Black History Names: Barrier Breakers
Black history names include the extraordinary names of extraordinary achievers.
African-American history is full of the (interesting) names of people who have made breakthroughs by being the first to achieve something, whether it be in the arena of government, Civil Rights, scholarship, the professions, sports or the arts. It’s sobering to see how recently some of these firsts occurred.
Here are some outstanding Black history names:
Aulana Peters — first Black woman appointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (1984)
Biddy Mason — first known Black female property owner in L.A. (1866)
Charlotta Bass — considered the first Black woman newspaper publisher (1912), and the first African-American to run for vice-president (1952)
Euzham Palcy — first Black woman director of a feature film for a major studio (1989)
Dorothea Towles — first professional Black female model (1949)
Joycelyn (born Minnie) Elders — the first Black female Surgeon General of the U.S. (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)
Oprah Winfrey — first Black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show (1986)
Phillis Wheatley (pictured) — published the first book of poetry by an African-American (1773)
Atoy Wilson — first Black American ice skater to win a figure skating title (1966)
Barack Obama — first African-American president of the United States (2009)
Booker T. Washington — first president of Tuskegee Institute (1881), first Black guest to dine at the White House (1901), first Black person on a US stamp (1940) and coin (1946)
Briton Hammon — wrote the first known slave autobiography (1760)
Crispus Attucks — Crispus Attucks, a stevedore who was Black and Native American, was the first person killed in the Revolutionary War.
Emmett Ashford — first Black umpire in the major leagues (1966)
Jupiter Hammon — first African-American published writer (1760)
Moses Fleetwood Walker — first Black player in major league baseball (1881)
Salem Poor — first Black soldier to win a battle commendation (1775)
Thomy Lafon — considered the first Black millionaire (1890)
Wynton Marsalis — first jazz artist to win a Pulitzer Prize (1997)
There are of course hundreds of other barrier-breakers, who just happened to have more common names. To find out more, I recommend the book Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events by Jessie Carney Smith.
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on February 1st, 2011 at 5:56 am
I believe that’s Biddy Mason, not Biddy Wilson.
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on February 1st, 2011 at 9:44 am
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on February 1st, 2011 at 10:29 am
Fixed — thanks!
on February 1st, 2011 at 11:49 am
You’re missing one of my heroes, with a great self-given name…. Sojourner Truth was a women’s rights activist. She was born a slave in 1797 and died free in 1883. Reflecting on her escape to freedom with an infant daughter in 1826 she said, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be right.” She was an amazing orator and her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” continues to be referenced today.
on February 1st, 2011 at 1:02 pm
What about the first African-American president of the US: Barack Obama?
on February 1st, 2011 at 1:20 pm
OMG–how could we possibly have left him out!!!??
Heather Tucker Said
on February 1st, 2011 at 2:12 pm
Dr. Joycelyn Elders
From Wikipedia: (born Minnie Lee Jones on August 13, 1933)…….the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the United States.
on February 1st, 2011 at 5:55 pm
I so love Octavia Butler! She would be well-worth naming a little girl after :).
on February 1st, 2011 at 7:52 pm
What about Booket T Washington? He was the first leader of Tuskegee Institute and the first black man to be invited to the White House.
And George W Carver, he was the first black man and non-president to have a monument dedicated to him.
And Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first black professional baseball player.
on February 1st, 2011 at 8:54 pm
I have added Joycelyn Elders, Booker T. Washington and Moses Fleetwood Walker–thanks for suggesting.
Anna Grace Said
on February 1st, 2011 at 9:07 pm
What about Michelle Obama? Isn’t she first African-American First Lady?
on February 1st, 2011 at 9:12 pm
There’s something about Salem and Jupiter that I just love. These need a comeback
on February 1st, 2011 at 9:23 pm
Of course–but I was trying to select more unusual names.
on February 2nd, 2011 at 6:34 am
You forgot Oprah Winfrey! Her talk-show was televised nationally in Sept. 1986…so shouldn’t she be listed as being the first African-American to have a nationally televised talk show, not Arsenio Hall?
on February 2nd, 2011 at 11:29 am
The Obamas and Oprah have been added.
on February 2nd, 2011 at 7:20 pm
Ooh. Would be intrigued if you find out more about the name Guion. It’s not clickable.
on February 3rd, 2011 at 10:54 pm
How about Autherine Juanita Lucy? I heard her name on a tv show today. She was admitted to the University of Alabama and was the first black person to be admitted in a white public school or university in Alabama.
on February 4th, 2011 at 1:17 am
Therre were so many people who broke barriers in individual states that I just couldn’t fit them all in. Interesting name, though.
Emmy Jo Said
on February 6th, 2011 at 2:38 am
Oooh, I love so many of these names — Cora, Hiram, August, Moses, Hazel, Gwendolyn, Jewel, Simeon (and those last four are family names).
One thing I found funny: If you go to the entry for the name “African,” it says, “This name is a version of Mandela.” You might want to fix that.
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