African-American Firsts: Music & Dance
Browse our collection of African-American firsts in music and dance, including Al Jarreau, Cleo Laine, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Marian Anderson and DeFord Bailey. Explore full biographies, photo galleries, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
Singer, Trumpet Player / 1901 - 1971
Louis Armstrong became the first African-American jazz musician to write an autobiography, Swing That Music, in 1936. That same year, he became the first African American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie with his turn in Pennies from Heaven, starring Bing Crosby. Additionally, Armstrong became the first African-American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show in 1937.
Singer / 1942 -
Soul singer Aretha Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Franklin is also one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, winning her 18th honor in 2008.
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