Each February, we take some time to remember the great minds of Black Americans who made a significant impact through their work.
The success of Black Americans are especially significant because of the high barriers to entry and obstacles in their path as a result of slavery, and discrimination.
While leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are typically highlighted as major figures during Black History Month, what about the other crucial visionaries that paved the way for American success and freedom?
In the spirit of uncovering ‘hidden figures,’ we put together an extended list of Black women you may have never heard of but should get to know.
Here are their stories and the history they’ve made.
Mazique broke many barriers in her lifetime as a writer, activist, and librarian who helped found the Capital Trust Campaign which aimed to integrate Washington D.C.’s bus operators. As an activist, she also served on the National Council in 1945 for the Southern Negro Youth Congress. Mazique is also credited as the first person to receive an MA in African studies from Howard University. She even fought the battle for what’s right in her personal life. She took her divorce case to the Supreme Court to advocate for a higher divorce settlement arguing that she took on two jobs to support her ex-husband through medical school. She ultimately lost her case but in 1964 this was ground breaking for a woman to do and became the foundation leading to the reform of divorce laws.
Coleman was the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license. Pilot school in the United States denied her entry because she was a Black woman so instead she took her savings and moved to Paris where she later earned her pilot license. In 1922 Coleman took her first flight as a Black woman in America and later died in 1926 doing what she loved to do best – flying.
By National Broadcasting Company (ebay.com, front of photo, back of photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1970, Jayne Kennedy Overton became the first black woman to in the crown of Miss Ohio and ultimately went on to become one of the top 15 contestants for Miss USA. She went on to become another first, as a sports broadcaster. She was a lead anchor on CBS’s program NFL today. Throughout her career she has taken on roles including an American television personality, actress, model, corporate spokeswoman, producer, writer, public speaker, and philanthropist. Kennedy won many awards including a NAACP Image Award (1981) as well an Emmy.
Willa Beatrice Brown Chappell
By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Chappell was an American aviator, lobbyist, teacher, and civil rights activist. She broke many barriers including becoming the first Black woman to earn her pilot license in the U.S., becoming the first Black woman to run for U.S. congress, and she was the first Black woman to be an officer in the US Civil Air Patrol while holding both a pilot’s and mechanic’s license.
Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Price was one of the first Black citizens to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera. She won 19 Grammy awards, a special lifetime achievement award, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 1964.
By blackpast.org [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sklarek was the first licensed Black female architect and the fellow of the American Institute of Architects. She made history again in 1985 when she created one of the largest female owned architectural firms in the country.
Constance Baker Motley
from Columbia Law School
Constance Baker Motley was a civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough President of Manhattan, New York City. She was the first African American woman appointed to the federal judiciary by Lyndon B. Johnson.
By Kadir Nelson (http://history.house.gov/Collection/Detail/30296) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Shirley Chisholm became the first Black congresswoman in 1968. Four years later, she became the first major-party Black candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency.
By Photo: User:FA2010 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Coachman specialized in high jump and was the first Black woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal. In 1952 she became the first Black woman to endorse an international product when she was signed as a spokesperson for Coca-Cola.
Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris was the first Black female to hold a Cabinet position as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Harris also served as a U.S. ambassador. In 1969, she became the dean of Howard University School of Law making her the first Black woman to hold that position.
In 1956, Lucy became the first Black student to desegregate the University of Alabama. Even though Lucy was officially admitted, she was still barred from all dormitories and dining halls. Days later, the court amended the order against all Black students seeking admission to the University of Alabama by changing disintegration laws pertaining to admissions.
Euphemia Lofton Haynes
Euphemia Lofton Haynes became the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1943. Haynes was vocal in her advocacy for poor students and better schools, denouncing the system’s segregation-tinged policies.
Jane Bolin was a trailblazing attorney who became the first Black female judge in the United States, serving on New York’s Family Court for four decades. Jane received her law degree from Yale Law School in 1931.
By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Palumbo, Fred, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Gibson was an American tennis player and professional golfer, becoming the first Black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title, the French Open.
Thomas is an American former figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion, the 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, and a two-time U.S. national champion. She graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with an engineering degree.
By The original uploader was Kasper2006 at Italian Wikipedia (English: Uploaded from it.wikipedia.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1960, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics. Rudolph made numerous appearances on television and received several honors, including the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award in both 1960 and 1961.
Lynette Woodard is a professional basketball player who made history in 1985 when she became first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters. After several more years of playing professionally overseas, Woodard returned to the U.S. In 1992, she was named the athletic director for the Kansas City, Missouri, school district. She then relocated to New York City to become a stockbroker.