Discover 28 Hidden Figures in Black History with Gale in Context: Biography

Use Gale In Context: Biography to learn about African American unsung heroes and heroines. Person Search within Gale In Context: Biography helps you find individuals based on specific characteristics like ethnicity, gender, or occupation. To access Person Search select it on the Homepage, or use it within Advanced Search. Utilize as many filters as you like, the more you select the more precise your search will be. As an example, if you are looking for female authors, you can select “Female” under the Gender filter and enter the occupation “Author” in the Occupation field. If you can’t find the person you’re looking for, try adding or removing filters (to make searches more precise or broad).

Try to find these 28 Hidden Figures in Black History Using Gale in Context: Biography

  1. Mary Church Terrell
    A lecturer, political activist, and educator, dedicated her life to improving social conditions for African American women. She helped to found two of the most important African American political action groups, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
  2.  Lorraine Hansberry
    The first African American woman to write a play produced and performed on Broadway, A Raisin in the Sun.
  3.  Claudette Colvin
    The first African American to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in segregated Montgomery, AL. in 1955. A 15-year-old HS senior in Montgomery, AL was arrested to refusing to give up her seat in a bus to a white man. This happened just nine months prior to Rosa Parks.
  4.  Althea Gibson
    The first African American woman to win on the world tennis tour, Wimbledon.
  5.  Ruby Bridges
    The first African American child to attend an all-white public school in New Orleans in 1960.
  6.  Hattie McDaniel
    The first African American woman and entertainer to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).
  7.  Annie Turnbo Malone
    She manufactured a line of beauty products for black women and created a unique distribution system that helped thousands of black women gain self-respect and
    economic independence. However, her contributions to African American culture are often overlooked because her business empire collapsed from mismanagement. One of her students, Madame C.J. Walker, created a similar enterprise and is largely credited with originating the black beauty business, a feat that rightly belongs to Malone.
  8. Henrietta Lacks
    American cell donor Henrietta Lacks provided the cell sample that created the world's first "immortal" cell line, called the HeLa cell line. Her cells were used without her permission and are saving lives today even though she died in 1951.
  9. Bessie Coleman
    The first African American woman to ever fly an airplane and the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1921.
  10.  Dido Elizabeth Belle
    The first African American Aristocrat in Britain.
  11. Janet Collins
    The first African American woman to dance with the Metropolitan Opera Company.
  12. Sarah Goode
    The first African American woman to receive a patent for her invention of the Folding Cabinet Bed.
  13. Patricia Bath
    The first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. During the 1980s she invented the first laser-based surgical instrument to remove cataracts from eyes, which increased accuracy and decreased the surgical trauma to the eye.
  14. Alexa Canady
    The first woman African American neurosurgeon in the United States.
  15. Marie Van Brittan Brown
    An African American woman inventor, received a patent in 1969, for inventing the first home security system.
  16. Robert Abbott
    Established a weekly newspaper, called the Chicago Defender, one of the most important African American newspapers in history, in 1905.
  17. Matthew Henson
    The first African American arctic explorer and it is believed that he is the first person to reach the North Pole.
  18.  John H. Johnson
    He is the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, which publishes Ebony and Jet magazine. He held the distinction of having been the first African American placed on Forbes' list of 400 wealthiest Americans.
  19.  Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
    The first African American general for the United States Army.
  20. Gordan Parks Sr.
    The first African American man to be hired as a photographer on the staff at Life magazine. His iconic photography depicted what it meant to be black in America. First African American director of a major Hollywood motion picture.
  21. Earl Lloyd
    First African American man to play in professional basketball for National Basketball Association (NBA).
  22. John Mercer Langston
    The first African American to be elected into public office in the United States and was the first African American lawyer in Ohio in 1854.
  23.  Elijah McCoy
    American engineer and inventor is best known for inventions that helped lubricate engines without having to shut them down
  24. Robert L. Johnson
    Creator of the first cable network, Black Entertainment Television (BET) to provide solely black programming, Johnson built his nearly $3 billion company on a format that featured black music videos and comedy. Johnson became the first African-American billionaire.
  25. Alexander Lucius Twilight
    Was believed to be the first African American to graduate from an American college in 1823, Middlebury College.
  26.  Tim Scott
    The first African American Republican to be elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in more than a hundred years.
  27. Charlie Sifford
    The first African American to win a major professional golf tournament, PGA.
  28.  Daniel Hale Williams
    The first African American physician to perform open-heart surgery in the United States and established a hospital with an interracial staff.