Black Women's History Month

Long before Colin Kaepernick knelt, a Black female athlete defied the US National Anthem, but she’s been largely forgotten

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By Steven Poole She laced up her boots and sped on to the skating rink. A seemingly innocuous act, except in 1952 during a time of racial segregation in the US, this young Black woman departed the rink with a broken arm, her actions having infuriated White men intent on her exclusion. Over a half a century before Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the US national anthem, track and field star Eroseanna “Rose” Robinson was consumed by the need to challenge injustice, but her courageous story has been largely overlooked in the pages of history that have often focused

Passing the Torch: Tressie Souders and Shonda Rhimes

Tressie Souders and Shonda Rhimes are two African American women who have achieved great success in the movie and television industry. The first Black woman to direct a feature film, Tressie Souders made her directorial debut with the 1922 film “A Woman’s Error.” Souders did more than just direct the film. She also wrote the screenplay and produced the film, which was distributed by the Afro-American Film Exhibitors’ Company. Her film was acclaimed for being an accurate depiction of African American life. The International Black Women’s Film Festival (IBWFF) was founded in 2001, and in 2008 it established the Tressie

Passing the Torch: Hattie McDaniel and Kerry Washington

Hattie McDaniel and Kerry Washington are two performers who have broken the glass ceiling and overcome obstacles to achieve a level of fame that most people only dream of. The first African American woman to win an Oscar, McDaniel was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.” She began performing at a young age, and when she was still in high school, McDaniel dropped out so she could join her father’s show. Her first big break happened when she worked her way up from bathroom attendant to nightly act at Club Madrid. It

Passing the Torch: Shirley Ann Jackson and Lisa Gelobter

Shirley Ann Jackson and Lisa Gelobter are both pioneers of science as well as advocates for social justice. An American physicist, Jackson has been involved in several organizations such as the National Society of Black Physicists and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. President Clinton appointed her to the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1995, and in 1997 she played a major role in the founding of the International Nuclear Regulators Association. More than just a physicist, Jackson is also an advocate for women and minorities in science, and she spent much of her life contributing

Passing the Torch: Marie Van Brittan Brown and Marian R. Croak

American inventors Marie Van Brittan Brown and Marian R. Croak have made remarkable contributions with their creations such as the home security system. Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed-circuit television security system, which served as a model for modern home security systems used today. She also is responsible for the creation of the first closed circuit television. Her inspiration to create the system was the high rate of crime in her neighborhood of Queens, New York. Consisting of peepholes, a camera, monitors and a two-way microphone, the security system allowed Van Brittan Brown to contact the police by pushing

Passing the Torch: Ella Baker and Opal Tometi

Two women who refused to back down in the face of adversity, Ella Baker and Opal Tometi are warriors of justice. A leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Ella Baker was involved with some of the most notable organizations including the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She felt student activists would be an asset to the movement, so she left the SCLC and founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC members joined with activists from the Congress of Racial Equality, and they organized the 1961 Freedom Rides. SNCC also helped organize the Freedom

Passing the Torch: Cicely Tyson and Lupita Nyong’o

Cicely Tyson and Lupita Nyong’o, two of Hollywood’s greats. The award winning actresses have starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest films. An actress and model, Cicely Tyson is an American icon. She has won numerous awards and acted in over a hundred films. Her career began as a model, and Tyson rose to the top quickly. When the model turned actress took her first role in a play, she was kicked out of her home by a mother who considered her profession sinful. Tyson got her first major role starring in French playwright Jean Gene’s “The Blacks,” which was the

Passing the Torch: Fannie Lou Hamer and Stacey Abrams

Fannie Lou Hamer and Stacey Abrams, two women who have made and are making great strides as activists and political leaders. A civil and voting rights activist, Hamer led volunteers to the courthouse to register to vote in 1962, but they were denied their right due to an unjust literacy test. As a co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Hamer made it her mission to put an end to voting discrimination. She even helped organize the Freedom Summer in 1964, bringing together college students of all races to support African American voting rights in a segregated South. After being

Passing the Torch: Katherine Johnson and Mae Jemison

Two of history’s and NASA’s greatest minds, Katherine Johnson was one of the first African Americans to work for NASA, and Mae Jemison is the first African American woman to go into space.  One of the most famous names in NASA history, Katherine Johnson was one of the first Black women to work for the administration. It wasn’t until 1953 that Johnson began working at the all-Black West Area Computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) Langley laboratory. The 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik that marked a major shift in Johnson’s career. She played a

Passing the Torch: Ida B. Wells and Patrisse Cullors

Ida B. Wells and Patrisse Cullors, two women at the forefront of two massive movements in pursuit of justice.  Wells was more than just a journalist. She set out to use her investigative skills to find out the real reason Black men were being lynched, publishing her findings in a pamphlet and wherever else she could. Wells even travelled internationally to shed light on the lynchings happening in the U.S. A founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Wells was an activist and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Women’s Rights

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