African-American Firsts: Government & Politics
Explore our collection of pioneering African Americans in government and politics, including Alexander Lucius Twilight, the first African American to win election to public office; Hiram R. Revels, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate; Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the Senate; and Amelia Boynton, who became both the first African-American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama in 1964. View full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
U.S. Representative / 1924 - 2005
Politician and educator Shirley Chisholm became the United States' first African-American congresswoman in 1968. The following year, she became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Chisholm went on to become the first major-party African-American candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency, running for the Democratic nomination in 1972—and surviving three assassination attempts during her campaign.
Civil Rights Activist, Author, Poet / 1928 -
In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony—marking the first inaugural recitation since Robert Frost delivered "The Gift Outright" at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
Civil Rights Activist, U.S. Representative / 1936 - 1996
Barbara Jordan is the first African-American congresswoman to come from the deep South as well as the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate (1966).
Diplomat / 1904 - 1971
Political scientist and diplomat Ralph Bunche was the first African-American student to receive a political science Ph.D. as well as first African-American desk officer for the U.S. State Department. Bunche later became the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, for his mediation efforts in the Middle East during the 1940s.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
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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