Black women have made huge contributions to society for hundreds of years. Until now, they’ve gone largely overlooked. Let’s give these inspirational black women their due.
Everyone knows who Rosa Parks is. She famously refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus — an action that led to boycotts and eventually reform. Parks wasn’t the first woman in Alabama to refuse to move, though. Do you recognize the name Claudette Colvin? At just 15, she was riding the bus home from school when the driver ordered her to move. She refused, claiming that she’d paid her fare just like everyone else.
Police officers came, handcuffed, and arrested the teen. They even thew her in jail. This happened nine months before Rosa Parks made her historic stand. Colvin, along with three other women, went on to challenge the laws in court. Browder v. Gayle was the case that ended bus segregation in Alabama.
The Me Too movement swept through Hollywood and the rest of society in 2017. It took a hashtag to propel it into international discourse, but Tarana Burke started the ball rolling in 2006. As a survivor of sexual assault, Burke became an advocate for other survivors after graduating from Auburn University. She started a nonprofit called Just Be in 2003. “Me too” was an expression she routinely used with other survivors to engender a sense of strength and solidarity. In 2006, she created a MySpace page to spread the message.
Tarana Burkę continues doing the work to help other women, particularly women of color.
Mae Jemison has never known a limit that she can’t break. She attended Stanford University at 16, where she battled people who belittled her for her age, race, and gender. Despite the challenges, she graduated with two degrees — one in chemical engineering and one in African and African-American studies. Jemison went on to medical school, studied dance, and even joined the Peace Corps. While working as a doctor in Los Angeles, she decided to apply to NASA’s astronaut training program. She became the first black woman astronaut. Jemison spent more than 190 hours in space.