Lesser-known famous African-Americans

By | Jun 19, 2009

Hiram Rhoades Revels (1822-1901)
Revels was born a free man of African-American and Indian descent in North Carolina, a slave state. Revels was ordained as a minister by the African Methodist Church ministering in many states before eventually settling in Baltimore Maryland. During the Civil War he lend his support for the Union cause in Maryland. At the conclusion of the war he settled in Mississippi and in 1870 was elected to finish the Senate term of Jefferson Davis, who left it in 1861 to become President of the Confederate States, becoming the first African-American Senator. After returning to Mississippi he became President of Alcorn College, the state’s first college for African-American students.

William Harvey Carney (1842–1908)
During the Civil War assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, July 18, 1863, while serving with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry he saved the American flag holding it while the troops charged. Even though he was wounded four times he carried the flag in retreat. The flag never touched the ground. He was awarded the Congressional Metal of Honor in 1900 for his service in the battle. This was the first awarded to an African-American.

Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker (1857–1924)

In the early days of professional baseball, long before Jackie Robinson, Fleet Walker was a catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the American Association joining the team in 1884. He is believed to be the first African-American to play professional baseball. He faced bigotry from the beginning. He played for a number of teams, including the Newark Little Giants where he joined pitcher George Stovey forming the first known African-American battery. In 1890 the leagues both unofficially banned African-American players ending his career.

Lucy D. Slowe (1885-1937)
Slowe was an educator who organized the first Junior High school in DC (1919) and appointed principal of Shaw junior School serving in that position until June 1922. She left to become the first Dean of Women at Howard University, a post she held until her death. In 1908 she was an active member of the group that founded Alpha Kappa Alpha. She prepared the first draft of the constitution, and was elected the first president of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She also played tennis and in 1917 she was the first African-American woman to win a national title in any sport when she won the American Tennis Association (ATA) national tournament held in Baltimore.

Clifton R Wharton (1899-1990)
Wharton became the first African-American diplomat to rise through the ranks of the Foreign Service to become an ambassador. President Eisenhower appointed him in 1958 as Ambassador to Romania becoming the first African-American to head a US delegation to a European country. His son Clifton R. Wharton Jr. has had an distinguish careers in foreign economic development, higher education, and business, including being the Chairman and CEO of TIAA_CREF, the largest pension fund in the world.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Brooks published her first poem, “Eventide” in American Childhood Magazine in 1930. Her first book of poems brought her critical acclaim. Her second book of poems, Annie Allen, won the Pulitzer Prize. She was the first African-American to win the award. She spent her life bringing poetry to the people through public readings.


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