Margaret Walker (1915-1998) was an important representative of the Chicago Black
Renaissance, the African-American literary movement of the 30s and 40s. She
wrote poetry and fiction.
Her best-known novel is the 1966 Jubilee,
detailing the story of a slave family around the Civil War era. She was also a
literature professor at Jackson State University and the founder of the Institute
for the Study of History, Life and Culture of Black People, which today bears
Natalia Tanner (1922-2018) was an African American physician. She dedicated her
career to fighting inequality and providing opportunities for people of colour
in the medical world in the United States.
After finishing medical school in
Nashville, she started working for Harlem Hospital in New York. Later she
became the first African-American resident at the University of Chicago and the
first to become a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Mary Styles Harris (b. 1949) is a biologist and geneticist. She has dedicated her career
to researching the health needs of minority communities and providing them with
information and care.
She was one of the first female students at
Lincoln University, where she studied advanced algebra and chemistry, before
moving on to Cornell to study molecular genetics. She has worked as a professor
at several institutions and was the Executive Director of the Sickle Cell
Foundation of Georgia, as well as the President of BioTechnical Communications.
Hernandez (1926-2017) was an activist for civil and
women’s rights. She served as the President of the National Organization of Women
(NOW) in 1970 and 1971.
She studied sociology and political science
at Howard University, from which she graduated magna cum laude, despite the constant racial discrimination and
abuse she suffered. She later became the only woman on the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission established by President Johnson, and one of the main
organizers of the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970. She co-founded the National
Women’s Political Caucus and Black Women Organized for Political Action.
Kenner (1912-2006) was an African-American
inventor. She developed the sanitary belt, an early menstrual product that was
patented only thirty years later due to racial discrimination.
Along with her sister Mildred, she invented and
obtained patents for five household and personal care items. However, she
obtained the patents much later than the invention, simply because the company
that was interested in her creations rejected them when they discovered her
Merrick Sklarek (1926-2012) was one of the first black women to become a licensed
architect in the United States. Nicknamed the “Rosa Parks
of Architecture”, she was the first black female architect in the states of New
York and later California.
She received her degree from Columbia
University School of Architecture in 1950, graduating as one of only two female
students. In 1980, she was the first black woman elected as a fellow of the
American Institute of Architects.
Eaton (1921-2018) was a civil rights activist in
the state of North Carolina. President Obama described her as a personal
inspiration and a “beacon of civil rights”.
When she was 21, she passed a severe literacy
test and registered to vote, one of the first African Americans to do so in her
state. She served as a county poll worker and a special registrar commissioner
for 40 years after that, helping more than 4000 people to register to vote.
Puryear Hearn (b. 1940) is a biophysicist whose
career focuses on health policy. She has worked on various development
programmes to improve the health of at-risk children.
She has a degree in biochemistry and a PhD
in biophysics, the latter from Yale University. She served as the Senior Vice
President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest healthcare
philanthropy in the US, for almost 20 years. She focused on maternal and child
health, as well as AIDS and substance abuse.
Bolin (1908-2007) was a lawyer and judge who
achieved a number of historic firsts. She was the first black woman to graduate
from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association and
the first to serve as a judge in the United States.
She graduated from Yale Law School in 1931,
from a class where she was the only black student and one of three women. She
was appointed as a judge in 1939 and served in this position for 40 years. She
was also a legal advisor to the National Council of Negro Women and an activist
for education and children’s rights.