Wyomia Tyus (b. 1945) is a retired African American
athlete. She has won several gold medals in international championships, and is
the first person to ever retain the Olympic title in the 100 m discipline.
She first participated in the 1964 Olympics, at the age of
19, where she equalled the world record and won the 100 m event. She achieved
this again in 1968, also setting a new world record and winning gold in relay.
In the year 1974, she won every single one of the twenty-two races that she
Margaret Morgan Lawrence (b. 1914) is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst whose research focuses
on children and their mental health. She was the chief of the Developmental Psychiatry
Service for Infants and Children at Harlem Hospital for more than two decades.
She studied at Cornell University, where she was
the only African American students and was refused a place in the
race-segregated dormitory. She was then rejected from Cornell Medical School because
of her race, and went on to study at Columbia College. In 1948 she joined the
New York State Psychiatric Institute, the first African American to do so. She later
co-founded the Rockland County Center for Mental Health and the Harlem Family
Ruth Ellis (1899-2000)
was an important LGBT rights activist in the United States. At the time of her
death at the age of 101, she was the oldest ‘out’ lesbian in the world.
She was born in Illinois, but moved to Detroit,
Michigan later in life, with her partner Ceciline Franklin. Their house became
a safe haven for the African-American LGBT community. Today, a centre that
bears her name is dedicated to helping homeless LGBT youth.
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
Viola Desmond (1914-1965) was a civil rights activist in Canada. She helped give
rise to the civil rights movement in her country by challenging racial
segregation, refusing to give up her seat in a whites-only area of a cinema in
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
She was a beautician who opened her own
salon and training school, specifically for black women who were being denied
entry to whites-only beauty schools. Her defying gesture happened in 1964, and
she was forced to spend a night in jail and pay a $20 fine. She was granted a
posthumous pardon in 2010 (the first ever in Canada), and was the first black
Canadian women to be featured on a banknote.
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.
Young (b. 1951) is a British actress and Crossbench
peer in the House of Lords. She is also an important figure in the arts and
culture community in the United Kingdom.
She first taught at the Polytechnic of West
London, and later became Professor of cultural studies at Middlesex University.
She was also Project director of the Archives and Museum of Black Heritage and
head of culture at the Greater London Authority. She was made an Officer of the
Order of the British Empire in 2001, for her services to British Black History.
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