Since the beginning of its inception, women have dedicated their lives to shaping and transforming America into the country we see today. This week, we kick-off the celebration of Women’s History Month by paying homage to a few women of color, who have rallied for change both locally and nationally.
1. Daisy Bates
Daisy Bates,co-operated the Arkansas State Press, a local Black paper in Arkansas, with her husband Christopher Bates. She also worked as the president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and fought against segregation. Her work in segregation continued when she helped to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.
2. Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary McLeod Bethune believed in racial justice. She worked to improve educational opportunities for Blacks. However, she is best known for starting a school for African American students in Daytona Beach, Florida which was renamed, Bethune Cookman University. Additionally, she served as the president of the National Association of Colored Women and founder of the National Council of Negro Women.
3. Septima Clark
Septima Clark, known as the “Mother of the Movement” was a teacher and a human rights leader. Clark worked as an educator for more than 30 years throughout South Carolina. She also participated in a class action lawsuit filed against the NAACP that led to pay equity for Black and White teachers in South Carolina.
4. Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and helped Blacks in Mississippi register to vote. Also, Hamer played a role in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the SNCC and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Hamer is best known for giving inspiring speeches and her civil rights activism.
5. Rosa Parks
The legendary Rosa Parks story of refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, which led to a boycott and the city’s removal of bus segregation, is one that remains timeless. Aside from bus segregation, Parks also helped start the Montgomery Movement, spent years working with the NAACP, and worked as an investigator for the rape of Recy Taylor.
6. Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was a former slave, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate. She also worked in Virginia helping former slaves find jobs and went on a nation-wide lecture tour, reading her widely-known speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.”
7. Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman is one of America’s most legendary activists. Tubman led around 300 former slaves from the South onto freedom through the underground railroads that led to Maryland.
8. Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Ida B. Wells spent time traveling around the world speaking and writing about civil rights issues, unfair laws, and crimes against Blacks. She also became involved in politics and worked to have social injustice come to an end. Additionally, she played a role in the fight against lynching. She founded and was heavily involved in several organizations that encouraged the advancement of women and minorities of color.
9. Michelle Obama
During the 2009 presidential election, the world was formally introduced to now-former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, who became the first African American First Lady in the U.S. During her time in office, she focused on health and women’s rights through her campaigns “Let’s Move” and “Bring Back Our Girls.” Additionally, she brought education to millions of girls worldwide and revamped the educational system’s food plan. Since then, the Black community has been rocking with her ever since and the world recognizes her as one of the greatest First Ladies of all time!
10. Beverly Bond
Former model and DJ Beverly Bond, fought for women’s rights through her nonprofit organization Black Girls Rock! The organization works to promote building self-esteem and enrichment in young Black women through mentorship and arts programs. Recently, the organization partnered with BET to create a Black Girls Rock! Show which drew in 2.5 million viewers.
11. Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown is best known for taking over the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party after the organization’s founder, Huey Newton, fled the country and appointed her as his successor. During her time in leadership, she continued to expand programs such as the free-breakfast, free legal and medical clinics for the community. Brown led the organization from 1974 to 1977.
12. Angela Davis
Political and civil rights activist Angela Davis has rallied for racial equality and women’s rights for majority of her life. During the 1960’s, she participated and associated with several groups including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-Black branch of the Communist party. As an educator, she worked at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California Santa Cruz, where she taught courses on the “history of consciousness.” Davis has continued her legacy by penning several books, using her voice to fight against racism, the criminal justice system and for women’s rights.
13. The Women Behind Black Lives Matter
Patrisse Cullors (center) is a Black artist, lecturer, organizer, public speaker and criminal justice advocate. Opal Tometi (right) is a Nigerian-American community organizer, writer and activist and a former domestic violence case manager. Alicia Garza (left) spent her career focusing on activism, health, domestic worker’s rights, police brutality, anti-racism, transgender and queer rights. Together, these three ladies created a movement that has been used a tool to fight for racial justice and to stand against police brutality and wrongful killings.
14. Melina Abdullah
Dr. Melina Abdullah is a professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at the California State University, Los Angeles. Abdullah also works as an organizer at the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter. Additionally, she also serves on numerous boards including the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute and National Association for Ethnic Studies as well as authored articles and book chapters on political coalition and womanist mothering.
15. Jasmyne Cannick
Jasmyne Cannick is a social critic, political commentator, journalist and producer. On a local level, Cannick is known for advocating for the “underrepresented and marginalized communities. Additionally, she is also the co-founder of “My Hood Votes,” a L.A. County voter registration initiative alongside Compton rapper Eric “Eazy E” Wright’s son, Lil E. Additionally, she is a co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, which is known as the nation’s largest and oldest Black, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.
There is an ongoing list of Black women who have used their gifts and platforms to help shape the world both locally and nationally. As a result, their efforts have continued to inspire and encourage young women of color from generations to come. Thank You for your contributions ladies!