Black History Month Obscure Fact #22

Despite Tiger Woods iconic status, it’s safe to say the Professional Golf Association hasn’t always been in love with African-Americans.
One of the first African-Americans to play in the PGA was Dewey Brown. He became a member of the PGA in 1928. Brown learned the game as a caddie and became a renowned club designer and teacher during the 1920s and 30s. He even crafted a set of clubs for President Warren G. Harding. In 1934, the PGA terminated Brown’s membership because they found out he was African-American. During the six years he was a member, everyone assumed he was white because of his light skin color.

Brown was not the only black American in the golf world in the early part of last century. George Grant, a dentist from Boston, designed the first golf tee registered by the United States Patent Office in 1899. John Shippen was the first black American to play in the United States Open, in 1896, even though some competitors threatened to withdraw. And Joseph Bartholomew, a noted architect, designed and built more than a half-dozen golf courses in the New Orleans area. But because he was black, Bartholomew was not allowed to play on the courses he built.

(Sources: Brown, Clifton “Members Only” The New York Times, 20 Dec. 1998; “Forbidden Fairways: African Americans and the Game of Golf,” by Calvin H. Sinnette. Sleeping Bear Press, 1998; Wikipedia:


Black History Month Obscure Fact #21

Bill Pickett (1871 – 1932) a renowned cowboy and rodeo performer was named to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971 and honored by the U.S. Postal service in a series of stamps as one of the twenty “Legends of the West”


Black History Month Obscure Fact #20

When the question “Who was the first black doctor?” is asked, people often think of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. It’s true that Dr. Williams was renown for being the first in the United States to repair a pericardium — essentially performing open-heart surgery. But this country’s first black physician was actually James Derham.

Although he never received the degree of M.D. he was the first African-American to formally practice medicine in the U.S. Derham was born in 1762 as a slave. He had several masters who were doctors and one encouraged him to practice medicine. He worked as a nurse to buy his freedom, which he was granted in 1783. He opened his first medical practice at age 26. He was acquainted with Dr. Benjamin Rush, who asked him to move to Philadelphia and practice. He opened up a practice there and became the foremost specialist in disorders of the throat.

Additionally, the first black university-trained physician was James McCune Smith and the first black person to graduate from an American medical school was David J. Peck.

Alexander Lucius Twilight was the first African-American to receive a college degree from an American institution. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823.

(Sources: e-ssortment:, “African-American Firsts: Famous, little-known and unsung triumphs of blacks in America” by Joan Potter with Constance Claytor. Pinto Press 1994;


Black History Month Obscure Fact #19

Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles founded the first college for black women in the United States in 1881. The school was named Spelman College after Laura Celestia Spelman Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller, who made a sizeable donation to the school.


Black History Month Obscure Fact #18

Although slavery started in the United States in 1619, the first black child born into slavery wasn’t born until 1624. His name was William Tucker, and he was named after his master, a sea captain. Tucker was the child of Anthony and Isabella, who are speculated to be two of the first 20 slaves brought on a Dutch ship to the Jamestown Colony. Together they formed the first African-American family.