Today, women are subject to sexism in their daily lives. The wage gap, the constant struggle over reproductive rights, and the disregard over the threat of sexual violence are just a few ways in which inequality infiltrates the lives of American women.
Yet as Women’s History Month comes to an end, we can reflect on how far women have come from the late 1800 feminist-led efforts to allow women admission into college to the 1920 voting amendment. We can be proud of the progress we’ve made without being complacent.
For black women, our accomplishments include the rise from slavery to The White House. With powerful black women who opened the doors for many others like Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, and now First Lady Michelle Obama, we have a lot to celebrate.
As young American students, we learned a lot about the efforts for equality made by revolutionary women such as Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker. We may have even discussed how women like Oprah, Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, and Whitney Houston and changed the face of the entertainment industry for women of color.
But there are countless other black women whose histories we didn’t learn much about. Here are 5 black women we know little to nothing about. Comment with a list of your own!
1. Fannie Lou Hamer
You’ve probably heard this quote before: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who championed for equality and justice across the Jim Crow South.
2. Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley, born in West Africa in 1753, was a slave and the first black woman to have her poetry published. Her work is analyzed and scrutinized because of her poems on slavery, which reflect the extreme, overt, and acceptable racism and sexism of the time. Her story is worth knowing.
3. Angela Davis
Angela Davis is a political activist, scholar, and educator. Davis made strides to eliminate oppression throughout her life, known especially in the 1960s as a leader in the Communist Party. She is currently a professor at The University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also known for her books Women, Race and Class and Are Prisons Obsolete?
4. Ida B Wells
Ida B Wells was a prominent figure in the suffrage movement. As a journalist and activist, Wells was responsible for shedding light on inequality and exposing the atrocities of lynching in America.
5. Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur was an activist in the Black Panther Party and The Black Liberation Party. In May 2013, the FBI targeted Shakur by placing her on the most wanted terrorist list.
“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
-Assata: An Autobiography