African American Firsts

Licensed Pilot: Bessie Coleman, 1921.

Millionaire: Madame C. J. Walker.

Billionaire: Robert Johnson, 2001, owner of Black Entertainment Television; Oprah Winfrey, 2003.

Portrayal on a postage stamp: Booker T. Washington, 1940 (and also 1956).

Miss America: Vanessa Williams, 1984, representing New York (Buffalo roots). When controversial photos surfaced and Williams resigned, Suzette Charles, the runner-up and also an African American, assumed the title. She represented New Jersey. 

Explorer, North Pole: Matthew A. Henson, 1909, accompanied Robert E. Peary on the first successful U.S. expedition to the North Pole.

Explorer, South Pole: George Gibbs, 1939–1941 accompanied Richard Byrd.

Flight around the world: Barrington Irving, 2007, from Miami Gardens, Florida, flew a Columbia 400 plane named Inspiration around the world in 96 days, 150 hours (March 23-June 27).