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Ten African American firsts occurring in Jan.

The Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington pays tribute to the civil rights leader who achieved a number of firsts as an African American.
Getty Images/Mark Wilson

In reflecting upon not only the past year but years that have passed, one recognizes that African Americans have been pioneers in many areas. Using their God-given talent, while demonstrating rugged, unrelenting determination to succeed, Black Americans have overcome great obstacles to achieve top honors in politics, the performing arts, athletics, science, and a host of other fields. The following list celebrates the accomplishments of ten African Americans who were first to achieve top honors in a range of wide range of endeavors, a series of firsts occurring in the first month of the year.

1) Barack Obama

2) Shirley Chisholm

3) The Platters

4) Hiram Rhodes Revels

5) Marian Anderson

6) Martin Luther King

7) Lawrence Douglas Wilder

8) Robert C. Weaver

9) Colin L. Powell

10) Etta Moten Barnett

First African American President
First African American President http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_President_Barack_Obama_taking_his_Oath_of_Office_-_2009Jan20.jpg

First African American President

  1. Barack Obama

On Jan. 20, 2009, Illinois Senator Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, the first African American to achieve this distinction. Shown here at the inauguration ceremony.

First Black female in Congress
First Black female in Congress http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shirley_Chisholm.jpg

First Black female in Congress

2) Shirley Chisholm

Political figure, educator, and author, Shirley Chisholm was elected to Congress, representing New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983, becoming the first African-American woman elected to Congress. On Jan. 25, 1972 she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

First Black group to make #1 on Billboard
First Black group to make #1 on Billboard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Platters_First_Promo_Photo.jpg

First Black group to make #1 on Billboard

3) The Platters

Jan. 19, 1958 marked the first time an African American group reached number1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with The Platters singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." One of the most successful vocal groups of the early rock and roll era, the group had 40 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1955 and 1967, including four number 1 hits. The most successful combination of singers included lead tenor Tony Williams, David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and Zola Taylor.

First Black Congressman from Mississippi
First Black Congressman from Mississippi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hiram_Rhodes_Revels_-_Brady-Handy-%28restored%29.png

First Black Congressman from Mississippi

4) Hiram Rhodes Revels

Born a free man in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to free parents of African and European ancestry, Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 and during Reconstruction. In January 1870, Revels delivered the opening prayer for the Mississippi state legislature before going to serve in Congress.

Martin Luther King: Man of many firsts
Martin Luther King: Man of many firsts wikipedia

Martin Luther King: Man of many firsts

5) Martin Luther King

Jan. 20, 1986 marked the first observance of the Federal legal holiday, established by Public Law 98-144, honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebrated civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate became the first African American to have such an honor.

First black singer at the Metropolitan Opera Company
First black singer at the Metropolitan Opera Company Blackphilatelists.com

First black singer at the Metropolitan Opera Company

6) Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson, one of the most renowned singers of the Twentieth Century, made her debut at Metropolitan Opera House on Jan. 7, 1955. In a performance as Ulrica in Verdi's Masked Ball, she became the first Black singer in the company's history.

First African American governor
First African American governor http://www.virginiamemory.com/reading_room/this_day_in_virginia_history/january/13

First African American governor

7) Douglas Wilder

On Jan. 13, 1990 Lawrence Douglas Wilder of Virginia is inaugurated as the first African American to be elected governor in the U.S. Wilder won the election in Virginia by only 7,00 votes in a state once the heart of the Confederacy.

First cabinet member of color
First cabinet member of color http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_C._Weaver_1966.jpg

First cabinet member of color

8) Robert C. Weaver

Born in Washington DC, Robert C. Weaver went on to Harvard University, where he earned his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in economics, completing his doctorate in 1934. On Jan. 13, 1866 Weaver became the first African American Cabinet member, by being appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

First African American Secretary of State
First African American Secretary of State http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Colin_Powell_official_Secretary_of_State_photo.jpg

First African American Secretary of State

9) Colin L. Powell

Colin Luther Powell is sworn in by President George W. Bush as Secretary of State on Jan. 20, 2001 as Secretary of State, the first African American to serve in that position.

First black singer at the White House
First black singer at the White House http://www.bet.com/news/national/2013/01/31/this-day-in-black-history-jan-31-1943.html

First black singer at the White House

10) Etta Moten Barnett

Broadway star and film actress Etta Moten Barnett sang at the birthday party for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Jan. 31, 1943, becoming the first African-American to perform at the White House.