The place was New York City, and on Sunday, July 16, 1854, Elizabeth Jennings -- a member of a prominent family in that city’s African American middle-class community -- was on her way to the First Colored Congregational Church at Sixth Street and the Bowery to play the organ for a service there. Since she... Continue Reading →

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Rodney E. Slater as administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This appointment made Slater the first African American to serve in that role. He remained FHWA administrator until 1997, when Clinton appointed him to serve as U.S. secretary of transportation. Slater was only the second African American to... Continue Reading →

As World War II continued to rage in the European Theater, the first and largest contingent of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion completed an eventful transatlantic voyage when the ship transporting them arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, on February 12, 1945. The 6888th -- nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight” -- was one of the small number... Continue Reading →

On June 6, 1980, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Brenda E. Robinson earned her Wings of Gold at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas. This made her the first black woman to become a U.S. naval aviator. The following year, Robinson made history again when she became the first black woman certified for C-1A carrier... Continue Reading →

During his long engineering career, Archibald Alphonso “Archie” Alexander achieved widespread acclaim for the bridges and other transportation infrastructure that he helped create across the United States. Alexander was born on May 14, 1888, in Ottumwa, Iowa. He was the oldest of the nine children of Price and Mary Alexander, and they were all part... Continue Reading →

James Forten (1766-1842) was a free black man and lifelong Philadelphia resident who earned considerable wealth by making sails for vessels. Forten was also a steadfast foe of slavery in the United States. He was born free in Philadelphia to Thomas and Margaret Forten. Thomas Forten, who died when James was only seven, had a... Continue Reading →

Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1849. She subsequently risked her life to help others in that region of Maryland escape to freedom. As an Underground Railroad conductor in the years prior to the American Civil War, Tubman made approximately 13 trips to the Eastern Shore and led about 70 enslaved... Continue Reading →

Charles Richard “Rich” Patterson started out life as an enslaved person but ultimately gained his freedom. He went on to achieve prominence as both a carriage manufacturer and civil rights champion. Patterson was born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia in 1833. While there are conflicting accounts of how exactly Patterson became free, census... Continue Reading →

In December 2006, Joan Higginbotham became the third African American woman to fly into outer space. The first African American woman to do so was Mae Jemison, who made her pioneering flight in 1992. About five months before Higginbotham’s spaceflight, Stephanie Diana Wilson became the second African American woman to journey into space when she... Continue Reading →

Bobby Charles Wilks, who was born in St. Louis in 1931, achieved several key “firsts” as an African American aviator. In 1956, he graduated with a commission of ensign from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Reserve Officers’ Candidate School in New London, Connecticut. Not long after receiving this commission, Wilks was assigned as a flight student... Continue Reading →

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