Forgotten Faces
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Politics and Activism

Forgotten Faces

The black women you often don't learn about

Forgotten Faces
"The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman."

~ Malcolm X

Ask yourself this question. Can you name at least 10 influential black women outside of the sports and entertainment industries? If the answer is no, then let's assess why. Well, you learned in a history class at some point in your life who Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and maybe Maya Angelou is, but that's about it. Not to mention, the only sight of black women that you see in the media are mainly celebrities, with the exception of a few prominent politicians. So, what gives?

The truth is that we don't learn enough about black women in history, and when we do it tends to be a repeat of the same few names. However, there were many influential black women who initiated change and paved the way for other marginalized individuals through their actions and advocacy. Some of these powerful women include:

1. Dr. Alexa Canady

Became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in 1981. She graduated from the University of Michigan's medical school.

2. Constance Baker Motle

The first female African-American federal judge. She was appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.

3. Gwendolyn Brooks

An African-American poet who became the first black woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in 1950.

4. Dorothy Height

An African-American poet who became the first black woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in 1950.

5. Mary Eliza Mahoney

The first documented African-American nurse. She received her license in the late 1800s.

6. Bessie Coleman

The first African-American pilot. She received her license in France because the U.S. denied her access to aviation school. She died in a plane crash in 1926.

7. Shirley Chisolm

Became the first African-American congresswoman in the late 1960s. She tried to run for President.

8. Mary McLeod Bethune

An African-American educator who went on to start a college for black women in the early twentieth century.

9. Phillis Weatley

A former African-American slave who became a published poet in the late 1700s.

10. Florynce Kennedy

A lawyer and women's rights activist that advocated for reproductive rights. She founded the Feminist Party in 1971.

These are the names and legacies of only a few black women. There are more names and stories within America's history that have yet to be shared and honored. American history does not and should not fit the mold of one narrative. True American history reflects the diverse individuals that have contributed to America's social, economic, and political framework.

We live in an age where technology makes information readily accessible to us. Your education may have failed you, but that's no excuse to remain in ignorance. I challenge you, my reader, to educate yourself and to share your knowledge with others to change that one-sided narrative we are often taught. Today and yesterday, black women continue to make strides, changing the face of history as we know it.


National Park Service

Womens History

Poetry Foundation

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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