Historic Black American’s first achievements

The accomplishments of African-Americans like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are well known, but history records many African-Americans who also contributed to the progress of Black people in America. Their stories are rarely read or celebrated.

Here are some examples from three sources detailing Black history:

James Durham overcame being born a slave to become the first American Black physician in 1783.

In 1800, Gabriel Prosser led an attempted revolt of 1,000 slaves in Richmond, Va.

In 1954, Norma Merrick Skiarek became New York State’s first Black woman registered as an architect. She also became California’s first Black licensed architect in 1962.

In 1921, the Pace Phonograph Company became the first Black-owned record company. Harry Pace established the label. Its claim to fame was Ethel Waters’ hit, Down Home Blues/Oh, Daddy.

In 1963, Ebony Magazine named Jeanne Noble, author of The Negro Woman’s College Education, one of the most influential Negros of the Emancipation Centennial Year.

The New York Renaissance has the distinction of becoming the first Black pro basketball team in 1923. The team disbanded in 1948 after a segregated NBA denied them admission.

Yvonne Braithwaite Burke became the first Black woman elected to the California Assembly in 1967.

Clarence Page became the first Black columnist awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

The first Black California Supreme Court justice was Wiley E. Manuel in 1977.

Clarence Page became the first Black columnist awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

In 1991, Siraj Wahaj became the first Muslim to give an invocation in the U.S. House Representatives.

Sources: 1999 Facts about Blacks, 2nd edition by Raymond M. Corbin; Black-Firsts, 2nd Edition by Jessie Carney Smith; A History of Racial Injustice, 2016 Calendar by The Equal Justice.

—Marcus Henderson &

Rahsaan Thomas

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