15 Black Women Who Changed the World, and Why You Haven't Heard of Them


In honor of black history month, I think it's important to highlight some of the women who changed the world as we know it today. When researching, I was shocked by the fact that not only were these people incredibly influential, but also that I had never heard of them before. The world we live in was partially sculpted by black women. Being oppressed has caused the names of these women to get lost over time and were failed to be recognized. It is important to note that this article is only representing the tip of the iceberg of people who haven't been recognized for their achievements.


#1 Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in 1797. She was an American civil rights activist. After escaping slavery with her newborn daughter in 1826, she went to court in 1828 to recover her son in 1828 and became the first black woman to win a case against a white man. She continued to fight for both women and black rights in public. Her best-known speech was given at the women's rights convention in 1851. The speech was entitled “Ain’t I a Woman” and is worth a read through if you get the chance. She passed away in 1883 in battle creek Michigan, leaving an incredibly influential and important life.



#2 Josephene St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephene St. Pierre Ruffin was an African American publisher, journalist and civil rights activist. She headed the first international newspaper published by black women. The suffragette movements along the east coast of the United States was also led and organized by her. She played a major role in recruitment for the civil war and will never be forgotten for her involvement in the journalism industry.



#3 Mary Anne Shad Cary

Mary Ann Shad was the first black female publisher in Canada who started the black run newspaper called The Provincial Freemen. She was also a teacher and lawyer. She reported on important civil rights movements and other important issues in her community. Her most famous work was on urging black Americans to come to Canada for better treatments. She took off after her father who owned the abolitionist paper called The Liberator. She later opened a black-run school in to educate the youth in her community.



#4 Ida B. Wells

Ida was one of eight children and was born into an enslaved family. After her parent's untimely deaths, she managed to get a secretarial job and support her siblings. She eventually went on to go to college and became a renowned journalist. She reported on civil rights issues and is most famous for her anti-lynching campaigns. While working as a journalist and publisher, she was also a teacher at a school in Memphis. Eventually, she was fired because of her segregation critiques. After the wrongful death of her childhood friend, she decided to tour the south and promote her anti-lynching campaign. Ida’s life was often at risk for the majorly controversial topics of her articles, but she managed to survive and continue to fight for the spread of truth.





#5 Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary was an American educator, civil rights activist, philanthropist and humanitarian. She established the National Council for Black Women in 1935, the African Women’s journal project and the National Youth Administration’s African division. She was incredibly influential in the political and civil rights community. She worked alongside Franklin Roosevelt to try and promote black rights campaigns. She worked behind the scenes to make this world a better place.



#6 Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was a major contributor to the black community who was trying to break into the performance industry. Marian was an American singer, and an incredible performer. She performed a wide range of music from opera to spirituals throughout both America and Europe. She is best known for her piece entitled Behold that Star. She was the first black American to perform at the metropolitan opera in New York city. She is famous for her scandal with the daughters of the American Revolution, when they refused to have her as a performer because of her skin color. Instead, she went to perform at the Lincon memorial gathering on Easter Sunday.




#7 Ella Baker

Ella Baker was an incredibly influential civil rights activist. She continued her career for over 50 years. She worked behind the scenes in New York and later ventured into the south, which was a major risk as a black woman in the 1930’s. She created the Young Black Representative league, where she would pool money to help poorer members of her community. She started out working with the National Advancement of Colored People, but she was unhappy with the aggressively bureaucratic nature of the organization. This means that the more important decisions of the organizations were made by higher up officials rather than for the good of the people involved. In the wake of these disparages, she quit her director’s position but rejoined after improvements. She then continued to work with the new branch to promote non-segregated education in black communities.



#8 Dorothy Height

Dorothy Height was a leader and public spokesperson who was a major contributor to many civil rights movements from the 1920’s to the early 2000s. In high school Dorothy started her first anti-lynching campaign. Her skills as a public speaker took her to her first oratory speech championship at the age of 16. She faced major discrimination when applying to college. Despite being overqualified for most of the schools she applied to, she was told they had already met their “black person quota”. She ended up attending New York university where she earned two degrees. After working as a social worker, she started pouring more and more effort into civil rights activism. This is where she earned her reputation as “the tireless activist”. She joined the National Black Women Council and worked alongside the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. She Established the Center for Racial justice in 1965, and later became president of her own council. She attended the march on Washington, and never stopped working as an incredible activist and role model. She received many honors for her incredible contribution to society.



#9 Fannie Lou Hammer

Fannie Lou Hammer was a young voting rights activist. She was the co-chair for the national Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 national convention. Her passion of telling her own experience as a black woman in the south helped pave the way for more modern activists today. She was born into a poor, farming family, that had constant financial struggles. She worked hard to get by. When she attended her first protest meeting, she realized that this was what she wanted to do. She dedicated the rest of her life to fighting for civil rights. She changed the world by encouraging African Americans to vote, working with the student community, working with the Freedom Democratic Party as well as many other incredible jobs through the years.



#10 Constance Baker Motley

Constance was a United States lawyer, judge and member of the senate. She was a major civil legal civil right activist. She worked with the NAACP legal group before she attended law school. When she got her law degree, she went into her own practice. She later became the first African American judge.



#11 Shirly Chisholm

Shirly was an American author, educator, and politician. She was the first black woman elected to the united states congress, representing New York from 1969 to 1983. She later became an educational assistant for the New York Bureau of Child Welfare and a childcare director at the Hamiliton Madison center. After being elected to congress, she made a mark in history again by bringing the first black woman to run for a presidential nomination. She later retired from office to be a teacher and public speaker.



#12 Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King is best known for being the wife of the famous Martin Luther King Jr.. Little do people know that she was actually an incredibly influential author and activist herself. She was also a singer who incorporated activism into her songs that she wrote herself. She took part in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and helped with the civil rights act in 1964. After the assassination of her husband in 1968, she continued to be a key educator for black rights.


#13 Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Edelman was a lawyer and civil rights activist. She was born in 1939 and started the Childrens Defense Organization (CDO). She went to Spellman college and Yale Law school. She worked in encouraging black women to vote in Mississippi, before moving to New York to work with the National Association for the Advancement of Black People (NAAP).



#14 Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was half black, and half native American. Making her the first ever black and the first ever native American to get a pilot's license. She got her license on June 15th, 1951. She was featured in many exhibitions and flight shows after the fact. She was the first black woman ever to fly a plane in the United States. She won the hearts of many audiences and had the nick name “Queen Bess.” She performed all over America and Europe, earning her professional status.



#15 Wilma Rudolph

Wilma was a talented sprinter for team USA. She was born in Tennessee and was suffering from multiple leg deformities. She had to wear a brace throughout her childhood, but she eventually managed to overcome these struggles and started sprinting. She said that her experiences as a child made her stronger and more motivated. She went on to becoming one of the Olympic greats. She was the first woman to ever win three gold medals. Wilma retired with three gold, one bronze medal and three world records.


Written by Cloey Aconley



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