The men and women who serve on the front lines as firefighters, rescuing citizens in harm’s way, should be saluted daily for their bravery. In one of the most-dangerous and selfless occupations in the world, firefighters risk their lives for the safety of others at a moment’s notice. Even though history has not been kind to the memory of African-American firemen, their contribution to firefighting is a significant one. Still, even with the most-dedicated research, it is difficult to ascertain who were the first African-Americans who took up the role as firefighters.
Several sources, including the richly detailed website from historian Mike Legeros, all point to the summer of 1817 as being the earliest record that Black firemen existed in New Orleans, La. Although Black men stamping out blazes could have happened before then, there is no real evidence available in capturing this historic truth. According to Legeros, 1821 and 1833 also show evidence of freed men joining firemen ranks in New Orleans, but like before, the records were poorly kept and the facts disjointed.