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Category: Ella Fitzgerald

Black History Names: Barrier Breakers

blackbreakthroughs-heroes

Black history is filled with the extraordinary names of extraordinary achievers.  This being the first day of Black History Month, we thought we’d look back through African-American history, on the lookout for the (interesting) names of people who have made breakthroughs by being the first to achieve something, whether it be in the arena of goverment, Civil Rights, scholarship, the professions, sports or the arts.  It’s quite surprising to see how recently some of them occurred.

Here are some outstanding black history names:

GIRLS

  • Alexia Canada— first female African-American neurosurgeon (1984)
  • Althea Gibson—first black to win a major tennis title (1956) and first black woman to play on the Ladies PGA golf tour (1964)
  • Aretha Franklin—first black woman inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1986)
  • Aulana Peters—first black woman appointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (1984)
  • Bessie Coleman—first black woman aviator (1921)
  • Biddy Mason—first known black female property owner in L.A. (1866)
  • Camilla Williams—first black woman to sing with the New York City Opera (1945)
  • Charlotta Bass—considered the first black woman newspaper publisher (1912), and the first African-American to run for vice-president (1952)
  • Condoleezza Rice –first female head of the National Security Council (2001), first black woman Secretary of State (2005)
  • Constance Baker Motley—first black woman federal judge (1966)
  • Cora M. Brown—first black woman in the US to be elected to a state senate (1952)
  • Della Reese—first black woman to host a TV variety show (1969)
  • Euzham Palcy—first black woman director of a feature film for a major studio (1989)
  • Dorothea Towles—first professional black woman model (1949)
  • Dorothy Dandridge—first black woman nominated for an Oscar in a leading role (1955)
  • Ella Fitzgerald—first black woman to win a Grammy (1959)
  • Gwendolyn Stewart King—first black woman commissioner of Social Security (1989)
  • Hazel Johnson—first black woman army general (1979)
  • Hazel Scott—first black entertainer to host her own TV show (1950)
  • Ida Rollins—the first black woman dentist (1890)
  • Jewel Plummer Cobb — the first black woman president of a California State University (1981)
  • Joycelyn (born Minnie) Elders –the first black female Surgeon General of the U.S. (1993)
  • Katherine Dunham—first black choreographer to work at the Metropolitan Opera House (1963)
  • Lorraine Hansberry—first African-American to win the NY Drama Critics Award (1959)
  • Lucy Ann Stanton—the first black woman college graduate (1850)
  • Maggie Lena Walker—first black woman bank president (1903)
  • Mamie Smith—first black woman to make a recording (1920)
  • Marvel Jackson Cooke—first full-time black reporter on a mainstream paper (1950)
  • Maude Rutherford—dancer who first introduced the Charleston on Broadway (1922)
  • Maya Angelou (born Marguerite) – first black woman to have a nonfiction bestseller (1970); first black inaugural poet (1993)
  • Michelle Obama–first African-American first lady (2009)
  • Minnie M. Geddings Cox—first black US postmistress (1891)
  • Minyon Moore—first black woman political director of the National Democratic Committee (1995)
  • Octavia Butler—the first published female black science fiction writer (1976)
  • Oprah Winfrey==first black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show (1986)

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gwendolyn-brooks

This year in celebration of Black History Month we turn for naming inspiration to the cultural heroines of the Harlem Renaissance.  These women—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors and musicians– all played significant roles in the movement that flourished from the end of World War I through the mid-1930s, during which a group of writers and other artists fostered an intellectual blossoming that was instrumental in forging a new black cultural identity.

The talented women listed below, some better known than others, would all provide great namesakes and role models for any child.

A’LELIA Walker—an African-American businesswoman who was an important patron of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, activist and prominent Harlem Renaissance figure.

ANGELINA Weld Grimké—Harlem Renaissance writer, one of the first black women to have a play performed in public.

ANITA Scott Coleman—Though born in Mexico and later a resident of the Southwest, Coleman published many short stories reflecting the themes of the Harlem Renaissance.

ARIEL Williams—a teacher, musician and published poet.

AUGUSTA Savage—a sculptor known for her bronze busts of Frederick Douglass, W. C. Handy, James Weldon Johnson and other prominent African Americans.

CLARISSA Scott Delaney—onetime secretary to Booker T. Washington, she was a poet whose subjects included Pan-Africanism and bi-racialism.

DOROTHY WestHarlem Renaissance novelist and short story writer, best known for her novel The Living is Easy, about an upscale black family. (shown at right)

EULALIE Spence—an actress, teacher and playwright during the Harlem Renaissance.

GEORGIA Douglas Johnson—a prolific poet and playwright whose Washington DC home was open to the leading black artists of the day, including Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.

GWENDOLYN Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for Poetry in 1950

HELENE Johnson—a Harlem Renaissance poet, cousin of Dorothy West; one of her innovative poems, ‘Bottled,’ appeared in the May 1927 Vanity Fair.

JESSIE Redmon Fauset—called by Langston Hughes a “mid-wife” of African-American literature, she was the literary editor of Crisis magazine and was the first black woman to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

LOIS Mailou Jones—a prize-winning artist who had a long and influential career, and whose work is represented in many major museums, including New York’s Metropolitan.

MARITA Bonner, whose writing dealt with issues of race, gender and class.

NELLA Larsen—a novelist who was the first African-American woman to win a Guggenheim fellowship for creative writing.

REGINA Anderson, New York City librarian who was one of three women to establish a salon for artists and intellectuals; helped found the Negro Experimental Theatre

ZORA Neale Hurston—one of the best known figures of the movement—though she died in poverty—particularly recognized for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Also considered part of the Harlem Renaissance were such entertainers as:

BESSIE Smith

BILLIE Holiday

ELLA Fitzgerald

ETHEL Waters

IVIE Anderson

JOSEPHINE Baker

LENA Horne

LIL Hardin Armstrong,

MAMIE Smith

MARIAN Anderson.

NINA Mae McKinney

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colette2

We looked at trailblazing women in Part One of this blog yesterday—bold and courageous achievers who would prove worthy namesakes for a daughter.  Now we turn to those with major accomplishments in the arts—a varied mix of writers, artists, and musicians of the far and fairly recent  past—many of whom seem to have appropriately creative names—whether they were born with them or not.

Again, remember that the name’s the thing here—so sorry, Mary Cassatt and Elizabeth Barrett Browning–not this time.

WRITERS

AGATHA Christie

ANAIS Nin

APHRA Behn (also seen on the trailblazer list)

AYN Rand

CARSON (born Lula) McCullers

CHARLOTTE Bronte

COLETTE (born Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette)

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