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Black Firsts sheds light on milestones in Black history

caines | 2/21/2013, 4:30 a.m.

You may be surprised by some of these groundbreakers

Long and slow. Thats how youd describe every line youve ever stepped into. Dont you hate that? Youre waiting in line and you see a chance to go to a shorter queue so you change lanes. Suddenly, the line you just left looks like the Indianapolis Speedway. And you know what happens if you switch again . . . There are definite advantages to being first. In the new book Black Firsts by Jessie Carney Smith, youll find information on tens of thousands of folks whove gone before you in a good way. In your lifetime, youve seen a lot of big milestones: the first Olympic gold-winning Black gymnast; the first Black head of National Security and, of course, Barack Obama as the first Black U.S. President. But Obama wasnt the first Black to make White House news. Read this book and youll see that pianist Thomas Greene Bethune was the first Black artist to perform there in 1858. A baby named Thomas was the first Black child born at the White House in 1806. Booker T. Washington was the first Black to be entertained at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Sammy Davis, Jr. was the first known Black entertainer to sleep there.

Better than Jeopardy

Youll learn that your grandmas favorite cartoon was drawn by Americas first Black cartoonist. Both Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock broke comedy records in this century. Americas first Black insurance company opened its doors in 1810 and the first Black-owned car dealership opened 160 years later. The first known Black bookseller started his business in 1834. The worlds first Black professional model walked the catwalk in the 1950s and the first Black Playboy bunny hopped on the scene in 1965. A Black chef was reportedly the creator of potato chips. Americas first black Mormon elder gained the priesthood in 1836. And Americas first Black millionaire lived in New Orleans in 1890. Its hard to imagine anything missing from Black Firsts. Its so hard, in fact, that author Jessie Carney Smith challenges readers to find and notify her of other milestones in Black history but not just in North American Black history. Youll find entries here of things that happened to Blacks in the U.S. as well as Black firsts in other countries around the world. But dont think for a minute that Black Firsts is dry and boring. There are lots of entries that will surprise you and others that will stop an argument in a hot minute. Everythings well-indexed, informative, thorough enough and as addictive as buttered popcorn. This is the kind of book you can happily browse. Its also one youd want on your shelf, one youd reach for during those know-it-all emergencies that happen and when they do, Black Firsts should be the first book in line. The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book.She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. By Terri SchlichenmeyerMiami Times writerbookwormsez@yahoo.com