Category: African-American Firsts

London Breed Wins San Francisco Mayoral Race, Becomes 1st Black Female to Lead City

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (photo via sfchronicle.com)

by Darran Simon via cnn.com

London Breed became the first African-American woman elected to lead San Francisco on Wednesday, when her opponent conceded a tight race.

Breed will serve until 2020, finishing the term of the late Mayor Ed Lee, who died in December at age 65. At a short news conference, Breed praised Lee and thanked her supporters, as well as the other candidates, including Mark Leno, a former state senator who conceded the race hours earlier. She struck an optimistic tone about the city’s future.

“I am London Breed, I am president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and soon to be mayor of the city and county of San Francisco,” she said to cheers. Breed continued, “I am so hopeful about the future of our city, and I am looking forward to serving as your mayor. I am truly humbled and I am truly honored.”

‘Remarkable young woman’

Earlier on Wednesday, Leno called Breed to congratulate her. “She is a remarkable young woman,” Leno said. “She is going to do a very fine job and we all wish her the best because her success is San Francisco’s success.” Leno and Breed, both Democrats, faced off in a primary election held June 5. At one point, Leno pulled ahead in the count, but as more ballots were tallied, Breed took the lead.

With the results neck-and-neck, the San Francisco Department of Elections began counting nearly 14,000 provisional ballots this week. The San Francisco Department of Elections must still process more than 1,100 ballots cast under Conditional Voter Registration.

‘You can do anything you want to do’

Breed referenced her humble beginnings in her news conference. Born in San Francisco, Breed was raised by her grandmother in the city’s public housing and attended public schools. She worked as an executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex for over a decade, before becoming involved in public office, according to her biography.

Breed said her grandmother “probably had a hand in this, looking down from the heavens.” Her grandmother “took care of the community. She took care of me even on days when I didn’t deserve it,” Breed said.

When asked to reflect on the milestone of being the first African-American woman to be the city’s mayor, she said: “It’s really amazing, and it’s really an honor … I know it means so much to so many people.”

“I’m a native San Franciscan — I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances,” she said. “I think the message that this sends to the next generation of young people growing up in this city, that no matter where you come from … you can do anything you want to do.”

CNN’s Madison Park contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/13/politics/san-francisco-mayor-election-results/index.html

In the Justice System of South Fulton, GA, Black Women Hold Every Top Position

(Photo: Reginald Duncan / The Atlanta Voice)

by Marshall A. Latimore via theatlantavoice.com

As America waits to see if Georgia will make history by electing Stacey Abrams the first African American woman governor in the country this November, African American women in one of Georgia’s newest cities are already making U.S. history.

Only a year after the creation of the City of South Fulton, Georgia’s fifth largest city, is breaking American barriers.

In January 2018, the city’s Municipal Court began operating and in March 2018 the city’s police services officially began. The city is the first city in American history where every criminal justice department head is an African American woman.

Chief of Police Sheila Rogers is a career law enforcement professional with more than twenty-six years experience.  Chief Rogers is the city’s first police chief and one of a few women police chief around the country.

Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers is a University of Georgia law school graduate and the City’s first chief judge.  Judge Sellers was selected through a panel of experienced judges from the surrounding community.

Judge Sellers hired and appointed the Court Administrator, Lakesiya Cofield, and the City’s first Chief Court Clerk, Ramona Howard.

Also appointed to represent the two equally important components of any criminal justice system were two attorneys, City Solicitor LaDawn “LBJ” Jones, who prosecutes the cases and City Public Defender Viveca Famber Powell, who defends those accused of crimes.

Together these African American women make up all the portions of the criminal justice system in the new city. No other time in American history have black women been appointed to the top position in every department in an entire city’s criminal justice system. This amazing first was not planned. However, it is a testament to the reason the city was founded in the first place – self-reliance and local control that properly represents the community in which they serve.

“Our goal is to ensure justice for everyone,” Sellers said. “However, as African American women we are sensitive to the history of criminal justice in our country.   We want to be an example of how to do things right.”

Under Sellers’s leadership, the demographics of the court are not the only progressive attributes. Incorporated in the foundation of the City of South Fulton’s municipal court policies are details not found in other systems that have existed for years, including guaranteed access to an attorney, a robust diversion program that is infused into the court process, and overall respect for victims and the accused alike.

Source: https://www.theatlantavoice.com/articles/in-the-city-of-south-fultons-justice-system-black-women-hold-all-the-reigns/

The Forgotten Girls Who Led the Movement for School Desegregation

Millicent Brown, left, 15, daughter of state NAACP President J. Arthur Brown, one of two black girls to enter Rivers High School in Charleston, S.C, chats with fellow students while awaiting a report from police and fireman concerning a bomb scare at the school on Sept. 3, 1963. (AP Photo)

by Melinda D. Anderson via theatlantic.com

There’s an enduring myth that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was “the first step” in the fight to desegregate schools. Rachel Devlin, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is looking to upend that myth. A Girl Stands At The Door, her new account of the black girls and teens who laid the groundwork for the historic ruling, draws from interviews and archival research to show that before Linda Brown, a 9-year-old, became the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, a generation of black girls and young women from the Deep South to the Midwest fueled the grassroots crusade to strike down the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools and colleges.

Before Brown, some dozen lawsuits were filed on behalf of young black women attempting to enroll in all-white schools—and after Brown, black girls, almost exclusively, did the hard labor of walking through all-white mobs and sitting in previously all-white classrooms, with sometimes hostile classmates and teachers, in pursuit of school integration.

I spoke with Devlin about the black youth who led the effort to racially integrate schools and catalyzed the broader anti-segregation movement. The interview that follows has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.


Melinda D. Anderson: A disproportionate number of black girls were at the forefront of the school-desegregation movement from the late ’40s to the mid-’60s. Why were black girls continually chosen to break the color barrier?

Rachel Devlin: Interestingly, there are no written records about why girls were chosen over and over again in individual lawsuits. These choices were made on a level that was not always entirely conscious. Parents would explain why they should file a lawsuit, and girls agreed. Many of them said, “I was willing.” Other parents drafted their daughters, and the young women cooperated, yet most of the young women who participated were fully invested in school desegregation.

The other thing about girls is that they were good at it. To speak to principals and lawyers and the press you have to be poised, you have to be personable and diplomatic, and young black women had these attributes. They dealt with constant verbal and sexual harassment on the streets of southern cities, of northern cities, and they were acutely aware of their self-presentation in public. It was drilled into them as a way to protect their dignity. Also, very few African American girls and young women did not at some point in their lives work in a white home, and they had to learn how to navigate around white people.

But I want to be clear. This was not just about being accommodating—they knew how to stand their ground. Girls were good at combining different forms of bravery; they could be both stubborn and tough, but also project social openness. They had that sense of self-possession that was extremely useful in these situations.Anderson: You write that the language in the Brown v. Board of Education decision contains “the same moral conviction that inspired black girls to walk up to the doors of white schools and seek to cross the threshold.” In what way are these girls’ untold stories reflected in this landmark ruling?

Devlin: A black girl walking up the steps of a white school and announcing her intentions to go to school with white children was a radical act of social optimism.  Most white people—and a good many African Americans—in the late 1940s and early 1950s believed that white and black children would never be able to learn in an integrated setting. That racial hostility was intractable.

In fact, judges who ruled against these plaintiffs said just that in their decisions. By showing up at the schoolhouse door, these girls were asserting not only their right to attend historically white schools, but that they believed they were capable of sharing a classroom with white students. Their actions and moral clarity reflected their confidence that they and their white peers could coexist in the intimate setting of a school. The Supreme Court decision asserted this same presumption: that it was fitting, right, and possible for children of different races to attend school together in the United States.

Anderson: The battle for school integration sparked bitterness, anger, and even violence. Some of these black girls were elementary-school age. What was the physical and psychological cost of being first?Devlin: Tessie Prevost-Williams and Leona Tate integrated T.J. Semmes Elementary School in New Orleans, in third grade. Along with Gail Etienne, the three of them received the worst violence that I recorded in the book. Because they were so young and so little, people would punch them, trip them, spit in their food. They said they could hardly go to the bathroom because that was a very dangerous space. It was a war inside the school. Tessie, Leona, and Gail all said it was a living hell.

I think the resilience that these young women had is hard to imagine. One would think that it would have been a crippling experience, but they sensed from a very early age the weight and enormity of what they were doing. They came to understand the notion of sacrifice for social justice. The stamina that it took to survive was fed and reinforced by the magnitude of what they were accomplishing.

I think it’s very hard from a current-day perspective to imagine a child going through that. In some ways we just have to be astonished at what they did. America was effecting social change on the backs of young children, and we have to ask ourselves what this means about political change in this country, that we leaned on young children to do this work of racial reconciliation.

Anderson: You talked to some of these women in your research. How do they view the resegregation of schools today—what some have called the broken promises of Brown v. Board of Education?

Devlin: Of the nearly 30 people that I interviewed, to a person, they still very much believe in what they did. They tend to look at the broader changes that have happened as a result of Brown v. Board, the day-to-day interactions between white and black Americans in a society that is diverse and desegregated. They see a larger tableau that has been fundamentally altered because the schools desegregated—the ripple effects of the Brown decision.

They also understand that people within the black community question desegregation. Some of them have even been the object of complaints: If you hadn’t done this, we would still have all-black schools. But they say it had to be done. Millicent Brown, who was among the first to integrate schools in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1963, put it in a way that’s quite striking: “We could not have apartheid in the schools.”

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/rachel-devlin-school-desegregation/561284/

Stacey Abrams Wins Georgia Democratic Primary for Governor, Makes History

GA Democratic gubernatorial nominees Stacey Abrams (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

by Alice Truong via qz.com

Stacey Abrams made American history on Tuesday (May 22) when she won the Democratic primary for governor in Georgia, making her the first black female gubernatorial candidate nominated by a major party.

If she pulls off a victory in November against the Republican nominee, who will be decided in a runoff in July, the former state House minority leader will have a number of firsts to her name: the first female governor in Georgia, the first black governor of the state, and the first black woman elected governor in the US.

(Though she was not elected, Barbara Jordan in 1972 briefly served as the first female and first black governor of Texas when governor Preston Smith and lieutenant governor Ben Barnes were both out of the state on the same day.)

Abrams, of course, still faces an uphill battle in the deep South, which hasn’t elected an African-American governor since reconstruction. As the New York Times points out, she’ll need strong turnout from black voters to stand a chance in November. In Georgia, non-Hispanic white voters comprise 53% of the population and have traditionally voted in strong numbers.

“Tonight’s victory was only the beginning,” said Abrams in a Facebook post. “The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”

Source: https://qz.com/1285911/stacey-abramss-georgia-victory-puts-the-us-closer-to-its-first-black-female-governor/

Sean Combs is Revealed as Buyer of $21.1 Million Kerry James Marshall “Past Times” Painting

“Past Times” by Kerry James Marshall sold for $21.1 million on Wednesday to the music mogul Sean Combs (image via Sotheby’s)

Ever since the sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night of “Past Times,” a monumental painting by Kerry James Marshall with a narrative centered on black experiences, many people have been speculating about which collector or museum might have placed the winning $21.1 million bid. The sale was an auction high for Mr. Marshall, and it was widely reported to be the most ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.

On Thursday night, Jack Shainman, Mr. Marshall’s gallerist and dealer in New York, told The Times that the buyer was Sean Combs, the entrepreneur, fashionista, Grammy Award-winning record producer and subject of the documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story.”

“I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy — that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot,” said Mr. Shainman, who has represented Mr. Marshall since his first show at the gallery in 1993.

The dealer said Mr. Combs was introduced to the painter’s work by a friend and sometime musical collaborator, the hip-hop recording artist and record producer Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is also an avid art collector with his wife, Alicia Keys. Mr. Combs viewed the painting at Sotheby’s before the sale.

To read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/arts/sean-combs-kerry-james-marshall.html

Captain Tara Wright and First Officer Mallory Cave Make Alaska Airlines History as its 1st African-American Female Flight Crew

Captain Tara Wright and 1st Officer Mallory Cave of Alaska Airlines (photo via ktva.com)

via ktva.com

Alaska Airlines marked a milestone on Mother’s Day, as one of its West Coast flights became the first to be flown by two black women.

Tara Wright, the captain of Flight 361 from San Francisco to Portland, stepped out of the cockpit to introduce herself and first officer Mallory Cave to passengers before their Boeing 737’s Sunday takeoff.

After mentioning that Sunday was Mother’s Day, as well as her father’s 80th birthday, Wright sprung her surprise in a Facebook video.

“Finally, you’re sharing a pretty interesting piece of Alaska Airlines history this morning,” she told passengers, who began bursting into applause. “You’ll be piloted by two female African-American pilots for the first time in the airline’s history.”

Alaska Airlines – which was formed in a 1932 merger and took its current name in 1944 – subsequently shared Wright’s video to its Facebook page. Its post called the moment “history in the flying,” adding that Wright and Cave were following in the footsteps of Bessie Coleman — America’s first black woman to make a public flight in 1922.

Sunday’s flight has special relevance in the airline industry, where more than 72 percent of employees are white and 60 percent are male according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 2015 breakdown of airline data from the bureaushowed even greater diversity issues among flight crews, in which 91 percent of airline pilots and 73 percent of flight attendants were white; just 9 percent of pilots were female, versus nearly 75 percent of flight attendants.

Airline officials declined to discuss details Thursday on the racial or gender diversity of its pilot corps, which includes nearly 2,000 pilots with Alaska and almost 840 more flying with Virgin America after it was acquired by Alaska in 2016.

To read more, go to: http://www.ktva.com/story/38218189/alaska-airlines-sees-first-ever-black-female-flight-crew

Winston-Salem State University’s Wanda Brown Elected President of the American Library Association

American Library Association President Wanda K. Brown (photo via bcala.org)

via jbhe.com

Wanda K. Brown, the director of library services at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, was named president-elect of the American Library Association. She will serve as president-elect for one year and then will take over the presidency at the conclusion of the association’s 2019 annual meeting.

The American Library Association was founded in 1853. It has more than 57,000 members worldwide. Brown will be the first president who is a librarian at a historically Black college or university.

Before joining the staff at Winston-Salem State University in 2016, Brown was associate dean of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She joined the staff at Wake Forest in 1977. Brown is a former president of the North Carolina Library Association and former president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Brown is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and holds a master of library and information science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

To learn more about other pioneering African-American librarians, click here.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/04/winston-salem-state-universitys-wanda-brown-to-lead-the-american-library-association/

Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer Prize for Music for His Grammy-Winning Album ‘Damn’

Kendrick Lamar onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 23, 2017.
Kendrick Lamar (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Compton native and acclaimed hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album “Damn.” It is the first time work outside of the classical and jazz genres has been recognized in that category.

In today’s announcement, the Pulitzer board described the album as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”

“Damn,” released on April 14, 2017, is Lamar’s fourth studio album following 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “Section.80,” released in 2011. In January “Damn” won the Grammy for best rap album and was among the nominees for album of the year.

Linda Oubré Selected as President of Whittier College in California

Whittier College President Linda Oubré (photo via biz journals.com)

via jbhe.com

The board of trustees of Whittier College in California, has chosen Linda Oubré as the educational institution’s fifteenth president. When she takes office on July 1, Dr. Oubré will be the first African American and the first person of color to serve as president of Whittier College.

Whittier College, located east of Los Angeles, enrolls about 1,600 undergraduate students and approximately 450 graduate students, according to the latest statistics supplied to the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up 4 percent of the undergraduate student body. The college’s most famous graduate is Richard M. Nixon.

For the past six years, Dr. Oubré has served as dean of the College of Business at San Francisco State University. Earlier, Dr. Oubré was executive director of corporate relations and business development, and chief diversity officer for the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Oubré holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/04/linda-oubre-selected-as-the-fifteenth-president-of-whittier-college-in-california/