Tag: African-American Firsts

Makayla Reynolds becomes 1st Black Female Class President at University of Pennsylvania

Makayla Reynolds (photo via dailypennsylvanian.com)

After the votes were tallied on Friday night, small town Floridian and College sophomore Makayla Reynolds was elected as the first black female class president in Penn’s history.

“I tried to sell myself as the outsider,” Reynolds said. “My background and where I come from and what I stand for is very underrepresented at Penn.”

Reynolds will be replacing the previous class president College sophomore Vadim Ordovsky-Tanaevsky.   After having the experience of being a class president in high school, Reynolds decided to pursue the same position in college.  “I don’t think that Vadim has done bad at all,” Reynolds said. “I think he’s done great. People just wanted a change.”

Many students have expressed concern that the class board has little impact on student lives. Reynolds speaks to this concern.  “If you aren’t involved, it’s hard to see what the class board is doing,” she said. She hopes that she will be able to make a tangible difference.

Reynolds said that “the hardest part is getting people to be interested in voting.” Only about 800 of the over 2400 students in the sophomore class voted in the election.

Over the past weeks, Reynolds worked tirelessly to get her name out to other sophomores. She wanted to make an impression online as well as face-to-face with voters. Her Facebook and website served as a platform to inform the Class of 2018 about why she was a good candidate.

Reynolds said that a lot of her campaigning was talking one-on-one with friends and acquaintances she knows from activities she’s involved with on campus.

Outside of class board, Reynolds is part of MedLife Penn, a group that promotes health equity both locally and globally, and a public speaking advisor for communication within the curriculum.

Reynold’s favorite extracurricular is being a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters. This gives her a chance to make a difference in the community.

In her time as president, she hopes to inspire other students and have an impact. Reynolds wants to maintain Penn traditions, but also start new programs and initiatives within the student body.

One of the challenges of being president is the expectation to bring together a group of students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Reynolds hopes to work with some of the many cultural groups at Penn to create events that appeal to students who identify with different cultural backgrounds.

Another goal is to bring greater awareness to mental health. Reynolds is passionate about making an impact. She hopes to make Penn a less stressful environment, but realizes that most mental health problems are deeper than that.

To read more, go to: http://www.thedp.com/article/2016/04/makayla-reynolds-first-black-class-president?utm_content=buffer2d1e5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Clarinetist Anthony McGill Becomes New York Philharmonic’s 1st African-American Section Leader

Anthony McGill
Clarinetist Anthony McGill (Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images)

The great clarinetist Anthony McGill has made history by becoming the first African-American principal, or section leader, in the New York Philharmonic, effective this fall. His appointment is among several changes at the symphony reported by The New York Times.

McGill and bassist Timothy Cobb were both poached from New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, where they served as first chairs. The Philharmonic will announce several more hires in the coming months, including a violinist to replace outgoing concertmaster Glenn Dicterow.

Although the Philharmonic is regarded as the standard bearer of American orchestras and has recently updated its image with contemporary repertoire and multimedia staging, under the leadership of young conductor Alan Gilbert, it has made slow progress in terms of racial diversity. In 1962, violinist Sanford Allen became the first full-time African-American member, and there have been few people of color, other than Asians or Asian-Americans, since.

According to Aaron P. Dworkin, president of the Sphinx Organization and a leading advocate for inclusion in classical music, McGill’s “talent and artistic excellence exemplify the future of America’s classical music landscape.”

article by E. Tammy Kim via The Scrutineer

Letitia James Set to Become First Black Woman Public Advocate of NYC


As major political races heat up across the nation, one woman of color is proving that she can hold her own in a big city election.  Letitia James officially beat out Daniel Squadron for the Democratic nomination in the New York City’s Public Advocate’s runoff race Tuesday night, the Associate Press reports. She gained 60 percent of votes to Squadron’s 40 percent which secured her position and helped diversify the Democratic party nominees for city office.

Because James has no Republican rival, she is expected to be the first African-American woman to hold a citywide elected post upon final ballot counts.

“We did it. We did it. We did it,” the former councilwoman from Brooklyn said publicly during a victory celebration. “All of us broke through that glass ceiling, and I am so proud of what we accomplished together. I’m proud that we made history tonight.”

The position of Public Advocate was the only race to have a runoff in New York City and cost nearly $13 million.

article by Liane Membis via clutchmagonline.com

DaVita Vance-Cooks Becomes 1st African American and Female to Run U.S. Government Printing Office


DaVita Vance-Cooks was just named the nation’s public printer, making her both the first female and the first African American to lead the Government Printing Office in the agency’s 152-year history. Vance-Cooks’ appointment was approved by unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate. President Barack Obama nominated her for the position earlier this year.  DaVita Vance-Cooks is a graduate from Tufts University with an MBA from Columbia University.

It has been a mission of the new GPO head to re-brand the Government Printing Office and bring them up to speed in our digital society. She led the agency’s effort to partner with Google to sell federal publications in an eBook format, launched an award-winning government book blog, modernized GPO’s customer contact center, and led the renovation of the agency’s retail bookstore in Washington, D.C.  Her work led to an appointment as Deputy Public Printer in 2011.

DaVita Vance-Cooks joined the Government Printing Office in 2004. She began as the Deputy Managing Director of Customer Services, with the responsibility of overseeing the office’s liaison with federal agencies for in-house print production and printing procurement services. Under Vance-Cooks, the GPO awarded approximately $500 million dollars annually in printing contracts to the private industry and oversaw the award of a $50 million contract for the production of 2010 census materials, which was one of the largest procurements in the government agency’s history.

For the first time since 2008, GPO completed its fiscal year 2012 with a positive net income and reduced overhead costs. Under Vance-Cooks, the GPO pioneered new mobile apps, expanded the scope of information made available through the federal digital system and opened a secure credential site.

article by Erica L. Taylor via blackamericaweb.com

Jackie Robinson to be Honored Saturday by Exhibition of Rare Sports Memorabilia in Los Angeles

Jackie Robinson Triple Play Day

This Saturday, April 13th, the Zimmer Museum Honors Jackie Robinson with Family Friendly Events & Activities in conjunction with the Sports Museum of LA.

Sixty-six years ago on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base, making him the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. This weekend, in addition to the national release of the Warner Bros. “42,” a feature film about his life,  Robinson will be honored by a rare display of his, as well as Negro League memorabilia, at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles.  This exhibit, hosted by the Zimmer Children’s Museum, coincides with Jackie Robinson Triple Play Day, which also includes family-friendly events, food, prizes and a historical scavenger hunt for kids.

Proceeds from Triple Play Day go to support the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s youth services program, youTHink, which empowers youth to find their voice around social issues that matter to them and make a difference in their communities. 

For more information on this special event or to purchase tickets, go to: http://sports.zimmermuseum.org

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

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University of Tennessee Names Its First Building After an African American

Fred D. Brown JrThe University of Tennessee board of trustees recently approved names for new buildings and the renaming of several existing structures on the Knoxville campus. Included in these actions is the naming of the Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall, the first building on the Knoxville campus to be named after an African American. The building is the first new residence hall on campus in 43 years. When completed in 2014, the new residence hall will house 700 students.

Fred D. Brown was a longtime staff member at the university and the founder, 40 years ago, of the Office of Diversity Programs in the College of Engineering. Brown was a graduate of Tuskegee University.

article via University of Tennessee Names Its First Building After an African American : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

General Lloyd Austin: Meet the Black Man Who Keeps Breaking Army Barriers

General Lloyd Austin

On Friday, Gen. Lloyd Austin became the first African-American leader of the U.S. Central Command, which has a wide-ranging area of responsibility for 20 countries in the Middle East and southwest Asia. It’s not the first time in his 37-year career that he’s broken barriers for black members of the Army. He was also the first African American to serve in his previous position as the vice chief of staff.

Read more at: General Lloyd Austin: Meet the Black Man Who Keeps Breaking Army Barriers.

Hiram Rhoades Revels Sworn in as 1st Black Senator 143 Years Ago Today

rhoades revel

The First Colored Senator and Representatives, in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the US. Top standing left to right: Robert C. De Large, M.C. of S. Carolina; and Jefferson H. Long, M.C. of Georgia. Seated, left to right: U.S. Senator H.R. Revels of Mississippi; Benj. S. Turner, M.C. of Alabama; Josiah T. Walls, M.C. of Florida; Joseph H. Rainy, M.C. of S. Carolina; and R. Brown Elliot, M.C. of S. Carolina. Lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1872.

On February 25, 1870, exactly 143 years ago today, Hiram Rhoades Revels was sworn into the U.S. Senate, making him the first black person to ever sit in Congress.  After the Reconstruction Act of 1867 was passed by a majority-Republican Congress, the South was divided into five military districts and all men, regardless of race were granted voting rights. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature, and seven black representatives were later elected for states like Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia thanks, in large part, to the support of African American voters.

Revels and some 15 other black men served in Congress during Reconstruction, and more than 600 served in state legislatures, while hundreds held local offices.

article via huffingtonpost.com

Washington Post Names Kevin Merida as its 1st black Managing Editor

kevinmeridaThe Washington Post announced Monday that national editor Kevin Merida will be moving up to managing editor.

Merida is the first African-American to hold this position at the legendary publication.

Merida, 56, is replacing Liz Spayd, reports theWashington City Paper.  Spayd resigned after the 2012 presidential election.

The Post‘s executive editor Martin Baron stated in amemo that Merida’s new responsibilities will include “news and features coverage as well as the Universal News Desk.”

Merida joins fellow managing editor John Temple, who will now mainly oversee digital operations at the Post.  Click here to read more on the Washington City Paper.


article by Carrie Healey via thegrio.com

148 Years Ago Today: First African-American Lawyer Practices Before U.S. Supreme Court

Upon the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which formally ended slavery, abolitionist lawyer John Swett Rock became the first African-American admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court on Feb. 1, 1865.

Rock was born free on October 13, 1825, in Salem, New Jersey. He was also an educator and later studied dentistry, graduating from the American Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852. He set up a practice in Boston, where many of his patients were escaped slaves fleeing to Canada through the Underground Railroad.

An outspoken abolitionist in Boston, Rock switched his focus to law and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1861. He served the U.S. Supreme Court for just one year before health problems derailed his career. On Dec. 3, 1866, at age 41, he died from tuberculosis.

article by Britt Middleton via bet.com