With Black History Month coming to a close in just a couple of days, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate. So today I’m sharing African American women pioneers. Enjoy!
Aerospace: Mae C. Jemison
At a very early age, Mae C. Jemison dreamed of becoming a scientist and traveling in space. She joined NASA’s astronaut program in the late 1980s. In 1992, she became the first African American woman to go into space with her first mission on the Endeavor space shuttle.
Entertainment: Viola Davis
Viola Davis became the first African American woman to win an Emmy Award for best actress with her portrayal of Annalise Keating in the drama “How to Get Away with Murder.” In her Emmy acceptance speech, she reminded everyone that there was still work to be done to break down the barriers for African Americans in the industry. Davis said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Legal: Charlotte E. Ray
Charlotte E. Ray became the first female African American lawyer in the US in 1872. During the 1860s, Ray attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C. By the end of the 1860s, she was a teacher at the preparatory school associated with Howard University. Ray then applied to the university’s law school as C.E. Ray. It is thought that she used her initials to disguise her gender since the university did not accept women into the program. She gained admittance and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar the same year. She later became the first woman to be granted permission to argue cases in front of the US Supreme Court in the capital.
Medicine: Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Rebecca Lee Crumpler went to medical school when women of color were denied the most basic level of education. In the 1850s she became a nurse in Massachusetts and then went on to enroll in the New England Female Medical College in Boston and earned her medical degree in 1864. She became the first African-American woman physician in the United States. Dr. Crumpler’s “Book of Medical Discourses” is one of the very first medical publications by an African American.
Politics: Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress and the first to run for president. In 1964, Ms. Chisholm won her first election – a seat in the New York State Assembly. She won her next victory in 1968, becoming the first African American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. A few years later she decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is quoted saying, “I ran because somebody had to do it first. I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday – it was time in 1972 to make that someday come.”
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