African-American History Timeline: 1990 - 1999

Toni Morrison. Public Domain

1990

  • Playwright August Wilson wins a Pulitzer Prize for the play, The Piano Lesson.
  • Sharon Pratt Kelly becomes the first African-American woman to lead a major city in the United States when she is elected mayor of Washington D.C.
  • Marcelite Jordan Harris is the first African-American brigadier general. She is also the first woman to command a predominately male battalion.  
  • Donna Marie Cheek is the first African-American to be a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team.
  • Carole Ann-Marie Gist is the first African-American to win the Miss USA pageant.

1991

  • Roland Burris is appointed attorney general of Illinois. Burris is the first African-American to hold this position.
  • Rodney King is beaten by three officers. The brutality is captured on videotape and three officers are tried for their actions.
  • The first African-American mayor of Kansas City, Emanuel Cleaver II, is elected.
  • Wellington Webb is elected mayor of Denver. He is the first African-American to hold this position.
  • Clarence Thomas is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • The first feature film by an African-American woman is produced and directed by Julie Dash.
  • Walter E. Massey is the first African-American to lead the National Science Foundation.

1992

  • Willie W. Herenton becomes the first African-American mayor of Memphis.
  • The three officers tried in the beating of Rodney King are acquitted. As a result, there is a three day riot thoughout Los Angeles. At the end more than 50 people were murdered, an estimated 2000 injured and 8000 arrested.
  • Mae Carol Jemison is the first African-American woman in space, travelling on the space shuttle Endeavor.
  • Carol Moseley Braun is the first African-American woman elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Braun represents the state of Illinois.
  • William “Bill” Pinkney is the first African-American to navigate a sailboat around the world.

1993

  • The first African-American mayor of St. Louis, Freeman Robertson Bosley Jr., is elected.
  • Jocelyn M. Elders is the first woman and first African-American to be appointed as the U.S. Surgeon General.
  • Toni Morrison wins the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature for her novel, Beloved. Morrison is the first African-American to hold such a distinction.

1994

  • Corey D. Flourney is elected as president of the Future Farmers of America Convention.

1995

  • Ron Kirk is elected mayor of Dallas. Kirk is the first African-American to hold such a position.
  • The Million Man March is held on October 17. Organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan, the purpose of the march was to teach solidarity.
  • Dr. Helene Doris Gayle is appointed Direction of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Gayle is the first woman and African-American to hold this position.
  • Lonnie Bristow is appointed president of the American Medical Association and is the first African-American in such a position. 

1996

  • Ron Brown, Commerce Secretary, was killed in a plane crash in Eastern Europe.
  • The first African-American to win a Pulitzer Price for Music is George Walker. Walker receives the award for the composition “Lilies for Soprano or Tenor and Orchestra.”
  • Affirmative Action is abolished by California lawmakers through Proposition 209.
  • Margaret Dixon is appointed as president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
  • When Tiger Woods wins the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., he becomes the first African-American and youngest golfer to win the title.

1997

  • Harvey Johnson, Jr. is the first African-American mayor of Jackson, Miss.
  • The Million Woman March is held in Philadelphia.
  • Lee Patrick Brown is elected mayor of Houston—the first African-American to hold such a position.
  • Wynton Marsalis’ jazz composition “Blood on the Fields” wins a Pulitzer Prize in Music. It is the first jazz composition to receive the honor.
  • African-American men exploited through the Tuskegee Syphilis Study receive a formal apology by President Bill Clinton.

1998

  • Historian John Hope Franklin is appointed by President Clinton to head the President’s Commission on Race. The purpose of the commission is to create a national discussion concerning race issues.
  • The National League of Women Voters elects its first African-American president, Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins.

1999

  • Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Tennis Championship at the U.S. Open. Williams is the first African-American woman to reach such an achievement since Althea Gibson won in 1958. 
  • Maurice Ashley becomes the first African-American chess grandmaster.