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
Nella Larsen (1891-1964) was a writer of the Harlem renaissance and a representative of American modernist literature. Her works were critically acclaimed for their representation of racial and sexual identity.
She wrote while also working two jobs, as a nurse and a librarian. She was the first black woman to graduate from the NYPL Library School. Her best known works are the novels Quicksand and Passing, published in 1928 and 1929 respectively.
Sul-Te-Wan (1873-1959), or Nellie Crawford by her birth name, was a stage, film, and
TV actress. She was the first African-American to sign a film contract and
become a featured performer.
The daughter of freed slaves, she began her acting
career early on, at first in uncredited roles. Even though she was limited to
playing stereotypical roles such as convicts or servants, she played in
numerous films throughout the silent and talking eras, paving the way for more
Dominique Dawes (b. 1976) is a former artistic gymnast. She is
the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold
medal in gymnastics, which happened in 1996 in Atlanta.
She was the first
African-American woman to win an individual medal in artistic gymnastics.
Additionally, she was part of gold-winning teams on three occasions. She
supports numerous programmes in support of fitness and a healthy lifestyle.