Black History Month - National Women's History Alliance (2024)

Celebrating Black History Month Resources

Voices from the Days of Slavery
The Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center online collection: Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories, available at Library’s American Memory.

An excellent resource by the New York Historical Society Museum and Library for teachers for Black History Month: Programs and Resources to Honor Black History


Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black female physician in the United States in 1864. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College.

Martha Jones of Amelia County, Virginia, is believed by many to be the first black woman to receive a United States patent for “Improvement to the Corn Husker, Sheller” in 1868. Her invention made it possible to husk, shell, cut up, and separate husks from corn in one operation.

Edmonia Lewis was the first sculptor of African American and Native American (Mississauga) descent to achieve international recognition. Her father was Black, and her mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indian. A testament to Lewis’ renown as an artist came in 1877, when former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned her to do his portrait. .

Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records, May 25, 1919.

Go ahead, Miss Bessie Coleman! Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license. She earned her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license. She died in a plane crash, as a passenger, at 34 years old.

In 1939, Hattie McDaniel won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.

1946 – Hattie T. Scott Peterson is believed to be the first African-American woman to gain a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Howard University.

Born in Albany, GA, Alice Coachman was the first Black female to win a gold medal for the USA in the 1948 Olympics in London for the high jump. She received her medal from King George VI.

Diahann Carroll won a Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award in 1962, making her the first black female to ever do so. This was for her performance in “No Strings.”

In 1965, Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray would become the first African American to receive a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale Law School.

In 1965,Patricia Roberts Harris made history as the first female African American Ambassador when she was appointed Ambassador to Luxembourg. Also, In the 1970s, she worked as a corporate attorney until President Jimmy Carter selected her as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With her confirmation, she became the first African American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary.

Shirley Chisolm was the first black female to be elected to Congress 1968.

In 1973, Taft, Oklahoma would elect the first black female mayor in the U.S., Lelia Foley.

In 1977, Pauli Murray became the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America, 1984

Jennifer Jones is the first black Rockette, 1987.

Carole Anne-marie Gist was the first black Miss USA – 1990

Doctor, engineer and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison is the first black female in space. In 1992 she would make the journey.

Melissa “M’Lis” Ward – Since graduating from the USC Marshall School of Business, Melissa Ward has achieved two historic firsts: she is the first African-American woman to serve as both a U.S. Air Force flight instructor and commercial airline pilot. In November 1992, she joined United Airlines in Chicago as a second officer on DC-10s.

Carol Moseley Braun broke new ground in 1993, becoming the first African American woman to serve as U.S. senator.

Aprille J. Ericsson-Jackson is an American aerospace engineer. Ericsson-Jackson is the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University in 1995 and the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).

Sheila Crump Johnson – first African-American woman (possibly tied with Oprah) to attain a net worth of at least one billion dollars in 1999.

In 2002, Halle Berry was the first black female to win an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball.

Misty Copeland makes history as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre on July 1, 2015. Also, author of children’s book “Bunheads”.

Kamala Harris – First African American Vice President, 2020, also in 2017 she had become California’s first African American Senator

On January 10, 2022 the Maya Angelou quarter was the first in the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarter’s Program which includes coins featuring prominent women in U.S. history.

On April 11, 2022, The U.S. Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you know of any other Black Female Firsts, please send it to us at .

Black History Month - National Women's History Alliance (2024)
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