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Category: Maya Angelou

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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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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African-American Hero Names

martin-luther-king-jr-poster-card-c

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American hero, was named for a hero of his father’s, the religious reformer Martin Luther. King and his father were both originally named Michael, until the family traveled to Germany in the 1930s and King Sr. decided to change both his own name and his son’s to honor the original Martin Luther.

Despite Dr. King‘s stature in our country, few African-Americans today choose to name their children after him — perhaps because both Martin and Luther are a tad dated and refer so closely to the earlier white hero.

But other African-American heroes, historic and modern, from politics as well as sports and the arts, do inspire thousands of namesakes who can use their famous names as a guiding light for their lives.

Here are some African-American hero names that have been popular in recent years, along with a few fresh ideas:

AALIYAH
BOOKER T. Washington
COLIN Powell
DIKEMBE Mutombo
Duke ELLINGTON
HARRIET Tubman
HENRY (HANK) Aaron
IMANI
JACKIE Robinson
JADA Pinkett Smith
JESSE Owens
Michael JORDAN
KANYE West
KIMORA Lee Simmons
LANGSTON Hughes
LeBRON James
Dr. MAE Jemison (astronaut)
MALCOLM X
Nelson MANDELA
MAYA Angelou
MEKHI Phifer
MYA
PHILLIS Wheatley (early writer)
ROSA Parks
SERENA Williams
SHAQUILLE O’Neal
Sojourner TRUTH
TYRA Banks
VENUS Williams
George WASHINGTON Carver
ZADIE Smith
ZORA Neale Hurston

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