HERstory: Get to know these 12 Icons Who Changed the United States!
Black Women In History
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When you think of strong Black female role models to look up to, your mind might automatically wander to Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, or Beyoncé. But these contemporary icons are far from the first influential Black women in history who made lasting change in the United States.
The ground-breaking firsts stretch back centuries, beyond Rosa Parks and Katherine Johnson — one of the mathematicians for NASA who had a hand in sending Americans to space for the first time. It’s important to remember these women and how they made society what it is today — during Black History Month, and all year ‘round.
“One can tell a great deal about a people, about a nation, by what it deems important enough to remember,” as Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, wrote in The Guardian.
Nadia Valentine, a former broadcasting major at Drake University, emphasized the importance of remembering significant Black figures from the past in an interview with Teen Vogue. “To see these people contribute to a blooming society is so important,” she said. Nadia, who is Black, said her mother, who is white, used to ask her to spend time looking up influential Black historical figures after school during every Black History Month. At the time, Nadia might have preferred to play outside. But she says she's grateful to her mom because it helped her realize all the things she had the potential to create.
"It’s looking back at these people who’ve contributed so much to American society that goes overlooked,” she said. “We’re completely overlooking contributions made by people who were disenfranchised for hundreds and hundreds of years and who are still disenfranchised.”
That’s why she said it’s so important to remember how Black women shaped the world we live in — whether they’re crafting laws in Congress, or just inventing better ways to brush your hair. Here are 12 Black women whose advancements transformed history.
Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary McLeod Bethune knew that education was key, but she also knew it was difficult for young Black children to achieve, particularly in the segregated South. After struggling to go to school and working on a plantation to help support her family, she became an educator and, in 1904, founded the Daytona Educational and Industrial Institute for Girls, according to PBS.
And she didn’t stop there. Her educational activism and leadership set her up to be a political activist. She went on to found the National Council of Negro Women, and worked in Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, where she served as the informal "race leader at large."
Though we've all heard the story of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, most of us don't know that Colvin did the same thing — nine months before Parks did. She was only 15 at the time, and was one of the first Black activists to openly challenge the law. As she told Teen Vogue in a 2017 interview, “The whole movement was about young people, saying we want more from America.”
Madam C.J. Walker
Before Mary Kay, there was Madam C.J. Walker. Walker is widely regarded as one of the first ever self-made American, female millionaires. She created hair-care solutions and remedies with Black women in mind and sold them door-to-door. She eventually created a brand people recognized, widely manufactured her products, and hired 40,000 ambassadors since the company's inception to help her sell her products, according to Mic.
Lyda D. Newman
Like Walker, Newman gravitated toward a career involving the hair-care industry. Newman got a patent for her invention, the first synthetic hairbrush, in 1898. Her innovation allowed for easier access to the bristles in order to clean out the brush. In addition, she introduced synthetic bristles. Before her invention brushes used animal hair, such as a boar’s. Her invention made brushing long locks a more hygienic process.
Bridges proved that you don’t have to be an adult to change history. Her activism started at just six-years-old. In 1960, she was the first Black child to racially integrate an all-white elementary school in the South. On her first day of school at William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, she had to be escorted through an angry crowd of white parents and students by four federal marshals.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Hamer was a civil rights activist from Mississippi who fought for African Americans' right to vote, often helping them to register. She worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for a time, fighting against racial segregation and violent voter suppression in the South. She was also one of the founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Marsha P. Johnson
Johnson was a Black transgender woman and activist most known for her involvement with the Stonewall Inn riots — a 1969 uprising against police brutality by New York City's LGBTQ community. At the time, it was illegal to serve openly LGBTQ people alcohol or for them to dance with one another. Raids at bars occurred regularly. In the summer of 1969, police officers clashed with patrons at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn — but they fought back, leading to days of demonstrations that kicked off the LGBTQ movement as we know it today. The actual identity of who threw the first brick is still debatable, but some people credit Johnson as the person who may have been the one to do it. Johnson "really started it" that night, according to David Carter's 2004 book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. Johnson went on to become a prominent voice in the fight for LGBTQ equality and was an activist during the 1980s AIDS epidemic, according to Mic.
This lesbian, Black, female poet’s 1973 collection, From a Land Where Other People Live, was nominated for a National Book Award and increased America’s awareness of intersectionality, or the convergence of race, gender, and class that can put particular groups at a disadvantage or lead to discrimination. Lorde’s identity shaped her speeches and writings about the struggles of women, Black people, and the LGBTQ community, according to Mic.
Chisholm made history by being the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968. She served as a representative from New York for 14 years, advocating for early education and child welfare policies.
She eventually ran for president as a Democrat in the 1972 race, becoming the first Black candidate to run for a major party nomination. Chisholm's infamous campaign slogan was “unbought and unbossed." She was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, as well as the Congressional Women's Caucus in 1977.
Jemison made out-of-this-world progress for Black women. In 1992, she became the first Black woman to fly to space on the space shuttle Endeavour. She was also the first Black woman admitted to the astronaut training program, in 1987.
Thanks to Donald Trump, Americans have heard the phrase "Make America Great Again" more times than the Pledge of Allegiance. But sci-fi novelist Octavia Butler utilized the slogan, likely drawing on Reagan's 1980 campaign message, "Let's Make America Great Again" almost 20 years before Trump in her 1998 book Parable of the Talents, according to Fusion. The dystopian novel depicts a future United States in which slavery has been reintroduced and a fundamentalist Christian sect has taken control, systematically purging the country of non-Christian faiths.
Butler was also an award-winning Black writer — the first science fiction writer to be awarded the MacArthur fellowship, also known as the genius grant, among other awards, The New York Times reported.
What would this list be without Michelle? Of her many accomplishments, Obama was the first Black woman to serve as the First Lady of the United States and is an accomplished lawyer who attended both Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She's held high-profile roles at the University of Chicago Medical Center and launched a number of efforts advocating for childhood health.
Original Article SOURCE: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/black-women-in-history-united-states
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