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In recognition of Black History Month, we’ve put together a timeline of selected “first achievers” in U.S. history. To see a more comprehensive list, go to


Poet (published): Phillis Wheatley, 1773, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Considered the founder of African-American literature. Photo:



College graduate (B.A.): Male: Alexander Lucius Twilight, 1823, Middlebury College. Female: Mary Jane Patterson, 1862, Oberlin College. photo:



alexander-lucius-twilightState elected official: Alexander Lucius Twilight, 1836, the Vermont legislature. Photo:




mccune-smith_crumplerM.D. degree: Male: James McCune Smith (photo:, 1837, University of Glasgow; Female: Rebecca Lee Crumpler, 1864, New England Female Medical College (photo:



sgt-william-h-carneyMedal of Honor winner: Sargent William H. Carney for bravery during the Civil War, received in 1900. Photo:



george-poageOlympic medalist (Summer games): George Poage, 1904, bronze in 200 m hurdles and 400 m hurdles. Photo Missouri History museum/



bessie-colemanLicensed Pilot: Bessie Coleman, 1921. Photo:




hattie-mcdanielsOscar: Hattie McDaniel, 1940, supporting actress, Gone with the Wind. Photo:




bunche-kingNobel Peace Prize: Ralph J. Bunche, 1950, for mediating an Arab-Israeli truce. (photo: Martin Luther King, Jr. became the second African-American Peace Prize winner in 1964 (photo:


Thurgood Marshall 1U.S. Supreme Court Justice:  Thurgood Marshall, 1967–1991. Photo:




guion_s_blufordAstronaut in space: Guion Bluford, 1983. Photo:



toni-morrisonNobel Prize for Literature: Toni Morrison, 1993. Photo:




barack_obamaU.S. President: Barack Obama, 2009-2017. Photo:

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