In celebration of Black History Month I am dedicating several posts to a few of the many historical accomplishments of African Americans. There are many things that black men and women should be proud of in our history that we may not be aware of. For example, I recently published a post in Inspirational People about Dr. Ben Carson who was the first African American to perform successful operation to split twins congenitally joined at the back of the head. He was also the youngest person (age 32) to be appointed to Director of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and was the 2008 recipient of the highest civilian award in the US - The Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Below are some other firsts by African Americans that should be celebrated by all Americans. There are many positive things in our past that can be sources of inspiration as we pursue our own dreams. Just knowing that someone else like you has done something great can inspire you to do the same - or better.
The following information is courtesy of Blackpast.org
1. First African American Pilot of a Commercial Airline: Perry Young, Jr (1958)
"At the age of 37, Perry Young was hired by New York Airways, a regional carrier, in 1956 as both an airline and helicopter pilot. On February 5, 1957, Young flew his first commercial flight when he co-piloted a nine minute, 12 passenger helicopter flight from La Guardia Airport to Idlewild Airport. Young eventually reached the rank of captain at New York Airways and by that point he flew both helicopters and commercial passenger airliners. Young remained with New York Airways for 23 years until the company went bankrupt in 1979." read more...
2. First Black-Owned Record Company: Black Swan Records (1921)
"Black Swan Records was the first black-owned recording company that sold popular music to black audiences. Black Swan Records specialized in jazz and blues recordings but it also became the first company to record black classical musicians. During its brief existence from 1921 and 1923, Black Swan Records would release over 180 records, a number that far surpassed any subsequent black-owned record company until the 1950s." read more...
3. The First Jockey to Win the Kentucky Derby: Oliver Lewis (1875)
Oliver Lewis was the first man (black or otherwise) to win the Kentucky Derby . The Kentucky Derby is the longest continuous sporting event in the United States and takes place at Chiurchill Downs (then called the Louisville Jockey Club). In the season of his Kentucky Derby victory, Lewis also came in second at the Belmont Stakes and won 3 other races at the Louisville Jockey Club. read more...
4. First African American to win a US Olympic Gold Medal: John Baxter Taylor, Jr (1908)
"The first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal, John Baxter Taylor was born November 3, 1882, in Washington, D.C. He attended Central High School in Philadelphia, where he ran track and was the only African American on the team. After graduating from high school in 1902, Taylor attended Brown Preparatory School for one year, running track for an undefeated team." In the 1908 Summer Olympics Taylor ran the third leg of the 1600-meter relay in which the Americans won the Gold Medal. read more...
5. First African American Nobel Prize Winner for Literature: Toni Morrison (1993)
"Recognized internationally as a major American writer, Morrison is the author of eight novels, including The Bluest Eye (1973)—the story of a little black girl’s quest for identity and acceptance in a world that privileged whiteness; Sula (1973), which celebrates friendship between women and the complexity of black womanhood; Song of Solomon (1977), which follows its male protagonist, Milkman Dead, on his quest for cultural heritage; and Tar Baby (1981), which explores a love affair between a couple from radically different socio-economic backgrounds. Morrison’s early works received critical acclaim, including National Book Awards nominations and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Song of Solomon."
"Morrison’s fifth novel, Beloved (1987), a haunting story about the atrocities of slavery and a black slave mother’s effort to protect her children against its dehumanizing effect through infanticide, won the Pulitzer Prize, and was instrumental in her receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003. In 2006, Beloved, made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey, was named the greatest work of American fiction in the past twenty five years by The New York Times Book Review." read more...
If you haven't guessed by now I am a big fan of BlackHistory.org, which is an excellent source of African American History. I highly recommend it to all people, African American or otherwise, as an invaluable resource and learning tool.
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