10 of the most inspiring black women

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Throughout the last year, the under-appreciation and mistreatment of African Americans in government and other places of power have been recognized and fought against. Each February, Black History Month gives a chance for us to celebrate, acknowledge and appreciate African Americans and look back on their history in our country. From actresses to politicians to researchers, let’s take a look at some powerful and inspiring Black women from the last few years. 


  • Viola Davis: Viola Davis: Viola Davis is an actress best known for her performances in ‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ ‘The Help,’ and ‘Fences.’ In 2015 she won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role on How to Get Away with Murder, making her the first female African American to win this award. She is also the first female African American EGOT, which is the title given to those who are awarded with an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony throughout their career.


  • Marsai Martin: At just 10 years old, Marsai Martin starred in the hit TV show on ABC, “Blackish.” At age 12 she starred in her first film, “An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win.” One year later she landed a role in the film “Little,” and was named as the film’s executive producer, making her the youngest in history. Guinness World Records has even recognized her for this achievement. 


  • Adut Akech Bior: South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech Bior was featured in 2019 on Time’s 100 Next List, making her the only model for that year to make it. She made her modeling debut by walking for Saint Laurent during Paris Fashion Week in both 2017 and 2018. However, before she was given the chance to model, she was a South Sudanese refugee. She has now recently teamed up with the United Nations to help other refugees. 


  • Kamala Harris: Kamala Harris is the current Vice President of the United States. She is not only the first ever black vice president, but she is also the first female vice president. She started out as a deputy district attorney and eventually worked her way up to an assistant district attorney and became the chief of the Career Criminal Division. In 2004, Harris became the District Attorney in San Francisco. While DA, she instituted a Hate Crimes Unit, dedicated to hate crimes against LGBTQ+ teens and children. In 2011, she became the Attorney General of California. Then, in 2017, she was elected to the Senate until 2020, where she then was selected to be Joe Biden’s Vice President.


  • Dr. Shirley Jackson: Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT and only the second black woman to earn a doctorate in physics. In 2015, former President Obama awarded her with the National Medal of Science. She is the founder and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), which makes her the first black woman to lead a top-ranked research university. Since starting RPI in 1999, she has raised over $1 billion for philanthropic causes. 


  • Allyson Felix: Allyson Felix is an American track and field sprinter, and also one of the most decorated track and field athletes in history with nine Olympic medals. Six of her medals are gold, which is the most of any female track and field Olympian. Recently Felix has been fighting for the rights of new mothers and the protection they receive. In 2018, she gave birth and as a brand new mother, went on to impressively win gold at the World Championships. However, after giving birth, Nike offered her a 70% pay cut. Since this, she has been very vocal about the mistreatment she encountered and voices her concerns about the treatment of new mothers everywhere. 


  • London Breed: London Breed was raised in poverty in San Francisco, California. However, she worked her way up in the government from District 5 supervisor to president of the Board of Supervisors. In 2018, she became the city’s 45th mayor, and the first female African American mayor. Breed has made homelessness and poverty two of her main priorities while in office. In 2020, she announced her plans of building 1,000 shelter beds. Other topics that have been a priority for Breed are mental health and substance abuse. 


  • Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole: Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is an educator, anthropologist, museum director, and college president. From 1987 to 1997 she became the first black female president of Spelman College. She has also been the Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art. In 2019, she spoke in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans. 


  • Raquel Willis: Raquel Willis was previously a national organizer for the Transgender Law Center. In 2018, she created Black Trans Circle, which is a foundation that promotes leadership for black transgender women in the South and Midwest. In 2020, she earned a GLAAD Media Award for her Out Magazine piece titled, “The Trans Obituaries Project.” This piece recognized the trans women of color who lost their lives in 2019. 


  • Gabrielle Union: Actress, activist and author Gabrielle Union took a stand against America’s Got Talent for their toxic work environment in 2020. She filed a harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.  She is also known for being an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and has voiced her support of therapy and mental health awareness. 

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