These women may have been the first to achieve their outstanding and inspirational goals but they have also left us with their incredible legacies. Let us salute these African-American women not only during Black History Month but also throughout the year and years to come.
Known as “The First Lady of Song, in 1958 jazz and song vocalist Ella Fitzgerald made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. The singer would go on to win 13 Grammys in total and sell more than 40 million albums.
Lucy Terry Prince was a renowned 18th-century orator who is also the first known African-American poet. She composed the poem “Bars Fight” the earliest known piece of literature created by an African American.
After being selected by President Jimmy Carter as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African-American woman to hold a Cabinet post in the United States thereby making HUD the first Cabinet department to be headed by an African-American woman and
Architect Norma Merrick Sklarek changed the face of her industry when, in 1954, she became the first African-American woman to become a licensed architect. In 1985, she helped form an all-female architectural firm, becoming the first African-American woman to establish and manage an architectural firm.
Mary Jane Patterson became the first African-American woman to receive a college degree when she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862. The daughter of fugitive slaves, she went on to have an illustrious career as an educator and, in 1871, she became the first black principal of the newly-founded Preparatory High School for Negroes.
Track and field star Alice Coachman made history at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, becoming the first black woman to win an Olympic medal. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history
After earning degrees in both mathematics and education, in 1943, became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. She then took the educational system by storm, teaching in a wide variety of settings and pushing continually to change the face of education, which, at the time, often found black students falling into a system of de facto segregation.
Born into slavery in 1850, inventor and entrepreneur Sarah E. Goode was the first African-American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for her invention of a folding cabinet bed in 1885 – better know today as the Murphy bed.
Actress and radio performer Hattie McDaniel was one of the first African-American women on the radio. In 1940, she became the first African-American to win an Oscar for her supporting role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind”.
Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. In all, Gibson powered her way to 56 singles and doubles championships before turning pro in 1959. She also broke racial barriers in professional golf.
You may also want to read “20 Inspiring Quotes from African-American Women“