Black Firsts

LISTEN: The Tom Joyner Morning Show pays tribute to music icon Chuck Berry.  While Elvis Presley became the face of Rock ‘N’ Roll, the true genius behind the art form was Chuck Berry. Berry passed in his home last Saturday at the age of 90, leaving behind a legendary influence that stretched far beyond rock music. […]

  Hallie Quinn Brown was an educator, author, and prominent moment of the women’s suffrage in the early 20th Century. Ms. Brown was also a notable orator and author, publishing a book focusing on the achievements of Black women of her era. Brown was born on this day in 1849 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her parents, […]

Captain Stephanie Johnson is the first Black female captain for Delta Airlines, the second of her historic achievements as a pilot. Twenty years ago, Captain Johnson became the first Black female pilot for Northwest Airlines and last year, Delta promoted her to her current post. The Kent State University graduate caught the flying bug in […]

In its 130-year history, the prestigious Harvard Law Review has never elected a Black woman to serve as president – until now. ImeIme Umana, a Pennsylvania native and daughter of Nigerian immigrants was elected to the post on Jan. 29 of this year. Umana, 24, was raised in the town of State College. Her late […]

The overwhelming success of the film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, highlighted three African-American women who were instrumental in propelling the U.S. space program. The state of Arkansas has a hidden figure of its own in Raye Montague, who is the first person to design a U.S. Navy ship using a computer. Montague was […]

Oscar Holmes broke three color barriers in his lifetime, although he never set out to become a pioneer. Holmes was not only the first Black air traffic controller, he was also the U.S. Navy’s first Black commissioned officer and the military branch’s first Black pilot. Holmes was born January 31, 1916 in Dunbar. W. Va. […]

On this day in 1978, NASA graduated its first group of Space Shuttle astronauts which signaled a new day for the space program. Among the group of 35, three Black men went on to leave their mark on history as explorers of space. Maj. Frederick D. Gregory of Washington, Col. Guion Bluford of Pennsylvania, and […]

  June Bacon-Bercey is a pioneer in the field of meteorology, becoming the first Black woman to earn a degree in the science in the ’50’s. She is also an internationally recognized expert in aviation and weather, and is the first woman and African-American woman to win the American Meteorological Society’s “seal of approval” honor […]

Janie L. Miles made her mark on military history by becoming the first Black woman to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Miles went on to a stellar career in business after ending her time with the U.S. Navy. Born in 1958 in Aiken, S.C., the 1976 Aiken High School graduate and honor student […]

  Gwen Ifill was a pioneering Black journalist, providing a role model for young Blacks aspiring to media careers, especially women. Ms. Ifill succumbed to her battle with cancer Monday at the age of 61, prompting a nation to mourn one of its most respected journalists. Ifill was born September 29, 1955 in New York […]

On this day in 1960, history was made when Andrew Hatcher was named the associate press secretary by President John F. Kennedy. Hatcher was also a founding member of 100 Black Men of America. Mr. Hatcher was born June 19, 1923 in Princeton, N.J. As a student at Massachusetts’ Springfield College in the early ’40’s, Hatcher interrupted […]

The phrase “Black is Beautiful” has long been associated with the civil rights and Black power movements but it has roots that reach even further back. John Stewart Rock, one of the America’s first Black doctors and lawyers, is said to have coined the phrase in one of his speeches as an abolitionist. Rock was […]