Celebrating Black History
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM (1924-2005) -The first African American woman elected to Congress, and the first major-party black candidate aspiring to the U.S. presidency.
Representing Brooklyn, NY, her campaign slogan was “unbought and unbossed.” She arrived at the House of Representatives in 1968. Just 4 years later she entered the presidential primary with no expection of capturing the Democratic nomination (which went to George McGovern). Her famous quote from that time: “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.”
BESSIE COLEMAN (1892-1926) – The world’s first licensed African American pilot
When Bessie couldn’t find anyone to teach her to fly, she went to France, completing a 10-month course 3 months early. In 1922, she returned to Europe for study the chief pilot at Fokker Aircraft. in Germany. Back in the U.S., air shows and daredevil stunts earned her the nickname “Brave Bessie.” She was one of America’s most popular stunt fliers when she died in a tragic accident. She was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 1995.
ALTHEA GIBSON (1927-2003) - the first African American athlete to break the color line of national and international tennis, and the first to win international titles
At the 1950 USLTA National Indoors, Gibson was the first black person to be seeded and the first to reach the final of a national championship tournament. She continued to excel, becoming the first African American woman to win the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. No other black woman won the U.S. national tennis title until Serena Williams in 1999, or won Wimbledon until Venus Williams in 2000.
in 1957 and 1958, Ms. Gibson was the top-ranked U.S. player and the first black woman to be named Female Athlete of the Year by Associated Press. After retiring from tennis in 1958, she took up golf, and in 1960 was the first African American to tour in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). She was named New Jersey state athletic commissioner in 1975, the first woman in the nation to hold such a post.
A former law professor and dean at Howard U. and executive director of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, she became the first African-American woman to hold a U.S. ambassadorship when Pres. Lyndon Johnson appointed her to the embassy in Luxembourg in 1965. Another first: She also served as an alternate delegate to the United Nations. Under Pres. Jimmy Carter, she became the first Black woman to serve in a cabinet post, named as secretary of housing and urban development (HUD) in 1977, and secretary of health, education, and welfare (now HHS) in 1979. She died of breast cancer in 1985 just 5 months after the death of her husband of 29 years.
MICHELLE HOWARD (1960- ) – The first black woman promoted to a three-star rank in the U.S. armed forces
Ms. Howard became interested in the U.S. Navy at age 12, only to learn that women were not allowed at Annapolis. By her 17th birthday, federal law had changed. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a master’s in Military Arts and Sciences.
A petite 5’2”, she became first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy warship, the first female graduate of the Naval Academy to achieve the rank of rear admiral and the first African-American woman to command an expeditionary strike group at sea. In 2012, Vice Admiral Howard became the first African-American woman promoted to a three-star rank in the U.S. armed forces. She currently serves as deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
BARBARA JORDAN (1936-1996) – First black woman elected to Congress from a southern state
Noted for her excellence in oratory and constitutional law, she was the first African American elected to the Texas legislature (1966). In 1972, she became the first black woman elected to Congress from the South (D-TX) and one of the first southern African Americans elected to Congress since Reconstruction.
She came to national attention for her prominent role on the committee holding Watergate hearings (1974) and for a memorable keynote to the Democratic National Convention in 1976, the first black woman to do so. Re-elected to Congress twice, in 1977, she declined to run again and became a professor of government at the University of Texas. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.