Even before her heroic stand on a Montgomery bus, Rosa Parks worked for social change. She was an active member of the NAACP. At one point, she served as secretary of the organization. For her courage and her lifelong commitment to the advancement of civil rights and racial equality, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Medal and a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Ella Baker – NAACP, SCLS and SNCC for more than 50 years – worked with Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, and Rosa Parks. In 2009, her image was put on a U.S. postage stamp.
Ida B. Wells was a journalist and early civil rights activist. She documented lynchings in the United States and was one of the founders of the NAACP.
Madame C.J. Walker created a line of hair and beauty products for Black women and became the first Black woman millionaire in the early 1900’s. She was also one of the most successful Black business owners of her time and an activist who championed the rights of African Americans.
Henrietta Lacks died at 31 of cancer. Tissue samples from her tumors were taken without her consent during treatment and used by researchers to develop the polio vaccine. Her cells have saved thousands and are still saving lives today.
Katherine Johnson’s calculations ensured the success and safe return of astronauts John Glenn and Alan Shepard and the Apollo 11 flights.
Bessie Coleman was the first Black and Native American woman to be granted a pilot’s license.
Dr. Mae Jemison is an engineer and physician. She became the first Black woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in September 1992.
Mary McLeod Bethune, known as the First Lady of Struggle, was an educator, activist and philanthropist. She was appointed as a national adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” She founded The Daytona School for Black students in Florida -(now known as Bethune-Cookman University).
They come from different generations and all walks of life. They are activists, business leaders, politicians, athletes, social icons and scientists. These are only a few of the incredible African American woman who have forged their own path in life and paved the way for future generations to learn to work together. They deserve their rightful place in American history books, and I am honored to be able to highlight some of their achievements during Black History Month. The best way to honor these women and other influential African American women is by sharing some of their wisdom with you.
Rosa Parks “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Maya Angelou “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Michelle Obama “One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else said distract you from your goals. And so, when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them , because I know who I am.”
Oprah Winfrey “ Failure is a great teacher and, if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer.”
Janet Jackson “I’m convinced that we Black women possess a special indestructible strength that allows us to not only get down, but to get back up, to get through, and to get over.”
Zora Neale Hurston “Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
Alice Walker “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
Carol Moseley-Braun “Defining myself, as opposed to being defied by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.”
Wilma Rudolph “The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”
Coretta Scott King "The woman power of this nation can be the power which makes us whole and heals the rotten community, now so shattered by war and poverty and racism. I have great faith in the power of women who will dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to the task of remaking our society."
Madam C.J. Walker “ I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From There I as promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations …I have built my own factory on my own ground.”
Dr. Mae Jemison “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations."
Frances Harper "But two things are wanting in American civilization - a keener and deeper, broader and tenderer sense of justice - a sense of humanity, which shall crystallize into the life of a nation the sentiment that justice, simple justice, is the right, not simply of the strong and powerful, but of the weakest and feeblest of all God's children ..."
Mary McLeod Bethune “If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves.”
Beyoncé “ You have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, and to show people how to embrace their complications, and see the flaws, and the true beauty and strength that’s inside all of us.’
Gabby Douglas “Hard days are best because that’s when champions are made.”
Marian Anderson “As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold that person down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.”
Billie Holiday "Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what’s more than enough.”
All photos used are Public Domain except:
Wilma Rudolph - By Lindeboom, Henk / Anefo [<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en">CC BY-SA 3.0 nl</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AWilma_Rudolph_1960.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
Oprah Winfrey - By https://www.flickr.com/photos/aphrodite-in-nyc [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOprah_in_2014.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>