In 1987, March was declared by the United States Congress as National Women’s History Month. Since then, every year, we recognize the work of women past and present who have shaped the world. Below are some of the women of color we think everyone should know about. Those women have not only broken gender barriers, but racial ones too – their perseverance, dedication and determination are an inspiration to us all.
Michelle Obama is a force to be reckoned with. She graduated cum laude from Princeton University and then attended Harvard Law School, making her the third First Lady to get a postgraduate degree. While in the White House, she started a mentoring program for teenage girls from under-privileged neighborhoods to shadow administrative officials. She used her influence to advocate for gay rights, poverty, nutrition, physical wellness, and more. During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama gave the speech of a lifetime. The fearless and charismatic leader reminded the world of the importance of perseverance and hard work.
“That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”
While she is no longer the First Lady, her anthem will never be forgotten: “When they go low, we go high.”
The poet, civil rights activist and memoirist left a mark on society that transcended even her written words. Her memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, published towards the end of the Civil Rights movement in1969, discusses her experience growing up as a poor black girl, being raped, silenced, and working as a stripper to feed herself and children. The book set an example and a model for African-American female writers that had never been seen before.
Reid is an MSNBC news correspondent and the host of weekend morning show covering politics called AM Joy. The sharp and brilliant journalist has earned MSNBC some of the networks highest ratings in over a decade. She’s also the co-editor of the book, We Are the Change We Seek, a collection of President Obama’s best speeches.
Since her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show aired in 1986, this media mogul has become a household name. Oprah is without a doubt one of most influential public figures, whose opinions and endorsements can make and break. Winfrey is the wealthiest African-American and regarded as one of the greatest philanthropists in history.
Katherine Goble Johnson
Johnson is a physicist, mathematician, and scientist known for her ability to calculate the trajectory of flights to space. She started working at NASA in 1953, and is recognized for breaking racial and gender barriers in her field. She’s the woman who inspired the movie Hidden Figures, nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year.
Cox is an LGBT advocate and the first transgender actress to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black. She is also the first transgender person to be on the cover of Time magazine, whose impact has sparked a discourse between sexuality, race, and identity.
Harris is a United States Senator from California who served six years as California’s 32nd Attorney General before being elected Senator in 2016. She’s a champion of gay rights, civil rights, justice, and equality. In 2013, Harris also launched an initiative to reduce recidivism.
Born into slavery in 1822, Tubman escaped and became one of the most famous and active abolitionists of her time. She worked on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses, secret meeting points, routes, and modes of transportation used to help slaves escape to freedom. Tubman herself has been reported to have helped free over 70 people, each time risking her own life and safety.
Coretta Scott King
Known by many as the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., King was an author, singer, activist, and civil rights leader who played an integral role in the movement. After the death of her husband in 1968, King took on a larger role as an advocate for racial and gender equality and established her late husband’s birthday as a national holiday. She recently made the news as one of her old letters was used by Elizabeth Warren to oppose Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General.
Davis, who was born in 1944 in Alabama, is a political activist, author, a leader of black feminism, and scholar who is famous for her involvement in the civil rights movement. As a member of the Communist Party and the Black Panther movement, she soon became a symbol of strife for black women’s rights.