Monday, February 9, 2009

Five Interesting Firsts

I originally wrote this article for my company newsletter, and thought I would post it for others to read as well.

February is Black History Month and typically a time when we reflect upon and appreciate African-Americans that have made an impact on American history. We all know the names Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. Who are some of the lesser-known African-American history-makers?

First published African-American writer in America – Jupiter Hammon (1711 – 1806?) was a lifelong slave on Long Island, New York who was given a formal eduation and is considered one of the founders of African-American literature. He was deeply religious and his poem “An Evening Thought,” was published in 1760 as a broadside and noted as the first published writing by an African-American in the U.S.

First African-American Lawyer – Macon Bolling Allen (1816 – 1894) was a self-taught lawyer who was accepted to the bar in Portland, Maine is 1844. Soon after that he was admitted to the bar in Boston and became the first African American Justice of the Peace. Allen moved to South Carolina during the American Civil war where he felt his skills as an abolitionist lawyer could be of use.

First African-American Olympic Gold Medal Winner – At the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, track and field athlete John Baxter Taylor, Jr. (1882 – 1908) earned a gold medal for his part in the U.S. medley relay team. Taylor ran the third leg of the medley race, running 400 meters in 49.8 seconds.

First African-American Woman Elected to Congress – Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005) was elected to New York’s Twelfth District congressional seat in the House of Representatives in 1968. In 1972 she became the first major party African-American candidate, and the first woman to run for president.

First African-American to reach the peak of Mount Everest – In 2006 Sophia Danenberg (1972 - ) was the first African-American to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. She suffered many ailments during her climb and bad weather conditions held back the other members of her climbing party. She and her sherpas were the only climbers to witness the event.

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