Beyond Black History Month Event Speakers & Suggestions  Links for Teachers & Kids Books and Shopping History of Blacks BEFORE Slavery Black History Month 2006

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Mary McCleod Bethune


Shirley Chisholm


The first Black woman college graduate was Mary Jane Patterson, who received a degree from Oberlin College in 1862.

The first Black woman awarded a Ph.D. degree was Sadie M. Alexander, who received a degree in economics in 1921 from the University of Pennsylvania.  Two other Black women received Ph.D. degrees in the same year:  Eva B. Dykes, English, Radcliffe and Georgianna R. Simpson, German, the University of Chicago.

The first Black woman lawyer was Charlotte E. Ray, who was graduated from Howard University Law School on February 27, 1872.  She was admitted to practice on April 23, 1872.  In 1910 there were 777 Black male lawyers and 2 Black women lawyers.

The first Black woman doctors were Rebecca Cole, who practiced in New York from 1872 to 1881.  Susan McKinney, who graduated from the New York Medical College in 1870, and Rebecca Lee, who received an M.D. degree from the New England Female Medical College, Boston, on March 1, 1864.

The first Black woman to receive a major appointment from the U.S. government was Mary McLeod Bethune, who was named Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration on June 24, 1936.

The first Black woman named to the cabinet of a U.S. president was Patricia R. Harris, who was named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

The first Black woman ambassador was Patricia R. Harris, who was named ambassador to Luxembourg on May 19, 1965, by President Johnson.

The first Black woman in Congress was Rep. Shirley Chisholm, who was elected to the 91st Congress from Brooklyn on November 5, 1968.

The first Black woman general was Hazel Johnson, who was appointed on September 1, 1979.

The first Black judge was Jane Matilda Bolin, who was appointed judge of the court of domestic relations of New York City by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on July 22, 1939.

The first Black woman to write a Broadway play was Lorraine Hansberry, who created Raisin In the Sun, which opened at the Barrymore Theater on March 11, 1959, with Sidney Potier and Claudia McNeil in starring roles.  Raisin was also the first Broadway drama in more than a half century with a Black director, Lloyd Richards.

The first Black woman to head a bank was Maggie Lena Walker, who was named president of Richmond's St. Luke Bank and Trust Company in 1903.

The first Black woman nominated for president of the U.S. was Rep. Shirly Chisholm, who received 151.95 votes on the first ballot at the 1972 Democratic convention.

The first Black woman to win a gold medal in the Olympics was Alice Coachman of Albany State Teachers College, who won the running high jump in the 1948 games London.


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