After a rough childhood and adolescence in the slums of Metropolis, Jefferson Pierce found great success as an Olympian. But after he earned the coveted decathlon gold medal, Pierce decided to return to his hometown and to "give back to the community."
He taught high school in Metropolis and served as a mentor for many of his students, leading a fulfilling life. But he was still plagued by the crime overrunning Metropolis. In order to combat the intimidation of The 100, an organized crime syndicate in Suicide Slums, he sought out his friend Peter Gambi. Gambi, tailor by trade, tinkerer by hobby, outfitted Pierce in a disguising costume with a shock-inducing belt.
It was then that Pierce began to fight crime as Black Lightning.
Black Lightning #1 was published in 1977 by DC Comics. Tony Isabella created and wrote the new title, and it was illustrated by Trevor von Eeden. Its initial run was 11 issues, published through 1978. The title re-emerged in 1995, with Isabella again at the helm as writer. He would pen eight of the 13 issues that would emerge as a part of that run.
Over the years, Black Lightning had a few edits, as it related to his superpowers. Though he initially started with an electrified belt, he soon became able to harness electricity himself. Once he thought he lost his power and continued to fight crime without it, but he regained it quickly, after letting go of the guilt he felt after the accidental death of a bystander.
Jefferson Pierce was appointed as Secretary of Education under President Lex Luthorís administration in early 2001, but that didn't last all that long.
Though Black Lightning has never experienced longevity in his own title, he was one of DC's first African-American superheroes and remains among the most memorable.