Firsts

Alexander L. Twilight

TWILIGHTAlexander Lucius Twilight is the first African American to graduate from a U.S. college, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. Also a pioneer in Vermont politics, Twilight became the first African American to win election to public office in 1836, joining his home-state legislature. He died in Brownington, Vermont, on June 19, 1857.

Born on September 23, 1795 (though sources vary on the month and day of his birth, with some saying September 26 and others noting July 15), in Corinth, Vermont, where he also grew up, Alexander Lucius Twilight was one of six children born to Ichabod and Mary Twilight. The Twilights were one of the few African-American families living in the area at the time. According to the Old Stone House Museum’s website, Ichabod Twilight served in the American Revolutionary War.  Continue reading

Xavier University

xavier uThere are 102 historically Black colleges and 253 Catholic colleges in the United States, yet only one is bothBlack and Catholic. That distinction belongs to Xavier University of Louisiana, which strives to combine the best attributes of both its faith and its culture.

Located in New Orleans, the small liberal arts college dates back to 1915, when St. Katharine Drexel and theSisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved.  Continue reading

James A Healy

Rev. James A. Healy, D.D.

Rev. James A. Healy, D.D.

Bishop Bacon’s successor, James Augustine Healy, was appointed February 12, 1875, and consecrated as Bishop of Portland at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (see Cathedral) on June 2, 1875.

James Augustine Healy became the first black bishop ordained in the United States. He was the son of an Irish immigrant, Michael Healy, who became a prosperous plantation-owner in Georgia, and a mulatto woman who was actually a slave.

James was educated in northern schools and later attended the newly established Holy Cross College. There he made his decision to enter the priesthood. He furthered his studies in Montreal and Paris where he was ordained in 1854 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

After ordination Father Healy was assigned to Bishop John Fitzpatrick’s Boston Diocese. He remained there serving first at the House of the Angel Guardian, then as Chancellor of the Diocese and finally as pastor of St. James Church. When his appointment came as the second Bishop of Portland, he was forty-five years old.  Continue reading

John W Cromwell

John W Cromwell

John W Cromwell

In 1921, John W. Cromwell, Jr., became the first African-American to earn the designation of CPA, some 25 years after the first CPA certificate was granted in the United States. Cromwell was a member of one of the leading African-American families in the country. His father was a teacher, political activist, attorney, and chief examiner for the U.S. Post Office. Cromwell’s older sister, Otelia, was the first African-American alumna of Smith College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in English at Yale. Cromwell was exceptional himself. He graduated from Dartmouth as the best student in science in the class of 1906. A year later he completed his master’s degree there.

The profession most open to African-Americans at the time was teaching. After finishing at Dartmouth, Cromwell returned home to Washington, D.C., and became a mathematics teacher at the Dunbar School, the most prestigious black high school in the country.

Fifteen years passed before John Cromwell became a CPA. He was not allowed to sit for the CPA exam in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. In addition, all those places had experience requirements. The biggest barrier to African-Americans in becoming CPAs has always been the experience requirement: In order to become a CPA you have to work for a CPA, and for the first two-thirds of the last century, most firms would not hire African-Americans.  Continue reading

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Lucy Foster

Autherine Juanita Lucy was the first black student to attend the University of Alabama, in 1956. She was born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama and graduated from Linden Academy in 1947. She went on to attend Selma University in Selma, and the all-black Miles College in Fairfield – where she graduated with a BA in English in 1952.

Later in 1952, at the encouragement of and along with a Miles classmate, Pollie Ann Myers, she decided to attend the University of Alabama as a graduate student but, knowing that admission would be difficult due to the University’s admission policies, she and Myers approached the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for help. Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, and Arthur Shores were assigned to be their attorneys. While they started preparing her case, she worked as a secretary. Court action began in July 1953.  Continue reading

Upcoming Black History Posts
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  • Muriel O. Farmer
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