March 14, 2019 

By Kimberlee Buck 

Contributing Writer 

 

Legendary poet Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” embodies the essence of Black women across the world. As Women’s History Month continues, the Los Angeles Sentinel looks at inspirational Black women who are trailblazers in the field of STEM, politics, and activism. 

  

Women in Politics and Law 

 

 

• Michelle LaVaughn Robin­son Obama is wife of the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama and the first African American woman to become first lady of the U.S. During her time in the White House, Obama focused on curating healthy campaigns and fought for human and civil rights. Prior to her work in the White House, Obama, a Princeton University and Harvard Law School alumna was a lawyer. Today, Obama is an author, writer, and advocate for women’s rights and human rights.

 

• Stacey Yvonne Abrams is the first African American woman to lead in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American woman to lead in the House of Representatives. Presently, Abrams is the House Minority Leader. Throughout her political career, Abrams played a pivotal role in preventing the tax raise for poor and middle class residents, rollback reproductive healthcare, and negotiated agreements that led to the improvement of transportation, infrastructure, and education. In 2018, Abrams was the Democratic Party nominee for the governor’s race. Although Abrams did not win the election, she continues to plead on behalf of the Black community and the American people.

 

 

• Charlotte E. Ray is the first African American female lawyer. Additionally, Ray was the first woman and African American to be granted permission to argue cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the capital. Throughout her legal career, Ray, an alumna of Howard University School of Law, became known as a legal pioneer. Later, Ray would open her own law office specializing in commercial law. During this time, Ray faced discrimination and prejudice which made it difficult to practice law. After walking away from her practice, Ray continued championing for social causes.

 

 Black Female Activists 

  

• Florynce (Flo) Kennedy was a civil rights attorney, political activist, and feminist. Kennedy was the second African American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School. During her career, Kennedy advocated for Black Panther members and Black entertainers like Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker who were being discriminated against by music companies. As a supporter of women’s rights, Kennedy pushed for abortion rights and help found the Women’s Political Caucus and the National Black Feminist Organization.

 

• Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist and founder of the Me Too Movement, which looks to raise awareness on topics surrounding sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. The movement that spread across Twitter has become a global phenomenon that women of all ages and ethnicities are using to create conversation and demand change in society. Outside of the Me Too Movement, Burke is the senior director of the Girls for Gender Equality in Brooklyn, an intergenerational organization that focuses on the physical, social, and economic development of girls and women.

 

 

 

 

• Ella Jo Baker is considered to be a Black “shero” of the civil rights movement.  Throughout her career, Baker worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a field secretary and later its national director. In 1957, Baker helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Here Baker served as the executive director for the SCLC’s Atlanta, Georgia office. Baker went on to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization formed to give younger African Americans a voice during the civil rights movement.

 

 

 

Women in STEM 

 

• Rebecca Lee Crumpler is the first African American woman physician in the United States. Prior to becoming a physician, Crumpler attended New England Female Medical College in 1860. In 1864, Crumpler became the first and only African American to graduate from the college due to the fact that it closed its doors in 1873. Crumpler practiced in Boston and later Richmond, Virginia where she faced racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacist and others in the field. Despite the ongoing discrimination, Crumpler preserved and continued practicing medicine.

 

 

 

• Dorothy Lavinia Brown is considered to be an African American female medical pioneer. Prior to her medical career, Brown began studying medicine at the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and received her degree in 1948. Later Brown became the first African American female appointed to a general surgery residency in the South. Additionally, she was the first African American woman representative to the state legislature in Tennessee.

 

 

 

 

 

Alexa Canady became the first African American female neurosurgeon in the United States. As an intern, Canady was often discouraged from becoming a neurosurgeon however; she remained persistent and decided to specialize in pediatric neurosurgery. Her hard work paid off when she graduated from medical school in 1975 cum laude. In 1984, Canady went on to become the first African American female to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Later, she served as the chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987-2001.

 

The L.A. Watts Times salutes the amazing Black women who have contributed to these fields.

 

 

 

 

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