The Inventor of the Telephone

August 23, 2012 · Posted in Science · Comments Off on The Inventor of the Telephone 


May 28 Older brother Melville Bell dies of tuberculosis at the age of 25. July-August Alexander Graham Bell, his parents, and his sister-in-law, Carrie Bell, emigrate to Canada and settle in Brantford, Ontario.


AprilMoving to Boston, Alexander Graham Bell begins teaching at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes.


March-June Alexander Graham Bell teaches at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Boston and at the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. April 8 Alexander Graham Bell meets Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who will become one of his financial backers and his father-in-law. Fall Alexander Graham Bell opens his School of Vocal Physiology in Boston and starts experimenting with the multiple telegraph. Brochure for Bell’s School of Vocal Physiology


Boston University appoints Bell Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at its School of Oratory. Mabel Hubbard, his future wife, becomes one of his private pupils.


Spring Alexander Graham Bell conducts acoustics experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and Clarence Blake, a Boston ear specialist, begin experimenting with the mechanics of the human ear and the phonautograph, a device that could translate sound vibrations into visible tracings. Summer In Brantford, Ontario, Bell first conceives of the idea for the telephone. (Bell’s original sketch of the telephone) Bell meets Thomas Watson, a young electrician who would become his assistant, at Charles Williams’s electrician shop in Boston.


January Watson begins working with Bell more regularly. February Thomas Sanders, a wealthy leather merchant whose deaf son studied with Bell, and Gardiner Greene Hubbard enter into a formal partnership with Bell in which they provide financial backing for his inventions. March 1-2 Alexander Graham Bell visits noted scientist Joseph Henry at the Smithsonian Institution and explains to him his idea for the telephone. Henry recognizes the significance of Bell’s work and offers him encouragement. November 25Mabel Hubbard and Bell become engaged to be married.


February 14 Bell’s telephone patent application is filed at the United States Patent Office; Elisha Gray’s attorney files a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later. March 7 United States Patent No. 174,465 is officially issued for Bell’s telephone. March 10 Intelligible human speech is heard over the telephone for the first time when Bell calls to Watson, “Mr. Watson.Come here. I want to see you.” June 25Bell demonstrates the telephone for Sir William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.


July 9 Bell, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Thomas Sanders, and Thomas Watson form the Bell Telephone Company. July 11 Mabel Hubbard and Bell are married. August 4Bell and his wife leave for England and remain there for a year.


January 14 Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the telephone for Queen Victoria. May 8 Elsie May Bell, a daughter, is born. September 12Patent litigation involving the Bell Telephone Company against Western Union Telegraph Company and Elisha Gray begins.


February-March The Bell Telephone Company merges with the New England Telephone Company to become the National Bell Telephone Company. November 10 Western Union and the National Bell Telephone Company reach a settlement.

History of Vampires

August 21, 2012 · Posted in Myths and Legends · Comments Off on History of Vampires 

Medveđa, Serbia. Jan. 1732 — The Carpathian mountains loomed ominously to the east, as if nature herself was conspiring with evil. In the valley below a shadow had been draped over the corpses that now littered the quiet cemetery. Of the forty villagers exhumed that morning, a total of thirteen had been identified as vampires. Fresh blood seeped from their mouth, nose, or the gaping wounds in their chest where the stake had been pounded in. The gore was clear evidence of their demonic guilt.

Dr. Johannes Flückinger, regiment medical officer dispatched by the Honorable Supreme Command, surveyed the ghastly scene. He was clearly uneasy about being sent to this small village on the remote edge of the Habsburg Empire. His disgust for the local haiduks was evident as he gazed upon a newborn child, who, “because of a careless burial had been half eaten by dogs.”

The young doctor hunched over what had once been the child’s mother, a 20-year-old peasant woman named Stana, and proceeded with his dissection. He noted that she was “quite complete and undecayed” despite having died in childbirth two months earlier. Like the others, her blood had not coagulated and after prying open her rib cage he documented that her lungs, liver, and spleen were all still fresh. The woman’s skin was described as “fresh and vivid” and she had a pool of extravascular blood in her stomach and chest cavity. The only interpretation could be that, after being turned into a vampire, she had risen from her grave to feast on the blood of the living.

“After the examination had taken place,” Flückinger wrote in his official report, “the heads of the vampires were cut off by the local gypsies and then burned along with the bodies, and then the ashes were thrown into the river Morava.”

The first to be transformed, Flückinger learned from the Serbian villagers, was a former soldier by the name of Arnod Paole who had fled his post in Turkey after being “troubled” by a vampire there. However, after settling in the village and being betrothed to his neighbor’s daughter, Paole met with a sudden and unexpected death. Not long after, people began to report seeing Paole wandering through the village after night-fall. Some swore that he had even attacked them or that he was observed taking the shape of a black dog, as though hunting for prey. More than twenty people had mysteriously died in the village since Paole met his untimely end, and most within a few months of each other.

“Paole attacked not only the people,” Flückinger reported, “but also the cattle, and sucked out their blood.” These were the two ways by which vampirism had then spread throughout Medveđa: some were bitten directly while others had eaten the infected meat and become vampires as well. Apparently, once they were turned, vampires not only behaved as though possessed by wild beasts, they could also adopt a beastly shape, or transmit their vampirism through animals to an unsuspecting human victim. In order to end Arnod Paole’s reign of terror, the villagers of Medveđa “drove a stake through his heart, according to their custom, whereby he gave an audible groan and bled copiously.”

Vampires were almost entirely unknown to the European imagination prior to 1730 and Johannes Flückinger’s strange report would become known as the most thoroughly documented–as well as the most widely circulated–vampire narrative in the world. Following the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, much of the region now known as the Balkans was ceded to the Habsburg Monarchy by the Ottoman Empire. Along with it came a rich folkloric tradition which quickly merged with European ideas of witchcraft that had gripped the continent for the past three centuries. These stories would be widely reproduced in French, German and, later, in English, to eventually find their way into the hands of an obscure Irish writer and theater manager by the name of Bram Stoker.

The storyline of Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula about a Transylvanian Count and his invasion of English virtue would be almost entirely original. However, key attributes of the vampire itself would draw directly from Slavic folklore, particularly where there was an overlap with European witchcraft. While Bram Stoker’s Dracula was an elegant and seductive aristocrat, the Slavic vampires were typically rural villagers that had become possessed. In appearance and mannerism they would have shared more in common with Max Schreck’s animalistic performance in the German silent classic Nosferatu than with Bela Lugosi’s theatrical mesmerism as the Hungarian Count. However, the depiction of the vampire as a savage beast of prey, the infection of new vampires through bites or contaminated blood, their ability to transform into specific animal “familiars” (especially wolves and bats), and the method of dispatching the undead by murdering them in their coffins while they slept, would all be borrowed directly from Slavic folklore.

What the Slavic and European vampire mythologies both have in common however is that they tell an important story about how people understood natural events such as death, decomposition, and the transmission of disease prior to the advent of scientific medicine. They also serve as an illustration of the anxiety present in many Christian societies over the delicate line that seemed to separate human from animal.

“Far from being merely fanciful horror stories,” writes UCLA historian Paul Barber in the Journal of Folklore Research, “the vampire stories prove to be an ingenious and elaborate folk-hypothesis that seeks to explain otherwise puzzling phenomena associated with death and decomposition.” In nearly all cases, individuals would be identified as vampires after they were exhumed and irregularities found with the condition of their bodies. The most common reasons were lack of decomposition or because liquid blood was found around their mouth and nose.

Decomposition is largely misunderstood even today and is not the rapid or complete process commonly assumed. As Barber notes, putrefaction begins at about 50°F and occurs most rapidly at temperatures ranging between 70° and 100°. However, the temperature even just a few feet below ground is usually much lower and decomposition occurs on average eight times more slowly than on the surface. In the case of the Medveđa village cemetery, it would therefore be unsurprising for bodies that were exhumed in January (with average surface temperatures at just above freezing) to remain relatively intact for weeks or even months.

Furthermore, because the bacteria that cause decomposition feed on the protein-rich content of the blood, if there had been significant haemorrhage (as would occur in a violent death or sudden accident) the process would be significantly slower. This fact may have only reinforced these folk traditions, since it would be expected that violent or rapid deaths were somehow unnatural to begin with. However, the most common way that vampires were identified was when liquid blood was seen around the corpse’s mouth, nose, or ears. It was commonly believed that vampires would so gorge themselves on blood that it would leak out after they’d returned to their grave.

“[Vampires] suck the blood of living people and animals in such great abundance,” stated one early Slavic account, “that sometimes it comes out of their mouths, their noses, and especially, their ears, and that sometimes the body swims in its blood which has spilled out into its coffin.”

What is more likely, Barber argues, is that local populations simply filled the gaps in their knowledge about the process of decomposition with folktales that could explain what they had observed. In actuality, during the normal process of decomposition the lungs become loaded with a dark red sanguinous fluid and the brain liquifies. Depending on the orientation of the body, this liquid would have leaked out as it was acted on by the pull of gravity. Ironically, individuals suspected of being vampires at the time of burial would usually be placed face down to make it harder for them to find their way to the surface. When these individuals were later exhumed, the red fluid in and around their mouth or nose would only confirm the original assumption. Add to this the eruption of sanguinous fluid when a stake is hammered into their lungs (an event that can emit sounds from a low groan to a high pitched scream as gases are forced outwards) and the misinterpretation would be complete.

In addition to flawed assumptions regarding death and decomposition, certain diseases (particularly ones that result in extreme psychological and behavioral changes) would only add to folk-hypotheses seeking to explain such unusual events. While both schizophrenia and tuberculosis have been proposed as potential natural influences on the folk tradition of vampirism, a study published in the journal Neurology by Juan Gomez-Alonso of the Servicio de Neurologia, Hospital Xeral in Vigo, Spain argues that many of the primary attributes of vampires show remarkable similarities to the physical symptoms associated with rabies.

“In certain cases, rabies appears similar to vampirism,” says Gomez-Alonso, “The rabid patient rushes at those who approach him, biting and tearing them as if he was a wild beast.” In both cases, the method of transmission is identical since rabies infections are caused through animal bites or blood to blood contact. While dogs are the most common animal associated with rabies today, rural villagers have historically had much greater interaction with wolves and these animals were a significant threat both to themselves and their livestock. There have also been many documented cases of rabies infection from bats both in Europe and the United States. “Consequently,” says Gomez-Alonso, “it would be imaginable that men and beasts with identical ferocious and bizarre behavior might have been seen, by a primitive witness, as similar malign beings.” It is notable that in the early Slavic accounts there was no distinction between vampires and what we would now call werewolves; in some versions a vampire was simply what a werewolf became after they died.

There are many additional characteristics that appear to connect vampirism and rabies. In terms of pathology, for example, humans that have contracted rabies typically die of suffocation or cardiorespiratory arrest. These types of deaths, according to Gomez-Alonso, result in post-mortem features consistent with those used to identify a vampire: blood is less likely to coagulate after death and hemorrhage is common, resulting in slower decomposition. Humans can also contract rabies by drinking unpasteurized milk or eating undercooked meat from a rabid cow (or through oral exposure to their blood or saliva during preparation). In this way, knowledge of how the rabies virus can spread might have been contained in these folk traditions, even if the actual mechanism remained mysterious.

Finally, Gomez-Alonso points out the historical coincidence that during the period when dramatic tales of vampires were first emerging from Eastern Europe, a major epidemic of rabies in dogs, wolves, and other wild animals was recorded in the same region between 1721-1728. This coincidence may have even been identified as early as 1733 when an anonymous physician argued that vampirism “is a contagious illness more or less of the same nature as that which comes from the bite of a rabid dog.” While it is likely that multiple natural factors would have influenced the folk tradition of vampirism, it is remarkable that rabies has the potential to connect such seemingly unrelated elements as transmission, behavior, and post-mortem pathology.

“Among the European peasantry wolves were dreaded because of the physical threat they represented,” says Jessica Wang, professor of history at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada “but also because they could transmit the symptoms that we now understand are caused by the rabies virus.” Wang is currently engaged in research documenting the social history of rabies, in which she has identified the common theme of animal possession as a folk-hypothesis to explain the transfer of symptoms from animals to humans. “People associated witchcraft and occult forces with animals,” she says, “as well as the crossing of the line between animals and humans. I think a lot of the fear was based on the fact that humans are animals and what happens if people concede that line rather than try and preserve it.”

In one newspaper account Wang identified from Prussia in the nineteenth century, a farmer was “seized with rabies” only to run amok through the village as though possessed. “He finally took refuge in his own house,” she related, “where he attacked his wife, a young woman to whom he had recently been married. He literally tore her to pieces.” After committing the horrible deed he was then seized with another convulsion and inflicted wounds upon himself from which he died. When neighbors entered the house both dead bodies were found on the floor “frightfully mangled and still warm.” The newspaper account didn’t specify whether or not he had been buried face down.

Just as the vampire myth has its origin in historical events, the cultural tradition that gave rise to it may also have had a natural basis. While these early vampire stories share little with the modern myths about such creatures, the folk tradition that spawned them does contain many of the same inherent fears. “What happens when people do, in a sense, become animals and lose control of their physical bodies through the display of uncontrolled aggression?” Wang asks. “I think a lot of these rabies narratives reflected these kinds of fears. They’re ultimately about the line between animal and human and the ease with which it can be breached.”


Barber, P. (1987). Forensic Pathology and the European Vampire, Journal of Folklore Research 24 (1), 1-32. URL:

Gómez-Alonso J. (1998). Rabies: a possible explanation for the vampire legend. Neurology, 51 (3), 856-9. PMID: 9748039

About the Author: Eric Michael Johnson has a Master’s degree in Evolutionary Anthropology focusing on great ape behavioral ecology. He is currently a doctoral student in the history of science at University of British Columbia looking at the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics.
Follow his work on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+. Follow on Twitter @primatediaries.More »

First African-American Grand Master Of Chess

August 19, 2012 · Posted in Black History, Math · Comments Off on First African-American Grand Master Of Chess 

There are only about a thousand grand masters of chess in the world and only one of them is African-American: Maurice Ashley.

He wasn’t even good enough to make his high school chess team. But he studied hard and became a master when he was 20, then, 14 years later– a grand master– a ranking just short of world champion.

He’s 45 now and Maurice Ashley has made chess his life. He travels the world bringing chess to kids who might not otherwise be aware of it, often playing…and winning! against an entire room of young hopefuls lined up before him at their chessboards.

Some of the upstarts he may have to keep an eye on: three young African-American New Yorkers who recently became masters before their 13th birthdays!!


Arthur Ashe

August 19, 2012 · Posted in Black History, Sports · Comments Off on Arthur Ashe 

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe biography


Born on July 10,1943, in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Ashe became the first, and still only, black player to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, or the Australian Open. Always an activist, when Ashe learned that he had contracted AIDS via a blood transfusion, he turned his efforts to raising awareness of the disease, before finally succumbing to it in 1993.

Early Life

Tennis player. Born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. on July 10,1943, in  Richmond, Virginia. The oldest of Arthur Ashe, Sr. and Mattie  Cunningham’s two sons, Arthur Ashe, Jr. blended finesse and power to  forge a groundbreaking tennis game. He became the first, and currently  only, African-American to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the U.S.  Open, or the Australian Open.

Ashe’s childhood was marked by  hardship and opportunity. Under his mother’s direction, Ashe was reading  by the age of four. But his life was turned upside-down two years  later, when Mattie passed away.

Ashe’s father, fearful of seeing  his boys fall into trouble without their mother’s discipline, began  running a tighter ship at home. Ashe and his younger brother Johnnie  went to church every Sunday, and after school were required to come  straight home. Arthur, Sr. even clocked the distance: “My father…kept  me home, out of trouble. I had exactly 12 minutes to get home from  school, and I kept to that rule through high school.”

Tennis Fame

About a year after his mother’s death, Arthur discovered the game of  tennis, picking up a racket for the first time at the age of seven, at a  park not far from his home. Sticking with the game, Ashe eventually  caught the attention of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, Jr., a tennis coach  from Lynchburg, Virginia, who was active in the black tennis community.  Under Johnson’s direction, Ashe excelled.

In his first  tournament, Ashe reached the junior national championships. Driven to  excel, he eventually moved to St. Louis to work closely with another  coach, winning the junior national title in 1960 and again in 1961.  Ranked the fifth best junior player in the country, Ashe accepted a  scholarship at UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in business  administration.

Ashe continued to refine his game, gaining the  attention of his tennis idol, Pancho Gonzales, who further helped Ashe  hone his serve-and-volley attack. The training all came together in  1968, when the still-amateur Ashe shocked the world by capturing the  U.S. Open title. Two years later, he took home the Australian title, and  in 1975 registered another upset by beating Jimmy Connors in the  Wimbledon finals.

For Ashe, however, success also brought  opportunity and responsibility. He didn’t relish his status as the sole  black star in a game dominated by white players, but he didn’t run away  from it either. With his unique pulpit, he pushed to create inner city  tennis programs for youth; helped found the Association of Men’s Tennis  Professionals; and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa—even  going so far as to successfully lobby for a visa so he could visit and  play tennis there.

Health Problems

Ashe’s causes were shaped by both his own personal story and his  health. In 1979, he retired from competition after suffering a heart  attack, and wrote a history of African-American athletes: A Hard Road to Glory (3 vols, 1988). He also served as national campaign chairman of the American Heart Association.

Ashe was plagued with health issues over the last 14  years of his life. After undergoing a quadruple bypass operation in  1979, he went under the knife again in 1983 for a second bypass. In  1988, he underwent emergency brain surgery after experiencing paralysis  of his right arm. A biopsy taken during a hospital stay revealed that  Ashe had AIDS. Doctors soon figured out that Ashe had become positive  for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, from a transfusion of bad blood  during his second heart operation.

Political Activism

Initially, Ashe kept the news hidden from the public. But in 1992, Ashe came forward with the news after he learned that USA Today was working on a story about his health battle. Finally free from the  burden of trying to hide his condition, Ashe poured himself into the  work of raising awareness about the disease. He delivered a speech at  the United Nations, started a new foundation, and laid the groundwork  for a $5 million fundraising campaign for the institution.

He  continued to work, even as his health began to deteriorate, making it  down to Washington D.C. in late 1992 to participate in a protest over  the U.S. treatment of Haitian refugees. For his part in the  demonstration, Ashe was taken away in handcuffs. It was a poignant final  display for a man who was never shy about showing his concern for the  welfare of others.


Death and Legacy

On February 6, 1993, Arthur Ashe passed away.  Four days later he was laid to rest in his hometown of Richmond,  Virginia. Some 6,000 people attended the service.

Ashe, who was  inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, was married  to Jeanne Moutoussamy from 1977 until his death. They have one  daughter, Camera.


Macon Bolling Allen

August 19, 2012 · Posted in Black History · Comments Off on Macon Bolling Allen 

bolling allen

Allen was born in Indiana in 1816. After beginning his career as a school teacher, he moved to Portland, Maine to study law. He was admitted to the Maine bar in 1844, becoming the first licensed African-American lawyer in the United States. He became a justice of the peace in Massachusetts in 1848, and was again the first African-American to do so. He practiced law in Boston before moving to South Carolina in 1868. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in November 1869 and joined in partnership with William Whipper and Robert Brown Elliott. Their law firm in Charleston was likely the first African American law firm in the nation. At age 55 he was elected by the General Assembly to succeed George Lee as judge of the Criminal Court in Charleston. He remained on the bench until the Inferior Court was abolished in 1874. Allen then served as a clerk in the Second Auditor’s office of the Treasury Department from 1874 to 1876. He was a probate judge for Charleston County from 1877 to 1878 before leaving South Carolina for Washington, D.C. There he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He died in Washington on October 15, 1894.

Charleston News and Courier, December 21, 1874.

Terison, F. Mark. “Macon Bolling Allen-A Milestone for Maine.” 15 Maine Bar Journal 15 (2000): 234.

University of S.C.

African-American Achievements

August 18, 2012 · Posted in Black History, Firsts in History · Comments Off on African-American Achievements 

Fact #1
Soccer phenom Freddy Adu was the youngest athlete to play in a professional American sports league.

Fact #2
The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon honored Ira Aldridge with a bronze plaque. He is the only African-American actor to receive this tribute.

Fact #3
BET was the first African-American controlled company to sell shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

Fact #4
Macon Bolling Allen was the first African-American to pass the bar and practice law in the United States in 1845.

Fact #5
Lawyer Macon Bolling Allen was the first black American Justice of the Peace and the first African-American licensed to practice law in the U.S.

Fact #6
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded by Richard Allen became the first national black church in the United States in 1816.

Fact #7
Marian Anderson, a gifted contralto singer, was the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

Fact #8
In 1993, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. She was the first poet to do an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost spoke for President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Fact #9
Writer and performer Maya Angelou worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, California, before graduating from high school.

Fact #10
Maya Angelou’s autobiographical book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the first non-fiction work by an African-American woman to make the best-seller list.

Fact #11
In 1988, while at Temple University, scholar Molefi Asante founded the first Ph.D. program in African-American studies.

Fact #12
Arthur Ashe was the first African-American to win the U.S. Open (1968); to come in first in the Wimbeldon men’s singles (1975); and be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1985).

Fact #13
In 1963, tennis champion Arthur Ashe was the first African-American to be named to the U.S. Davis Cup team.

Fact #14
Jamaican-born chess player Maurice Ashley became the first Black Grandmaster in 1999. That same year, he opened the Harlem Chess Center, where he began coaching young chess players.

Fact #15
Deford Bailey was a wizard at playing the harmonica, and was most notable for mimicking the sound of locomotives. He was the first African-American to perform at the Grand Ole Opry and one of the first African-American stars of country music.

Fact #16
Lawyer Constance Baker Motley was the first African-American woman ever to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fact #17
Model Tyra Banks was the first African-American woman on the covers of GQ magazine and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Fact #18
In 1997, model Tyra Banks became the first-ever African-American on the cover of the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalog.

Fact #19
Benjamin Banneker was considered the first African-American scientist.

Fact #20
Before she was tapped to become Surgeon General of the United States in 2009, physician Regina Benjamin was the first African-American female, and the youngest person, to be elected to the American Medical Association’s board of trustees.

Fact #21
Halle Berry became the first African-American Miss World entrant in 1986.

Fact #22
In 2001, model and actress Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball.

Fact #23
In 1983, Guion Bluford became the first black astronaut to travel in space.

Fact #24
In 1932, Jane Bolin became the first black woman to become a judge in the United States. She was also the first black woman to receive a law degree from Yale.

Fact #25
In 1876, physics student Edward Alexander Bouchet became the first African-American to earn a doctorate degree.

Fact #26
Barbara Brandon was the country’s only black female cartoonist to be nationally syndicated. Her strip was named “Where I’m Coming From.”

Fact #27
Jane Brolin was the first African-American to graduate from Yale University’s Law School.

Fact #28
In 1950, writer Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her collection, Annie Allen.

Fact #29
Ronald Brown was the United States Secretary of Commerce, serving during the first term of President Bill Clinton. He was the first African-American to hold this position.

Fact #30
Political scientist and diplomat, Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche, received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation efforts in Palestine during the 1940s. He was the first African-American to receive the honor.

Fact #31
In 1995, African-American writer Octavia Butler became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Fact #32
Alexa Canady became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the United States. She graduated from medical school in 1975.

Fact #33
Actress Diahann Carroll won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In A Television Series in 1968 for her role on the sitcom Julia. Carroll was the first African-American actress to star in her own television series where she did not play a domestic worker.

Fact #34
In 1987 Ben Carson, a skilled neurosurgeon, led the first successful operation to separate a pair of Siamese twin infants who were joined at the back of the head.

Fact #35
George Washington Carver who made agricultural advancements and inventions pertaining to the use of peanuts, and Percy Julian, who helped create drugs to combat glaucoma, were the first African-Americans admitted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Fact #36
Politician and educator Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

Fact #37
Politician Shirley Chisholm was the first major-party African-American candidate for President of the United States.

Fact #38
Track-and-field star Alice Coachman made history when she became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal—and the only American woman to win a medal—at the 1948 Olympic Games.

Fact #39
Singer and pianist, Nat ‘King’ Cole was the first black American to host a television variety show.

Fact #40
Nat ‘King’ Cole, a singer, song writer and pianist, was the first African-American to host a national television program, The Nat King Cole Show, in 1956.

Fact #41
Bessie Coleman was the first licensed African-American pilot in the world. She received aviation instruction in France.

Fact #42
In 1965, comedian Bill Cosby became the first African-American to star in a network television show when he co-starred with Robert Culp in the action-adventure show, I Spy.

Fact #43
Rebecca Lee Crumpler graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, becoming the first black woman to receive an M.D.

Fact #44
Two years after she played the role of Dorothy Dandridge, the first African-American woman to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, perfomer Halle Berry actually became the first African-American woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress.

Fact #45
Football star Ernie Davis was the No.1 pick in the 1962 NFL draft, becoming the first African-American football player to be chosen first.

Fact #46
Ernie Davis, the football running back, was the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman trophy.

Fact #47
In 2006, speed skater Shani Davis became the first black athlete at the Winter Olympics to win a gold medal in an individual sport.

Fact #48
Dominique Dawes was the first African-American to win an individual event medal in gymnastics.

Fact #49
Entrepreneur Suzanne de Passe is the first and only African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for screen writing.

Fact #50
Ruby Dee was the first black woman to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival.

Fact #51
In 1989, African-American David Dinkins, became the first non-white Mayor of New York City.

Fact #52
Larry Doby made history in 1947, when he became the first African-American to break the color barrier in the American League—less than three months after Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball.

Fact #53
Poet Rita Dove was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1993 not only as the youngest person, but also as the first African-American.

Fact #54
In 1943, physician Charles R. Drew became the first black surgeon to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery.

Fact #55
Civil Rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard University.

Fact #56
Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar founded the first African-American newsletter in Dayton, Ohio.

Fact #57
Baritone opera singer Todd Duncan became the first African-American to sing in a major opera company when he became a member of the New York City Opera in 1945.

Fact #58
Tony Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears on February 4th, 2007.

Fact #59
Lee Elder was the first African-American golfer to play in the Masters Tournament in 1975. He has won 4 PGA tournaments and 8 Senior PGA tournaments in his career.

Fact #60
M. Jocelyn Elders was the first African-American, and the second woman, to serve as the United States Surgeon General. Her term lasted for 15 months.

Fact #61
Jocelyn Elders was the first African-American to serve as Surgeon General of the United States.

Fact #62
In 1959, Ella Fitzgerald became the first African-American woman to earn a Grammy Award. She won five awards that year, including an award for best jazz soloist and one for best female pop vocalist.

Fact #63
Henry Ossian Flipper was the first African-American to graduate from West Point academy in 1877. He became the first black commander when he was assigned to the 10th Cavalry, a Buffalo Soldier regiment.

Fact #64
Soul singer Aretha Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Fact #65
In 1939, African-American George Gibbs became the first black man to explore the South Pole.

Fact #66
Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to compete in the U.S. Championships in 1950 and at Wimbledon in 1951. In 1957 she won the women’s singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, which was celebrated by a ticker tape parade when she returned home to New York City.

Fact #67
The first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor was Louis Gossett, Jr. for his role in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

Fact #68
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rap group to earn induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Fact #69
Richard Theodore Greener, was the first African-American graduate from Harvard in 1870. He started out at Oberlin college, the first American college to admit African-Americans and went on to become a lawyer.

Fact #70
Human rights activist Clara “Mother” Hale founded the first and, at the time, the only black social services agency in America in 1975. Over the course of her life, Mother Hale received more than 370 awards for her work in the fight against AIDS and inner city drug use.

Fact #71
Lorraine Hansberry authored A Raisin in the Sun. It was the first Broadway play written by an African-American woman.

Fact #72
The first African-American woman to make it into the U.S. Cabinet was Patricia Roberts Harris, the 1977 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Fact #73
In 1963, U.S. Naval scientist Walter Harris became the first African-American chess master.

Fact #74
In 1954, African-American civil rights leader Anna Hedgeman became the first African-American woman to hold a mayoral cabinet position in the history of New York.

Fact #75
In 1904, African-American gym teacher Edwin Henderson learned the game of basketball while at a summer conference at Harvard University. Henderson introduced the game to the students at the segregated public schools of Washington, D.C., where it gained widespread popularity. For this, Henderson earned the title of “Father of Black Basketball.”

Fact #76
Leon Higginbotham, Jr. was a U.S. civil rights advocate and judge, as well as the first African-American on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Fact #77
In 2007, Barbara Hillary became the first recorded African-American woman to reach the North Pole. She was 75 years old.

Fact #78
African-American Allen Iverson, was the first 76er to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year title.

Fact #79
African-American disc jockey Hal Jackson became the first radio personality to broadcast three daily shows on three different New York stations. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

Fact #80
Model Jennifer Jackson was the first African-American model chosen as Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month. She was featured in the March 1965 issue.

Check out more achievements in Black History

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