Harlem Firsts

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Eugene Jacques BullardEugene Jacques Bullard (1894-1961) was the first African American to fly a fighter plane and was known as the “black swallow of death” for his courage during missions. He led a colorful life, much of it in Europe.


Mrs. Velena G. Ellis, the first African American woman police officer admitted to the New York bar and the first black woman on the NYPD in 1945.

5c702eb2ba88fb42fb264ba22c3c6d8fJack Jonhson was the first black world champion as he drove down a street in Harlem and was the owner of the Cotton Club on Lenox Avenue at the time in the 1920’s.


Harlem’s Bessie Allison Buchanan First Black Woman To Be New York State Legislature, 1940’s.

Althea Gibson Playing Tennis

29-year-old Althea Gibson of Harlem became the first African American ever to win a championship in Britain’s historic Wimbledon tournament. Gibson was accorded the city’s traditional reception with a ticker tape parade in 1957.


As founder and director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell was the first African American to become a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet in 1956.


Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was sworn in as New York’s first African American city council member by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. A prominent civil rights leader in Harlem, Powell was also pastor of the Abyssinisan Baptist Church, and was the first Congressman to hold a Congressional Hearing on the street for the public in Harlem, NY. in 1965.


Dr. May Edward Chinn was the first was an African-American woman physician. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Bellevue Hospital Medical College and the first African-American woman to intern at Harlem Hospital.

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