Activist and politician, Unita Blackwell became the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of Mississippi.
Politician, Senator, lawyer, educator. Born Carol Elizabeth Moseley on August 16, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. A leading African American political figure, Moseley Braun's career has been marked by great successes and missteps.
In 1966, Edward Brooke became the first African-American to be elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.
Willie Brown served as speaker of the California State Assembly for 30 years before becoming the first African-American mayor of San Francisco..
B.K. Bruce served on the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1881, making him the first African-American senator to serve a full term.
Diplomat, statesman. Born Ralph Johnson Bunche on August 7, 1904 in Detroit, Michigan. He worked his way through college and then travelled, taught at Howard University (1928-41), and wrote A World View of Race (1937).
US representative and social activist. Born Shirley St. Hill on November 30, 1924 in New York City.
Attorney. Born Johnnie Cochran Jr., on October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the great-grandson of an African-American slave. He grew up in a stable and prosperous family, with a father and mother who stressed education, independence, and a color-blind attitude.
U.S. Army general, soldier. Born on July 1, 1877, in Washington, D.C. Breaking new ground, Davis became the first African American general in the United States Army.
Entrepreneur, businesswoman. At Motown Records de Passé is credited in part for the discovery of The Jackson 5. Now CEO of her own television production company, and, she became the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for screen writing.
Oscar Stanton De Priest's appointment to the House of Representatives made him the first African-American to be elected to Congress in the 20th century.
Politician David Dinkins was the first African-American mayor of New York City from 1990-1994.
Entreprenuer. Gordy founded the Motown Record Corporation (1959), the most successful black-owned music company in the United States, where he developed the careers of many great performers of the 1960s and 70s, including Diana Ross the Supremes, and Michael Jackson.
Cabinet member, former U.S. ambassador to Luxebourg, politician, lawyer, educator. Born Patricia Roberts on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois.
Judge, lawyer, political advisor. Eric Holder was named U.S. Attorney General in 2009 becoming the first African-American to hold this position.
Civil rights activist, politician. Holmes used the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to fight for women's rights. She became the first female Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in 1977.
African-American lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston played a significant role in the civil rights movement, aiding the NAACP with disseminating the Jim Crow laws.
Civil rights activist, Baptist minister, and presidential candidate, born October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.
Born February 8, 1962, Lisa Jackson serves as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the first African-American descent to do so.
Aviator, U.S. Air Force general. Born on February 11, 1920, in Pensacola, Florida.
Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET, became the first black woman to partner in three professional sports franchises: the NBA, WNBA and the NHL.
American lawyer, educator, and politician who served as U.S. congressional representative from Texas (1972-78).
Sharon Pratt Kelly is the only African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major American city when she was elected to the post in Washington D.C.
An American politician, Alan Keyes served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Organization Affairs from 1985 to 1987.
African-American politician and lawyer Edward T. Lewis served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1865 to 1867.
Supreme Court judge, civil rights advocate. Born Thoroughgood Marshall on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. The great-grandson of a slave, he graduated as valedictorian from Howard University Law School (1933) and soon began to represent civil-rights activists.
Former President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
US representative. Born December 22, 1883 near Lafayette, Alabama. Mitchell grew up on a farm and went to Tuskegee Institute in 1897 to work as an office boy for Booker T Washington.
Lawyer and judge, born in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Barack Hussein Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya. He grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British.
Politician David Paterson is the first African-American governor of the state of New York.
Public official and pastor who became a prominent liberal legislator and civil-rights leader. During his tenure in the House of Representatives, he played a leading role in the passage of nearly 50 major pieces of social legislation.
Born Colin Luther Powell on April 5, 1937 in New York City. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was raised in the South Bronx and graduated from the City College of New York.
One of the most prominent politicians in Harlem, Charles Rangel was a founding member of the Congressional Black Congress and is currently serving his 19th term in the House of Representatives.
Charlotte E. Ray became the first woman to become a lawyer, graduating in 1872 from Howard University School of Law.
Protestant minister, US senator, educator. Born c. 1883 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Academic, Republican politician. Born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. The only child of a Presbyterian minister and a teacher, Rice grew up surrounded by racism in the segregated South.
Foreign policy advisor, Susan Rice became the first African-American woman to become a United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Social and political activist, religious leader. Born Alfred Charles Sharpton, Jr., on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York.
Entrepreneur, model. Simmons serves as president and creative director for Phat Fashions, which includes the popular Baby Phat and Phat Farm clothing lines.
Entrepreneur. In 1984, he and partner Rick Rubin founded Def Jam Recordings, creating the foundations for hip-hop and signing hip-hop pioneers including the LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C. His Def Comedy Jam also launched the careers of aspiring comedians.
Lawyer, businessman, civil rights activist. Percy Sutton represented Malcolm X, was a Manhattan borough president, and was responsible for the renovation of the landmark Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also invested in media companies such as WLIB, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York.
Judge. Born June 23, 1948 near Savannah, Georgia. Shaped by his poor-but-proud family and his Catholic schooling, he went on to graduate from Holy Cross College and Yale Law School and to espouse conservative views on the situation of his fellow African-Americans.
Housing administrator, cabinet member. Born Robert Clifton Weaver on December 29, 1907 in Washington, D.C. Weaver received a doctorate from Harvard University in 1934 and served as a member of President Franklin Roosevelt's informal 'Black Cabinet' from 1933 to 1942.
Politician. Born Lawrence Douglas Wilder on January 17, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. The grandson of slaves, Wilder attended racially segregated elementary and high schools and graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951.
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