African-American Firsts: Athletes
Who was the first African-American boxing champ? How about World Cycling champ? Who was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal? What year did Jackie Robinson break baseball's color barrier? Who was Althea Gibson and what first did she achieve? Detail our collection of pioneering African-American athletes for the answers to these and many more questions, and explore our African-American Firsts: Athletes photos gallery.
Baseball Player / 1919 - 1972
Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the major leagues in 1947, signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. After retiring from baseball, Robinson helped establish the African American-owned and -controlled Freedom Bank.
Activist, Tennis Player / 1943 - 1993
Arthur Ashe is the first African-American member of the U.S. Davis Cup team (1963), the first African-American man to win both the U.S. Open (1968) and Wimbledon (1975), and the first black American to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1985).
Football Player / 1939 - 1963
Football star Ernie Davis became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. His untimely death from leukemia came just two years later, at the age of 23.
Got something to say?blog comments powered by Disqus
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
Explore our curated collections of African-American figures, including:
Check out BIO’s original video series, American Freedom Stories, about the historic events of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, and the leaders and everyday heroes who fought to make racial equality a reality. Watch videos.
Flip through these photos of some of Black History's most important, controversial and inspiring figures. Check out our African-American Firsts - Athletes, Black Comedians, Million-Dollar Ideas, African-American Biopics, African-American Expats, or explore all of our Black History photos.
Celebrate the historical icons of America's black community through this interactive journey.
- Apollo Theater Interactive Tour
- Apollo Theater Timeline
- Path to Equality
- Who Am I Game
- Harlem Renaissance