Bertha Gilkey (1949-2014) was an
activist for better housing for the African-American community. She was active
around St Louis, Missouri.
She started advocating for better housing
from a very young age, leading a nine-month rent strike which involved more
than twenty-two thousand tenants who were living in intolerable conditions. She
eventually set up the first tenant management association in the city, which
rehabilitated and managed the Cochran Gardens Housing Project, greatly
improving the living conditions of thousands.
Evers-Williams (b. 1933) is a civil rights activist
and journalist, who served as chairwoman of the NAACP. She delivered the
invocation at President Obama’s second inauguration.
She worked for the desegregation of schools
and voter registration in her native state of Mississippi. After her husband,
also an activist, was killed by a white supremacist in 1963, she sought justice
for him for more than three decades.
Hinkson (1925-2014) was a dancer and choreographer,
best known for her collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company. She was
credited with breaking racial boundaries in ballet and modern dance.
She obtained formal training at the
University of Wisconsin and was recruited into Martha Graham’s company in 1951.
Two years later, she obtained the role of principal dancer in the production Bluebeard’s Castle. She was also a
teacher with the Juilliard School of Music and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
was an activist and social reformer in Atlanta, Georgia. Her actions helped
improve the lives of African American citizens in her community and inspired
actions within the future Civil Rights Movement.
She studied art and
business in Chicago and moved to Atlanta in 1897, where she helped create the
Neighborhood Union – the first female-led social welfare agency for African
Americans in the city. The organisation provided social, educational, medical
and recreational services for the community. She also fought for the
desegregation of the national YWCA and served as the vice president of the
NAACP branch in Atlanta, where she organised courses on politics and voting.
Janelle Monáe (b. 1985) is an
award-winning musician and actress. She has released three studio albums and
starred in two highly acclaimed films, Moonlight and Hidden Figures.
Among her many awards are a VMA, 2 Black Reel
Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Additionally, she has been nominated
for a Grammy 6 times. In 2018 she was named “Trailblazer of the Year”
at the Billboard Women in Music event.
Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999)
was an African-American inventor. In 1966, she created the modern home security
Because of the
high crime rate in her New York neighbourhood, she invented a system where
homeowners could view someone outside their door on a monitor, and allow them
to press a button to call the police if they felt unsafe. Even though the
system was designed for home use, it was soon adopted by many businesses. She
received an award from the National Science Committee for her work.
Camilla Williams (1919-2012) was a soprano
who paved the way for African-American musicians in opera. She was the first
African American to receive a contract from a major opera company in the United
States, and the first to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera.
She was born
in a poor family, but went to study music education at Virginia State
University. She received numerous awards for her performances, and made her debut
with the New York City Opera in 1946. She was appointed Professor of Voice at
Indiana University in 1977, the first African American in the position.
Betty Campbell (1934-2017) was the first black head teacher in
Wales. She held this position at the Mount Stuart Primary School in Cardiff.
Born in a
low-income, working-class family, she nevertheless won a scholarship at the Lady
Margaret High School for Girls, which paved her way towards a teaching career.
She was a member of the Commission for Racial Equality and was awarded an MBE
for her services to education.
Burnett Talbert (1866-1923) was an activist for the rights of African Americans and
women. She was one of the most prominent black women in the United States in
After graduating from Oberlin College, she became a teacher, and later
the assistant principal of Union High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, thus
becoming the highest-position African American woman in the state. She founded
the Niagara Movement, a very early organization for civil rights and a predecessor
of the NAACP.
Evelyn Preer (1896-1932) was an
actress and blues singer throughout the 1910s to the 1930s. She was a
pioneering figure of the African-American community.
She got her first role in a film at
the age of 23, becoming one of the first African-American women to rise to
stardom. She became known as “The First Lady of the Screen” within the black
community. In 1923 she acted in The Chip
Woman’s Fortune, the first play produced on Broadway written by an African-American