African-American publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott, who was born in Georgia in 1870, creatively utilized a coast-to-coast rail transportation network to disseminate and popularize his newspaper The Chicago Defender. The son of one-time slaves, Abbott launched the newspaper in the Windy City in 1905. The Chicago Defender, focusing on African-Americans and the civil rights challenges that... Continue Reading →

In 1936, Victor Hugo Green first developed an annual guide to help his fellow African-Americans more effectively and safely go on road trips despite the pervasiveness of Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination. Green, who was a World War I veteran and New York City mailman, came up with the guide to... Continue Reading →

In 1956, McKinley Thompson became the first African-American car designer for a major automobile manufacturer when the Ford Motor Company hired him. Thompson, who was born in New York City in 1922, recalled that his choice of career first took shape when he was only 12 years old. He noticed one day how sunlight broke... Continue Reading →

African-American motorcycle pioneer Bessie Stringfield was born sometime around 1911 in Kingston, Jamaica. (She was originally called Betsy Leonora Ellis, but she eventually became known as “Bessie” instead of “Betsy”; “Stringfield” was the last name of her third husband.) While born on foreign soil, she became a U.S. citizen after immigrating at a young age to Boston,... Continue Reading →

In February 1958, Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African-American to serve as a flight attendant in the United States. Her duties involved taking charge of passenger safety and comfort on a Mohawk Airlines flight from Tompkins County Airport in Ithaca, New York, to New York City. Taylor graduated as a registered nurse from the... Continue Reading →

In 1975, William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. was appointed by President Gerald Ford to serve as the fourth U.S. secretary of transportation. He was the first African-American to serve in that role and second only to Robert C. Weaver, who was secretary of housing and urban development under President Lyndon B. Johnson, as the first African-American... Continue Reading →

During the course of her extensive and eventful military career, U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Janine Howard achieved several noteworthy “firsts” in such areas as maritime transportation. Howard, who was born into a military family at the March Air Reserve Base in southern California, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982. Her class was among... Continue Reading →

In September 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman to fly into outer space when she went into orbit on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison was born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama, moving to Chicago with her family when she was only three years old. She earned a bachelor of science in... Continue Reading →

Leonard A. Grimes (1815-1873) was an African-American abolitionist who, as a conductor for the Underground Railroad, used his transportation enterprise in the Washington, D.C., area to deliver others from slavery to freedom. Grimes grew up free in Leesburg, Virginia, but he still managed to witness the misery of slavery in his native South. He resolved... Continue Reading →

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