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
Isaacs (1900-1997) was a tennis player, teacher, and
women’s rights activist from the Bahamas. She was the second Bahamian woman elected
as Senator in her country, and the first to be awarded the title of Dame Commander
of the Order of the British Empire.
She was a founding member of the
Progressive Liberal Party and a strong supporter of women’s suffrage. Bahamian
women were allowed to vote in 1962, and she became Senator in 1969.
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.