A few paragraphs about greats like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King don’t even begin to scratch the surface of black women’s contributions to our country. Read on to discover 6 other African-American women who are often overlooked, and let their examples inspire you!
“Queen Bess” became the first Black woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license. Because no American flying school would accept her, she moved to France and received her license from Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in 1921. During her day, she attracted crowds as a stunt performer until her accidental death in 1926.
Despite not being allowed into public gyms and rec centers, Alice Coachman worked with what she could to practice her high-jumping skills. As a result, during the 1948 Olympics held in London, she became the first Black woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal. She then went on to do endorsement deals for several national companies — another first for black women — and was celebrated as one of the 100 greatest Olympic athletes during the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in 1996.
Months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did the exact same thing. She, too, was arrested for breaking segregation laws, and sat in a jail cell for hours before being released on bail. Following the incident, she became a plaintiff in the Browder v. Gayle case, which helped spur the ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
In 1951, 16-year-old Barbara Johns led the fellow students of her Virginia high school in a walkout to protest the unsavory conditions of their school. It was overcrowded, did not have adequate heat during the winter months, did not provide enough materials needed for daily work and study, and more. Along with the help of the NAACP, her activism also led to a lawsuit that became a part of the famous Brown v. Board of Education case.
In 1988, Dr. Patricia Bath became the first black female doctor to receive a medical patent for her creation of the Laserphaco Probe, which makes it easier for doctors to remove cataracts and prevent blindness.
When Dunham started her dancing career in the 1930s, she revolutionized the field by combining traditional African and Caribbean dance styles with modern-day choreography. In 1936, she founded The Negro Dance Group, the first all-black modern dance company. Dunham’s dancing methods — now known as The Katherine Dunham Technique — continue to be performed and studied around the world.
What other black girls do you wish were covered in your history textbook? Comment below!