1. Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Before rappers, athletes, actors/actresses, and other entrepreneurs were able to make their first million, Ms. Walker secured the title of becoming the first African-American self-made millionaire in 1910. Independent and business-oriented, she became successful by developing her own line of beauty and hair products specifically for African-Americans.
2. Sherman “Jocko” Maxwell (1907-2008)
In 1929, Maxwell became the first African-American Sportscaster at the age of 22 when he began doing weekly sports reports on WNJR in Newark, New Jersey.
3. Ethel Waters (1896-1977)
Waters was well known for being an accomplished singer and actress. In 1939, she became the first African American to star in her own television program, The Ethel Waters Show, on NBC. She was also the second black person to be nominated for an Academy Award.
4. Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952)
In 1940, Hattie became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her supporting role in Gone with the Wind.
5. The Mills Brothers
First African-American artists to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts in 1943.
6. Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)
Robinson started in the Negro Leagues, but paved the way for blacks to be accepted into the Major League Baseball league during segregated times when he joined the then Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Also the first black to win an MVP Award in MLB, and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:
7. All Negro Comics
The All-Negro Comics became the first comic book produced entirely by African-Americans in 1947.
8. James Baskett (1904-1948)
Became the first African-American man to receive an Academy Award for his performance as Uncle Remus in the Disney film “Song of the South” in 1948.
9. Alice Coachman (1923- )
Specializing in high jump, Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948.
10. Jesse B. Blayton Sr.
Bought Atlanta radio station WERD in 1949, and made it the first black owned and operated radio station.
11. Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
First African American to win Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry Annie Allen in 1950.
12. Nat King Cole (1919-1965)
First African-American solo singer to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts
13. Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965)
First African-American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and the first individual African-American woman to grace the cover as subject on Life magazine in 1954.
14. Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
First African-American member of the Metropolitan Opera.
15. Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
Also known as the “Queen of Jazz” she was the First African-American woman to win a grammy in 1959.
16. Ernie Davis (1939-1963)
Was an American football running back and the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961.
17. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
Along with countless other accomplishments, including his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was also the first African-American to grace the cover of time magazine as “Man of the Year” in 1963.
18. Sidney Poitier (1927- )
First African-American man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field in 1964.
19. Jennifer Jackson (1945- )
Became the first African-American Playboy Playmate centerfold in the March issue of 1965.
20. Beverly Johnson (1952- )
First African-American to be on the cover of American Vogue and Elle magazine in 1974 and 1975.
21. Vanessa Williams (1963- )
First African-American to win Miss America in 1983.
22. Aretha Franklin (1942- )
Became the first African-American woman, and first woman, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
23. Tyra Banks (1973- )
Became the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 1997.
24. Michael Jai White (1967- )
First African-American actor to star in the lead role in a comic-book adaptation movie for the movie Spawn in 1997
25. Beyonce (1981- )
Became the first African-American woman to win the ASCAP Pop Music Songwriter of the Year award in 2001.
26. Robert L. Johnson (1946- )
Also known as Bob Johnson was the First African-American billionaire. Established BET, the first African-American oriented cable channel in 1980. Also, became the first African American to become majority owner of a U.S. major sports league team (Charlotte Bobcats, NBA 2002).
27. Tony Dungy (1955- )
Became the first African-American NFL head coach to win the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.
28. Halle Berry (1966- )
First African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.
29. Princess Tiana
In 2009, Disney finally gave us the first ever African-American animated Disney princess!