What better way to celebrate Women's History Month than to read about 5 trailblazing black women?
Black History month is here! This is a time to recognize black people and black culture in all its glory. It’s important to remind ourselves of those who have made great accomplishments in history, broken barriers and pushed for the advancement of black people. We often focus on black male leaders such as, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during this time, but there are many black women in history who have also made amazing achievements and deserve their flowers just as much, and we wanted to do just that.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is known as the Godmother of Rock & Roll. She was inducted in the rock and roll hall of fame in 2018. As a black lesbian woman in the 1940s she blended gospel lyrics with New Orleans jazz and rock arrangements, which was especially innovative for her time.
Tharpe influenced many artists such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. In an interview with Yahoo Music, Lizzo’s guitarist said,“Rock ‘n’ roll really is a black woman. The genre is a black woman personified.”She has often been overlooked within music history. Undoubtedly, she has paved the way for many black female artists.
Judge and Lawyer, Jane Bolin, achieved many firsts in her life. Bolin became the first African American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, in 1931. She was the first African American woman to serve as assistant corporate counsel for New York City. Also, Bolin became the first African American female judge in the United States, in 1939.
She served on the domestic relations court, now family court, in New York for 40 years. Those many firsts came with many challenges. She often faced overt racism in her time. However, she did not let that stop her. She continued to do amazing work in law for the black community and many other communities.
Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting rights and women’s rights activist. Hamer experienced violent harassment by police and white supremacists when she registered and exercised her right to vote. Hamer suffered permanent physical damage to her kidney because of the attack.
In 1961, during a surgery to remove a tumor, Hamer was given a hysterectomy without consent by a white doctor when she was just 44 years old. She endured many hardships, but still dedicated her life to championing for others.
Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).In 1971, Hamer co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus. She pushed the importance of women using their agency in the political structure by acting as a voting majority in the country regardless of race or ethnicity.
Hamer said, "A white mother is no different from a black mother. The only thing is they haven't had as many problems. But we cry the same tears."
Althea Gibson was the first great African American tennis player and professional golfer. Tennis was a white dominated and segregated sport at the time. After many challenges, Gibson eventually was allowed to play in major tournaments and became the first black player to win Wimbledon and the French and U.S. Open titles.
Also, she became the first African American on the women’s pro golf tour in the 1960s. In 1971, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
Ursula Burns is the current chairman and CEO of VEON and the former CEO of Xerox. Burns is the first African American woman to serve as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Also, she is the first woman to succeed another woman in such a company. This year, she donated $1 million to TheHistoryMakers, which is an oral history archival of African Americans.
We encourage you to do more research on each of these women and dive deeper into their lives and contributions. Let’s continue to celebrate Black History!