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Amid a turbulent 2020, here are historic firsts you may have missed

This year has been regarded by many as one of the worst years in recent memory. While it is true 2020 was a year marked by a deadly pandemic and a contentious political climate, it was also a year of progress in many areas. 

Many "firsts" occurred in 2020 – from politics to entertainment to sports. In what seemed like an endless stream of bad news, there were also many historic moments. 


  1. Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president, the first Black vice president, the first Asian American vice president and the first Democratic vice president from the West Coast. 
  2.  Dr. Jill Biden plans to continue teaching when her husband, President-elect Joe Biden, assumes office, potentially becoming the only first lady to hold a paid job outside the White House. 
  3. Ritchie Torres, a Democratic congressional candidate from New York, was elected as the first openly gay Black man in Congress. Mondaire Jones became the second openly gay Black member of Congress when he was elected to the U.S. House in New York's 17th Congressional District. 
  4. New Mexico became the first state to elect all women of color to its House delegation. Democratic incumbent Representative Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Tribe, Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez and Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, were all elected. 
  5. Sarah McBride, a Democrat from Delaware, made history by becoming the nation's first openly transgender state senator. 
  6.  Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins, 66, was confirmed as the state's first openly gay Supreme Court justice. Jenkins is also the third-ever Black man to serve on California's highest court.
  7. President-elect Joe Biden became the first person to surpass 80 million votes in a U.S. presidential election. 
  8. Greece elected its first-ever female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. 


  1. Kim Ng was named general manager of the Miami Marlins, becoming the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations in the major leagues. She is believed to be the first female GM for a men's team in a major professional sport in North America, the Marlins said.  
  2. Katie Sowers, an offensive assistant coach with the 49ers, became the first female and openly gay person to coach at the Super Bowl. 
  3.  Jason Wright was announced as team president of the newly-renamed Washington Football Team – the first Black person to hold that title in NFL history. At age 38, he's also the youngest.

  4. Vanderbilt women's soccer player Sarah Fuller made history in November as the first woman to play in a Power 5 Conference college football game, according to Vanderbilt Athletics. 

  5. For the first time in the NFL, an all-Black crew officiated the November 23 game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. 

  6. 21-year-old Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon.
  7. Rachel Balkovec was hired by the New York Yankees, becoming the first female full-time hitting coach in a major league organization.
  8. The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their first World Series title since 1988.


  1. "Parasite" became the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards. Bong Joon Ho's masterfully devious class satire also won best director, best international film and best screenplay.
  2. Dario Calmese became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover of Vanity Fair in the magazine's 106-year history. Calmese shot the cover of the July/August issue featuring actress Viola Davis.
  3. Valentina Sampaio became the first transgender model to appear in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue. 
  4. Matt James was named "the Bachelor," becoming the first Black male lead in the franchise's 18-year history.
  5. Actor Niles Fitch made Disney history with his new role in "Secret Society of Second-Born Royals," becoming Disney's first, live-action Black prince. 
  6. Hallmark Channel released its first Christmas movie with an LGBTQ storyline.


  1. President-elect Joe Biden announced retired Army General Lloyd Austin as his pick for defense secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Austin will be the first Black man to lead the Pentagon. 
  2. Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber was named the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Naval Academy brigade commander. 
  3. Lieutenant Madeline Swegle made history as the U.S. Navy's first Black female tactical fighter pilot, receiving her Wings of Gold in August.


  1. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna became the first two women to ever jointly win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Charpentier, who is French, and Doudna, an American, were awarded the prize for developing the CRISPR-cas9 genetic scissors. 
  2. Scientists captured the first direct image of another solar system that closely resembles our own. 
  3. Inventor and scientist Gitanjali Rao, 15, was named Time magazine's first-ever "Kid of the Year."
  4. Before 2020 comes to a close, Jupiter and Saturn will be so close that they will appear to form a "double planet" for the first time in nearly 800 years.

U.S. and World

  1. Wilton Gregory was named by Pope Francis the archbishop of Washington, making him the first African American to hold the position in the Catholic church's highest governing body.
  2. Nicholas Johnson was named Princeton's first Black valedictorian.
  3. In April, a new statue of women's rights champions Susan B. Antony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth was unveiled in New York City's Central Park —the first statue of real-life women ever erected in the park, and the park's first new monument since 1965. 
  4. Jonny Kim, who served overseas as a Navy SEAL and graduated from Harvard Medical School, became NASA's first Korean-American astronaut at just 35 years old. 
  5. Apple Inc. became the first publicly traded U.S. company in history to be worth $2 trillion.
  6. A ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in Costa Rica in May, nearly two years after the country's Supreme Court said banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. Two women in the country were married on national television, marking the first legal same-sex marriage in Central America. 
  7. March 2020 was apparently the first March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in the U.S.
  8. Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary "Francesco," which premiered at the Rome Film Festival in October. 
  9. Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine approved for the general public. The grandmother who was 90 when she got the shot, received it at University Hospital Coventry in the U.K. on December 8. 
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