Impactful Black Women In American History: 5 Women We Are Celebrating In Honor of Black History Month

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In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating five impactful women whose lives have spanned the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Despite the fact that some of these women were born more than 150 years apart, they have experienced similar challenges dealing with gender and race inequality. All of these women have shown great courage, resilience, and have had a significant impact on American history.

5 Impactful Black Women We’re Celebrating In Honor Of Black History Month

Frances E.W. Harper (1825 – 1911) 


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was an American poet, public speaker, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. 

After losing her mother at the age of 3, Frances E.W. Harper was raised by her uncle, William Watkins, a teacher and abolitionist in Baltimore, Maryland. Watkins’ political activism had a big impact on Harper, heavily influencing her social and political views. 

Harper was the first woman to teach at Union Seminary in Ohio when she was 26. Later, while teaching in Pennsylvania, she lived in a home that was used in the Underground Railroad, witnessing the movement of slaves towards freedom. This experience greatly influenced Harper’s work. 

Harper traveled through the northern states and Canada giving speeches that included themes of racism, sexism, and classism. 

Throughout her life, Harper published several novels, works of poetry, and essay collections. After the American Civil War, during the Reconstruction Era, Harper strived to fight for educational opportunities, women’s rights, and civil rights. 

Want To Learn More About Frances E.W. Harper? Here Are Some Books You Can Check Out:

Iola Leroy
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Walker Harper Reader
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Minnie’s Sacrifice
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Sowing and Reaping
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Collected Works of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
By Frances Ellen Watkins HarpeR

Complete Poems of Frances E.W. Harper
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Maggie Lena Walker (1864 – 1934)

Maggie Lena Walker was a visionary businesswoman and teacher who was born into slavery in 1864 in Richmond, VA. She went to school in Richmond, graduated, and became a teacher. 

Walker joined the Independent Order of St. Luke’s when she was just 14 and filled numerous important positions. For example, she became the publisher of their newspaper, called The St. Luke Herald, in 1902. 

A year later, Walker founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, becoming the first woman in the U.S to charter a bank. During the Great Depression, many banks were forced to close, but the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank pulled through—a testament to her extraordinary intelligence and business savvy. 

These were not Walker’s only contributions to bettering society, she also was involved in the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Virginia Industrial School for Girls. 

Want To Learn More About Maggie Lena Walker? You Can Check Out These Books:

A Right Worthy Grand Mission: Maggie Lena Walker and the Quest for Black Economic Empowerment
By Gertrude Woodruff Marlowe

Pennies to Dollars: The Story of Maggie Lena Walker
By Muriel Miller Branch and Dorothy Maria Rice

Katherine Johnson (1918 – 2020) 

Katherine Johnson had a groundbreaking career as a mathematician working for NASA. You may recognize her name as being one of the celebrated NASA mathematicians in the film “Hidden Figures” from 2016. 

Johnson calculated the flight path that put the first U.S. astronaut in space in 1961, the path for Apollo 11 to land on the moon in 1969, and many other space shuttle flight paths throughout her more than 3 decades-long career at NASA. 

In 2015 she received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom awarded to her by President Barack Obama who stated “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”

Want To Learn More About Katherine Johnson? You Can Check Out Her Books:

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
By Katherine Johnson 

One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission 
By Katherine Johnson and Joylette Hylick,  with illustrations by Charmelle Barlow 

My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir
By Katherine Johnson

Ruby Bridges (1954 – Present)

Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to enroll in an all-white elementary school located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bridges’ mother walked her into school every day, accompanied by four federal marshals. 

Sadly, Bridges was verbally harassed by many and segregationists pulled their white children from school. Bridges ended up being the only child in her class and was taught by Barbara Henry, the only teacher willing to teach her. 

Bridges and her family faced copious amounts of opposition, there were city-wide protests and her father even lost his job. With all this said, Bridges and her mother did not back down. In 1999, she founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which strives to create equality in education.

Want To Learn More About Ruby Bridges? Check Out These Books:

Through My Eyes
By Ruby Bridges

This Is Your Time
By Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges Goes To School: My True Story
By Ruby Bridges

Serena Williams (1981 – Present)

In 1995, Williams made her professional debut at just 14 years old. Throughout her career, she has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. In addition, she has 4 Olympic gold medals. Williams won these in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the London 2012 Olympic Games, and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. 

The awards listed above are just a fraction of Williams’ accomplishments. In 2016, she was the world’s highest-paid woman athlete. Williams continues to be an inspiration to women around the world and one of the most exhilarating African-American female athletes of our time. 

Want To Learn More About Serena Williams? Check Out These Books:

On The Line
By Serena Williams with Daniel Paisner

My Life: Queen of the Court
By Serena Williams

Looking For Things To Do In Washington D.C. To Celebrate Black History Month?

The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an initiative celebrating Black History Month titled “Through the Lens of Black Health & Wellness.” 

Visit the museum located on The National Mall at 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, not far from The Phoenix or Circle Arms Apartments.

Looking for a new place to call home? Check out the stylish apartments we have available located throughout Washington D.C. 

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Have questions or need assistance finding your perfect DC apartment? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us today!

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