African-Americans are a demographic minority in the United States. This demographic has historically faced social and legal obstacles to cultural equality, including racial segregation.
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". One commonly cited example is that of Jackie Robinson, who became the first African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era, after years of resistance to Black players by Caucasian team-owners and the existence of the segregated Negro Leagues.
First Broadway musical written by African-Americans, and the first to star African-Americans: In Dahomey
First Greek-letter fraternal organization established by African Americans: Sigma Pi Phi
First intercollegiate Greek-letter organization established by African Americans: Alpha Phi Alpha
First African-American heavyweight boxing champion: Jack Johnson
First African-American Olympic gold medal winner: John Taylor (track and field medley relay team).
First intercollegiate Greek-letter sorority established by African Americans: Alpha Kappa Alpha
First African-American millionaire: Madame C. J. Walker
First African-American police officer in New York City: Samuel J. Battle, following the 1898 incorporation of the five boroughs into the city of New York, and the hiring of three African-American officers in the Brooklyn Police Department. Battle was also the NYPD's first African-American sergeant (1926), lieutenant (1935), and parole commissioner (1941).
First African-American NFL football players: Fritz Pollard (Akron Pros) and Bobby Marshall (Rock Island Independents )
First African-American woman to become a pilot, first American woman to hold an international pilot license: Bessie Coleman
First African-American NFL football coach: Fritz Pollard, co-head coach, Akron Pros, while continuing to play running back
First African-American to win individual Olympic gold medal: William DeHart Hubbard (Long jump, 1924 Summer Olympics, Paris).
First African-American Foreign Service Officer: Clifton R. Wharton, Sr.
First African-American woman to receive a degree (Ph.D.) from Yale University: Otelia Cromwell, who had previously been the first African-American graduate of Smith College.
First post-Reconstruction African-American elected to U.S. House of Representatives: Oscar Stanton De Priest (Republican; Illinois)
First African-American on a presidential ticket in the 20th century: James W. Ford (Communist Party USA, vice-presidential candidate running with William Z. Foster)
First African-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat: Arthur W. Mitchell (Illinois)
First known interracial jazz group: Benny Goodman Trio (Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa)
First African-American to conduct a major US orchestra: William Grant Still (Los Angeles Philharmonic)
First African-American federal magistrate: William Henry Hastie (later the first African-American governor of the United States Virgin Islands)
First African-American to win Academy Award: Hattie McDaniel (Best Supporting Actress, Gone with the Wind, 1939)
First African-American to be portrayed on a US. postage stamp: Booker T. Washington
First African-American U.S. Army general: Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.
First African-American to give a White House Command Performance: Josh White
First African-American commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy: The "Golden Thirteen"
First African-American member of the New York City Opera: Todd Duncan
First African-American U.S. Marine Corps officer: Frederick C. Branch
First African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era: Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn Dodgers).
First African-American male to receive an Academy Award: James Baskett (Honorary Academy Award for his portrayal of "Uncle Remus" in Song of the South, 1946)
First African-American U.S. Navy aviator: Jesse L. Brown
First African-American composer to have an opera performed by a major U.S. company: William Grant Still (Troubled Island, New York City Opera)
First African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal: Alice Coachman
First African-American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy: Wesley Brown
First African-American to hold rank of Ambassador of the United States: Edward R. Dudley, ambassador, and previously minister, to Liberia
First African-American to win Pulitzer Prize: Gwendolyn Brooks (Book of poetry, Annie Allen, 1949)
First African-American to win Nobel Peace Prize: Ralph Bunche
First African-American NBA basketball players: Earl Lloyd (Washington Capitols), Chuck Cooper (Boston Celtics), and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton (New York Knicks)
First African-American star of a network television show: Ethel Waters, Beulah
First African-American woman to compete on the world tennis tour: Althea Gibson
First African-American woman elected to a United States state senate: Cora Brown (Michigan)
First African-American basketball player to play in the NBA All-Star Game: Don Barksdale
First African-American US Navy Master Diver: Carl Brashear
First African-American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress: Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones, 1954).
First individual African-American subject on the cover of Life magazine: Dororthy Dandridge
First African-American member of the Metropolitan Opera: Marian Anderson
First African-American male dancer in a major ballet company: Arthur Mitchell (New York City Ballet; also first African-American principal dancer, 1956)
First African-American male star of a network television show: Nat King Cole, The Nat King Cole Show
First African-American Wimbledon tennis champion: Althea Gibson (doubles, with Englishwoman Angela Buxton); also first African-American to win a Grand Slam event (French Open).
First African-American assistant coach in the NFL: Lowell W. Perry
First African-American flight attendant: Ruth Carol Taylor (Mohawk Airlines)
First African-American coach in Major League Baseball: John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil (Chicago Cubs)
First African-American male professional wrestler to win a world heavyweight championship: Bobo Brazil (NWA)
First African-American bank examiner for the United States Department of the Treasury: Roland Burris
First movie with African-American interracial marriage: One Potato, Two Potato, actors Bernie Hamilton and Barbara Barrie, written by Orville H. Hampton, Raphael Hayes, directed by Larry Peerce
First African-American male to win the Academy Award for Best Actor: Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field, 1963)
First African-American title character of a comic book series: Lobo (Dell Comics).
First African-American star of a network television drama: Bill Cosby, I Spy (co-star with Robert Culp)
First African-American Playboy Playmate centerfold: Jennifer Jackson (March issue)
First African-American U.S. Air Force general: Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. (three-star lieutenant general)
First African-American female Ambassador of the United States: Patricia Roberts Harris, ambassador to Luxembourg
First African-American model on the cover of Vogue magazine: Donyale Luna
First post-Reconstruction African-American elected to the U.S. Senate (and first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote): Edward Brooke (Republican; Massachusetts)
First African-American Cabinet secretary: Robert C. Weaver (Department of Housing and Urban Development)
First African-American major league umpire: Emmett Ashford
First African-American NFL broadcaster: Lowell W. Perry (CBS, on Pittsburgh Steelers games)
First African-American mayor of a U.S. city: Robert C. Henry, (Springfield, Ohio)
First African-American mayor of a large U.S. city: Carl B. Stokes (Cleveland, Ohio)
First African-American appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States: Thurgood Marshall
First African-American selected for astronaut traning: Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.
First African-American to win a PGA Tour event: Charlie Sifford (1967 Greater Hartford Open Invitational)
First African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress: Shirley Chisholm
First African-American man to win a Grand Slam tennis event: Arthur Ashe (US Open)
First African-American to start at quarterback in the modern era of professional football: Marlin Briscoe (Denver Broncos, AFL).
First interracial kiss on U.S. television: Star Trek: "Plato's Stepchildren", actors William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, written by Meyer Dolinsky, directed by David Alexander.
First African-American commissioned officer awarded the Medal of Honor: Riley L. Pitts
First African-American superhero: The Falcon, Marvel Comics' Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969).
First African-American mayor of a California city: Douglas Dollarhide (Compton)
First African-American graduate of Harvard Business School: Lillian Lincoln
First African-American woman elected to U.S. House of Representatives: Shirley Chisholm (Democrat; New York)
First African-American director of a major Hollywood motion picture: Gordon Parks (The Learning Tree)
First African-American U.S. Navy admiral: Samuel Gravely
First African-American to campaign for the U.S. presidency: Shirley Chisholm
First African-American superhero to star in own comic-book series: Luke Cage, Marvel Comics' Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972).
First interracial kiss in a mainstream comics magazine: "The Men Who Called Him Monster", by writer Don McGregor and artist Luis Garcia, in Warren Publishing's black-and-white horror-comics magazine Creepy #43 (Jan. 1972)
First African-American to hold the plant manager position at a U.S. automobile company: Lowell W. Perry.
First African-American Bond Girl in James Bond movie: Gloria Hendry (as Rosie Carver), Live and Let Die.
First African-American Bond villain: Yaphet Kotto, playing Mr. Big/Dr. Kananga, Live and Let Die.
First African-American comic-book creator to receive a "created by" cover-credit (Midnight Tales #1): Wayne Howard
First African-American woman mayor of a U.S. metropolitan city Doris A. Davis, Compton, California.
First African-American manager in Major League Baseball: Frank Robinson (Cleveland Indians)
First interracial kiss in a color comic book: Amazing Adventures #31 (July 1975), feature "Killraven: Warrior of the Worlds", characters M'Shulla Scott and Carmilla Frost, by writer Don McGregor and artist P. Craig Russell
First African-American model on the cover of ELLE magazine: Beverly Johnson
First African-American four-star general: Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.
First TV-series cast with African-American interracial couple: The Jeffersons, actors Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker as Tom & Helen Willis; series creator: Norman Lear
First African-American to win Super Bowl MVP in NFL: Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), Harris was of mixed heritage and also first Italian American to win the award as well
First African-American woman Broadway director: Vinnette Justine Carroll (Your Arms Too Short to Box with God)
First African-American, and first woman, appointed director of the Peace Corps: Carolyn R. Payton
First African-American female in the U.S. Cabinet: Patricia Roberts Harris, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
First African-American broadcast network news anchor: Max Robinson (ABC World News Tonight)
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Illinois (Comptroller): Roland Burris
First African-American astronaut: Guion Stewart "Guy" Bluford, Jr. (Challenger mission STS-8).
First African-American mayor of Chicago: Harold Washington
First African-American Miss America: Vanessa L. Williams
First African-American New York City Police Commissioner: Benjamin Ward
First African-American Formula One racecar driver: Willy T. Ribbs
First African-American woman elected to a U.S. judgeship, and first appointed to a state supreme court: Juanita Kidd Stout
First African-American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics (a bronze in figure skating): Debi Thomas
First African-American quarterback to start in the Super Bowl: Doug Williams
First African-American mayor of New York City: David Dinkins
First African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Colin Powell
First African-American Playboy Playmate of the Year: Renee Tenison
First elected African-American governor: Douglas Wilder (Democrat; Virginia)
First African-American Miss USA: Carole Gist
First African-American woman mayor of a large U.S. city: Sharon Pratt Kelly (Washington, D.C.)
First African-American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 auto race: Willy T. Ribbs
First African-American woman astronaut: Dr. Mae Jemison M.D. (Space Shuttle Endeavour)
First African-American woman elected to U.S. Senate: Carol Mosely Braun (Democrat; Illinois)
First African-American to Manage a team to World Series Championship: Cito Gaston (Toronto Blue Jays)
First African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature: Toni Morrison
First African-American woman named Poet Laureate of the United States: Rita Dove; also the youngest person named to that position
First African-American elected mayor of St. Louis, Missouri: Freeman Bosley, Jr.
First African-American woman director of a major-studio movie: Darnell Martin (Columbia Pictures' I Like It Like That)
First African-American U.S. Navy four-star admiral: J. Paul Reason
First African-American to win a Grand Slam event in golf: Tiger Woods (The Masters)
First African-American U.S. Secretary of Labor: Alexis M. Herman