African American history is a big deal to The Daily News, and, this week we’re aiming to publish our first major editorial (of several parts) about iconic African Americans who have changed the course of history forever. This week, we’re discussing 5 women who have redefined our lives in minimal or humungous ways.
This article is part of our newest series: Defining African American Culture, From a Modern View in cooperation with the African American history museum in Harlem New York City.
- Sojourner Truth
Born Isabella Baumfree, Baumfree was born into slavery. After escaping her horrific means as a slave, she, later moved to New York City with her family. Following the passing of the Emancipation Act, Baumfree would go on to become one of the best known speakers about women’s rights and equal rights between the sexes African Americans had ever seen. Her speech Ain’t I A Woman? would go on to define the argument for equal rights for decades to come.
2. Mary McLeod Bethune
Beginning in 1906, the name Mary Bethune would go on to be one of the most important names in African American education. Bethune helped found Daytona Literacy and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls in Florida. To raise funds for her school and program, Bethune, spent her time baking goods and taking major parts in her community to get the money she needed. By the middle of the 20th century, she had gained the attention of Proctor & Gamble. The same people who would help her go on to join forces with an all-boys school in Jacksonville. Together, they would go on to become Bethune-Cookman College.
3.Zora Neale Hurston
Zora was a magnificent writer from the Harlem Renaissance. She perhaps was best known or leading some of the most important cultural movements during the 1920’s. Her works and African American folklore movements didn’t immediately become popular while she wrote them at Bernard College. Zora’s most famous novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, helped begin the discussion that African American voices mattered. By 1937, she would go on to be one of the most celebrated black authors of all-time. In 1975, fellow African American author Alice Walker would go on to write an essay about Hurston’s legendary influence.
4. Mae Jemison
For those who don’t know this name, you should. Jemison is the first African American woman in history to have ever traveled into space, and, is the first Black female astronaut. After her highly successful 1992 Expedition shuttle adventure, she, would go on to found the Dorothy Jemison Foundation of Excellence (a foundation that sponsors science camps and those also interested in space). Jemison, who is still alive, is currently a professor at Cornell University.