Black Women Throughout History from A-Z


Zara Koroma

Maya Angelou, Lorraine Hansberry, and Angela Davis are three different writers from the 20th century who focus on their experience as African-American women

As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, it is important to celebrate and learn about the many black women who paved the way for others. It would be impossible to talk about every influential black woman in the world, so here is a quick guide from A-Z of the few women throughout history that impacted the African-American community.

Angela Davis is a political activist, philosopher, and professor. She’s written notable works of critical theory such as “Women, Race, and Class” and “Freedom is a Constant Struggle.” Davis currently teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz. From working with the Black Panthers during the sixties to still publishing books today, Angela Davis continues to speak out on the injustices around the world.

Bessie Coleman was the first African-American and Native-American woman to hold a pilot’s license. During the twenties, she traveled across the country as she raised money for flying schools dedicated to other African-Americans.

Claudia Jones immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to America when she was just a little girl. She soon became a prominent feminist and political activist right before the Civil Rights Movement began. Her political career in the U.S came to an end when she was deported in 1950; however, she continued fighting for change in the United Kingdom.

Daisy Bates is most known for her involvement in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Bates guided the nine black students who enrolled at a formerly all-white high school. She walked with these students every step of the way as they entered the school. Daisy Bates continued to organize civil rights protests and documented her journey through her newspaper.

Ella Baker was involved in organizations such as the NAACP. She worked behind the scenes of the Civil Rights Movement in the South as well as New York City. She advocated for equality for almost five decades and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.

Fannie Lou Hamer spent her life fighting for black suffrage. Hamer co-founded the Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She encouraged many African-Americans to register to vote. Additionally, she aimed to train and recruit minorities who sought positions in government spaces.

Gwendolyn Brooks is a notable poet and author, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and United State Poet Laureate. Her beautiful poems and stories celebrated the African-American community. She used her love for writing to give back to others.

Ida B. Wells is one of the founders of the NAACP. She was an investigative journalist and educator, becoming one of the earlier civil rights activists. Wells established the first kindergarten for black students. She paved the way for African-Americans to receive a proper education in the U.S.

Jessie Redmon Fauset was a literary artist as she wrote poetry, essays, novels, and newspaper articles. She illustrated the lives and history of African Americans in her works. She inspired the Harlem Renaissance and many of the black writers that we hear about now.

Lorraine Hansberry was the first and youngest African-American female playwright to have a play on Broadway. Her play “A Raisin in the Sun” depicted segregation in Chicago. Hansberry’s family struggled under segregation and provoked the Supreme Court case, Hansberry v. Lee.

Maya Angelou is an award-winning poet and has received over fifty honorary degrees and a dozen awards. She is best known for her acclaimed memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Through her works, she inspired others and showed that we can overcome our hardships.

Rosetta Tharpe was a singer who is known as “The Godmother of Rock and Roll.” She reinvented the way African-Americans were perceived in the music industry. Tharpe’s legacy is forever cherished as she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Sojourner Truth may have been born into slavery, but she became one of the people to fight for both women’s rights and civil rights. Her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” addressed the exclusion of black women in the suffragette movement. She continued to advocate for the abolition of slavery and the rights of black women.

Toni Morrison is a critically acclaimed novelist. She’s written many novels about African Americans throughout history. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Beloved” in 1988. Morrison’s complex stories and characters transcended the stereotypes given to African-Americans.

Zora Neale Hurston is an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. Hurston was a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance. She is known for her book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which is a part of the reading curriculum for many high schools across the nation. Not only did she illustrate the racial struggles for the black community, but her works changed negative attitudes toward African-Americans