Black Women I Want My Daughter to Learn About in School

Growing up in southern Georgia, Michelle Obama was the only point of reference we were given as to a black woman worth becoming in America. We were taught that if you were lucky, you’d go to college, become a lawyer, and revel in the satisfaction of accomplishing a fraction of what only Mrs. Obama could embody in its wholeness. There was an understood banner hanging in all of my classrooms reading, “There is no more history to be made.”

Our daughters should be taught about black revolutionaries as not only exceptional African-American history, but as remarkable figures in American history. I want my daughter to understand that she can make great contributions to her country, in more ways than one. 

 

Michelle Obama

 

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Michelle Obama is an overall extraordinaire, being the first black First Lady of The United States, graduating from Princeton, studying at Harvard Law, as well as a number of other accomplishments. Her style and grace will set the standard for women, as well as men, in the nation throughout history. In her bestselling book “Becoming”, Obama emphasizes the importance of leading a box-checker lifestyle and reminds young women that anything worth having takes work.

 

Yara Shahidi

 

Photo by Adrienne Raquel

 

Yara Shahidi, the daughter of Keri Shahidi, is a Black American Iranian actress and activist. Early in her career, she worked beside the likes of Eddie Murphy and Angelina Jolie. She encountered stardom on the hit TV-series “Black-ish” and spinoff  “Grown-ish”. In 2019, she led her first feature-length film “The Sun Is Also a Star”.  Her achievement record doesn’t end with film. The 19-year-old has been accepted into Harvard (including a recommendation letter from Michelle Obama), founded Yara’s Club (a mentorship program), and advocated to increase voter turnout through her initiative Eighteen X '18. When asked about her political views and her opportunity to share them she said, “I come from a lineage of entertainers who put their careers on the line to speak about politics, and that’s the only reason I can have this space.”

 

Misty Copeland

 

Photo by Danielle Levitt

Misty Copeland made history as the first Black American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She began dancing at the age of 13, which is a late start by classical terms, but the young star danced en pointe within three months of her first dance class. She was awarded a full scholarship to San Fransico’s Ballet School and The American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive program. In 2007, she became The American Ballet Theatre’s second black female soloist in over 20 years. She was promoted to the Theatre’s principal dancer, as the first black woman to do so since the company’s founding 75 years ago. Copeland’s long list of achievements also includes becoming the first black woman to perform the lead role “Odette/Odile” in the American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Misty Copeland tells Essence in an interview, “There’s no shortcuts in ballet. You have to put in the hours. You have to be focused. You have to be dedicated to it.”

 

Viola Davis

 

Photo by Justin Bishop

Viola Davis is an American actress and producer. She has had a successful career spanning across three decades. Davis has won an Academy Award, Oscar, and Emmy which resulted in the historical honor of being the first black actress to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting. Early in life her undergraduate college was paid for by the Upward Bound Program at Rhode Island College. Upon graduating, she auditioned for the drama program at Julliard and received a full-scholarship. She graces the screen with phenomenal actors such as Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, but Viola Davis is more than just a Hollywood star. She is the representation and advocate for those who are unseen, discriminated against, overlooked, and most importantly those who are raised in poverty. She is able to identify with the black girls who grow up experiencing domestic violence, alcoholism, and racism. Davis was invited to be the spokesperson of the Hunger Is campaign, and was able to donate $100,000 to organizations in her hometown through The Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Viola is known for giving powerful speeches, and to young girls with desire she simply said, "All dreams are within reach. All you have to do is keep moving towards them."

 

Ava DuVernay

 

 

Photo by Amy Dickerson

Ava DuVernay is a writer, director, producer, and independent film distributor. She is the first black female film director to win Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival. She is the first black woman to direct a film grossing over $100 million at the box office. DuVernay is the first black woman to have a film nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and to have a film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in English and African American Studies, working in public relations and broadcast journalism before exploring film. To this anomaly DuVernay says, “It’s okay to change-up, grow, evolve and change your mind. You can pivot. Don’t be afraid to try.” Ava DuVernay was honored as one of TIME’s First and during an interview she said, “I’m not the first. I’m not the first black woman who’s made something so beautiful, that whatever body that’s awarding it should have been awarding it. It’s just the time. It’s just the time that I happen to be here.”

 

I am more than grateful to be here, during a time when young black girls have powerful and accomplished women to model their paths after. I hope that for generations to come, and in my daughter’s American history course, these groundbreaking women are remembered.