28 People in Black History That You Should Know

February is Black History Month. Every day, we will showcase a prominent figure in Black history.

February is Black History Month. Every day, we will showcase a prominent figure in Black history.

 

1.  Herb Jeffries

Herb Jeffries was a jazz and popular singer and actor. He is noted for being the first black man to star in an American western. He starred as a singing cowboy in several all-black Western films, in which he sang his own western compositions. Jeffries obtained financing for the first black western film.

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2. Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Charlayne Hunter was one of the first two African American students to enroll in the University of Georgia. Upon her graduation in 1963, she became the university's first black graduate.

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3. Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham was a dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator, and activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and has been called the "matriarch and queen mother of black dance."

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4. Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla is a professional ice hockey player. A six-time NHL All-Star, he is the Calgary Flames' all-time leader in goals, points, and games played. Named the Flames captain at the start of the 2003–04 season, Iginla was the first black captain in NHL history.

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5. Donyale Luna

Donyale Luna was a model and actress. In 1966, Luna became the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue. She also appeared in several underground films by Andy Warhol, and most notably played the role of Enotea in the 1969 Federico Fellini film Fellini Satyricon.

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6. Sherian Cadoria

Sherian Cadoria was the first black female to achieve General rank in the Army, and was the highest ranking female when she retired in 1990

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7. Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor who worked for most of her career in Rome, Italy. She was the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to achieve international fame and recognition as a sculptor in the fine arts world. 

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8. Kevin Krigger

Kevin Krigger is a professional jockey. Of the estimated 1,000 jockeys competing around the country, only 5 percent are African-American. In 2012, Krigger became the second black jockey since 1921 to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

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9. Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard Daly was a biochemist. She was the first Black American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry (awarded by Columbia University in 1947).

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10. Shani Davis

Shani Davis is a speed skater. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Davis became the first black athlete to win a gold medal in an individual Winter Games sport.

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11. Mae Jemison

 

Mae Jemison is a physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. 

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12. Alice Marie Coachman

Alice Marie Coachman was an athlete. She specialized in high jump and was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

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13. Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She also was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. For the film Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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14. Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair was an American physicist and NASA astronaut. He was the second African American to fly in space. McNair died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51-L, where he was serving as the Mission Specialist.

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15. Barbara Ross-Lee

Barbara Ross-Lee was the first African American woman to be appointed dean of an American medical school. She is the sister of singer Diana Ross.

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16. Rachel Pruden Herndon

The first African American woman to pass the Georgia Bar, Rachel Pruden Herndon became the first African-American woman to serve as judge in the Atlanta Municipal Court in 1965.

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17. Leah Ward Sears

Leah Ward Sears is an American jurist and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Sears was the first African-American female Chief Justice in the United States. When she was first appointed as justice in 1992 by Governor Zell Miller, she became the first woman and youngest person to sit on Georgia's Supreme Court.

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18. Eliza Ann Grier

Despite being an emancipated slave with little money or education, Dr. Eliza Ann Grier went to a leading medical school, and became the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in Georgia.

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19. Alonzo Herndon

Alonzo Herndon was an entrepreneur and businessman, one of the first African American millionaires, and the founder and president of one of the country's most prominent African-American businesses, the Atlanta Family Life Insurance Company (Atlanta Life).

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20. Hiram Rhodes Revels

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the Senate to represent Mississippi during the Reconstruction era.

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21. Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas is a gymnast. As a member of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, she won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions. 

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22. Alfred L. Cralle

Alfred L. Cralle was an African-American businessman who received a patent for the "Ice Cream Mold and Disher," a type of ice cream scoop with a built-in scraper.

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23. Wendell Scott

Wendell Scott was an American stock car racing driver. He was the first African-American driver in NASCAR, and the first African-American to win a race in the Grand National Series, NASCAR's highest level.

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24. Esther Jones

While there has been controversy over the years, the inspiration for the cartoon character "Betty Boop" has been traced back to Esther Jones, who was known as “Baby Esther” and performed regularly in the Cotton Club during the 1920s.

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25. Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone was an inventor who obtained patent rights for her improvements to the ironing board. Boone's ironing board was designed to improve the quality of ironing sleeves and the bodies of women's garments. 

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26. Bill Russell

Bill Russell is a retired pro basketball player for the Boston Celtics, a 5-time NBA MVP, and a 12-time All-Star, Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA Championships during Russell's thirteen-year career.

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27. Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan was an inventor and community leader. He was the subject of a newspaper feature in Cleveland, Ohio, for a heroic rescue in 1916 of workers trapped within a water intake tunnel, 50 feet beneath Lake Erie. He performed his rescue using a hood fashioned to protect his eyes from smoke and featuring a series of air tubes that hung near the ground to draw clean air beneath the rising smoke. This enabled Morgan to lengthen his ability to endure the inhospitable conditions of a smoke-filled room.

Morgan also received a patent for his three-position traffic signal. It wasn't the first traffic signal, but it was an important innovation nonetheless. By having a third position besides just "Stop" and "Go," it regulated crossing vehicles more safely than earlier signals had.

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28. Thomas Dorsey

Thomas Dorsey is known as the father of gospel music. In 2002, the Library of Congress honored his album Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey, by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry.

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