Light skin, dark skin and all shades in between, Black women are without a doubt magical. Unfortunately, so many of Black women’s accomplishments have been overlooked and erased from American history books. Luckily, in recent years, Black women are just now getting the recognition they so sorely deserve.
From movies like “Hidden Figures” telling the untold story of Katherine Johnson, a renowned NASA mathematician to books like “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” telling how Henrietta Lacks, progenitor of the HeLa cell line, one of the most important cell lines in medical research ever discovered, Black women are finally getting credit for the history that they’ve made.
With Women’s History Month coming to a close, now is a time to look back at the amazing Black women who have paved the way for so many others to do amazing things as well.
Here are five Black women that you may not have learned about in school.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Civil rights activist and political leader, Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the leading organizers of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, a campaign to register as many African Americans to vote as possible during a time when voting was a dangerous, often life threatening, task. She eventually became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
The first black woman elected to Congress was the resilient Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, Chisholm also became the first Black woman to run for president, securing the Democratic nomination. Despite receiving discrimination based on both her race and her gender, she persevered.
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was a journalist in the 1800s, credited with documenting the lynchings of the South and researching White people’s method of keeping Blacks “in their place”.
Fearless and outspoken, in 1884, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, resulting in her being tossed from the train. But Ida wasn’t going to take that sitting down (no pun intended).
She sued the train company...and won!
Madam CJ Walker
Victim of a scalp disease that induced hair loss, Madame CJ Walker developed and commercialized hair products and remedies made specially for Black women. It was these products that led her to become the first Black, female millionaire businesswoman.
Nine months prior to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, teenage Claudette Colvin was arrested and forcibly removed from a bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman. The incident was not publicized heavily due to Montgomery Civil Rights Leaders not finding Colvin to be a “suitable” face for their movement.
While Rosa Parks was mild mannered and studious, Colvin was described as “feisty” and “emotional” and a “loudmouth”. There were also false rumors about her being pregnant by a married man.
“Be not discouraged Black women of the world, but push forward, regardless of the lack of appreciation shown you.”
― Amy Jacques-Garvey, Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey