When we look at history and the great names that have impacted us, not as much credit is given to black women. While we do know some great names like Etta James, Maya Angelou, and Eartha Kitt to name a few, what about the ones that were seen as forerunners in their respective fields? Here’s a short list of some black women who should be remembered for their contributions and for the barriers they shattered in their lifetime.
1. Madam C.J. Walker
In terms of business entrepreneurs, Madam C.J. Walker can be seen as the most prominent in the early twentieth century. After discovering a scalp remedy to take care of her own damaged hair, Walker used it as a base to create her own hair care line of products and began traveling throughout the South, selling it door to door. They proved to be a huge success, making her the first woman to become a self made millionaire. With her new wealth, Walker helped bring support to a number of anti-lynching and civil rights movements, as well as creating beauty schools and contributing to the growth of African American communities.
2. Shirley Chisholm
It has only been until very recently that the general public has seen female politicians running for more prominent political positions. Shirley Chisholm helped break these barriers in politics back when such barriers were demanded to be broken. Not only was she the first African American to be elected into Congress (she represented New York from 1969 until her retirement in 1983), but she was also the first African American woman to run for president in 1972. Looking at her campaign, Chisholm went with a grassroots approach. Even though she lost the Democratic nomination to George McGovern, Chisholm still left a huge impact in American political history and was still able to bring some effective changes as a congresswoman in her seven terms.
3. Katherine Johnson
There has been a very large push recently to encourage more young women to pursue STEM careers, STEM standing for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Along with this push, spotlights have been shown on women who have made huge accomplishments to the field in the past. Among those figures is Katherine Johnson, who joined NASA in 1953 (when it was originally known as NACA) and soon became relied upon for her quick calculations. She was on the team that was assigned to put the first man on the moon, where her job was to calculate the trajectory of the trip so that the pilots can land safely. Her contributions to the first space trip and throughout her career have earned her countless awards and honors as well as the respect of her peers.