Meet these African-American women who shaped history through advocating and promoting the civil rights movement, the Black rights movement, and freedom, music, culture, and literature.
Born into a small farming community around January 1954 in Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey grew up to major in Speech Communication and Performing Arts at the Tennessee State University. In 1976, Winfrey took a leap of faith into a broadcasting career, where she started hosting the TV show tagged “People Are Talking”. Eight years later, the show became a hit that earned her more following and a new role at the Chicago TV station, where she continued the “A.M Chicago” morning show. Seven months into the show, her unique style and wonderful voice garnered her over 100,00 views and following. Following her achievements with the “A.M Chicago” show, Winfrey went on to stage The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, a milestone that made her the first Black female host of a national daily talk show. Among these achievements, Winfrey has left a mark on shaping the history of America through her other endeavors like political activism, philanthropy, acting, and literary arts.
In 2003, she became the world’s only Black billionaire, a title she held for three years. Forbes magazine also admitted that Winfrey was the richest African American of the 20th century, and regarded as one of the most influential women of her generation.
Eleanor Fagan, who was famously known as Billie Holiday, grew up in Philadelphia and began her music career in nightclubs in Harlem. Some of the song tracks that brought her to the limelight were “Strange Fruit,” “Fine and Mellow,” “The Man I Love,” “Billie’s Blues,” “God Bless the Child,” and “I Wished on the Moon.
During her lifetime, she won many awards to her name which include being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame.
Even after she died in 1959–history will continue to remember Holiday due to her lasting legacy that strongly contributed to jazz music and pop singing. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills that captivated listeners while inspiring hope and freedom deep into their minds.
When she was young, Jemison knew that she would grow up to study science. In those days, she was used to watching the Apollo airings on TV, and having felt that there were no female astronauts, she dreamed of becoming one.
In 1992, Jemison joined other astronauts and they went into space via the space shuttle endeavor, making her the first African-American woman to venture into space. Her efforts later earned her the Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College in 1993.
Morrison was recognized for the key role she played in bringing back Black Literature to the mainstream. She was passionate about telling traditional African-American folktales that later saw her publish her first novel in 1970, titled “The Bluest Eye”.
Morrison’s literature works focused on highlighting black people’s experiences and it has also helped in creating a new generation of Black writers, including Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones.
Born in Missouri, Angelou grew up to be a poet, storyteller, and activist. She wrote several books and as an activist, she had led civil rights campaigns under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Today, history regards her as among the people who worked hard to raise the moral standards of living in the United States. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. Also, before she died in 2014, she was awarded with over 50 honorary degrees.
Parks was an instrumental woman famously known for leading the movement against racial segregation on public transit. It was a courageous and selfless cause that paved the way for a revolutionary change in 1995.
The United States Congress has then honored her as the first lady of civil rights and the mother of the freedom movement.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Obama grew up to become the first African-American first lady. She is the wife of former President Barack Obama.
During her time as the First Lady, she participated in various works that included supporting military families and advocating an end to childhood obesity around the world. Her book titled Becoming is one of the most famous books around the world and has since recorded many sales.
Lorde was born in New York City to a family of immigrants. She grew up learning to read and write from her mother. She had struggled with communication as a child and that was why she adopted poetry as a form of self-expression.
In later years, her works helped in transforming feminist literature. As a Black lesbian woman, she spent her life fighting against the issues of racism, homophobia, classism, and misogyny while giving voice to other Black female writers and activists.
Williams was recognized as the greatest tennis player the world had ever witnessed on the scene. Before she retired in September 2022, she helped shape the history of women’s tennis with her powerful style of play. After she retired from the sport, she left with the fulfillment of many gold medals to her name and was worth 94.82 million U.S. dollars in prize money.
Ida B. Wells
Wells was a famous Black investigative journalist and activist who helped in promoting the early civil rights movement. In the 18090s, she became one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP).
Before her death in March 1931, Wells dedicated her energy to the anti-lynching campaign movement where she worked in the fight against segregation and for women’s suffrage. That helped to block the establishment of segregated schools in Chicago at that time. She was a force to reckon with in the history of African-American women who helped to change the world.
By- Yahuza Abdulkadir
For the latest update: