Black History Month Facts - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Black History Month Facts

They called her 'Black Swan'. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, the first African-American concert singer, gave a command performance before Queen Victoria in 1853.

Thomas Jennings invented the dry-cleaning process and he was the first African-American to receive a patent for his invention.

In 1781, Los Angeles was the first major city founded with a majority black population. More than the half the founding families were African-American.

Benjamin Banneker, an African-American, helped build our nations' capitol... reproducing survey plans from memory in just two days.

In 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Celebrated civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The year? 1967.

In 1923 African-American Garret Morgan invented the first automatic traffic signal... paving the way for millions of traffic lights at intersections.

Alex Haley was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for his novel 'Roots'. The book was translated into 30 languages and became one of the most watched television events.

The first self-made woman millionaire in the country was Indianapolis's own Madame C.J. Walker. She designed hair care products for African-American women.

Frederick Douglass, abolitionist leader and journalist, was the first African-American nominated as a Vice Presidential candidate. The year? 1872.

In 1916, African-American inventor Garrett Morgan made national news when his gas masks saved the lives of workers trapped in a smoke-filled tunnel beneath Lake Erie.

Alice Walker was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer prize for fiction. Her novel, The Color Purple, was also an Oscar-nominated movie.

Myra Selby served as an associate justice on the Indiana Supreme Court in the 1990's. She was the first woman and the first African-American to sit on the bench of the state's highest court.

Lena Horne was the first African-American woman to sign a movie contract with a major studio, MGM, but her films were shot so that her scenes could be cut out before being show in the south.

Who was the nation's first African-American billionaire? Robert Johnson, founder of B-E-T, the nation's first and largest black-oriented cable network.

Carl Burton Stokes made history in 1967 when he won the race for mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. He became the first African-American to run a major city.

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth successfully led the fight to allow blacks to ride on streetcars in Washington D.C. in the 1860s and she was received at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln.

The first African-American awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was Ralph Bunche for his peace efforts in the Middle East. The year? 1950.

The first African-American to win an Oscar for a starring role was Sidney Poitier for his role in the movie, 'Lilies of the Field' in 1963.

An African-American invented the electric lamp. Born to fugitive slaves, Lewis Latimer was an 'Edison Pioneer' -- working for Thomas Edison.

James Hinton was the first African-American elected to Indiana's House of Representatives. The year? 1880.

'The fastest bicycle rider in the world', Marshall ‘Major' Taylor, was often a victim of racism in the 1800's. But this Indianapolis native prevailed and became America's top bicycle sprinter. The Major Taylor Velodrome in Indy is named in his honor.

An African-American physician, Dr. Daniel Williams, performed the first open heart surgery in America. The technique amazed the medical world in 1893.

Who was the first African-American woman to launch into space? Astronaut Mae C. Jemison aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.

Indianapolis native Wes Montgomery earned national acclaim as a jazz guitarist and won a Grammy in 1966 for the album 'Going out of my Head.'

Pamela Carter was the first African-American woman in Indiana and the nation to hold the office of State Attorney General. The year? 1992.

U.S. Representative Julia Carson was the first woman and the first African-American that Indianapolis has ever sent to congress.

In 1958, Mercer Mance, Marion County superior court judge, became the first African-American elected to a court in Indiana.

Civil rights activist Henry Richardson, Jr. was Indiana`s first African American judge and one of the first African American legislators in the twentieth Century.  He also founded the Indianapolis Urban League.

Tanya Walton Pratt became the first African American federal judge in Indiana history in 2010. President Obama appointed her to preside over the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.

House Representative Bill Crawford was the first African American head of the House Ways and Means Committee in Indiana, with responsibility for formulating the state`s budget.

More than 1,500 black Hoosiers fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. About 250 of them are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, where they are remembered in an annual ceremony.

Hoosier native and Crispus Attucks High School graduate Harry W. Brooks became the first African American Army General from Indiana in 1974, and the 6th African-American in United States history to hold that post.

In 1881, James Sidney Hinton became the first African American to be elected to the Indiana legislature. He was one of the four African Americans to hold public office in Indiana in the nineteenth century.

The Indianapolis Recorder is the nation`s fourth oldest African American newspaper dating back to 1895.  It continues to be a major voice for African Americans in Indiana and around the nation.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former Indiana Attorney General, became the first African American woman mayor in Gary history when she took office this year.

During the Civil War, the Bureau of Colored Troops recruited and trained African American soldiers into the Union Army.  The Indiana regiment became the 28th U.S. Colored Troops.

In the 1930s and `40s, Indiana Avenue was the Broadway of black Indianapolis. Some of the great jazz musicians got their start on The Avenue, including Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Coe and more.

George Branham III (third) was the first African American to win a PBA tour title as well as win the Tournament of Champions, the professional bowling`s most prestigious title.  He lived in Indianapolis in the late 1980s.

Willis Revels was pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis in 1860s.  He was an advocate for the 28th U.S. Colored Troops, the Indiana regiment in the Union Army.  He also served as assistant surgeon with the regiment.

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