SHOWCASE

12 Black Women You Should Know // Audre Lorde

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Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, as well as her poems that express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems and prose largely deal with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.

In 1977, Lorde became an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press. Lorde taught in the Education Department at Lehman College from 1969 to 1970, then as a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (part of the City University of New York) from 1970 to 1981. There, she fought for the creation of a black studies department. In 1981, she went on to teach at her alma mater, Hunter College (also CUNY), as the distinguished Thomas Hunter chair.

In 1980, together with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. In 1981, Lorde was among the founders of the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, an organization dedicated to assisting women who have survived sexual abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV). In the late 1980s, she also helped establish Sisterhood in Support of Sisters (SISA) in South Africa to benefit black women who were affected by apartheid and other forms of injustice. Lorde was State Poet of New York from 1991 to 1992.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Wangari Maathai

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Wangari Maathai was an internationally renowned Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate. She was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica (Benedictine College) and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. She was an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council. In 2011, Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Harriet A. Washington

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Harriet A. Washington is an American writer. She is the author of the book Medical Apartheid, which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Washington was Health and Science editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In 1990, she was awarded the New Horizons Traveling Fellowship by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. subsequently worked as a Page One editor at USA Today newspaper, before winning a fellowship from the Harvard School of Public Health. In 1997, she won a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, and in 2002 was named a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Morgan DeBaun

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Morgan DeBaun is an African American entrepreneur. She is the cofounder and CEO of Blavity, a web site created by and for black millennials. DeBaun cofounded Blavity with Aaron Samuels in 2014. The site features content created by and for young black Americans, including subjects such as the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of the National Anthem.

In 2016, DeBaun launched a Blavity conference specifically for black women, EmpowerHer. Her company Blavity also launched AfroTech, the largest tech conference in Silicon Valley for African American startup founders, designers, engineers and operators. DeBaun is one of few African-American female founders that have raised more than $1 million in venture capital.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born 29 October 1938) is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa.

She was educated at the College of West Africa before moving to the United States, where she studied at Madison Business College and Harvard University. She returned to Liberia to work in William Tolbert’s government as Deputy Minister of Finance from 1971 to 1974 and later went to work for the World in the Caribbean and Latin America.

She won the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. She was re-elected in 2011. In June 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created.

In 2011, Sirleaf was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The three women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Sirleaf was conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on 12 September 2013.] As of 2016, she is listed as the 83rd-most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960. When she was six years old, her parents responded to a request from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system, even though her father was hesitant.

Bridges, now Ruby Bridges Hall, still lives in New Orleans with her husband, Malcolm Hall, and their four sons. After graduating from a desegregated high school, she worked as a travel agent for 15 years and later became a full-time parent. She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences”. Describing the mission of the group, she says, “racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it”.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Robin Kelly

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Robin Lynne Kelly is an American politician from Illinois who has served as the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 2nd congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Kelly served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2003-07. She then served as chief of staff for Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias until 2010. She was the 2010 Democratic nominee for State Treasurer, but was defeated in the general election. Prior to running for Congress, Kelly served as the Cook County Chief Administrative Officer.

After winning the Democratic primary, she won the 2013 special election to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr. in the U.S. House of Representatives. From 2003 to 2007, she represented Chicago’s southern suburbs in Illinois’ 38th house district in the Illinois General Assembly. She sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills protecting victims of consumer fraud, supporting economic development, and improving mass transit. She supported legislation to protect victims of domestic violence.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Ida B. Wells

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Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. In the 1890s, Wells documented lynching in the United States. She showed that lynching was often used in the South as a way to control or punish black people who competed with whites, rather than being based on criminal acts by black people, as was usually claimed by whites. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician and traveled internationally on lecture tours.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Marian Wright Edelman

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Marian Wright Edelman is an American activist for the rights of children. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She is president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF).
Edelman was the first African American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar. She began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Mississippi office, working on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and representing activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She also helped establish the Head Start program.

In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a voice for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. As leader and principal spokesperson for the CDF, Edelman worked to persuade United States Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected. She continues to advocate youth pregnancy prevention, child-care funding, prenatal care, greater parental responsibility in teaching values and curtailing what she sees as children’s exposure to the barrage of violent images transmitted by mass media.
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12 Black Women You Should Know // Marley Dias

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Marley Dias is a Black-American activist and feminist. She launched a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks in November 2015, when she was in sixth grade. Marley Dias’ specific book drive includes black girls as the main characters, not the minor or background characters. Her wish was to collect 1,000 books to donate for the black girls. Her two friends Briana and Amina joined her campaign to help and they started to be called “BAM” in social media. After a short time, she collected more than 9,000 books. Many of these books have been sent to a children’s book drive in Jamaica.
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