Five historic black women leave lasting impression

by Life Editor Mari Williams

Each year during Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is watched and the resiliency of Rosa Parks is discussed. These two were integral to the progress of the U.S. today but were not the only important people by far. Below are five black women who among others paved the way and changed history forever.

Annie Lee Cooper

At the very top of the list of kick-butt, black women is Annie Lee Cooper. The recently popularized Selma native was a civil rights activist in the voting rights movement. Cooper is best known for punching the notorious Dallas County Sheriff James Clark in the face after he repeatedly prodded her with his nightstick. Cooper’s brave story is one that lives on decades later.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi civil rights activist once said, “One day I know the struggle will change. There’s got to be a change — not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the U.S., but for people all over the world.” Hamer fought for equality in some of the toughest trenches in the country. Hamer was a co-creator of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was created to challenge the white-only, Mississippi Democratic Party.

Donyale Luna

To this day people refer to Beverly Johnson as the first black woman on the cover of Vogue, but they are mistaken. Detroit-born Donyale Luna was the first black woman to grace the cover in 1966. Luna forced her way into the fashion industry and made a name for herself where no African-American had. Eventually Luna moved to Europe and became a sensation, appearing in Harper’s Bazaar as well as French and American Vogue.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker was America’s first, self-made, female millionaire, according to her website. Walker acquired her wealth by creating a line of beauty and hair products for black women. As a woman who suffered from a severe scalp disease that caused her to lose her hair, she began experimenting with different ointments until she found one that worked. Walker effectively paved the way for black female entrepreneurs around the country.

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was the first black female aviator and the first African-American to receive an international pilot license. Because no one in the U.S. would teach her to fly, Coleman learned French and traveled to Paris. In 1922 she earned her pilot license. Coleman flew over people’s expectations and became an odyssey upon her return to the U.S.