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List of African-American U.S. state firsts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

African Americans are a demographic minority in the United States. African-Americans' initial achievements in various fields historically establish a foothold, providing a precedent for more widespread cultural change. The shorthand phrase for this is "breaking the color barrier."[1][2]

In addition to major, national- and international-level firsts, African-Americans have achieved firsts on a statewide basis.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • America in World War I: Crash Course US History #30
  • First Blacks in Government
  • Black Women in American Culture and History
  • TCU - African American Firsts
  • A Compelling Social History of Women in America: The Famous and the Obscure (2003)


Episode 30: America and World War I Hi I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S. history and today we’re finally going to make the military history buffs happy. That’s right, today we’re going to talk about how the United States with its superior technology, innovative tactics and remarkable generalship turned the tide of World War I. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Finally. I’ve been waiting for months to learn about tanks and airplanes and Ernest Hemingway. Well that’s a shame, Me from the Past, because I was kidding about this being an episode full of military details. But I do promise that we will mention Ernest Hemingway. And in a few weeks I will tell you about how he liberated the martinis of Paris. intro Americans were only involved in the Great War for 19 months and, compared with the other belligerents, we didn’t do much fighting. Still, the war had profound effects on America at home, on its place in the world and it also resulted in an amazing number of war memorials right here in Indianapolis. So, The Great War, which lasted from 1914 until 1918, and featured a lot of men with hats and rifles, cost the lives of an estimated 10 million soldiers. Also the whole thing was kind of horrible and pointless, unless you love art and literature about how horrible and pointless World War I was in which case, it was a real bonanza. So, when the war broke out, America remained neutral, because we were a little bit isolationist owing to the fact that we were led, of course, by President Wilson. But many Americans sided with the British because by 1914 we’d pretty much forgotten about all the bad parts of British rule, like all that tea and monarchy. Plus, they’re so easy to talk to with their English. But there were a significant number of Progressives who worried that involvement in the war would get in the way of social reforms at home. In fact, Wilson courted these groups in the 1916 presidential campaign running on the slogan “He kept us out of War.” And will continue to keep us out of war until we reelect him and then he gets us into war. But, for that slogan to make sense, there had to have been some way in which war was avoided, which brings me to one of the classic errors made by American history students. What? I haven’t even said anything yet. But you were about to, Me From the Past, because if I had asked you what event led the U.S. to enter World War I, you would have surely told me that it was the sinking of the cruise ship Lusitania by German submarines. 124 American passengers died when the ship, which had been carrying arms and also guns, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland. Even though Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had warned Americans not to travel on British, French, or German ships, Wilson refused to ban such travel because, you know: freedom. Bryan promptly resigned. So how do I know it wasn’t the immediate cause of our involvement in the war? Because the United States declared war on Germany and the Central powers on April 2, 1917, almost two years after the sinking of the Lusitania. So why did the United States declare war for only the fourth time in its history? Was it the Germans’ decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917? Was it the interception and publication of the Zimmerman Telegram in which the German Foreign Secretary promised to help Mexico get back California if they joined Germany in a war against the U.S? Or was it the fall of the Tsarist regime in Russia, which made Wilson’s claims that he wanted to fight to make the world safe for democracy a bit more plausible? Yes, yes, and yes. Also there was our inclination to help Britain, to whom we had loaned a $2 billion. That’s the thing about wars. They never start for easy, simple reasons like Lusitania sinkings. Stupid truth, always resisting simplicity. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are simple. I guess the author of the mystery document. I’m either right or I get shocked I. [or possibly “one”] Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view. II. [I’m starting to think these are Roman numerals] Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for it’s maintenance. [And] XIV. [I’m going to guess we skipped some.] A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity of great and small states alike. Stan, thank you for throwing me a softball. That’s my favorite kind of ball. Other than you, Wilson. With its mention of self-determination, freedom of the seas, open diplomacy, and liberal use of Roman numerals, I know it is Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Our second consecutive Woodrow Wilson week and my second consecutive non-shock. Given all of his quasi-imperialism, there’s something a little bit ideologically inconsistent about Wilson, but his Fourteen Points are pretty admirable as a statement of purpose. Most of them deal specifically with colonial possessions, and were pretty much ignored, but I suppose if we have learned anything, it’s that in American history, it’s the thought that counts. [Libertage] America’s primary contribution to the Entente powers winning the war was economic as we sent all sorts of arms and money “over there.” Troops didn’t arrive until the spring of 1918 and eventually over 1 million American doughboys served under General John J. Pershing. Not all of these people saw combat. They were much more likely to die of flu than bullet wounds, but their sheer numbers were enough to force the defeat of the exhausted Germans. And now, as promised, I will mention Ernest Hemingway. He served as an ambulance driver, which gave him a close up view of death and misery and led to his membership in the so called Lost Generation of writers who lived in Paris in the 1920s and tried to make sense of everything. Turns out, it’s pretty hard to make sense of and you’re just going to end up with a lot of six-toed cats and then eventually suicide. Okay, so I said earlier than a lot of American Progressives were anti-war, but certainly not all of them. Like, according to Randolph Bourne, “War is the health of the state.” And for progressives like him, “the war offered the possibility of reforming American society along scientific lines, instilling a sense of national unity and self-sacrifice, and expanding social justice.” Let’s go to the ThoughtBubble. World War I made the national government much more powerful than it had ever been. Like, in May of 1917, Congress passed the selective service act, which required 24 million men to register for the draft and eventually increased the size of the army from 120,000 to 5 million. The government also commandeered control of much of the economy to get the country ready to fight, creating new agencies to regulate industry, transportation, labor relations, and agriculture. The War Industries Board took charge of all elements of wartime production setting quotas and prices and establishing standardized specification for almost everything, even down to the color of shoes. The Railroad Administration administered transportation, and the Fuel Agency rationed coal and oil. This regulation sometimes brought about some of the progressives’ goals. Like, the War Labor Board, for instance, pushed for a minimum wage, eight hour days and the rights of workers to form unions. Wages rose substantially in the era, working conditions improved and union membership skyrocketed. But then so did taxes, and the wealthiest Americans ended up on the hook for 60% of their income. Also, in World War I as never before, the government used its power to shape public opinion. In 1917 the Wilson administration created the Committee on Public Information, which only sounds like it’s from an Orwell novel. Headed by George Creel, the CPI’s team created a wave of propaganda to get Americans to support the war, printing pamphlets, making posters and advertising in swanky motion pictures. The best known strategies were the speeches of 75,000 four minute men, who in that amount of time delivered messages of support for the war in theaters, schools, and other public venues. The key concepts in the CPI propaganda effort were democracy and freedom. “Creel believed that the war would accelerate movement towards solving the “age old problems of poverty, inequality, oppression, and unhappiness,” because, obviously, war is the most effective antidepressant. Thanks, Thoughtbubble. So the aforementioned Randolph Bourne might have had good things so say about war, but he was also correct when he suggested that the war would encourage and empower the “least democratic forces in American life.” World War I may have been a war to make the world safe for democracy but according to one historian “the war inaugurated the most intense repression of civil liberties the nation has ever known.” War suppressing civil liberties, eh? I’m glad those days have passed. Speaking of the repression of civil liberties, the NSA is about to start watching this video because I’m about to use the word “espionage.” The Espionage act of 1917 prohibited spying, interfering with the draft and “false statements” that might impede military success. Even more troubling was the Sedition Act passed in 1918, which criminalized statements that were intended to cast “contempt, scorn or disrepute” on our form of government or that advocated interference with the war effort. So basically these laws made it a crime to criticize either the war or the government. In fact, Eugene Debs, the Socialist who ran for president in 1912, was one of those convicted for giving an anti-war speech. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and he served three of them, but he ran for president from prison and got 900,000 votes. Fortunately, thanks to checks and balances, you can turn to the courts. Unfortunately, they weren’t very helpful. Like in Schenck v. the U.S., the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a guy named Schenck for encouraging people to avoid the draft and ruled that the government can punish critical speech when it presents a “clear and present danger,” to the state and its citizens. This was when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes introduced the famous exception to free speech, that it is not okay to “shout fire in a crowded theater.” Nor apparently is it okay to shout, “We shouldn’t be in this war, I don’t think. Just my opinion.” But, some went even further. The 250,000 strong American Protective League helped the Justice Department identify radicals by harassing people in what were called “slacker raids.” Good thing those stopped before you got to high school, right Me from the Past? Slacker. In Bisbee, Arizona vigilantes went so far to put striking copper miners in boxcars, shipped them out to the middle of the desert and left them there. The war also raised the question of what it meant to be a ‘real American.’ Like, public schools “Americanized” immigrants and sought to “implant in their children, so far as can be done, the Anglo-Saxon conceptions of righteousness, law and order, and popular government.” Many cities sponsored Americanization pageants, especially around the Fourth of July, which the CPI in 1918 re-christened “Loyalty Day”. Hamburgers, a German word, became liberty sandwiches. World War I certainly didn’t create anti-immigrant feeling in the United States, but it was used to justify it. Like, IQ tests, introduced to screen army applicants, were soon used to argue that certain immigrant groups were inferior to white protestants and could never be fully assimilated into the United States. Now, of course, those tests were tremendously biased, but no matter. But, to return to the questions of dissent and free speech, the suppression continued after the war with the 1919 Palmer Raids, for instance, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and headed up by a young J. Edgar Hoover. To be fair, someone did try to blow up Palmer. So there was some dissent related to the suppression of dissent. Also, more than 4 million workers engaged in strikes in the United States in 1919 but that didn’t legally justify the arrest of more than 5,000 suspected radicals and labor organizers. Most of them were arrested without warrants and held without charge, sometimes for months. And it’s difficult to imagine that all of this would have happened without the heightened sense of patriotism that always accompanies war. However, there were a handful of good things to come out of the Great War, and not just the stylings of Irving Berlin. Like, students are often taught that the war led directly to the passage of the 19th amendment, although a number of states had actually granted the franchise to women before the war. In Montana, for instance, women didn’t just vote, they held office. Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin voted against the declaration of war in 1917, and was the only member of the House to vote against the declaration of war against Japan in 1941. New opportunities in wartime industry also provided incentives for African Americans to move north, thus beginning the so-called great migration and the growth of black populations in northern cities like Chicago and New York. The biggest gain was in Detroit where between 1910 and 1920 the black population rose from 5,741 to 40,838, a 611% increase. So it’s true that World War I provided some new opportunities for African Americans and women, but if World War I was supposed to be an opportunity for America to impose its progressive ideas on the rest of the world, it failed. The Versailles peace conference where Wilson tried to implement his 14 Points raised hope for a new diplomatic order. But, the results of the treaty made the 14 points look hypocritical. I mean, especially when Britain and France took control of Germany’s former colonies and carved up the Arabian provinces of the Ottoman Empire into new spheres of influence. Wilson’s dream of a League of Nations was realized, but the U.S. never joined it largely because Congress was nervous about giving up its sovereign power to declare war. And disappointment over the outcome of World War I led the U.S. to, for the most part, retreat into isolationism until World War II. And therein lies the ultimate failure of World War I. It’s not called “The World War,” it’s called “World War I,” because then we had to go and have a freaking other one. We’ll talk about that in a few weeks, but next week we get to talk about suffrage. Yes! We finally did something right. I’ll see you then. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Rojas, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. Every week, there’s a new caption for the Libertage. If you’d like to suggest one, you can do so in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. Stan, can you do some movie magic to get me out of here? Perfect.


19th century

  • 1868
First elected African-American lieutenant governor: Oscar Dunn, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
First 33 African-American legislators in Georgia: see Original 33
  • 1870
May: First African-American acting governor: Oscar James Dunn of Louisiana from May till August 9, 1871, when sitting Governor Warmoth was incapacitated and chose to recuperate in Mississippi. (See also: Douglas Wilder, 1990)
  • 1872
First African-American governor of Louisiana: P. B. S. Pinchback (Also first in U.S.) (Non-elected; see also Douglas Wilder, 1990)
  • 1873
First African-American Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, and of any state legislature: John R. Lynch
First African American elected to the Tennessee General Assembly: Sampson W. Keeble
  • 1876
First African American elected to the Illinois General Assembly: John W. E. Thomas
  • 1879
First African American elected to the Wyoming Legislature: William Jefferson Hardin
  • 1880
First African-American elected to the Indiana general assembly: James Sidney Hinton[3][4]
  • 1889
First African-American female principal in Massachusetts and the Northeast: Maria Louise Baldwin, supervising white faculty and a predominantly white student body at the Agassiz Grammar School in Cambridge (renamed the Maria L. Baldwin School in 2004).[5][6]
  • 1893
First African-American member elected to the Michigan House of Representatives: William Webb Ferguson
  • 1898
First African-American member elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives: John Francis Wheaton[7]

20th century

  • 1918
First African-American elected to political office in California: Frederick Madison Roberts, California State Assembly
  • 1920
First African-American elected to the Missouri legislature: Walthall Moore
  • 1924
First African-American elected to the Illinois Senate: Adelbert Roberts
  • 1930
First African Americans elected as judges in the state of New York: James S. Watson and Charles E. Toney[citation needed]
  • 1938
First African-American woman to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and to any state legislature: Crystal Bird Fauset
  • 1950
First African-American woman to be elected to the West Virginia Legislature: Elizabeth Simpson Drewry
First African-American woman to be elected to the Michigan Legislature: Charline White
  • 1955
First African-American woman elected to the New York State Legislature: Bessie A. Buchanan
First African-American elected to the Maryland State Senate: Harry A. Cole
  • 1957
First African-American woman elected to the New Jersey Legislature: Madaline A. Williams
  • 1958
First African-American women elected to the Maryland General Assembly: Verda F. Welcome and Irma George Dixon
First African-American woman elected to the Illinois General Assembly: Floy Clements
  • 1962
First African-American attorney general of Massachusetts: Edward Brooke. Also first African American to hold Massachusetts statewide office, and first African-American attorney general of any state.
  • 1964
First African-American woman elected to the Indiana Legislature: Daisy Riley Lloyd
First African-American woman elected to the New York State Senate: Constance Baker Motley
  • 1966
First African-American woman elected to the Texas Legislature: Barbara Jordan
First African American known lesbian state legislator: Barbara Jordan
First African-American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly: Grace Towns Hamilton
First African-American appointed to New York State Board of Regents: Kenneth Bancroft Clark
First African-American senator from Massachusetts: Edward Brooke. (Also first post-Reconstruction African American elected to the U.S. Senate and first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote).
First African-American woman in the California Legislature: Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
First African-American woman elected to the Tennessee General Assembly: Dorothy Lavinia Brown
First African-American woman elected to the Arizona Legislature: Ethel Maynard
  • 1967
First African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar: Marian Wright Edelman
First African-American woman elected to the Montana Legislature: Geraldine W. Travis
  • 1969
First African-American elected mayor of a Mississippi city since Reconstruction: Charles Evers, in Fayette, Mississippi[8]
  • 1970
First African-American woman elected to the Florida Legislature: Gwen Cherry
  • 1971
First African-American woman elected to the Washington Legislature: Peggy Maxie
  • 1973
First African-American woman elected to the Massachusetts General Court: Doris Bunte
First African-American woman elected to the Connecticut General Assembly: Margaret Morton
  • 1975
First African-American woman elected to the South Carolina Legislature: Juanita Goggins
  • 1977
First African-American to serve on the California Supreme Court: Wiley W. Manuel
First African-American speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and of any state legislature in the United States since Reconstruction: K. Leroy Irvis
First African-American woman elected to the Wisconsin Legislature: Marcia Coggs
First African-American woman elected to the Illinois Senate: Earlene Collins
  • 1978
First African-American woman elected to the Ohio Legislature: Helen Rankin
  • 1979
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Illinois: Roland Burris, office of Comptroller
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Wisconsin: Vel Phillips, office of Secretary of State
  • 1980
First African-American speaker of the California State Assembly: Willie Lewis Brown, Jr.
  • 1981
First African-American woman elected to the Arkansas General Assembly: Irma Hunter Brown
First African-American elected to the Utah Senate: Terry Williams
  • 1984
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Georgia: Robert Benham, Supreme Court of Georgia
First African-American woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly: Yvonne B. Miller
  • 1985
First African-American woman to be elected to the Mississippi Legislature: Alyce Clarke
First African-American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature: Margaret Carter
  • 1988
First African-American elected to the Wyoming Legislature: Harriet Elizabeth Byrd
  • 1990
First African-American governor of Virginia: Douglas Wilder (Also first elected governor in US; see also P. B. S. Pinchback, 1872)
  • 1992
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Indiana: Pamela Carter, office of Attorney General
First African-American Minnesota Supreme Court justice: Alan Page
  • 1993
First African-American senator from Illinois: Carol Moseley Braun. (Also first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate, the first African-American U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party, the first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in an election, and the first female Senator from Illinois).
  • 1994
First African-American woman elected to the Nevada Legislature: Bernice Mathews
  • 1996
First African-American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature: Avel Gordly
  • 1998
First African-American woman elected State Treasurer and first African-American woman elected statewide in Connecticut: Denise Nappier[9]
First African-American elected to office of Attorney General Georgia: Thurbert E. Baker,

21st century

  • 2001
First African-American woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature: Neva Walker
  • 2002
First African-American lieutenant governor of Maryland and first elected to statewide office in Maryland: Michael Steele (See also: 2009)
  • 2004
First African-American Oklahoma Supreme Court justice: Tom Colbert
First African-American Wisconsin Supreme Court justice: Louis B. Butler
First African-American Auditor of Accounts of Vermont and first elected to statewide office in Vermont: Randy Brock
  • 2006
First African-American elected governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick
First African-American lieutenant governor of New York: David Paterson
  • 2008
First African-American woman elected Speaker of the California State Assembly: Karen Bass
First African-American governor of New York State: David Paterson (elected as lieutenant governor, succeeded on resignation of previous governor)
First African-American women elected to the Nebraska Legislature: Tanya Cook and Brenda Council
  • 2009
First bicameral state legislature to have both chambers headed simultaneously by African Americans: Peter Groff and Terrance Carroll of Colorado.
  • 2010
First African-American attorney general of California: Kamala Harris
First African-American Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Roderick L. Ireland
First African-American elected to the Idaho Legislature: Cherie Buckner-Webb
  • 2012
First African-American elected to the Idaho Senate: Cherie Buckner-Webb
  • 2013
First African-American senator from South Carolina: Tim Scott[10] (Also the first African-American to serve both houses of the U.S. Congress.)
First African-American woman to be appointed to a seat on the New York Court of Appeals: Sheila Abdus-Salaam.
  • 2014
First African-American senator elected from the South since Reconstruction: Tim Scott [11]
  • 2015
First African-American elected Speaker of the New York State Assembly: Carl Heastie[12]
First African-American Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky and first elected to statewide office in Kentucky: Jenean Hampton [13][14]
First African-American woman elected to the Utah Legislature: Sandra Hollins
  • 2017
First African-American elected lieutenant governor of New Jersey: Sheila Oliver[15]
First African-American male to female transwoman to be elected to public office in the United States: Andrea Jenkins
First African-American mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota: Melvin Carter
  • 2018
First female African-American major-party candidate for governor: Stacey Abrams, Georgia
First African-American elected lieutenant governor of Illinois: Juliana Stratton

See also


  1. ^ Juguo, Zhang. W. E. B. Du Bois: The Quest for the Abolition of the Color Line, Routledge, 2001 - ISBN 0-415-93087-1
  2. ^ Herbst, Philip H. The Color of Words: an encyclopaedic dictionary of ethnic bias in the United States, Intercultural Press, p. 57, 1997 - ISBN 1-877864-97-8
  3. ^ Gregg, John. "Standing with Black trailblazer James S. Hinton". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  4. ^ Indiana Black History Public Art Legacy Project Archived 2013-03-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Vogel, Nathaniel (April 2002). "The Mismeasure of Maria Baldwin". Peacework Magazine. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  6. ^ Dorgan, Lauren R. (May 22, 2002). "Committee Renames Local Agassiz School". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Wheaton, John Frances  "Frank, J. Frank", Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, Accessed October 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Neil R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow, Chicago: University of Illinois, 1990, p.26
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  10. ^ "Tim Scott's swearing-in as senator caps his historic rise". McClatchy Newspapers. January 4, 2013. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  11. ^ "Political firsts: How history was made this midterm election". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  12. ^ "New York State Assembly -  Carl E. Heastie". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  13. ^ Phillips, Amber (4 November 2015). "Meet Jenean Hampton, the first black statewide officeholder in Kentucky. And, she's a Republican". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  14. ^ Fund, John (November 3, 2015). "Kentucky's New GOP Lt. Gov. Is Black Tea-Party Activist". National Review. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  15. ^ Sheila Oliver becomes New Jersey's first Black lieutenant governor, New York Amsterdam News (November 8, 2017).
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