10 Women Who Exemplify #BlackGirlMagic
Four weeks of observation during Black History Month cannot possibly do justice to all of the advancements African-American women have made in the United States, but it provides an opportunity to learn more of their stories and share them with our children.
When you think of awe-inspiring black women, names like Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé Knowles may come to mind, but there is an infinite amount of Black Girl Magic — a popular hashtag coined by blogger CaShawn Thompson to celebrate the beauty and power of black women. Here are just a few women to note in honor of Black History Month.
Septima Clark was crowned “Mother of the Movement” by Martin Luther King, Jr. for her role in the Civil Rights Movement. She got her start when she joined the Charleston, SC chapter of the NAACP in 1919. In the decades to follow, she taught adult literacy workshops to help black people gain citizenship and worked with Thurgood Marshall for equal pay for black teachers.
Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson were some of the “human computers” at NASA who made complex calculations by hand in the 1950s and 1960s that allowed astronauts to travel to space. Margot Lee Shetterly details their story in Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which is now a major motion picture.
Ruby Bridges was only 6 years old when she went down in American history as the first black child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. Bridges still lives in New Orleans and chairs a foundation in her name that promotes “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.”
Since the 1981 release of Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, Gloria Jean Watkins — better known as bell hooks — has authored over 30 books that redefine race, gender and class. Her work has shaped feminist theory and is taught in universities around the world. Hooks often takes aim at mainstream patriarchal society and strives to give voice to marginalized groups.
Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors created the Black Lives Matter movement. What started as a hashtag on social media has become a nationwide effort. These women describe their work as having “created space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives,” and they have undoubtedly expanded the national conversation about race.
Simone Biles helped Team USA win gold as part of the “Final Five” gymnastics team that took the 2016 Olympics by storm. The 19-year-old athlete was dubbed “Best Gymnast in the World” by The New Yorker and “Female Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press. Biles advocates for body positivity, giving young girls a great role model.
Ariana Annunziato is a communications major at Drexel University and a co-op intern with MetroKids.