Mary Jane Patterson
Mary Jane Patterson is known as the first Black woman to receive a B.A. degree from a four-year institution. Patterson who was born into slavery, is an Ohio native. In 1857, she attended Oberlin College where she completed a year of preparatory coursework. Later she enrolled in Oberlin College‘s four-year program which was known as the “gentlemen’s course” of classical studies. Later, she spent her time as a teacher and later an assistant principal. Patterson was also involved in women’s rights and was involved in the founding of the Colored Women’s League of Washington. Patterson passed away in late September in 1894.
Gwendolyn Brooks is an African American female poet who was born in Topeka, Kansas. Brooks has authored more than 20 books including “Children Coming Home”, “Blacks”, “To Disembark”, “Riot” and “Annie Allen”, which she received the Pulitzer Prize making her the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for literature. In 1968, Brooks was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois. Later in 1985, she became the first Black woman to be appointed as a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress. Brooks passed away in December 2000.
Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun is the first Black female Senator. Braun attended the University of Illionis where she received a B.A. in political science. In 1972, Braun graduated from the University of Chicago School of Law. While serving in the Senate, Braun became the first woman to serve on the Finance Committee. She also served on the Senate Banking, Housing, Urban Affairs Committee and the Small Business Committee. During her term, she addressed issues that affected both women and African Americans.
Norma Sklarek is a New York native who studied architecture at Columbia University. Sklarek went on to become the first African American woman to receive her architecture license and the first African American woman to receive a fellowship from the American Institute of Architects. Later in 1985, Sklarek became the first African American woman to establish and manage an architectural firm after she help formed an all-female architecture firm. Sklarek passed away in early February 2012.
Ava DuVernay is screenwriter and director who went on to become the first African American female director to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars for her film “Selma”, a biopic on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and the 1960’s African American voting rights movement. DuVernay is also the first African American woman to have a film nominated for Best Picture. In 2016, DuVernay directed and co-wrote “13th”, a Netflix documentary which focuses on the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery, the criminal justice system and race.
Misty Copeland is an African American female ballet dancer. Copeland is also known as one of the few African American performers seen in classical dance. In June 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to dance with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in the dual role of Odette and Odile in Pyoytry Ilycih Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” as well as the first African American performer to be appointed an ABT principal dancer.