List of African-American U.S. state firsts

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African Americans are a demographic minority in the United States. African-Americans' initial achievements in various fields historically establish a foothold, providing a precedent for more widespread cultural change. The shorthand phrase for this is "breaking the color barrier."[1][2]

In addition to major, national- and international-level firsts, African-Americans have achieved firsts on a statewide basis.

19th century

  • 1868
First elected African-American lieutenant governor: Oscar Dunn, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
  • 1870
May: First African-American acting governor: Oscar James Dunn of Louisiana from May till August 9, 1871, when sitting Governor Warmoth was incapacitated and chose to recuperate in Mississippi. (See also: Douglas Wilder, 1990)
  • 1871
First African-American police officer in Chicago, Illinois: James L. Shelton.[3]
  • 1872
First African-American governor of Louisiana: P. B. S. Pinchback (Also first in U.S.) (Non-elected; see also Douglas Wilder, 1990)
  • 1880
First African American elected to the Indiana general assembly: James Sidney Hinton.[4][5]
  • 1889
  • First African-American female principal in Massachusetts and the Northeast: Maria Louise Baldwin, supervising white faculty and a predominantly white student body at the Agassiz Grammar School in Cambridge.

20th century

  • 1918
First African American elected to political office on the West Coast: Frederick Madison Roberts, California State Assembly
  • 1930
First African Americans elected as judges in the state of New York: James S. Watson and Charles E. Toney[citation needed]
  • 1962
First African-American attorney general of Massachusetts: Edward Brooke. Also first African American to hold Massachusetts statewide office, and first African-American attorney general of any state.
  • 1966
First African American woman Texas state senator: Barbara Jordan
First African American appointed to New York State Board of Regents: Kenneth Bancroft Clark
First African American senator from Massachusetts: Edward Brooke. (Also first post-Reconstruction African American elected to the U.S. Senate and first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote).
  • 1967
First African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar: Marian Wright Edelman
  • 1969
First African American elected mayor of a Mississippi city since Reconstruction: Charles Evers, in Fayette, Mississippi[6]
  • 1977
  • First African American to serve on the California Supreme Court: Wiley W. Manuel
  • 1979
First African American elected to a statewide office in Illinois: Roland Burris, office of Comptroller
First African American elected to a statewide office in Wisconsin: Vel Phillips, office of Secretary of State
  • 1980
First African-American speaker of the California State Assembly: Willie Lewis Brown, Jr.
  • 1984
First African American elected to a statewide office in Georgia: Robert Benham, Supreme Court of Georgia
  • 1990
First African-American governor of Virginia: Douglas Wilder (Also first elected governor in US; see also P. B. S. Pinchback, 1872)
  • 1992
First African-American elected to a statewide office in Indiana: Pamela Carter, office of Attorney General
First African-American Minnesota Supreme Court justice: Alan Page
  • 1993
First African American senator from Illinois: Carol Moseley Braun. (Also first and only African-American woman elected to the United States Senate, the first African-American U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party, the first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in an election, and the first and only female Senator from Illinois).
  • 1998
First African-American woman elected State Treasurer and first African-American woman elected statewide in Connecticut: Denise Nappier[7]
First African American elected to office of Attorney General Georgia: Thurbert E. Baker,

21st century

  • 2002
First African-American lieutenant governor of Maryland and first elected to statewide office in Maryland: Michael Steele (See also: 2009)
  • 2004
First African-American Oklahoma Supreme Court justice: Tom Colbert
First African-American Wisconsin Supreme Court justice: Louis B. Butler
First African-American Auditor of Accounts of Vermont and first elected to statewide office in Vermont: Randy Brock
  • 2006
First African American elected governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick
First African-American lieutenant governor of New York: David Paterson
  • 2008
First African-American woman elected Speaker of the California State Assembly: Karen Bass
First African-American governor of New York State: David Paterson (elected as lieutenant governor, succeeded on resignation of previous governor)
  • 2009
First bicameral state legislature to have both chambers headed simultaneously by African Americans: Peter Groff and Terrance Carroll of Colorado.
  • 2010
First African-American attorney general of California: Kamala Harris
First African-American Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Roderick L. Ireland
  • 2013
First African-American senator from South Carolina: Tim Scott[8] (Also the first African-American to serve both houses of the U.S. Congress.)
  • 2012
First African-American to be elected and serve as Worshipful Master of an Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masonic Lodge in the United States: Gerald F. Poe Jr. He was installed on January 1, 2012 as Worshipful Master of Patuxent Lodge No. 218 of Maryland, under the Authority of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.
  • 2014
First African-American senator elected from the South since Reconstruction: Tim Scott [9]
  • 2015
First African-American Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky and first elected to statewide office in Kentucky: Jenean Hampton [10][11]

See also


  1. Juguo, Zhang. W. E. B. Du Bois: The Quest for the Abolition of the Color Line, Routledge, 2001 - ISBN 0-415-93087-1
  2. Herbst, Philip H. The Color of Words: an encyclopaedic dictionary of ethnic bias in the United States, Intercultural Press, p. 57, 1997 - ISBN 1-877864-97-8
  4. Standing with Black trailblazer James S. Hinton
  5. Indiana Black History Public Art Legacy Project
  6. Neil R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow, Chicago: University of Illinois, 1990, p.26
  8. "Tim Scott's swearing-in as senator caps his historic rise". McClatchy Newspapers. January 4, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Fund, John (November 3, 2015). "Kentucky's New GOP Lt. Gov. Is Black Tea-Party Activist". National Review. Retrieved November 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>