5 Inspiring Black Women You Probably Didn't Know About

Throughout history there have been many remarkable black women, although they are seldom recognized and remembered for their what they did during their lifetimes. From writers to activists to the first black woman to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S president, here I compiled a list of five, out of the many, inspiring black women that deserve, and should be, known and remembered.

1. Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a writer, civil rights activist, and feminist whose writing became more politicized during her career. In her second collection of poems, entitled Cables to Rage, she came out as a lesbian and in her other books explored the topics of violence, racism, lesbian relationships, parenting, and homophobia. She criticized how feminism was exclusively looked at through the white heterosexual experience. The result of this was that lesbians and women of color were being marginalized. She argued that in order for feminism to be truly effective, it need to look at and value the experiences of all women. Her argument developed into and influenced feminist theory and intersectionality.

2. Maya Angelou

An acclaimed writer and civil rights activist, who later expanded her career to singer, dancer, actress, and director, Maya Angelou was best-known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). The book told the story of Marguerite’s life until she was seventeen, including her struggles with racism and sexual abuse. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak, she became inspired by his message and became part of the Civil Rights movement; later working with him and Malcom X. In her writing, Maya spoke of the anguish suffered by black people throughout history; as well as calling for racial and religious harmony, peace, and social justice for people of different genders, incomes, origins, and sexual orientations.

3. Constance Baker Motley

A civil rights lawyer who was a part of and argued nearly every important civil rights case for more than a decade, Constance Baker Motley became the first black woman to serve as a federal judge. After not being allowed to enter a public beach when she was a teenager because she was black, she became interested in civil rights and wanted to become a lawyer. During her time as a lawyer, she argued civil rights cases in the U.S Supreme Court, like Brown v. Board of Education, and represented Martin Luther King, Jr. Judge Baker was a remarkable woman who continues inspire us with her life’s work.

4. Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm was the first black Congresswoman, who, four years later, became the first black candidate for the Democratic nomination for president (as well as being the first woman to do so). Although she did not win the nomination, Shirley continued in Congress for seven more terms during which she advocated for minority education and employment opportunities. She was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a member of the National Organization for Women, and was active in the NAACP. Shirley continues to be an inspiration for black women with aspirations in politics and the presidency.

5. Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender activist who was at the forefront of the Stonewall riots, or as some call it: the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. She co-founded STAR, an organization that helped provide shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth, and the Gay Liberation Front which advocated for the sexual liberation of all people. In an interview in 1972, she stated that her goal was: “to see gay people liberated and free and to have equal rights that other people have in America”. Although not mentioned often, Marsha P. Johnson was truly a pioneer for transgender and LGBTQ activism.

 

This list does not even come close to naming all the remarkable, inspiring, and overall incredible black women throughout history, but hopefully it will shine light on some of them and their groundbreaking actions.