Preface Forgotten African American Firsts: An Encyclopedia of Pioneering History is designed to introduce high school, college, and university students to the ground- breaking accomplishments of African American artists, inventors, civic leaders, and scholars from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries. While the achievements of individuals such as Barack Obama, Toni Morrison, and Jackie Robinson are well known, many other African American pioneers’ achievements have been largely forgotten, as the title of this volume suggests, or deliberately erased from historical records. This volume will help readers to appreciate the critical but too often unrecognized role that African Americans in every genera- tion have played in transforming the world through their creative work, invention, and leadership in every area of human endeavor. This volume’s 149 entries, which are presented in 17 categories of scientific, artistic, political, and social innovation, describe two kinds of “firsts.” In many cases, the subject of an entry was the first African American to do something. Clarence Page, for example, was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, and Robert Weaver was the first African American to be appointed to a national cabinet-level position, Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel into outer space, and Ethel Waters was the first African American to host nationwide network radio and television programs. Other entries tell the stories of African Americans who were the first person ever, regardless of race or ethnicity, to do something Dr. Charles Drew, for instance, pioneered the use of blood plasma infusions, and Frank Robinson was the first person to win the Most Valuable Player Awards in both the National and American Leagues of Major League Baseball. The authors recognize that some readers have not forgotten and have continued to celebrate the achievements of the pioneers described in this volume. In some cases, individuals who were once well known have faded from memory, while in other cases, selective and often-biased historiography has denied recognition to African American innovators. Forgotten Firsts celebrates the achievements of those African American pioneers whose memory has been obscured or erased, and it provides resources for further research about these important figures and their significant contributions. This volume also includes a “Guide to Related Top- ics” that documents the multiple intersecting fields of thought and creative activity in which the pioneers described in this volume have played leading roles.
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