Black Women in History from A-Z

We wish you a happy and glorious Black History Month! This month we are reflecting and paying homage to the black women who have shaped our world and set the foundation for black women of the present and the future. Let’s celebrate by looking at some of the countless powerful black women in history from A-Z!

Audre Lorde

A is for Audre Lorde! The African American lesbian writer, feminist, womanist, civil rights activist who worked in the 1960s and 70s.

Photo of Audre Lorde wearing a white short-sleeved button-up over a spotted tank-top and an afro. She is standing in front of a chalkboard that reads “Women are powerful and dangerous”

Bessie Smith  

B is for Bessie Smith! “The Empress of the Blues” sang in the 1920s and 30s, and was a pioneer of improvisation and sexual freedom in mainstream music.

Photo of Bessie Smith in a silky white evening gown with a matching cape. Her mouth is open as if she was singing right in the moment the picture was taken.

Combahee River Collective

C is for Combahee River Collective! A group of Black feminists that met throughout the 1970s: “As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face“.

Photo of three members of the Combahee River Collective. They are sitting almost on top of one another, and they are smiling, laughing, and talking.

Daisy Bates

D is for Daisy Bates! As the president of her NAACP chapter she led the movement to integrate schools in Little Rock, AK using her own newspaper the “Arkansas State Press”.

Photo of Daisy Bates, posed from the shoulders up. She wears a black blouse, a necklace, and matching earrings.

Ella Baker

E is for Ella Baker! Ms. Baker was a key figure in the civil rights movement, by being involved in the NAACP, the Montgomery bus boycott, the SCLC, and SNCC.

Photo of Ella Baker at a civil rights’ rally. She holds the microphone very close to her face and she is yelling into it and pointing decisively.

Fannie Lou Hamer

F is for Fannie Lou Hamer! She was a co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and a voting rights activist.

Photo of Fannie Lou Hamer at a civil rights’ rally. She is holding a microphone close to her face and speaking with conviction, her face is scrunched.

Gwendolyn Brooks

G is for Gwendolyn Brooks! The 1st Black poet to win a Pulitzer Prize for “Annie Allen”

“But could a dream send up through onion fumes

Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes

And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,”

Photo of Gwendolyn Brooks sat happily at her typewriter. She wears a short-sleeved sweater and short curly hair.

Hattie McDaniel

H is for Hattie McDaniel! Hattie was the first Black entertainer ever to win an Oscar for her performance in “Gone With the Wind”.

Photo of Hattie McDaniel in a dress with appliques around the shoulders and neckline. She is sitting on a sofa, holding her oscar up.

Imaan Hammam

I is for Imaan Hammam! Imaan is a Black dutch supermodel who has appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine three times.

“Being an African-Arabic model, I’m trying to open doors for more Arabic girls”

Photo of Imaan Hammam on the runway. She wears a Burgundy power suit, with a white dress-shirt, and a tan tie tucked into the pants. Her afro is out, and the jacket is slung over her shoulder.

Andrea Jenkins

J is for Jenkins, Andrea! The first openly trans woman to be elected into public office in the US, she is also a performance artist and a poet. She was elected onto the Minneapolis City Council in 2018.

Photo of Andrea Jenkins in a black leather jacket, side-swept, shoulder length locs, and bright purple lipstick. Her arms are crossed and she looks straight into the camera.

Kimberlé Crenshaw  

K is for Kimberlé Crenshaw! A feminist, activist, Law professor at UCLA who coined the term Intersectionality, and was a key developer of Critical Race Theory.

Photo of Kimberle Crenshaw with her long, honey-blonde locs in a ponytail. She wears a bright pink dress and large triangular hoop earrings. She is smiling warmly and looking directly into the camera.

Lil Kim

L is for Lil Kim! One of the pioneers of female rap, a domestic violence survivor, and a fashion plate of the 1990’s and early 2000s.

Photo of Lil Kim performing, she wears a bodysuit with crystals all over, and pink hair done in finger-waves in the front and kept long in the back.

Marsha P. Johnson

M is for Marsha P. Johnson! A Gay and Trans liberation activist, co-founder of S.T.A.R, drag performer, who was dubbed the “Mayor of Christopher St.” by Greenwich Village locals.

Photo of Marsha P Johnson outside, she wears a curly beehive wig with feathers and flowers placed in it, large statement sunglasses, a large pearl necklace, and another necklace with a heart pendant. She is smiling and looking off to the side.

Nandi Bushell

N is for Nandi Bushell! A 9-year-old Zulu British drummer with almost 14,000 YouTube subscribers. She’s played with Lenny Kravitz and she’s an absolute rockstar!

Photo of Nandi Bushell with her curly hair in a messy ponytail. She is doing the rock and roll devil horns with her hands, which are crossed at the wrists.

Octavia Butler

O is for Octavia Butler! A science fiction author who wrote “Kindred”, won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and was the first of her genre to ever receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

Photo of Octavia Butler, wearing a multicolored patterned shirt. She has thin-framed glasses and a short-cropped afro. She smiles and looks at the camera.

Phyllis Wheatley

P is for Phillis Wheatley! Phillis was an enslaved woman from Senegal who was taught to read and write and became one of the most popular poets of the 18th century.

“Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr’s wing,

Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.”

A very old etching of Phyllis Wheatley, she wears a bonnet and a dress, and sits at a table writing with a quill.

Queen” Bessie Coleman

Q is for “Queen” Bessie Coleman! She was the first Black woman to earn her pilot’s license after teaching herself French to study at France’s Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation.

Photo of Queen Bessie Coleman in her pilot’s uniform. Her cap has an eagle pin on the front. She is smiling and looking off to the side.

Regina King 

R is for Regina King! Winner of an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and 3 Emmy’s for her acting work in both live and animated media over a career that spans 2 decades.

Photo of Regina King on the red carpet. She is smiling with her whole face and holding up her oscar. She wears a white dress.

Suriya Bonaly

S is for Surya Bonaly! A French figure-skater who is the only skater to ever do a backflip and land on one skate. She is a three-time World Cup silver medalist, five-time champion of Europe and a nine-time champion of France.

Photo of Suriya Bonaly skating. She is skating on her left leg, with the other pulled up behind her, being held up by her right arm.

Tarana Burke

T is for Tarana Burke! The originator of #MeToo, a survivor, and a Time Magazine Person of the Year.

Photo of Tarana Burke smiling and laughing, she has a long, wavy ponytail, and she is wearing a white blouse.

Unita Blackwell

U is for Unita Blackwell! The first Black woman mayor in Mississippi, and a civil rights’ activist with SNCC.

Photo of Unita Blackwell at her desk, with her nameplate in front of her. She is wearing a floral suit and talking to someone on the phone.

Viola Davis

V is for Viola Davis! She’s won an Oscar, an Emmy, and 2 Tony’s which makes her the first Black actress to boast the “Triple Crown of Acting”. 

Photo of Viola Davis, she is in front of a bright fuschia background. She is wearing a bright green dress, bright red lipstick, and short curly hair parted to the side. She is smiling broadly and looking up and to the right.

Wangari Maathai

W is for Wangari Maathai! Founder of the Green Belt Movement for conservation in Kenya, and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Photo of Wangari Maathai. She has short micro-braids, and a large headband. She is smiling and looking directly into the camera.

Betty “X” Shabazz 

X is for Betty X! Betty Shabazz married Malcolm X in 1958 and was the backbone of one of the most iconic activist families of the Civil Rights Era. She raised 6 daughters on her own after Malcolm’s assassination.

Photo of Betty X, she has her hair wrapped up in a satin scarf. She is smiling softly and looking into the camera.

Byllye Yvonne Avery

Y is for Byllye Yvonne Avery! A healthcare activist and the founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project for which she received a MacArthur Fellowship.

Photo of Byllye Yvonne Avery, she wears a purple blouse and has a shaved head. She is smiling and looking into the camera.

Zora Neale Hurston

Z is for Zora Neale Hurston! An African American author and anthropologist, most famous for her book “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. 

Photo of Zora Neale Hurston, somewhere in Africa. She wears some traditional, cultural clothing and stands behind a tall drum. She is smiling and looking down at the drum.

And that’s our Black History Month Alphabet! Have fun, Be safe, Stay Black ❤ 

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