List of African-American firsts

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African Americans (also known as Black Americans and Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group in the United States. The first achievements by African Americans in various fields have historically marked footholds, often leading to more widespread cultural change. The shorthand phrase for this is "breaking the color barrier".[1][2]

One commonly cited example is that of Jackie Robinson, who became the first African American of the modern era to become a Major League Baseball player in 1947, ending 60 years of segregated Negro Leagues.[3]

Contents

17th century: 1670s
18th century: 1730s–1770s1780s–1790s
19th century: 1800s1810s1820s1830s1840s1850s1860s1870s1880s1890s
20th century: 1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s
21st century: 2000s2010s2020s
See alsoNotesReferencesExternal links

18th century[edit]

1730s–1770s[edit]

1738[edit]

  • First free African-American community: Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (later named Fort Mose) in Florida

1746[edit]

  • First known African-American (and slave) to compose a work of literature: Lucy Terry with her poem "Bars Fight," composed in 1746[4] and first published in 1855 in Josiah Holland's "History of Western Massachusetts[5][6]

1760[edit]

  • First known African-American published author: Jupiter Hammon (poem "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries", published as a broadside)[7]

1767[edit]

1768[edit]

1773[edit]

1775[edit]

  • First African American to join the Freemasons: Prince Hall

1778[edit]

1780s–1790s[edit]

1783[edit]

  • First African American to formally practice medicine: James Derham, who did not hold an M.D. degree.[14] (See also: 1847)

1785[edit]

1792[edit]

1793[edit]

1794[edit]

19th century[edit]

1800s[edit]

Absalom Jones
John Gloucester
Absalom Boston
Alexander Twilight
James McCune Smith

1804[edit]

1807[edit]

1810s[edit]

1816[edit]

1820s[edit]

1821[edit]

1822[edit]

  • First African-American captain to sail a whaleship with an all-black crew: Absalom Boston[19]

1823[edit]

1827[edit]

1830s[edit]

1832[edit]

1836[edit]

  • First African American elected to serve in a state legislature: Alexander Twilight, Vermont[20] (See also: 1823)

1837[edit]

1840s[edit]

1845[edit]

1847[edit]

1849[edit]

1850s[edit]

1851[edit]

1853[edit]

1854[edit]

1858[edit]

1860s[edit]

1861[edit]

1862[edit]

1863[edit]

1864[edit]

1865[edit]

1866[edit]

1868[edit]

1869[edit]

1870s[edit]

1870[edit]

1872[edit]

1873[edit]

1874[edit]

1875[edit]

1876[edit]

1877[edit]

1878[edit]

1879[edit]

1880s[edit]

1880[edit]

1881[edit]

1882[edit]

1883[edit]

1884[edit]

1886[edit]

1890s[edit]

1890[edit]

1891[edit]

  • First African-American police officer in present-day New York City: Wiley Overton, hired by the Brooklyn Police Department prior to 1898 incorporation of the five boroughs into the City of New York.[78] (See also: Samuel J. Battle, 1911)

1892[edit]

1895[edit]

1898[edit]

1899[edit]

20th century[edit]

1900s[edit]

1901[edit]

1902[edit]

  • First African-American professional basketball player: Harry Lew (New England Professional Basketball League)[85] (See also: 1950)
  • First African-American boxing champion, Joe Gans, a lightweight (See also: 1908)

1903[edit]

  • First Broadway musical written by African Americans, and the first to star African Americans: In Dahomey
  • First African-American woman to found and become president of a bank: Maggie L. Walker, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (since 1930 the Consolidated Bank & Trust Company), Richmond, Virginia[86]

1904[edit]

  • First Greek-letter fraternal organization established by African Americans: Sigma Pi Phi
  • First African American to participate in the Olympic Games, and first to win a medal: George Poage (two bronze medals)[87]

1906[edit]

1907[edit]

1908[edit]

1910s[edit]

1910[edit]

1911[edit]

1914[edit]

1915[edit]

1916[edit]

1917[edit]

1919[edit]

1920s[edit]

1920[edit]

1921[edit]

1924[edit]

1925[edit]

1927[edit]

1928[edit]

1929[edit]

1930s[edit]

1931[edit]

  • First African-American composer to have their symphony performed by a leading orchestra: William Grant Still, Symphony No. 1, by Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra[114]
  • First African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School: Jane Matilda Bolin

1932[edit]

1933[edit]

  • First African-American woman to earn a doctorate in psychology: Inez Prosser

1934[edit]

1935[edit]

1936[edit]

1937[edit]

1938[edit]

1939[edit]

  • First African American to star in her own television program: Ethel Waters, The Ethel Waters Show, on NBC[125]

1940s[edit]

1940[edit]

1941[edit]

  • First African-American to give a White House Command Performance: Josh White[129]

1942[edit]

1943[edit]

1944[edit]

1945[edit]

1946[edit]

  • First African American to sign a contract with an NFL team in the modern (post-World War II) era: Kenny Washington

1947[edit]

1948[edit]

1949[edit]

1950s[edit]

1950[edit]

1951[edit]

1952[edit]

1953[edit]

1954[edit]

1955[edit]

1956[edit]

1957[edit]

1958[edit]

1959[edit]

1960s[edit]

1960[edit]

  • First African-American U.S. presidential candidate: Rev. Clennon King, on the Independent Afro-American party

1961[edit]

1962[edit]

1963[edit]

1964[edit]

1965[edit]

1966[edit]

1967[edit]

1968[edit]

1969[edit]

1970s[edit]

1970[edit]

1971[edit]

1972[edit]

1973[edit]

1974[edit]

1975[edit]

1976[edit]

1977[edit]

1978[edit]

1979[edit]

1980s[edit]

1980[edit]

  • First African-American-oriented cable channel: BET[238]
  • First African-American woman to graduate from (and to attend) the U.S. Naval Academy: Janie L. Mines, graduated in 1980[239][240][241]

1981[edit]

1982[edit]

1983[edit]

1984[edit]

1985[edit]

1986[edit]

1987[edit]

1988[edit]

1989[edit]

1990s[edit]

1990[edit]

1991[edit]

1992[edit]

1993[edit]

1994[edit]

1995[edit]

1996[edit]

1997[edit]

1998[edit]

1999[edit]

21st century[edit]

2000s[edit]

2000[edit]

2001[edit]

2002[edit]

2003[edit]

2004[edit]

2005[edit]

2006[edit]

2007[edit]

2008[edit]

2009[edit]

2010s[edit]

2010[edit]

2011[edit]

2012[edit]

2013[edit]

2014[edit]

2015[edit]

2016[edit]

2017[edit]

2018[edit]

2019[edit]

2020s[edit]

2020[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This claim is contested by the First Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia (1774) and the First Colored Baptist Church, renamed First African Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia (recognized 1788, first congregation 1773).
  2. ^ Because it was published in the U.K., the book is not the first African-American novel published in the United States. This credit goes to one of two disputed books: Harriet Wilson's Our Nig (1859), brought to light by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982; or Julia C. Collins' The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride (1865), brought to light by William L. Andrews, an English literature professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Mitch Kachun, a history professor at Western Michigan University, in 2006. Andrews and Kachun document Our Nig as a novelized autobiography, and argue that The Curse of Caste is the first fully fictional novel by an African American to be published in the U.S.
  3. ^ Founded earlier; not fully owned and operated by African Americans until 1863
  4. ^ Revels, the Mississippi State Senate's Adams County representative, was elected by the U.S. Senate in January 1870 to fill an unexpired term.
  5. ^ Rainey, a South Carolina state senator, was elected to fill the seat vacated by B. Franklin Whittemore. Rainey took his seat on December 12, 1870. John Willis Menard was actually the first African American elected to the House (1868) but he was denied his seat.
  6. ^ Douglass did not seek the nomination or campaign after being nominated.
  7. ^ Parker graduated from Mount Holyoke when it was still a seminary.
  8. ^ This was previously thought to be Sarah E. Goode (for the cabinet bed, Chicago, Illinois).[69]
  9. ^ His son, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., was the first African-American general in the United States Air Force.
  10. ^ Gravely was also the first African-American to command a U.S. Navy warship (1962), and the first promoted to the rank of admiral (1971).
  11. ^ L. Clifford Davis applied to the law school in 1946, and after several failed attempts was granted admission in September 1947, but was unable to enroll in classes. Hunt later enrolled on February 2, 1948.[150]
  12. ^ While considered a network for regulatory reasons, CBS TV was viewable only locally in 1948. By 1956, CBS and other networks were viewable nationwide.
  13. ^ Clifton was the first to sign an NBA contract and subsequently play, Cooper was the first to be drafted by an NBA team, and Lloyd was the first to play in an NBA regular-season game because his team's opening game was one day before the others.
  14. ^ At that time, nominations were announced in November of the year of release, instead of early the following year.
  15. ^ While two black players won Gold Gloves that year, only Mays is African-American. The other, Minnie Miñoso, is Afro-Cuban.
  16. ^ In 1998, the award would be renamed the Oscar Robertson Trophy after its first recipient.
  17. ^ Harris' milestone came a year after Marlon Green, who had been rejected as a Continental Airlines applicant in 1957, won the United States Supreme Court case "Colorado Anti-Discrimination Commission v. Continental Airlines, Inc. 372 U.S. 714 no. 146" which found Green had been unlawfully discriminated against.[209]
  18. ^ a b c The first Black superhero, Marvel's Black Panther, introduced in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), is African, not African-American. This is also true of the first Black character to star in his own mainstream comic-book feature, Waku, Prince of the Bantu, who headlined one of four features in the multiple-character omnibus series Jungle Tales (September 1954 – September 1955), from Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics.
  19. ^ At the time, the NCAA had not yet adopted its three-division system. Illinois State was in the NCAA University Division, which became Division I in 1973. The NCAA retroactively considers University Division members to have been Division I members.
  20. ^ Although Flood's legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball's reserve clause and sought free agency.
  21. ^ The NHL had fielded black players for more than 20 years, with the first being Willie O'Ree in 1958, but all previous black players were Black Canadians and not African-Americans. In 1996, Mike Grier (Edmonton Oilers) became the first to have been both born and exclusively trained in the U.S., per Allen, Kevin (January 14, 2008). "Willie O'Ree still blazing way in NHL 50 years later". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  22. ^ Cosmonaut Arnaldo Mendez was the first person of African descent in space, in 1980.
  23. ^ Lewis Hamilton became the first black Formula One racer in 2006, but he is a British citizen of Grenadan ancestry, and not an African-American. Ribbs did not compete in a race, but drove a Formula One car professionally in January 1986 as a tester for the BrabhamBMW at Estoril, Portugal.
  24. ^ a b c Woods' mixed ancestry – ¼ Chinese, ¼ Thai, ¼ African-American, ⅛ white, and ⅛ Native American – also makes him the first Asian-American to achieve this feat. He is also the first of only four golfers of primarily non-European descent to win a men's major, with the others being Vijay Singh (an Indian Fijian), Michael Campbell (a Māori from New Zealand), and Y.E. Yang (South Korean).
  25. ^ Announced as Bobcats owner in December 2002, although team did not begin play until 2004.
  26. ^ Smith and Dungy both reached this milestone on the same day, although Smith was technically the first due solely to scheduling. The NFC and AFC Championship Games are always held on the same day. In the playoffs that followed the 2006 NFL season, the NFC game was played first.

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Juguo, Zhang (2001). W. E. B. Du Bois: The Quest for the Abolition of the Color Line. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-93087-1
  2. ^ Herbst, Philip H (1997). The Color of Words: An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Ethnic Bias in the United States. Intercultural Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-877864-97-1
  3. ^ Sailes, Gary Alan (1998). "Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier in Team Sports". African Americans in Sport: Contemporary Themes, Transaction Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7658-0440-2
  4. ^ 🖉"Literature | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ "Lucy Terry's " Bars Fight. " Text from San Antonio College LitWeb". Alamo.edu. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  6. ^ 🖉"Literature | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com.
  7. ^ O'Neale, Sondra (2002). "Hammon, Jupiter". In William L Andrews; Frances Smith Foster; Trudier Harris (eds.). The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195138832. Archived from the original on April 7, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Smith, Jessie Carney (2003). Black Firsts : 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (2nd, revised and expanded ed.). Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press. pp. 591–592. ISBN 1-57859-142-2. OCLC 51060259 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ He was of mixed race, one-quarter African and three-quarters European, and listed in the US Census as white.
  10. ^ Shields, John C. (2010). Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics. University of Tennessee Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-57233-712-1. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  11. ^ Raboteau, Albert J. (2004). Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South. Oxford University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-19-517413-7. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  12. ^ Brooks, Walter H. (April 1, 1922). "The Priority of the Silver Bluff Church and its Promoters". The Journal of Negro History. 7 (2): 172–196. doi:10.2307/2713524. ISSN 0022-2992. JSTOR 2713524.
  13. ^ Haverington, Christine (2012). Middletown. Arcadia Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7385-9248-0. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  14. ^ Jacobs, Claude F. (2007). "James Derham (b. 1762)". In Junius P. Rodriguez (ed.). Slavery in the United States: a social, political, and historical encyclopedia. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851095445. Archived from the original on April 7, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Cooley, Timothy Mather (1969) [1837]. Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M., for Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Later in Granville, New York. New York: Negro Universities Press. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
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  35. ^ Smith 2002, p. 134–135.
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