‘The First African American’ Obituaries of 2011

The obituary is instrumental to the closure process for a family.  Everyone wants to help by adding a few lines or even be mentioned as family or that special friend.  But, the most important element of writing the obituary is the details of the person’s life.  How you send them off for the very last time.

New York Times writer Isabel Wilkerson, took the time to sift through the obituaries of 2011 and to her surprise there had been a changing of the guard. She recognized immediately that a single phrase was consistent in more than 300 obituaries:

“The first black American to . . .” or “The first African-American .”

What a stirring reality?  She had been given the honor of visiting the tombs of those who were the deciding factor for generations of African Americans to make a living for their families.  They may not have felt like heroes, but certainly those African Americans who hold positions as bus drivers in South Carolina, you owe that to Eddie Koger, the first black bus driver in the state of South Carolina.  Those of you that are reading meters for Baltimore Gas & Electric, you owe that to Camillus Wilson, the first African-American meter reader.

There are also those who are more well known in America that have passed on as well. Annette Samuels passed away in 2011 and she was the first black White House spokeswoman under President Jimmy Carter’s administration.  Valerie Jarret, White House senior adviser lost her dad, pathologist James Bowman.  He was the first black resident at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago.

Take the time and hear and absorb all the “firsts” and you may find that one of these people are in your neck of the woods and in your field of work.  We want to offer them a resounding, THANK YOU!

Read here.

-J.C. Brooks

3 thoughts on “‘The First African American’ Obituaries of 2011”

  1. What’s more amazing is that we are still reading obituaries for “The First African-American”. While we’ve certainly come along way, we’ve certainly got a long way to go.

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