Forgotten Women in Black History


Angelica Dameus

Black history month is a time to celebrate, observe, and remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. Throughout the month of February, the name Rosa Parks is said daily, but believe it or not, there are many other African American women who have made a difference in black history.



Diane Nash (1938-) Although she is relatively unheard of, Nash was a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement. Her efforts included the first successful civil rights campaign to integrate lunch counters, co-founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Freedom Riders, who de-segregated interstate travel, and co-initiating the Alabama Voting Rights Project and working on the Selma Voting Rights Movement, which resulted in the right to vote for African Americans and gain volume in their political voice in the South.


Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) With the distinction of being the first African American author to win a Pulitzer Prize, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was a poet whose perspective on racial dynamics helped her bridge the gap between academic poets in the 1940’s and black writers in the 60’s. Brooks also won Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, and in 1985, was awarded Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.


Alice Dunbar Nelson (1864-1939) Nelson was a poet, journalist, and political activist. Among the first generation born free in the South after the Civil War, she was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Great Poetic movement of ’89. Of the few female African American diarists of the early 20th century, she portrays the complicated reality of African American women and intellectuals, addressing topics such as racism, oppression, family, work, and sexuality.


Marian Wright Edelman (1939-) Edelman has a wide variety of impressive achievements under her belt: she’s won the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and she was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. Not only did she receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000 (the nation’s highest civilian award), but in 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit advocacy organization that works to ensure a level playing field for all children.


Ella Baker (1903-1986) Baker was an African American civil rights and human rights activist. She was arguably one of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement. She played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of her time, including the NAACP, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.


Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) As a teacher and civil rights activist, Clark’s citizenship schools helped enfranchise and empower African Americans. She developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans in the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1979, Jimmy Carter honored her with a Living Legacy Award. She received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, in 1982. In 1987, Clark’s second autobiography, Ready from Within: Septima Clark and Civil Rights, won an American Book Award.