Women have long been ignored by history. Add in a minority skin color or race or religion and they are even less likely to be remembered. And that is a shame. Black women are making and have made history. From long past to current history makers, from the music room to the boardroom to the court room to the tennis court, here are 41 black women you should know.
We will all, at some point, encounter hurdles to gaining access and entry, moving up and conquering self-doubt; but on the other side is the capacity to own opportunity and tell our own story.” Stacey Abrams, an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author.
“Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop.” Sadie T. M. Alexander, an American lawyer who was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in economics in the United States, and the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
“Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” Maya Angelou, an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.
“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and civil rights activist.
“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.” Carol Moseley-Braun, politician and lawyer.
“Do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourselves to lead.” Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet, author, and teacher, the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize (1950).
“Women must become revolutionary. This cannot be evolution but revolution.” Shirley Chisholm, an American politician— the first black woman elected to the United States Congress(1968), educator, and author.
”We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness.” Yvette Clarke, an American politician
“The air is the only place free from prejudice.” Bessie Coleman, an early American civil aviator, the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license.
“I knew then and I know now, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.” Claudette Colvin, an American pioneer of the 1950s civil rights movement and retired nurse aide.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” Angela Davis, an American political activist, philosopher, academic, scholar, and author.
“As black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences — experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.” Viola Davis, an American actress and producer.
“When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.” Ava DuVernay, an American filmmaker.
“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Ella Fitzgerald, an American jazz singer, the “First Lady of Song”
“When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.” Fannie Lou Hamer, an American voting, civil rights, and women’s rights activist
“There is no vaccine for racism.” Kamala Harris, an American politician and attorney, the 49th and current vice president of the United States.
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” Zora Neale Hurston, American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut
“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black; it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” June Jordan, an American poet, essayist, teacher, and activist.
“Don’t agonize, organize.” Florynce Kennedy, an American lawyer, radical feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer and activist.
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King, American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.
“If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” Beyonce Knowles, an American singer, songwriter, and actress.
“Friendly reminder that you don’t have to say the ‘n word’ to be racist. That’s not the sole requirement. Asking people to prove racism is another tool the oppressor uses to marginalize and discredit us.” Lizzo, nee Melissa Viviane Jefferson, an American singer, rapper, songwriter and flutist.
“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” Janelle Monáe, an American singer, rapper, and actress
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Toni Morrison, an American novelist
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” Michelle Obama, an American attorney and author who served as the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017
“To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.” Rosa Parks, an American activist in the civil rights movement
“Black history isn’t a separate history. This is all of our history, this is American history, and we need to understand that. It has such an impact on kids and their values and how they view black people.” Karyn Parsons, an American actress, author and comedian.
“Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” Shonda Rhimes, an American television producer, screenwriter, and author
“I need to see my own beauty and to continue to be reminded that I am enough, that I am worthy of love without effort, that I am beautiful, that the texture of my hair and that the shape of my curves, the size of my lips, the color of my skin, and the feelings that I have are all worthy and okay.” Tracee Ellis Ross, nee Tracee Joy Silberstein, an American actress, singer, television host, producer and director.
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” Wilma Rudolph, an American sprinter, who became a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field.
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.” Nina Simone, nee Eunice Kathleen Waymon, an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist.
“Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.” Susan L. Taylor, journalist
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman, an American slave, an abolitionist and political activist.
“Whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free . . . your true self comes out.” Tina Turner, an American-born Swiss singer, songwriter and actress.
“Truth is powerful and it prevails.” Sojourner Truth, an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker, an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist.
“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” Madam C.J. Walker, an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist, recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Ida B. Wells, an American investigative journalist, educator, and early leader in the civil rights movement
“Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself.” Oprah Winfrey, an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist.
“I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.” Serena Williams, an American professional tennis player.
These are but a few of the Black Women You Should Know. Because I’m American, my selections here are American, but there are black women across the world who deserve honors and remembrances. Please take a moment during this Black History Month to remember the black women who have worked quietly behind the scenes as well as those made famous by the actions or words. All women deserve more credit for their contributions to history. Even if their “only” contribution is living their own lives.
Second Photo-Mary McLeod Bethune, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Third Photo-Ella Fitzgerald, William P. Gottlieb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Fourth Photo-Coretta Scott King by John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Final Photo-Sourjourner Truth , National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons