UPDATED: 6:00 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021
The month of March is recognized as Women’s History Month and is dedicated to the celebration of everyday women, as well as pillars and pioneers whose accomplishments have allowed for following generations to feel empowered to constantly break barriers.
Black women, in particular, have been accomplishing the unthinkable for centuries and NewsOne is highlighting some of these women and their feats.
And while this list would obviously be incomplete without the inclusion of Kamala Harris — the first woman and Black woman to be vice president and the highest-ranking woman in the history of American government — her impressive accomplishment is among dozens of other achievements that Black women have steadily been realizing for many decades.
The month-long celebration of women dates back to 1980 when former President Jimmy Carter issued the first Proclamation, which declared the week of March 8, 1989, as National Women’s History Week, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
In March of 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, proclaiming March as Women’s History Month.
“Throughout history, women have driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as a people,” said former President Barack Obama in his 2016 Women’s History Month Presidential Proclamation. “In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America: that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach. During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.”
Obama continued, “Because of the courage of so many bold women who dared to transcend preconceived expectations and prove they were capable of doing all that a man could do and more, advances were made, discoveries were revealed, barriers were broken, and progress triumphed. Whether serving in elected positions across America, leading groundbreaking civil rights movements, venturing into unknown frontiers, or programming revolutionary technologies, generations of women that knew their gender was no obstacle to what they could accomplish have long stirred new ideas and opened new doors, having a profound and positive impact on our Nation.”
Keep reading to find our curated list of Black women pioneers in history as well as the present day.
Women’s History Month: Celebrating Black Women Pioneers And Their Many Historic Firsts was originally published on newsone.com
1. Kamala Harris, first woman and Black woman Vice President of the United StatesSource:Getty
“Herstory” was made on Jan. 20, 2021, when Kamala Harris was sworn in to become the first Black and South Asian woman Vice President of the United States.
Donning the colors purple and wearing a string of pearls in tribute to her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Harris took the pledge while placing her left hand on a bible that belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice.
2. Barbara Jordan, First Black Woman Elected Into Congress from the SouthSource:Getty
After becoming the first Black woman in the Texas state senate, Barbara Jordan did the same by winning her race to represent the Lone Star State in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. That made Jordan the first Black woman from the South who was elected into Congress.
“I’ll only be one of 435. But the 434 will know I’m there,” Jordan famously said while campaigning for the seat.
3. Bianca Smith, MLB’s first Black woman coach
The athlete-turned-coach has a storied sports career. Smith played softball at the New England-based Dartmouth college and went on to serve in coaching roles at Case Western Reserve in Ohio, the University of Dallas, and most recently Carroll University in Wisconsin. Her appointment with the Red Sox isn’t her first experience with the MLB. She served as an intern in the baseball operations departments for the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. Smith credits her mother for introducing her to the game.
“My mom was a fan, not the extent I am where I watch games every day,” she said. “Even if my team isn’t playing, I’m watching a game on MLB.tv; my mom would feel like we actually had to go to the games. She didn’t like watching them on TV. But once she introduced the game to me, I fell in love with the strategy. I should have known then that I wanted to coach.”
4. Mae C. Jemison, First Black Woman in SpaceSource:Getty
On Sept. 12, 1999, American physician and former NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison fulfilled a lifelong dream she held ever since she was a small girl in Chicago by becoming the first African-American woman to fly into space.
“I always assumed I’d go in to space,” she said to a group of Denison University students in 2004. “I thought, by now, we’d be going into space like you were going to work.”
5. Amanda Gorman, the nation’s youngest inaugural poetSource:Getty
Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first youth poet laureate, captivated the hearts of Americans and likely anyone else who was listening to her deliver the Inauguration poem on Jan. 20, 2021. In doing so, the 23-year-old became the nation’s youngest inaugural poet.
The Harvard University graduate whose work focuses on the area where feminism, race, youth and community intersect, delivered her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which touched on a number of topics du jour, including race and national unity.
6. Bessie Coleman, First Black Woman PilotSource:Getty
Born in 1892, Bessie Coleman was the first Black woman to earn a pilot license. Since there were no flight training opportunities for women and people of color in the United States she saved her money to study aviation in France. The Texas native got her international pilot license in 1921. She aspired to open up an educational facility for Black fliers. She died in 1926 at the age of 34 in a plane crash. Coleman was the epitome of a barrier breaker and her legacy lives on through individuals like Noa who have become students of her journey.
7. Mellody Hobson, first Black woman to chair Starbucks’ boardSource:Getty
The Chicago native and Princeton University graduate has been a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion within major corporations and previously served on the boards of companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Estée Lauder and Groupon.
8. Mary Jackson, First Black Woman to Work for NASASource:Getty
Mary Jackson, the renowned mathematician and NASA aeronautical scientist of “Hidden Figures” fame had a circuitous route to her historic career as the first Black woman to work for the space agency. The HBCU graduate and three of her fellow Black women co-engineers and mathematicians at NASA were awarded Congressional Gold Medals in 2019.
9. Meisha Ross Porter, first Black woman to be NYC Schools ChancellorSource:NYC Dept. Of Education
Meisha Ross Porter made history when she was named as New York City school chancellor, making her the first Black woman to lead the largest public school system in the country. Appropriately enough, the announcement came during Black History Month 2021.
Porter’s appointment comes 30 years after educator Richard R. Green became the first Black New York City Schools Chancellor, serving from 1988-1989.
10. Hattie McDaniel, First Black Woman to Win an Academy AwardSource:Getty
11. Jennifer King, First Black Woman NFL CoachSource:Getty
12. Alice Coachman, First Black Woman To Win an Olympic Gold MedalSource:Getty
13. Oprah Winfrey, First Black Woman BillionaireSource:Getty
14. Madam C.J. Walker, First Black Woman MillionaireSource:Getty
15. Nia DaCosta, first Black woman to direct a Marvel movieSource:Getty
The NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate also has directing credits on “Top Boy,” the British television drama about two London drug dealers which streams on Netflix.
“Captain Marvel 2” was given a tentative release date of July 8, 2022.