Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
womens history month?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
womens history month?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media

6 Black Female Figures from History (& Now) to Celebrate

In honor of Black History Month, as well as Women’s History Month (which is in March), I wanted to discuss some important Black female figures and their contribution to history. Many of history’s greatest accomplishments, movements, and game-changers were done by Black women, so here’s a few famous figures to keep fresh in your memory.

Mary Jane Patterson

Mary Jane Patterson made history as the first African American female to graduate from Oberlin College, a liberal arts college in Ohio, with a B.A. degree. She’s still recognized on campus there to this day! Shortly after she finished her studies, she became a teacher assistant in the Female Department in the Institute of Colored Youth in Philadelphia. She continued as a teacher for a while before eventually becoming the first Black principal at Dunbar High School from 1871-74. 

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and an activist. She was an American businesswoman who was known to be one of the first female millionaires in the Unites States. Walker had a very successful line of hair care products, which she promoted by traveling across the U.S. During her travels, she also provided career opportunities and economic independence to thousands of Black women who otherwise would have been consigned to jobs such as maids, cooks, laundresses, and farm hands.

Bessie Coleman 

Bessie Coleman was an aviator who became the first American woman to hold a pilot license from a pilot school in France. She was the star of early aviation exhibitions, and staged the first public flight by an African American woman in America. Coleman became a popular flier at aerial shows, though she refused to perform before segregated audiences in the South. She spoke at schools and churches, encouraging African Americans to take interest in aviation.

Shirley Chisholm 

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician who was known for becoming the first African American congresswoman back in 1968. Four years later, she became the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Plus, she was the first woman to appear in a United States presidential debate.

Mae C. Jemison

Mae C. Jemison studied at Stanford University when she was only 16 years old, then moved forward to earn a degree in chemical engineering and later a doctorate in medicine from Cornell University. Jemison was chosen for NASA’s astronaut program in 1987 and became the first Black woman to travel in space in 1992 after launching with the Space Shuttle Endeavour crew.

Misty Copeland

Famous ballerina Misty Copeland became the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre in New York in 2015. In 2007, she became the first African American female soloist for the company in two decades. She made an appearance in Prince’s music video for the song Crimson and Clover and has performed on Broadway (On The Town musical) and in the film adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Copeland’s legacy made her a legend and a pop icon for aspiring dancers.

Here’s to these amazing and powerful Black women and their achievements, as well as all successful Black women from the past, present, and yet to come!

Naya West is an actor, singer, dancer, and content creator from Augusta, GA. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design. where she majored in Performing Arts and earned her B.F.A in Entertainment Arts. Naya also has her own personal blog, called Just Being Me, where she talks about her many life experiences and gives advice to others. Her hobbies and interests include cooking/baking, watching anime, reading, and making videos for her YouTube channel.