African American riding in the first Kentucky Derby, becomes the race’s first winner.
1875, June 10. Reverend James Augustine Healy becomes the first African American Roman Catholic bishop in the United States. He is ordained in Paris, France. Two brothers followed him in the priesthood.
1876. Graduating from Yale University, Edward A. Bouchet becomes the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from an American university.
1877. Henry O. Flipper becomes the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
1879, August 1. In Boston, Mary E. Mahoney becomes the first African American woman to receive a diploma in nursing from New England Hospital for Women and Children.
1882. The first daily newspaper owned by an African American, The Cairo Illinois Gazette, is published by W. S. Scott.
1884. John Roy Lynch becomes the first African American to preside over a national political convention, when he is nominated temporary chairman of the Republican Party’s national convention.
1884. Moses Fleetwood Walker becomes the first African American major league baseball player when he plays for Toledo in the American Association.
1885. The first African American state legislator elected to represent a majority white constituency is Bishop Benjamin William Arnett of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
1885. The first African American professional baseball team, The Cuban Giants, is formed in New York City by Frank Thompson from a group of waiters at a Long Island hotel.
1885. The first African American Protestant Episcopal bishop in the United States, the Reverend Samuel David Ferguson, is elected to the House of Bishops.
1885. Jonathan Jasper Wright becomes the first African American elected to the State Supreme Court of South Carolina. He is also the first African American to be admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania.
1886. Augustine Tolton is ordained as an American Roman Catholic priest. Because he is widely known and his work publicized, he and is sometimes called the first African American to hold that title. The Healy brothers, whose racial identity is not always known, predate him.
1886. George “Little Chocolate” Dixon becomes the first African American to win a world boxing title.
1890. Thomy Lafon, a real estate speculator and money lender in Louisiana, is believed to have been the first African American millionaire in the United States.
1891. Daniel Hale Williams, physician and surgeon, founds Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, which includes the first training school for African American nurses in the United States.
1892. The first African American college football game is played between Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) and Livingstone College. Biddle wins 4 to 0.
1893. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams becomes the first surgeon to successfully enter the chest cavity and suture the heart of a living patient.
1893, September 19. E. R. Robinson patents the electric railway trolley.
1894. W. E. B. Du Bois becomes the first African American to be awarded a Ph.D. by Harvard University.
1902. Off Bloomingdale Asylum, a satirical comedy, is the first film to use African American actors. The film is made in Paris, France.
1904, May 4. The first African American Greek letter organization, Sigma Pi Phi (or the Boulé), is founded in Philadelphia. Its mission is to meet the social needs of African American business leaders and professionals.
1905. The Louisville Free Public Library in Kentucky is established as the first public library in the nation built exclusively for African Americans.
1906. The first African American collegiate fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, is organized at Cornell University.
1907. John Hope is named president of Atlanta Baptist College. He is the first African American to be appointed president at a Baptist school. As president, Hope expands the college with funds donated by John T. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.
1907. Alain Leroy Locke becomes the first African American awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.
1908. The first African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, is founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
1908. John Baxter Taylor Jr., collegiate champion, sets a world record in the 440-yard relay at the London Olympic Games, becoming the first African American to win a gold medal. Other members of his relay team are Nathaniel Cartmell, Melvin Sheppard, and William Hamilton.
1908. Jack Johnson wins a bout with Tommy Burns to become the first African American heavyweight champion.
1911, November 17. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity becomes the first Greek-letter fraternity formed by African Americans on an African American college campus. It was founded at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
1912. George Edmund Haynes is the first African American to received a doctorate from Columbia University.
1914. Jesse Edward Moorland donates his private library of African American history to Howard University. The collection was eventually named the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and is essentially the first African American research collection at a major American university.
1915. Marine biologist Ernest Everett Just is the first-ever recipient of a Spingarn Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
1915. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History sponsors the first Black History Week, the prelude to Black History Month.
1917. Tenor Roland Hayes becomes the first African American to give a recital in Boston’s Symphony Hall.
1917. Eugene Jacques Bullard, flying for France, becomes the first African American aviator. A member of the French Air Service, he flies his first mission September 8. Denied a commission three-quarters of a century before, the Air Force grants Bullard an Air Force Commission in 1994.
1918. Starring on the Rutgers football team, Paul Robe-son becomes the first African American to receive All-American honors.
1918. Hugh N. Mulzac becomes the first African American in the United States to earn a shipmaster’s license and have the right to take command of a ship. Mulzac, however, is unable to find employment as a shipmaster and instead must take jobs at sea as a cook and steward for the next 24 years. He finally takes command of a ship in 1942, a Liberty cargo vessel transporting troops and supplies into the war zones.
1919. Fritz Pollard becomes the first African American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Indians. In 1916, Pollard had been the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl, for Brown University.
1920. Author, scholar, and activist James Weldon Johnson becomes the first African American secretary of the NAACP.
1923. Charles Hamilton Houston becomes the first African American to receive a S.J.D. from Harvard University. While attending Harvard, Houston is the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review.
1923. The first African American basketball team, known as the Renaissance, is organized.
1923. The first African American to hold a franchise for a new-car dealership is Homer B. Roberts, who operated his business in Kansas City, Missouri. By 1940, Roberts opens his fourth new-car dealership, a Studebaker franchise.
1924, July 8. William DeHart Hubbard becomes the first African American in Olympic history to win an individual gold medal in the long jump at the Paris games.
1926. Violette Anderson becomes the first African American woman lawyer to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
1926, June 20. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson becomes the first African American president of Howard University. He retires in 1960.
1927. Artist Henry Ossawa Tanner becomes the first African American to be elected to the National Academy of Design.
1928. Oscar DePriest, a Republican from Illinois, is elected as the first African American representative to the U.S. Congress from a northern state.
1931. Estelle Massey Osborne becomes the first African American recipient in the United States of a master’s degree in nursing education when she graduates from Columbia Teachers College.
1933. Hemsley Winfield becomes the first African American to dance for the Metropolitan Opera, performing the role of the Witch Doctor in The Emperor Jones.
1934. Willa B. Brown becomes the first African American woman to hold a commercial pilot’s license in the United States.
1936. At the Olympic Games in Berlin with German chancellor Adolph Hitler in attendance, Jesse Owens becomes the first Olympian to win four gold medals, three of which were world record marks.
1937. Self-taught sculptor William Edmondson becomes the first African American to have a one-person exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.
1937. William H. Hastie is the first African American appointed to a federal district court, serving in the Virgin Islands.
1938, November 8. Crystal Bird Fauset becomes the first African American woman elected to a state legislature in the United States, acquiring this distinction when she is named to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
1939. The first African American woman judge, Jane Matilda Bolin, is appointed to the Court of Domestic Relations by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City.
1940. Kenneth Clark becomes the first African American to be awarded a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University.
1940. Benjamin O. Davis Sr. is promoted to the rank of brigadier general, becoming the first African American to hold this post in the U.S. Army.
1940. The first postage stamp honoring an African American, the ten-cent Booker T. Washington stamp, goes on sale at Tuskegee Institute. The stamp, which is part of the “Famous American” series, is the culmination of a seven-year campaign sponsored by Major R. R. Wright, president of the Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust Company of Philadelphia. (Some seven years later, a three-cent postage stamp honoring George Washington Carver is issued on the fourth anniversary of the renowned scientist’s death.)
1940, November 20. For her role as supporting actress in the movie Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
1941. David Roy “Little Jazz” Eldridge joins Gene Krupa’s big band as a trumpeter and singer, becoming the first black musician to be a featured player in a white band. Before this, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton were members of Benny Goodman’s band, but not as featured players.
1942. Bernard W. Robinson, a medical student at Harvard, becomes the first African American commissioned an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
1942. The U.S. Army lifts its color barrier and admits African American women into its women’s branch, the Women’s Army Corps (WACS).
1943. Pianist and composer Dorothy Donegan becomes the first woman, and the first African American, to play Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, sharing the bill with Vladimir Horowitz.
1943. The first African Americans to crew a warship sail into the North Atlantic on the USS Mason. One of the crew is Thomas W. Young, who becomes the first African American war correspondent on a Navy warship.
1943. The first Liberty ship named for an African American, the George Washington Carver, is launched from a New Jersey shipyard to begin its career of carrying war cargo to Europe during World War II. The USS Harmon becomes the first fighting ship to be named for an African American. Leonard Roy Harmon won the Navy Cross for his heroism aboard the USS San Francisco in a battle with the Japanese near the Solomon Islands. Harmon died of wounds suffered during the engagement.
1943. W. E. B. Du Bois becomes the first African American admitted to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. At the time of his admittance, Du Bois is head of the Department of Sociology at Atlanta University.
1943. Mary Thelma Washington Wylie is the first African American woman certified public accountant (CPA) in the United States. Later, she became the first African American woman member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
1944. Harry McAlpin of Atlanta’s Daily World becomes the first accredited African American White House news correspondent.
1944, October 19. The U.S. Navy lifts its color band and admits African American women into the Women’s Reserves (WAVES) .
1944, December. Charity Adams (later Charity Adams Earley) becomes the first African American WAC to be selected for overseas duty. She commands the newly-formed 6888th Central Postal Battalion in Birmingham, England. The 800-woman unit is responsible for directing all incoming and outgoing mail for the seven million Americans serving in the European Theater of Operations.
1945. Phyllis Mae Daley becomes the first African American nurse commissioned in the Navy Reserve Corps. Daley, a registered nurse from New York City, is sworn in as an ensign.
1945, May 15. Operatic soprano Camilla Williams becomes the first African American to sign a full contract with a major U.S. opera company, the New York City Opera. She performs the title role in Madame Butterfly.
1945, October 3. Irvin Charles Mollison becomes the first African American appointed judge in the continental United States when President Harry Truman names him to the U.S. Customs Court.
1946. Charles Spurgeon Johnson is appointed president of Fisk University, the first African American to hold the position. Before becoming president, Johnson served as chairman of Fisk University’s Department of Social Sciences and established the Fisk Institute of Race Relations.
1946. Roy Campanella, a catcher for a Nashua, New Hampshire team, becomes the first African American to manage an organized, integrated, professional baseball team when the regular manager Walt Alston is ejected from the field by the umpire. Nashua wins the game when an African American pitcher, Don Newcombe, hits a pinch hit home run.
1946. The first coin honoring African Americans is issued. The coin is a 50-cent piece bearing a relief bust of Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute.
1947. Jackie Robinson joins the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes the first African American in major league baseball in the twentieth century. He plays his first game as first baseman on April 15 in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field against the Boston Braves.
1947. Dan Bankhead of the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first African American pitcher in the major leagues. The first African American pitcher in the American League, Leroy Satchel Paige, follows in 1948.
1947. Larry Doby becomes the first African American baseball player to play in the American League. He made his debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 5.
1947. Louis Lautier, Washington Bureau chief of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, becomes the first African American issued credentials for both the Senate and the House press galleries. Lautier is admitted to the galleries on March 18 after a Senate Rules Committee overrides the refusal of the Standing Committee of Newspaper Correspondents to grant him the necessary credentials.
1947. John Lee of Indianapolis, Indiana, becomes the first African American commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. His first assignment upon being commissioned is on the USS Kearsage.
1948. Pianist and singer Hazel Scott becomes the first African American to host her own television show.
1948. William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. becomes the first appointed African American clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court when named to the post by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
1948. Alice Coachman wins the gold medal in high jump in the Olympic Games held in London, becoming the first African American woman to win gold and the only American woman to win a track event that year.
1948. Nancy Leftenant-Colon becomes the first African American member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps. She is commissioned in the Nurse Corps at Lockbourne Air Force Base. She gains experience as a flight nurse. In 1989–1991 she becomes the only woman to hold the presidency of the Tuskegee Airmen.
1948. John Earl Rudder becomes the first African American commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
1949. Representative William L. Dawson is named chairman of the House Committee on Government Operations, becoming the first African American to head a congressional committee.
1949. William A. Hinton becomes the first African American to be granted a professorship at Harvard Medical School.
1949. Jesse Leroy Brown becomes the first African American pilot in the U.S. Naval Reserve. On December 4, 1950, at Changjin Reservoir in Korea, Brown is the first African American naval pilot killed in action.
1949. Wesley A. Brown becomes the first African American to graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
1949. The University of Oklahoma Law School admits its first African American student, Ada Lois Sipuel (Fisher).
1949. William H. Hastie becomes the first African American judge appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hastie is also the first African American appointed governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
1949. Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American baseball player to win his league’s “Most Valuable Player” award. The first African American to win the award three times is Roy Campanella, who is awarded the title in 1951, 1953, and 1955.
1949. Truman K. Gibson, lawyer and activist, is the first African American boxing promoter. Later, he is a cofounder of the National Boxing Enterprises, which helped to show popular Friday night fights on television.
1950. Tennis player Althea Gibson becomes the first African American to play in the U.S. Open at Forest Hills Country Club.
1950. Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her volume of poetry titled Annie Allen. She is the first African American poet to win the award and also the first African American woman elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
1950. United Nations Undersecretary Ralph Bunche becomes the first African American to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
1950. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Archibald T. Carey Jr. as chair of the Committee on Government Employment Policy. Carey becomes the first African American to hold that position.
1950. Arthur Dorrington becomes the first African American professional hockey player when he plays the 1950–1951 season with the Atlantic City Sea Gulls. He made his debut on November 15.
1950. For her supporting role in the musical South Pacific, Juanita Hall becomes the first African American to win a Tony Award.
1950, April 15. Charles Cooper signs with the Boston Celtics, becoming the first African American to sign with an NBA team.
1950, October 31. Earl Lloyd of the then Washington Capitals takes the court, becoming the first African American to actually participate in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game.
1951. Janet Collins becomes the first African American woman to dance for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Collins, signed by an agent of the company, makes her debut in Aida.
1951. William L. Rowe becomes the first African American deputy police commissioner. He is appointed to this position in New York by Mayor Vincent Impellitieri.
1952. Soprano Dorothy Leigh Maynor becomes the first African American artist to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
1952. Joe Black, Rookie of the Year, leads the Brooklyn Dodgers to a win over the New York Yankees and becomes the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game.
1952. Frank E. Petersen Jr. becomes the first African American Marine pilot. He becomes the first African American brigadier general in the marines on February 23, 1979, and retires in 1988 with the rank of lieutenant general.
1953. Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man, becomes the first African American to receive the National Book Award.
1953. The University of Virginia awards a doctoral degree to Walter Nathaniel Ridley, the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from a traditional Southern white university. Later Ridley is president of Elizabeth City State College (now University) in North Carolina.
1953. Second baseman Marcenia Lyle “Toni” Stone joins the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns as the first African American woman to play on a regular big league professional baseball team. She plays one season with the Clowns and another with the Kansas City Monarchs. The five-foot seven-inch St. Paul, Minnesota, native was an experienced player on men’s teams, first with the San Francisco Sea Lions and next with the New Orleans Creoles.
1954. Norma Sklarek becomes the first African American woman to be licensed as an architect in the United States.
1954. Charles H. Mahoney becomes the first African American appointed a permanent delegate to the United Nations.
1954. Dr. James Joshua Thomas becomes the first African American pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church. He is installed as minister of the Mott Haven Reformed Church in the Bronx, New York City.
1954. The first African American radio network, the National Negro Network, begins programming. The New York outlet is station WOV. The first program of the network, a soap opera titled The Story of Ruby Valentine, stars Juanita Hall and is carried on 40 stations. The program, sponsored by Phillip Morris and Pet Milk, runs five days a week.
1954, October 27. Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. becomes the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force.
1955. Dorothy Dandridge is the first African American woman to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress. She is nominated for her role in the all-African American musical Carmen Jones (1954).
1955, April 17. Conductor and musician Everett Lee directs the New York Opera Company’s performance of La Traviata and becomes the first African American to conduct a professional grand opera or Broadway show in this country.
1956. Charles Dumas, a freshman at Compton College in Compton, California, becomes the first athlete to high jump over seven feet.
1956. Althea Gibson is the first African American to win the French Open. She captures both the women’s singles and doubles titles.
1957. Perry H. Young becomes the first African American pilot for a scheduled passenger commercial airline, New York Airways.
1957. Althea Gibson wins the mixed doubles and women’s singles titles at Wimbledon, the first African American tennis player to win any title there. She also wins the same two titles at the U.S. Open, also African American firsts.
1957. James Plinton Jr. becomes the first African American named to an executive position by a major airline when Trans World Airlines names him executive assistant to the director of personnel and industrial relations.
1958. Gloria Davy sings Aida at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and becomes the first African American to sing at this celebrated location.
1958. Ruth Carol Taylor becomes the first African American flight attendant when she is hired to work for Mohawk Airlines.
1958, January 18. Willie O’Ree breaks racial barriers in professional hockey when he plays the first of only two games during the 1957–1958 season for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League. He is sent back to the minor leagues for two seasons, making it back to the NHL for more than 40 games during the 1961 season. Mike Marson, the second black man to play in the NHL, does not get drafted until 1974.
1959. Charlie Sifford is the first African American to be issued a Professional Golf Association (PGA) card as an “approved player.”
1959. Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun is the first play by an African American to receive the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best American play.
1959. Hal DeWindt becomes the first male model in the Ebony Fashion Fair.
1959. John McLendon becomes the first African American to coach a racially-integrated professional basketball team, the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League.
1959. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences makes Harry Belafonte the first African American to win an Emmy Award of any kind. His work in Tonight with Belafonte is deemed the best as a lead actor in a comedy, variety, or music series.
1960. Wilma Rudolph, who wore leg braces until she was nine years old, becomes the first African American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympic year.
1960, May 10. Nashville, Tennessee, becomes the first major U.S. city to begin desegregating its public facilities.
1961. Wilma Rudolph is the first African American to receive the Sullivan Award as the country’s top amateur athlete as selected by the Amateur Athletic Union.
1961. Ernie Davis becomes the first African American to be awarded college football’s Heisman Memorial Trophy at the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City, Inc.
1961, August 10. President John F. Kennedy appoints James Benton Parsons judge of the U.S. Federal District Court. He is the first African American to hold this position and also the first African American to receive a lifetime appointment in that post.
1962. A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. is the first African American, and the youngest person ever, to hold the post of commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission.
1962. Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to be inducted into the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.
1962. Mal Goode becomes the first African American television news correspondent.
1962. Harvey Russell Jr. is named vice president of Pepsico and becomes the first African American man named vice president of a major American corporation.
1962. Lieutenant Commander Samuel L. Gravely Jr. becomes the first African American to command a United States warship when he assumes command of the USS Falgout, a destroyer escort.
1962. Former civil rights lawyer Thelton Henderson becomes the first African American to join the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
1963. William “Count” Basie becomes the first African American to win the Grammy Award for record of the year, I Can’t Stop Loving You.
1963. Katherine Dunham becomes the first African American choreographer to work at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
1963. Sidney Poitier becomes the first African American man to win an Oscar, for his leading role in Lilies of the Field. Poitier is also the first African American to be nominated for an Oscar since Hattie McDaniel in 1939.
1963. Marian Anderson and Ralph Bunche are the first African Americans to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
1963, December 1. In Jacksonville, Florida, Wendell Scott becomes the first African American to win a NASCAR race. The victory was initially granted to a white driver, but justice was served later—after the “victor’s” celebration. As of July 2002, no African American has duplicated this feat. He is inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999, the first African American so honored.
1964. Frederick O’Neal becomes the first black president of Actor’s Equity.
1965. The Freedom National Bank is founded. It is Harlem’s first African American-chartered and run commercial bank.
1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints Patricia Roberts Harris as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. She is the first African American woman ever to be named an American envoy.
1965. Vivian Malone Jones becomes the first African American graduate of the University of Alabama. Jones and James Hood were among the first African American students enrolled in the university in 1963. 1965 Pioneering print journalist and public relations expert Lillian Scott Calhoun becomes the first African American woman to work in the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom.
1966. The basketball team from Texas Western University becomes the first college team to win the NCAA National Championship with an all-African American starting five. They beat the favored and all-white University of Kentucky.
1966. Norma Sklarek is the first African American woman to be named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
1966. Bill Cosby’s work on I Spy earns him the first Emmy awarded to an African American for a leading role in a dramatic television series. He is only the second African American to win an Emmy of any kind.
1966. Internationally known graphic artist George Olden is the first African American to design a U.S. postage stamp, the Emancipation Proclamation stamp.
1966. Emmett Ashford, the first African American umpire in the major leagues, makes his debut in the American League opening day game between the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Senators. Ashford umpired in the Southwestern International League in 1952 and in the Pacific Coast League where he was umpire-in-chief in 1965.
1966. Constance Baker Motley becomes the first African American to serve as a federal judge.
1966. Robert C. Weaver is named as secretary of the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development, becoming the first African American appointed to serve in a presidential cabinet.
1966. Edward W. Brooke becomes the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. He is seated on January 10, 1967.
1966, April 18. Bill Russell, star center of the world champion Boston Celtics, becomes the first African American to direct a major league sports team when he is named to succeed Red Auerbach as coach of the Boston basketball franchise.
1967. Renee Powell becomes the first African American female to be issued a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) card.
1967. Emlen Tunnell becomes the first African American to be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
1967. Sergio Oliva is the first African American to win the Mr. Olympia competition held by the International Federation of Bodybuilders. He successfully defends his title in 1968.
1967. Thurgood Marshall is appointed an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first African American to serve on the nation’s highest court. On August 11, 1965, he became the first African American solicitor general and held the position until he joined the Supreme Court.
1967, November 13. The first African American elected mayor of a major U.S. city is Carl B. Stokes. He becomes known in the 1960s as a symbol of minority voting strides. Richard G. Hatcher, mayor of Gary, Indiana, is elected in the same year but not sworn in until January 1, 1968, as the city’s first African American mayor.
1968. Diahann Carroll plays the title role in Julia to become the first African American lead actress in a network television series.
1968. Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to win the American Singles Tennis Championship. In 1963 Ashe was the first African American to play on the U.S. Davis Cup team.
1968. Martin Briscoe joins the Denver Broncos, then in the American Fooball League, and becomes the first African American quarterback to play regularly.
1968. Henry Lewis is the first African American director of an American orchestra—the Newark-based New Jersey Symphony.
1968. Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
1968. Miss Pennsylvania Sandy Williams wins the inaugural Miss Black America pageant, hosted by the J. Morris Anderson Production Company.
1969. Gail Fisher becomes the first African American to win an Emmy Award.
1969. James Earl Jones is the first African American to win a Tony Award for a lead role in a drama. His performance as boxer “Jack Jefferson”—based on heavyweight champion Jack Johnson—in The Great White Hope garnered the trophy.
1969. Federal Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. is elected a trustee of Yale University, the first African American to be so honored.
1969. Parks Sausage Company becomes the first African American-owned company to become a publicly traded company, having its stock traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation (NASDAQ) exchange.
1969. The first African American male and the first African American photographer to win a Pulitzer Prize is Moneta J. Sleet Jr. His prize-winning photograph was a portrait of Coretta Scott King and her youngest child, Bernice, taken at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
1969. Joseph L. Searles III becomes the first African American proposed for a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Searles, former aide in the administration of New York City Mayor John Lindsay, resigned to become one of the three floor traders, as well as a general partner, for Newburger, Loeb and Co.
1969, January. President Richard Nixon appoints Elizabeth Duncan Koontz director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau. This makes her the first African American director of the department. Koontz later becomes deputy assistant secretary for Labor Employment Standards.
1970. Chris Dickerson becomes the first African American to win the title “Mr. America,” one of 15 body building titles Dickerson will earn during his career. One of a set of triplets born in Montgomery, Alabama, on August 25, 1939, Dickerson proves to be an outstanding athlete throughout his school years. An early interest in a singing career and the desire to improve his voice quality and breath control led him into bodybuilding in the mid–1960s.
1970. Renard Edwards becomes the first African American musician to play for the Philadelphia Orchestra when he is hired as a violist for the 1970–1971 season. Edwards was formerly with the Symphony of the New World, an integrated orchestra, one-third to one-half of whose members are African Americans.
1971. Known as the “Father of Black Professional Basketball” for his contributions as coach and owner of the barnstorming New York Renassaince (the Rens), Robert L. Douglass (1882–1979) is the first African American inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
1971. Johnson Products, which sells items under the Ultra-Sheen label, is the first African American-owned company to trade on a major stock exchange.
1971. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. becomes the first African American admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy.
1971. C. Delores tucker is the first African American woman to serve as a state Secretary of State (1971-1977) and the first woman in Pennsylvania to serve in that role.
1972. U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm seeks the Democratic nomination for the presidency, thus becoming the first woman ever to do so.
1972. Approximately 8,000 African Americans attend the first National Black Political Convention. Held in Gary, Indiana, the convention is chaired by Imamu Amiri Baraka with Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary featured as the keynote speaker.
1972, March 18. The U.S. Navy launches the destroyer escort USS Jesse L. Brown, marking the first time a Navy ship is named in honor of an African American naval officer. That officer is Jesse Leon Brown, who was the first African American pilot in the U.S. Naval Reserve and the first African American naval pilot killed in action during the Korean conflict.
1972, November 17. Barbara Jordan wins a seat in Congress, becoming the first woman from Texas elected to Congress.
1973. Coleman A. Young is elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan, the first African American to hold the post in the white-majority city. On the same evening, Maynard H. Jackson is elected mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.
1973. Elayne Jones is invited to become the San Francisco Symphony’s timpanist. Accepting, she is the first African American female to hold a principal chair in a major orchestra.
1973. For his Pearl Harbor heroics, including shooting down four Japanese planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy honors Dorie Miller by naming a ship after him—the destroyer escort USS Miller. This marks the first time that a military vessel is named after an African American enlisted man.
1973. Shirley Ann Jackson is the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in physics, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is also the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT. Jackson received her B.S. degree from MIT in 1968.
1973, May 29. Thomas Bradley, of Los Angeles, becomes the first African American elected mayor of a city with a population exceeding one million. He defeated the incumbent Sam Yorty by 100,000 votes. Yorty had defeated Bradley in the 1969 mayoral election.
1973, November. Attorney and former California state assemblywoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke becomes the first African American woman from California ever to be elected to the House of Representatives.
1974. George L. Brown is elected and sworn in in Colorado as the first African American lieutenant governor of the 20th century, and as first African American to win statewide election in Colorado.
1974. The Athletics Congress of the USA inducts Ralph Boston, Lee Calhoun, Harrison Dillard, Rafer Johnson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, and Malvin Whitfield into its National Track & Field Hall of Fame.
1974. The Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial is unveiled as the first monument to an African American, or a woman, to be erected on public land in the nation’s capital.
1974. Representative Charles Rangel from New York becomes the first African American to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee.
1974. Barbara Hancock becomes the first African American woman White House Fellow.
1974. Cicely Tyson becomes the first African American female to be awarded an Emmy. Her performance as the lead actress in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman earned her the honor in the Comedy or Drama Special category.
1974. The River Niger by Joseph A. Walker is the first play written by an African American to receive the Tony Award for Best Play.
1974. Leo Miles becomes the first African American to officiate a Super Bowl game.
1974. Joe Gilliam Jr. becomes a trailblazer for African American quarterbacks in modern times. He is the first African American quarterback to start in a NFL game.
1974, November. The Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, has its first African American member, when General Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton joins the squad.
1975. The U.S. Navy commissions Donna P. Davis as a lieutenant in the Navy’s medical corps, making Davis the first African American woman physician in the corps history.
1975. General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. becomes commander-in-chief of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). On the same day, he is promoted in the air force and becomes the first African American four-star general in U.S. history.
1975. Frank Robinson becomes the first African American to manage a major league baseball team and leads his Cleveland Indians to an opening-day victory over the New York Yankees, hitting a home run.
1975. WGPR-TV, in Detroit, goes on the air, becoming the first African American-owned and operated television station in the United States.
1976. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan is the first African American woman to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
1977. Drew S. Days accepts the post as the head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He is the first African American to hold the position.
1977. Pauli Murray, a distinguished lawyer and educator, becomes the first African American woman to be ordained a priest in the predominantly white Episcopal Church.
1977. Clifford Alexander Jr. becomes the first African American to be appointed Secretary of the Army.
1977. Former basketball player Wayne Embry becomes the first African American general manager of an NBA team—the Milwaukee Bucks.
1977. Lionel J. Wilson is elected mayor of Oakland, California, the first African American to hold that position for that city. In 1960 he became the first African American judge in Alameda County (California).
1977. Karen Farmer becomes the first African American member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). It was the DAR that refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform in concert in Washington, D.C., in 1939.
1977. Patricia Roberts Harris is appointed Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, becoming the first African American woman to serve in a Cabinet-level position.
1977. The first African American to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is William B. Bryant. He held the post until 1981.
1978. Jack Tanner is assigned to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western districts of Washington, becoming the first African American federal judge in the Northwest.
1978. Faye Wattleton is elected president of Planned Parenthood, becoming the first African American woman and the youngest person to head the organization.
1978. Wendy Hilliard becomes the first African American member of the U.S. National Rhythmic Gymnastics Team.
1978. When he joins ABC-TV’s World News Tonight, Max Robinson becomes the first African American network anchor.
1978. Contralto Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civilian. The same year, she also becomes the first African American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
1978. Reverend Emerson Moore Jr. is named the first African American monsignor of the Catholic Church in the United States. Monsignor Moore is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in New York City.
1979. Amalya L. Kearse becomes the first woman to receive an appointment to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
1979. U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Marcella A. Hayes, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Army ROTC program, earns her aviator wings and becomes the first African American woman pilot in U.S. armed services history.
1979. Audrey Neal becomes the first African American woman (or woman of any ethnic group), longshoreperson. Neal is employed at the Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal in New Jersey.
1979, August 1. The U.S. House of Representatives votes 408–1 to place a bust of the late Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol building. This marks the first time that a work of art honoring an African American is placed in the nation’s Capitol.
1979, October 30. Council Richard Arrington Jr. is elected major, the first African American ever elected to the post.
1979. Matthew Perry is the first African American federal judge for South Carolina.
1980. Rosa Parks becomes the first woman to receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.
1980. Howard University launches WHMM-TV, becoming the first licensee of a public TV station on an African American campus and the only African American-owned public television station in the nation.
1980. Levi Watkins Jr., an African American surgeon, performs the first surgical implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator in the human heart. The device corrects an ailment known as ventricular fibrillation or arrhythmia, which prevents the heart from pumping blood.
1980, September 30. The first annual Black College Day is held in Washington, D.C. Organized by African American journalist Tony Brown, the focus of the event is to draw public attention to the impact of integration and the merging of African American private and public colleges and universities.
1981. Charles P. Chapman is the first African American to swim across the English channel
1981. Isabel Sanford becomes the first African American female to be awarded an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a television comedy series for her performance in The Jeffersons.
1981. Pamela Johnson is named publisher of the Ithaca Journal and becomes the first African American woman to hold that position with a major newspaper in the United States.
1981. Ruth Love becomes the first African American to serve as superintendent of the Chicago school system. Prior to her appointment to this post, Love held a similar position in Oakland, California.
1982. Bryant C. Gumbel becomes the first African American to co-host the Today show on NBC Television.
1982. Ralph Bradley becomes the first African American to complete the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Though he finishes last in the 1,049-mile race, he wins the Red Lantern prize with a time of 26:13:59:59.
1983. Louis Gossett Jr. is the first African American male to be awarded an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman.
1983. Representing New York, Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America in the 62-year history of the Atlantic City pageant. The first runner-up is Suzette Charles representing New Jersey, who, coincidentally, is also African American and also the first African American Miss New Jersey. When Williams is forced to surrender her title following the discovery of some scandalous photos, Charles is crowned Miss America.
1983. Carla Dunlap is the first African American to win the Ms. Olympia competition held by the International Federation of Bodybuilders. Seven years later Lenda Murray becomes the second African American to win the title and successfully defends it five times.
1983, April 19. Harold Washington is sworn in as mayor of Chicago, becoming the first African American to hold the position.
1983, August 30. Guion Bluford becomes the first African American to travel in space when he serves as a crew member on the space shuttle Challenger. The crew has a six-day flight on the Challenger.
1983, November. James A. Sharp Jr. is the first African American mayor of Flint, Michigan.
1983, November 10. Democrat Harvey Gantt becomes the first African American elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
1984. Methodist Reverend Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly becomes the first African American woman bishop of a major religious denomination.
1984. W. Wilson Goode takes the oath of office as the first African American mayor of Philadelphia.
1984, April 2. Former Boston Celtics player John Thompson Jr. becomes the first African American coach to win an NCAA Division I basketball championship. He coached the Georgetown University Hoyas, led by center Patrick Ewing, to victory.
1984, September 8. Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated television talk show.
1986. African American performers are among the first performers enshrined in the newly-opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Robert Johnson, Little Richard, and Jimmy Yancey.
1986. Kay George Roberts earns a doctor of musical arts degree from Yale University. She is the first woman and second African American to do so.
1986. Georg Stanford Brown becomes the first African American to win an Emmy for outstanding directing in a drama series. Brown directed the episode titled “Parting Shots” for the highly acclaimed series Cagney & Lacey.
1986. Lieutenant Commander Donnie Cochran becomes the first African American pilot in the U.S. Navy to fly with the Navy’s elite special flying squadron, the Blue Angels. Two years later he becomes the first African American to head the squad. The precision flight team was formed in the 1940s and has performed its highly sophisticated aerobatics in air shows in the United States and Europe ever since.
1986. Debi Thomas becomes the first African American to win the U.S. Ladies Figure Skating Championship and the World Championship.
1986. Leslie B. Dunner takes third prize in 1986 at the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition. He is the first American to place at this prestigious event.
1986, January 11. L. Douglas Wilder becomes the first African American lieutenant governor of the state of Virginia.
1986, January 20. The first national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is celebrated.
1986, November 22. By winning the Brunswick Memorial World Open in Chicago, George Branham III becomes the first African American bowler to win a Professional Bowling Association (PBA) title.
1987. Dain Blanton, in his third professional season, is the first African American to win a major tournament with the Association of Volleyball Professionals. He is the first and only African American on the AVP tour. Blanton and his partner, Canyon Ceman, won the $300,000 Miller Lite/AVP Hermosa Beach, California, Grand Slam. This is the largest AVP tournament ever held and awards the most prize money in the history of the sport.
1987. Former naval pilot Jill Brown becomes the first African American female to pilot for a major airline.
1987. The rap duo D. J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win a Grammy Award for the hit Parents Just Don’t Understand and becomes the first African American rap group to win a Grammy.
1987, December 8. Kurt L. Schmoke is inaugurated as the first elected African American mayor of Baltimore, Maryland.
1988. Spelman College appoints its first African American woman president, Johnetta B. Cole.
1988. Eugene Antonio Marino becomes the first African American Roman Catholic archbishop in the United States as he is named archbishop of the Atlanta archdiocese. Marino was one of three auxiliary bishops in Washington, D.C.
1988. Doug Williams becomes the first African American to quarterback a Super Bowl team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins defeat the Denver Broncos 42–10 in Super Bowl XXII.
1988. Florence “Flo Jo” Griffith Joyner becomes the first American woman to win four gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.
1988. Juanita Kidd Stoutt is appointed to the supreme court of Pennsylvania and becomes the first African American woman to serve on the highest court of any state.
1989. Washington, D.C., native Colonel Frederick Gregory becomes the first African American astronaut to command a space shuttle.
1989. Washington, D.C., lawyer Ronald H. Brown is elected chairman of the Democratic Party’s national committee. Brown is the first African American to head a major American political party.
1989. Norm Rice, who became known as “Mayor Nice,” is elected mayor of Seattle, Washington, the city’s first African American to hold the position.
1989. Episcopal Reverend Barbara C. Harris, an African American, becomes the first woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican communion. The Episcopal Church decided in 1976 that women could be ordained priests.
1989. Rodney S. Patterson, an ordained Baptist minister, starts the first African American congregation in Vermont, which a magazine has dubbed “the whitest state in America” because of its small African American population. Patterson, who moved to Burlington to join the staff at the University of Vermont, names the church the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church.
1989. Army General Colin L. Powell becomes the first African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal military advisor to the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council.
1989. Former St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Bill White assumes office as president of the National League, becoming the first African American to head a professional sports league.
1989. As a member of a 14-owner consortium of investors that purchased the Texas Rangers, Comer Cottrell becomes the first African American to own a major league baseball franchise. Cottrell uses his position to speak out about affirmative action in professional sports.
1989. Art Shell is the first African American head coach in the NFL modern era. He coaches the Oakland Raiders from 1989 to 1994 and in 1996 returns to coach the Raiders.
1990. Lorna Simpson is the first African American woman to have her work featured in the Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition.
1990. The Wade H. McCree Jr. Professorship is established at the University of Michigan Law School, making it the first endowed chair at a major American law school to be named after an African American.
1990. David Dinkins becomes the first African American mayor of New York City.
1990. Carole Gist of Michigan becomes the first African American Miss USA.
1990. In Virginia, L. Douglas Wilder becomes the first African American elected governor of a state.
1990. Sharon Pratt Dixon is elected mayor of Washington, D.C., thus becoming the first African American woman to manage a major U.S. city.
1991. Robert Johnson’s company BET Holdings is the first African American-owned business listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
1991. Corporal Freddie Stowers is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for serving in France during World War I. Stowers is the first African American to receive the medal for service in either world war. In 1988, the secretary of the army directed the army to conduct a study to determine whether African American soldiers had been overlooked in the recognition process. Research found that Stowers had been recommended for the medal, but for reasons unknown, the recommendation had not been processed.
1991. Former Roman Catholic nun Rose Vernell is ordained a priest of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation by Bishop George A. Stallings Jr. Vernell is the first woman priest in the church. The congregation was founded in 1989 when Stallings broke with the Roman Catholic Church; this was the first split from the Roman Catholic Church in the United States since 1904.
1991. Although it is his last, Lee Haney wins an unprecedented eighth consecutive Mr. Olympia title. In 1998 Ronnie Coleman wins his first of four consecutive Mr. Olympia crowns, an honor he retains through the 2001 competition.
1991. John Singleton garners an Oscar nomination for best director for his film Boyz N the Hood. He is the first African American to be nominated for the award, and at age 23, he is also the youngest director to be so honored.
1991, April. Leon Howard Sullivan organizes and co-chairs the first African and African American Summit held at Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
1992. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois is elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American woman senator.
1992. Mae C. Jemison, 35, a physician and chemical engineer, is the first African American woman in space on the U.S. space shuttle Endeavor mission. The crew studies the behavior of living organisms in a weightless atmosphere and looks for ways to cure space sickness.
1992. Captain William “Bill” Pinckney becomes the first African American to navigate a sailboat single-handedly around the world. His journey on the boat Commitment began in Boston in 1990, covered 32,000 nautical miles, and included several stops.
1992. Awadagin Pratt becomes the first African American to win the Naumburg International piano composition.
1992. Bill Cosby is the first African American to win a Hall of Fame Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
1992, November 3. Jacquelyn H. Barrett is elected as the first African American woman sheriff of Fulton County, Georgia.
1992, November 3. Earl F. Hilliard is the first African American from Alabama elected to Congress. Cynthia McKinney becomes the first African American woman voted into the Georgia House of Representatives.
1992. The first woman and the second African American to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court is Leah J. Sears, who, after being appointed to that court, is elected to a judicial term.
1993. A physician, educator, and former medical school president, David Satcher is appointed head of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He is the first African American to hold the post.
1993. Mike Espy is appointed secretary of agriculture by President Bill Clinton, the first African American to hold the position.
1993. Ronald “Ron” Dellums, who has chaired the Defense Policy Panel, becomes the first African American to head the House Armed Services Committee.
1993. President Bill Clinton appoints Ronald H. Brown commerce secretary. He is subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate, thus becoming the first African American secretary of commerce.
1993. Joycelyn Elders is named surgeon general of the United States. Elders is the first African American and the second woman to hold this position. She is sworn into office as U.S. surgeon general in a private ceremony. Elders is the former head of the Arkansas Health Department.
1993. The first African American student from a historically African American college to win a Rhodes Scholarship is Nima Warfield, an English major at Morehouse College. He plans to study at Oxford’s School of Modern History and English in fall 1994.
1993. Eleanor Holmes Norton becomes the first voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives for Washington, D.C. Previously, delegates representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Trust Territory were not allowed to vote on the House floor because the Constitution of the United States specifically restricts legislative authority to state representatives.
1993. African American candidates in Selma, Alabama, win a majority of seats on the city council for the first time, despite efforts by white council members to maintain a majority.
1993. South Carolina’s Kimberly Clarice Aiken is crowned Miss America, becoming the first African American woman from the South to win the pageant.
1993. Sharon Sayles Belton becomes the first woman and first African American mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1993. In his 13th year as a National League umpire, Charlie Williams becomes the first African American to call balls and strikes in a World Series game.
1994. At the U.S. National Championships, Dominique Dawes becomes the first African American to win the all-around title as best gymnast.
1994. William G. Anderson becomes the first African American president of the American Osteopathic Association, a major medical organization in the United States.
1994. Whoopie Goldberg is the first African American to serve as sole host of the Academy Awards and the first African American Oscar winner to host the show.
1994. Donnie Cochran, the only African American pilot in the Blue Angels, the precision flying squad, becomes the squad’s first African American commander.
1994. Louis Westerfield is named academic dean at the University of Mississippi, the first African American to hold that position at the university.
1994. Eighteen year-old Eldrick (Tiger) Woods becomes the youngest player and the first African American to win the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.
1994. Forty-four year old Beverly Harvard becomes the first African American woman to reach the rank of chief of police in a major U.S. city (Atlanta).
1994, February 3. Commander Charles Bolden leads NASA’s first American-Russian Space Shuttle Discovery mission.
1995. Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkins becomes the winningest coach in NBA history.
1995. In June, Lonnie Bristow becomes the first African American president of the 147-year-old American Medical Association.
1995. Marcelite J. Harris, the Air Force’s first African American general in 1990, becomes the first woman of her race to receive the rank of major general.
1995. A retired U.S. Army major general, John Stanford becomes the first African American school superintendent in Seattle, Washington.
1995. Ronald Kirk is elected Dallas’s first African American mayor and is the first African American to lead a major Texas city.
1995. Gene C. McKinney becomes the first African American sergeant major, the highest non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
1995. Former speaker and 31-year-veteran of the California General Assembly, Willie L. Brown Jr., defeats incumbent Frank Jordan to become San Francisco’s first African American mayor.
1995. Chelsi Smith of Texas is the first African American crowned Miss Universe.
1995. Orlando “Tubby” Smith becomes the first African American head basketball coach at the University of Georgia.
1995. Carolyn G. Morris becomes the first African American assistant director and the highest ranking African American woman in the history of the FBI.
1995. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Warren Moon is the first quarterback to eclipse 60,000 yards in career passing.
1995, February 27. Bernard A. Harris Jr., a physician from Houston, Texas, becomes the first African American to walk in space. Winston E. Scott becomes the second African American to make the trek, from a bridge in the cargo bay of space shuttle Endeavour.
1995, March 26. Talk-show host Alan Keyes announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency. In so doing, he becomes the first Republican African American in the twentieth century to run for president. He attracts little support, however, and does not win a primary.
1996. At the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, Michael Johnson becomes the first man to win the 200-meter and 400-meter races in the same games.
1996. The first African American to head the Office of Management and Budget for the United States is Franklin D. Raines. This is the highest executive post ever held by an African American.
1996. Former U.S. secret serviceman Hubert T. Bell Jr. is confirmed as inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the first African American to hold that position.
1996. BET Holdings, a parent company of the Black Entertainment Network, launches the nation’s first African American-controlled cable movie premium channel, BET Movies/STARZ!3.
1996. St. Adolpho A. Birch Jr. is sworn in as the first African American chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. From 1987 until he joined the Supreme Court in 1993, he was the first African American to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
1996. Darlene Green becomes the first woman elected comtroller in St. Louis.
1996. A member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1983, Richard N. Dixon is sworn in as Maryland’s first African American state treasurer.
1996. Seventy-three-year old composer George Walker wins the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in music, the first African American to win the prize in that category.
1996. Jacquelyn M. Belcher, former president of Minneapolis Community College in Minneapolis, is inaugurated president of Dekalb College in Georgia. She is the first African American woman president of a University System of Georgia school.
1996. The U.S. Navy appoints its first African American four-star admiral, Vice Admiral J. Paul Reason.
1996. The first African American president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is Margaret A. Dixon.
1996. Sargeant Heather Lynn Johnson of the 3rd U.S. Infantry becomes the first woman to receive the U.S. Army’s tomb guard badge to become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
1996. The National Council of Negro Women dedicates its new headquarters office building. The facility is the first African American-owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue between Capitol Hill and the White House.
1996. The White House unveils Henry Ossawa Tanner’s painting Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, an oil on canvas. The acquisition is the first work by an African American artist to become a part of the White House collection.
1996. The University of Southern Mississippi names James Green head basketball coach, making him the first African American to hold the post.
1996. Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders becomes the first back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons, with 11,271 total yards.
1996. Marcus Allen becomes the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and breaks the record held by former Chicago Bears star Walter Payton.
1996. Eighteen-year-old Chantè Lauree Griffin is the first African American to be crowned Miss Teen of America for 1996–1997. She was elected Miss Teen of California in 1995.
1997. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features supermodel Tyra Banks. Banks is the first African American model to be solely featured on the magazine cover in its 34-year history.
1997. Eldrick (Tiger) Woods becomes the first African American and the youngest player (21 years old) to win the Masters. He also records the largest victory margin and the lowest 72-hole total in the tournament’s history.
1997. Harvey Johnson is sworn in as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, becoming the first African American mayor in the state’s capital. The ceremony is held on the steps of city hall, which was built by slaves before the Civil War.
1997. Wynton Marsalis becomes the first jazz musician to win a Pulitzer Prize, for his jazz opera Blood on the Fields.
1997. Moses Ector becomes the highest ranking African American in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is also the first African American to be named bureau chief of staff.
1997. Conrad L. Mallett Jr. becomes the first African American chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
1997. Councilman Preston Daniels is the first African American to be elected mayor.
1997. Massachusetts State Appeals Court Justice Roderick Ireland is confirmed as the first African American justice on the state’s Supreme Court.
1997. Robert Stanton is sworn in as director of the National Park Service, the first African American to head the service in its 80-year-old history.
1997. Profitts Inc. elects Julius “Dr. J.” Erving to its board of directors, making him the first African American on the 13-member board.
1997. The U.S. Army commissions West Point’s first African American cadet 123 years after the former slave was expelled from the academy for failing an examination. The certificate is given posthumously to James Webster Smith during a ceremony in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
1997. Alexis Herman is confirmed as U.S. secretary of labor, making her the first African American to head that department.
1997. The first African American woman to serve as chief federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is Norma Holloway Johnson.
1997. Former Olympian Chris Campbell is named executive director of U.S. Amateur Boxing, Inc.; he is the first African American to hold the post.
1997. Thurgood Marshall Jr. is appointed assistant to President Bill Clinton and Cabinet secretary, becoming the first African American to serve as Cabinet secretary.
1997. Earnest L. Tate is appointed to the position of chief of police. He is the first African American to hold the position in Selma, a city once known for its intolerance and beating of protest marchers.
1997. Eric Holder becomes the highest ranking African American law enforcement officer in the nation’s history when he is sworn in as deputy U.S. attorney general, the second highest-ranking position in the U.S. Justice Department. He is the first African American U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia since 1993.
1997. Dawn Peter becomes the city’s first African American mounted police officer. Previously she served as patrol officer and plain clothes officer in the city.
1997. The nation’s first known African American sextuplets are born to Jacqueline and Linden Thompson. One daughter was stillborn. The four surviving girls and one boy are born in Georgetown University Medical Center.
1997. Violet Palmer is named referee in the NBA, becoming the first African American in that position. Palmer and Dee Kanter become the league’s first two female officials.
1997. The first predominantly defensive player to win football’s Heisman Trophy is Charles Woodson, a defensive back for the University of Michigan.
1997. Dorothy Walker, 57, becomes the first person in the country to undergo an experimental new laser heart surgery procedure, thorascopic investigational heart surgery, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
1997. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America elects its first African American president, Indianapolis attorney Richard D. Hailey.
1997. Dallas Mavericks forward A. C. Green breaks the NBA’s consecutive game streak when he plays his 907th consecutive game.
1997. After coaching at the University of Georgia for two seasons, Orlando “Tubby” Smith, is the first African American head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. In 1998, he leads Kentucky to the national championship.
1997. The first African American to win the junior women’s title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship is Andrea Gardiner, a 16-year-old Bay City, Texas, native.
1997. Vivian Fuller is named athletic director at Tennessee State University and becomes the country’s first African American woman director of athletics at an NCAA Division I program.
1997. Ann Dibble Jordan, co-chair of the inaugural activities for President Bill Clinton’s second term in office, is the first African American woman to serve in the command role.
1997. Walter G. Sellers of Wilberforce, Ohio, is unanimously elected president of Kiwanis International and becomes the first African American to serve in that position.
1997, October 22. The first Kwanzaa stamp is made available through the U.S. Postal Service. It was created by African American artist, Synthia Saint James.
1997, October 29. The U.S. Senate confirms William E. Kennard as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, making him the organization’s first African American chairman. Previously he served the commission as general counsel.
1997, December 6. Democrat Lee Patrick Brown is the first African American elected mayor of Houston, Texas. Police chief of the city from 1982 to 1990 and former “drug czar,” Brown takes office on January 1, 1998.
1997. Violet Palmer is named the first African American woman to officiate in the NBA.
1998. The first African American Male Empowerment Summit (AAMES) is held and attracts more than 500 men.
1998. The first African American-owned securities brokerage firm to become a publicly-traded company is Chapman Holdings, Inc.
1998. Ben Ruffin, vice president of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, is elected the first African American chair of the University of North Carolina’s board. The board approves policies for the 16 campuses in the system.
1998. The U.S. Navy selects 32-year career Naval officer Captain James A. Johnson for promotion to rear admiral in the Navy Medical Corps, making him the first African American on active duty to hold that post in the 127-year history of the corps.
1998. Glenn Ivey is the first African American to head Maryland’s five-member Public Service Commission.
1998. The first African American Republican elected to a leadership post in modern times is J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma congressman from the Fourth District. In
November he becomes chairman of the Republican Conference, the number-four position in the House. In 1990 he was the first African American in Oklahoma to win statewide elective office, when he captured a seat on the Oklahoma Corporate Commission, which regulates gas and oil utilities. Watts became the first African American to respond to a President’s State of the Union Address in 1997, when he followed President Bill Clinton’s speech before the nation.
1998. Seven members of the more than 2,000 African American soldiers who, along with whites, fought in front line battles in 1944 during World War II, are awarded the Bronze Star. White soldiers received their awards soon after the war. Vernon Baker, the only surviving member of the group, is the first and only African American hero from the war to receive the award; the others are awarded posthumously.
1998. Three-time World Championship calf roper Fred Whitfield is the first African American to cross the $1 million mark in professional rodeo. He is also the fastest cowboy in the history of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to cross the mark.
1998. San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds becomes the only player in Major League Baseball to have 400 home runs and 400 steals in a career.
1998. Newsweek promotes managing editor Mark Whitaker to the position of editor of the weekly news magazine. A Harvard graduate, Whitaker joined the magazine’s staff in 1977.
1998. Twenty-two-year old Jonathan Lee Iverson becomes the first African American and the youngest person ever to serve as ringmaster for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey.
1998. Tom Joyner is the first African American to be elected to the Radio Hall of Fame.
1998. Chamique Holdsclaw becomes the first African American woman basketball player to win the Sullivan Award. This award is given to the top amateur athlete in the United States.
1998. Johnathan Lee Iverson takes over as the first black ringmaster in the 129-year history of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. At age 22, he is also the youngest ringmaster.
1998. Ronnie Coleman wins his first of four consecutive Mr. Olympia crowns, an honor he retains through the 2001 competition.
1998, January 23. Lani Guinier is named professor of law in the Harvard University School of Law, and becomes the first African American woman tenured in the law school.
1998, November 19. Drs. Paula Mahone and Karen Drake become the first African American physicians to assist in the delivery of sextuplets—the McCaughey babies.
1998, December 9. Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., former commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, receives his fourth star in a White House ceremony. Davis, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, is the son of the nation’s first African American brigadier general in the army, Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
1999. At the urging of the African American members of the House Agriculture Committee, the Republican chairman schedules and holds two full committee hearings to consider the plight of African American farmers. In 30 years, there had never been an official committee hearing on this issue.
1999. Carolyn B. Lewis becomes the first African American to serve as chair-elect of the American Hospital Association.
1999. Terry D. Bolton becomes the first African American named chief of police of the Dallas Police Department. Bolton is one of few black chiefs in the state of Texas.
1999, January 20. Cheryl Mills is the first African American to argue a case before a U.S. Senate impeachment hearing in the case of President William Clinton.
1999, March 15. Chess player Maurice Ashley, a Jamaican immigrant, becomes the first African American to earn grandmaster status in chess during a tournament sponsored by the Manhattan Chess Club.
1999, March 28. Purdue coach Carolyn Peck leads the Lady Boilermakers to victory over Duke University, becoming the first African American female coach to win a national championship in women’s college basketball history.
2000. Three judges, Judge Marva L. Crenshaw of the Florida 13th Judicial Circuit, Judge Sandra Edwards-Stephens of the Florida 5th Judicial Circuit, and James E.C. Perry of the Florida 18th Judicial Circuit Court are appointed by Governor Jeb Bush. All three are the first African Americans appointed to these circuit courts and the most number of African American judges ever to be appointed in one state in one year.
2000. James Perkins, a local businessman, defeats white incumbent Joe Smitherman to become the first African American mayor elected in Selma, Alabama. Smitherman was mayor in March 1965, when civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what becomes known as Bloody Sunday. Perkins is reelected mayor in August 2004.
2001. Kenneth Irvine Chenault becomes the first African American to serve as chief operating officer of American Express Company.
2001. Colin Powell becomes the first black U.S. Secretary of State. President-elect George W. This marks the first time in history that an African American has held such a high governmental position. Bush calls him out of retirement to fill the post.
2001. The first woman of any race to serve as head of the National Security Council is Condoleeza Rice and served under the George W. Bush administration.
2001, July 1. Ruth J. Simmons leaves the helm of Smith College to become the first African American and the first woman president of an Ivy League institution. She takes office as president of Brown University.
2001. Robert L. Johnson, founder and president of Black Entertainment Television (BET), is listed on the Fortune 400 as the first African American billionaire. Oprah Winfrey is the first confirmed African American female billionaire.
2001, January 24. Roderick Paige is sworn in as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education: he is the first African American man to head this department.
2001, April 23. Kenneth I. Chenault is elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer of American Express. This is the first time an African American heads one of the main financial companies. He had served as the company’s president since 1997 and as CEO since January 1, 2001, when Harvey Golub stepped down. The vote makes Chenault’s position official.
2001, July 2. Robert Tools becomes the first person ever to receive an implant of a self-contained heart. This discovery leads to new break-throughs and advancements in transplant medicine.
2001, December 10. Giants outfielder Barry Bonds becomes the first player to be honored with the MVP award for baseball four times. This came off of Bonds’s other first in October of 2001 when he broke Mark McGuire’s homerun record with 73 in one season.
2001. Wilton D. Gregory becomes the first African American priest to head the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States. Catholic bishops elected Gregory vice-president of the conference in 1998 and put him line to become its next leader. The South Side Chicago native was ordained in 1973 and in 1983 became the first African American auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
2001, November 6. Shirley Clarke Franklin is elected mayor of Atlanta, becoming the first woman of any to head a leading Southern city. Her narrow defeat of her closest rival avoid a run-off election. Franklin had served Atlanta for eight years as its top appointed official and worked with Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, both former mayors of Atlanta.
2002. Jarome Iginla, born to a Nigerian father and an American mother but residing in Canada the majority of his life, is the first African American player to lead the National Hockey League in scoring. At the 2002 Winter Olympics he also helps the Canadian squad win the gold medal in ice hockey.
2002. Venus Williams becomes the first African American tennis player to be ranked number one in the world. Serena Williams supplants her in July. They are the first sisters ever to be ranked first and second at the same time.
2002, March 11. Vonetta Flowers becomes the first African American athlete to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics when she wins the inaugural two-woman bob-sled event. Garrett Hines and Randy Jones become the first African American men to win Winter Olympic medals, bringing home the silver as half of the U.S. four-man bobsled team.
2002, March 24. Halle Berry is the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for a leading role.
2002. Suzann-Lori Parks becomes the first African American woman to win a Pulitizer Prize for drama. Her successful play with only two characters, Topdog/Under-dog, premiered in July 2001 at the off roadway site, the Public Theater.
2002. The National Basketball Association awards an expansion franchise to Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. He becomes the first African American principal owner of a major professional sports team—a new franchise in Charlotte, North Carolina.
2002, June. Brigadier General Sheila R. Baxter becomes the first female general officer in the Army Medical Service. The 25-year-career officer serves as Assistant Surgeon General for Force Sustainment for the U. S. Army.
2002. The MG Robert Smalls, named in honor of Civil War hero and pilot, is christened in Moss Point, Mississippi. The ship is the first U.S. Army vessel named for a Civil War hero and the first named for an African American. Born a slave, Smalls became a deck hand and later pilot of a Confederate transport steamer known as Planter.
2003. Mississippi State University hires its first African American football coach this year. Sylvester Croom becomes also the first African American head football coach in the 71-year history of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Crooms played one season in the NFL and then became graduate assistant for legendary coach Bear Bryant for the University of Alabama. He became assistant coach for Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986 and subsequently served as assistant coach for five NFL teams.
2003. Ed Welburn becomes the first African American design chief for General Motors Corporation, or vice-president of design for North America. A 30-year design veteran for GM, he designed the Cadillac Escalade, the Hummer H2, and the Chevy SSR.
2003, August 1. Adam W. Herbert becomes the first African American president of Indiana University in Bloomington. He has served as Regents Professor and executive director of the Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership at the University of North Florida.
2003. William Burrus, president of the 380,000-member American Postal Workers union, is the first African American to head an AFL-CIO union.
2003. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman and only the second black (behind Black Entertainment Founder founder Robert Johnson) on Forbes’ annual list of billionaires. She formed Oxygen Media LLC in 1998 and in 2002 launched O, The Oprah Magazine.
2003. Michael Copeland becomes the first African American inducted into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame. He is also the first ever inducted under Kuden Jutsu, a new style of martial.
2003. Yvonne Scarlett-Golden is elected mayor of Daytona Beach, Florida, becoming the city’s first African American to hold that position. She wins in a runoff in the November elections.
2003. Mike Hart, senior and tailback for the Onondaga High School in New York City, scores more points (1,094) and more touchdowns (179) than any other player in high school football history. He commits to play with the University of Michigan Wolverines the following year.
2003. Kimberlydawn Wisdom becomes the first surgeon general of any race for the state of Michigan. She is also an emergency medical physician at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and a medical educator at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.
2003. For the first time in the 50-year history of trade magazine Billboard’s publication of single charts, all top 10 singless listed are by African American recording stars. Nine of these are by rappers, demonstrating the popularity of hip hop.
2003. Navy rear admiral Barry Black becomes the first African American and the first Seventh-day Adventist to be named U.S. Senate chaplain. Previously, he was chief of chaplains for the navy and had been a leader in such high profile events at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Service and the burial of John F. Kennedy Jr. at sea in 1999.
2003. The first woman to become police chief in Birmingham, Alabama, is Annetta W. Nunn. She occupies the post that Bull Connor held during the cradle of the civil rights movement; he became known for authorizing the use of attack dogs and fire hoses on civil rights protesters.
2004. Actress Phylicia Rashad, who heads the cast in the revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” wins a Tony award for best leading actress in a play. She is the first African American woman to win the award.
2004. State representative Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge) is sworn in as the first woman to serve as House Speaker Pro tempore. She was elected to the state legislature in 1991 and became the first African American women elected for East and West Baton Rouge Parishes.
2004. Heather McTeer Hudson takes office as the first African American and first woman mayor of Greenville, Mississippi.
2004. The first African American president of the National Press Club, the nation’s best known news organization, is freelance writer Sheila Cherry.
2004. The first African American quarterback to win the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Play Award is Steve McNair, of the Tennessee Titans. He shares the award with Payton Manning, Indianapolis Colts quarterback.
2004. Damon Evans becomes the first African American athletic director at the University of Georgia in Athens and in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). He played football for the university from 1988 to 1992.
2004. The first female and first African American district attorney for San Francisco is Kamala Harris. With the appointment she becomes also the first African American to hold the office statewide.
2004. Baseball mogel Barry Bonds wins the National League MVP award for a record seventh time, and becomes the first player to win it four times in a row. In 2003 he became the third player to hit a career 700 home runs. Hank Aaron hit a record 765 and Babe Ruth 714.
2004. Harvard Law School professor Christopher Edley Jr. becomes the first African American to head a top-ranked law school in the country. He is named dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
2004, November 15. Legendary golfer Charlie Sifford becomes the first African American player elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. In 1961 he broke down the PGA Tour’s White-only clause and became the first African American member to win on tour.
2004. The first African American to become provost of Emory University in Atlanta is Earl Lewis, now the highest ranking African American administrator in the school’s history. He left his position as dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and vice provost for academic studies/graduate affairs, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
2004. Cortez Trotter, who headed Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, becomes the city’s first African American fire commissioner. Mayor Richard H. Daley appointed him to the post.
2004. Dennis Archer, former mayor of Detroit, becomes the first African American president of the 125-year-old American Bar Association. He has served as a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court and as a mayor of Detroit.
2004. Albany, Georgia, elects its first African American mayor, Willie Adams Jr., an obstetrician. He defeated the incumbent mayor by winning over 60 percent of the vote in the city where the population is about two-thirds African American.
2004. The highest-ranking African American in the Mississippi State Legislature is State Representative Percy Watson, of Hattiesburg. His appointment as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee marks the first time in modern history that an African American has headed a finance committee in the state’s legislature.
2004. Phillip West is sworn in as the first African American mayor in Natchez, Mississippi since Reconstruction. The civil rights activist and former state representative won by a narrow margin.
2004. The first African American artist to paint an official portrait of an American president is Simmie Knox, who creates an image of President Bill Clinton. He also agrees to paint a portrait of Hiliary Rodham Clinton. The painting were commissioned in 2002 and unveiled in the White House this year. They hang along with those of other U.S. Presidents. Other portraits by Knox include such luminaries as U.S. Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Baden Ginsburg, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and baseball legend Hank Aaron.
2004. Keety Smart celebrates with USA men sabre team members as they win the Grand Prix of Fencing World Cub sabre competition in New York City. This was is first gold-medal win in the international competition. Smart is the first U.S. fencer ranked No. 1 in the world.
2004. Phylicia Rashad becomes the first African American woman to win a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress. The 58th annual awards ceremony honored her for her starring role in Lorraine Hanserry’s roadway play, A Raisin in the Sun; she played the role Lena “Mama” Younger.
2004. Pro Football Hall of famer Art Shell becomes senior vice president for footall operations with the NFL. He will supervise all of the league’s football operations and development in regular and post-season operations.
2004. Wallace B. Jefferson becomes the first African American chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He had been the state’s first African American member of the court in 2001.
2004. Brigadier General Abraham Turner takes command of Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army’s largest training base, in Columbia, South Carolina, becoming the first African American to hold that position.
2004, September 14. Hip-hop performer Nelly becomes the first African American artist and rapper to release two separate CD’s on the same day—Sweat and Suit. The three-time Grammy-Award-winner also hosted a HipHop Summit in his hometown, St. Louis.
2004. LeBron James, forward with the Cleveland Cavaliers, becomes the youngest player to reach 2,000 points in his career in the NBA. Only 19 years old and with only 272 days in the NBA, he is 277 days younger than Kobe Bryant who set the mark on February 23, 1999 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
2004. Democrat and Illinois state senator Barack Obama wins a landslide victory over Republican hopeful Alan Keyes to become the first African American male elected to the U.S. Senate. He is a former Cook County prosecutor.
2005. Navy Captain Bruce E. Grooms is the 81st commandant of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, becoming the first African American named to the number 2 post at the academy. Grooms is also of the first African American to command a submarine.
2005. John Batiste is the first African American chief of the Washington State Patrol. The former deputy chief was also a state trooper for 26 years.
2005. Iris Smith wins the World Wrestling Championship title in Budapest, becoming the first African American woman to hold that title.
2005. Ohio State University names Gene Smith athletic director, making him the first African American to hold that post. Before the move, Smith held the same post at Arizona State.
2005. Shonda Rhimes, who created the television series Grey’s Anatomy, is the first African American woman to create and serve as executive producer of an hour-long series that spanned more than one season.
2005. Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman win best acting awards at the 77th Annual Academy Awards and become the first African American men to be so honored in the same year. Foxx won for the best actor in the hit biography of Ray Charles, Ray, and Freeman for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby.
2005. The Baltimore, Maryland, renamed its international airport in honor of its native, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, to become the Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. This is the first time that the airport has so honored an African American. Marshall served on the nation’s highest court from 1967 to 1991,
2005. Terry Bellamy becomes the first African American to win the mayoral race in Asheville, North Carolina.
2005. The Los Angeles Times names Dean Baquet executive vice president and editor, making him the first African American to head the newspaper. He has served key posts at the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
2005. Civil rights leader Rosa Parks is slated to become the first African American women to be represented by a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. President George Bush signs a bill this year authorizing her stature.
2005, July. Belle S. Wheelan is named president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, becoming the first African American, the first woman, and the first community college president to hold this position.
2005. Norries Wilson is named head football coach of Columbia University on December 11, becoming the first African American coach in an Ivy League school.
2005. After winning his third Super Bowl title as New England’s defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennell is named head coach of the Cleveland Browns, becoming the first African American to head the team.
2005. Laila Ali, daughter of boxing great Muhammad Ali, becomes the first woman to win a World Boxing Council title. She beats Erin Toughill at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
2006. Shani Davis wins the 1,000-meter speedskating race in Turin, Italy, becoming the first African American to claim an individual gold medal in Winter Olympic history. In 2002 he became the first African American member of a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. He is also the fist African American speedskater to win the World Allround Speedskating Championship as well, at the games held in Moscow on February 5-6. Earlier (2002) he became the first African American member of a U.S. Olympic team.
2006. Portland, Maine, inaugurates Jill Dunson as mayor, making her its first African American mayor.
2006. The first African American commandant of midshipmen of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryand, is Bruce E. Grooms, who, beginning June 20, oversees 4,000 shipmen.
2006. The first African American woman to own an WNBA team is Sheila Johnson, a partner in Lincoln holdings LLC, which purchased the Washington Mystics.
2006, January 3. Carl Anthony Redus Jr. is sworn in office, becoming the fist African America mayor of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
2006. James Spencer is appointed chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, becoming the first African American judge to hold the post for that district.
2006. North Carolina Supreme Court judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson is sworn in office on February 6, becoming the state’s first African American to serve on that court. Previously, she served on that state’s Court of Appeals.
2006. Aetna, one of the largest health insurers in the United States, names Ronald A. Williams as its chief executive officer, making him the first African American to hold that position.
2006, July 1. Philip West becomes the first African American mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, since Reconstruction. He is inaugurated on July 1.
2006. The first African American commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina is major general Lloyd J. Austin, III. The corps embraces the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, the 10th Mountain Division, and the 3rd Infantry Division.
2006. Clifford W. Houston is the first black president-elect of the American Society for Microbology in Washington, D.C.
2006. William E. McAnulty Jr., who has served on the Kentucky Court of Appeal, is appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, becoming the first African American to serve on that state’s highest court.
2006. Jerome Holmes is confirmed as the first African American on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, becoming the first African American judge to serve on that court.
2006. Warren Moon is the first African American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During 17 seasons with the NFL, he passes for over 49,000 yards, throws 291 touchdowns, and plays in nine Pro Bowls.
2006. Cecelia “CiCi” Holloway, senior vice president, diversity, training, and development for Viacom Entertainment Group, is the first African American president of Women in Film.
2006. The first African American commander of the Salvation Army in the United States is Israel L. Gaither. He leads over 60,000 employees and 3.5 million volunteers who provide social services for the needy.
2006. Kimberly D. Walker is the first woman mastery gunnery sergeant to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps as a combat service support chief.
2006. The first African American woman to referee an NBA playoff game is Violet Palmer, who officiates Game 2, the first-round series between the New Jersey Nets and the Indiana Pacers.
2006. Bessie L. Reggans is the first African American women mastery gunnery sergeant to serve the marine corps as in motor transport as motor transport maintenance chief.
2006. Orthopaedic surgeon E. Anthony Rankin is elected the second vice president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, becoming the first African American in the presidential line of the AAOS, and will head the organization in 2008.
2006. The first African American sheriff in Newport News, Virginia, Gabriel A. Morgan Sr., is sworn in office.
2006. Candace Parker, freshman forward for the University of Tennessee, is the first woman player to dunk in a tournament game and the first to do it twice in any game. In the Lady Vols’ win over Army, Parker slam dunks in the NCAA tournament.
2006. Larry R. Felix is the first African American director of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. He is responsible for bureau operations in the production of U.S. currency, government securities, and documents.
2006. Three 6 Mafia is the first hip-hop group to win an Academy Award. During the 78th awards ceremony, the Memphis rappers’ song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” is chosen as the best original song written for a motion picture.
2006. The first African American since Reconstruction to serve in a permanent position in law enforcement in South Carolina is Reginald I. Lloyd, who is named U.S. Attorney for that state.
2006. Erroll B. Davis Jr. becomes the first African American chancellor of the University System of Georgia, located in Atlanta. He is responsible for the state’s 35 public colleges and universities and the Georgia Public Library Service.
2006. The first African American winner of Donald Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” is Randal Pinkett. Pinkett is president and CEO of BCT Partners, a management, technology, and policy consulting firm in Newark, New Jersey.
2006, May 1. Georgetown University law professor Patricia A. King becomes the first African American woman member of the Harvard Corporation, Harvard University’s governing board. She was elected to that post on December 4, 2005.
2006. Minnesota state lawmaker and lawyer Keith Ellison becomes the first Muslim and the first nonwhite elected to the U.S. Congress from that state. He campaigns as a “peace first” candidate, calling for an end to the Iraq war and terrorism. When he takes the oath of office, he plans to do so with his hand on the Quran rather than the Bible.
2006, July 16. J.R. Todd defeats legendary drag-racer Tony Schumacher at the Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado, to become the first African American to win a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel event. It is 23-year-old Todd’s first appearance in a final and only the ninth professional event in his rookie season.
2007, January 4. Deval Patrick is sworn in office as governor of Massachusetts, becoming the first African American head of that state and only the second African American elected governor in the United States. Patrick takes the oath of office with his hand on a Bible that slaves gave to John Quincy Adams, whom he helped free in what was known as the Amistad affair. A civil rights lawyer for the poor, Patrick later led the Justice Depart-ment’s civil rights division under President Bill Clinton’s administration.
2007, February 4. Anthony Kevin “Tony” Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League became the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl. His team defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl 41. Dungy and Lovie Smith, head coach of the Chicago Bears, became the first two African American coaches to lead their teams to a Super Bowl.