Black Seventh-day Adventist Firsts

Listed in alphabetical order by last name

Barry Black (1948-) was elected the 62nd chaplain of the United States Senate on June 27, 2003, becoming the first African American to hold the position.

Lottie Blake (1876-1976) was the first black Seventh-day Adventist to practice medicine. Beginning in 1901, when she resided in Birmingham, Alabama, she was the sole black female physician practicing in the city.

Mabel Branch became the first black teacher of public schools in the state of Colorado in 1898.

C.D. Brooks (1930-2016) in 1974 was the speaker-director of Breath of Life Ministries, the first continuously-running black religious television programming.

Mary Britton (1855-1925) began teaching at Berea College in Kentucky in 1871, the first black person to teach white students at the institution. In 1902 she became Kentucky's first woman licensed medical doctor.

Franklin H. Bryant (d. 1909) was the first African American Seventh-day Adventist to publish a book, when Black Smiles appeared in 1903. Bryant was also a trailblazing lawyer, being the first black law graduate at the University of Colorado (then Colorado University) in 1907. 

Ben Carson (1951-) in 1987 performed the first successful separation of conjoined twins. His other surgical innovations have included the first intra-uterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy, in which an infant suffering from uncontrollable seizures has half of its brain removed.

James Chiles (1860-1930) argued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad case for desegregation before the Supreme Court in 1910.

Eva B. Dykes (1893-1986) was the first black woman to complete the requirements for a PhD, which she did at Radcliffe, the woman’s Harvard, in 1921.

James Graves, Jr. (1953-) was elected to the United States Court of Appeals by President Barack Obama on June 10, 2010, and was confirmed on February 14, 2011, only the second African American to attain the distinction.

Jessie C. Dorsey Green cofounded Voorhees College with Elizabeth Evelyn Wright in 1897.

Frank Hale, Jr. (1927-2011) served in higher education for six decades, opening the way for thousands of minority students to obtain collegiate and graduate degrees. The Ohio State University Board of Trustees voted him Vice Provost and Professor Emeritus, naming in his honor the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center on October 11, 1989, designating the building in which it is housed as Hale Hall. Hale is the first black person to have a building named after him on The Ohio State University campus.

Eugene Hardy graduated from high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1877, believed to be the first black to graduate from high school in the state of Michigan.

William J. Hardy (1823-1888) was elected supervisor of Gaines Township in 1872, becoming the first black elected to office in the state of Michigan.

Anna Knight (1874-1972) was the first black woman of any denomination to serve as a missionary in India, which she did from 1901-1906.

Irene Morgan (1917-2007), pregnant and tired, refused to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus in 1944. She was arrested and jailed, but the court case that resulted--Irene Morgan vs. Commonwealth of Virginia--was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that racial segregation on interstate buses illegal. Morgan was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by Bill Clinton in 2000.


Terrence Roberts (1941-) was one of the legendary "Little Rock Nine" who dealt a decisive blow to racial segregationism by attending Little Rock's Central High on September 23, 1957. He is currently a psychologist-activist on the faculty of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles.

Mary Kate Stovall-Tapley (1921-) became the first black mayor of Hurtsboro, Alabama, in 1984.

Robert Shurney (1921-2007) was a trained physicist and inventor who famously designed the tires for the moon buggy used during the Apollo 15 mission in 1972. In addition, he invented myriad instruments that are still used in space travel.

Ruth Temple (1892-1984) in 1918 was the first black woman to graduate from Loma Linda University. That same year she opened the first health clinic in the medically underserved community of southeast Los Angeles, becoming the first African American woman to practice medicine in the city.

David Williams in 1996 developed the "Everyday Discrimination Scale," one of the most widely used measures of discrimination in health studies.

Alma Foggo York (1937-2012) in 1961 was the first black instructor of nursing at Boston Hospital for Woman, a Harvard University affiliate.