Book review: 'Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Third Edition)' by Jessie Carney Smith

By Terri Schlichenmeyer Published: February 17, 2013

The world's 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 reportedly was the creator of potato chips. America's first black Mormon elder gained the priesthood in 1836. And America's first black millionaire lived in New Orleans in 1890.

It's hard to imagine anything missing from “Black Firsts.” It's so hard, in fact, that Smith challenges readers to find and notify her of other milestones in black history — but not just in North American black history. There are entries about things that happened to African-Americans, as well as black firsts in other countries around the world.

“Black Firsts” isn't dry and boring. There are lots of entries that will surprise and others that will stop an argument in a minute. Everything's well-indexed, informative, thorough and as addictive as buttered popcorn.

This is the kind of book you can happily browse. It's also one you'd want on your shelf, one you'd reach for during those know-it-all emergencies that happen — and when they do, “Black Firsts” should be the first book in line.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

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