Urban Girl Mag | 5 Rarely Known Black Women Who've Paved the Way for Us
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5 Rarely Known Black Women Who’ve Paved the Way for Us

Let’s just be real. Black Woman in America, are constantly undervalued. The system was not made by us or for us. The extra work and determination that is required of women in order to get just half of the recognition they deserve, is backbreaking to imagine. The 5 women listed below are some of the black women who soldiered on, opened doors, and set tables for their peers. They helped to make the ride a little bit smoother for us coming up behind them. Read below of their accomplishments and historical contributions.

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Take tribulations and turn them into triumphs.

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Octavia E. Butler was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. Despite the fact that she was dyslexic, she started writing at the age of 10. She honed her skills for years, not letting her learning disorder hold her back from pursuing her passions. After high school she took all sorts of deplorable little jobs in order to leave room free for her strict writing schedule. Octavia’s books were a unique blend of science fiction and African American spiritualism. It took her years to thrive in a genre dominated by white males. Octavia’s hard work paid off and she published her first novel, Patternmaster, in 1976. She is most known for her book, Kindred, which depicts a black woman that travel back in time to save her ancestor, a white slave owner. Octavia received countless rejections before finally landing a $5,000 advancement.

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Octavia’s work addressing issues of race, sex, power, genetics, and ultimately what it means to be human earned her the highly praised Mac Arthur fellowship. She became the first science fiction writer to receive such an award. Octavia’s advice to others; “You think it’s so bad, you want to throw it away. I tell the students that there comes a time when you want to either burn it or flush it. But if you keep going, you know, that’s what makes you a writer…” The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship enables writers of color to attend on the clarion writing workshops. Even after her death, Butler is still opening doors for other’s to walk through them.

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Even in the midst of your struggle, you can still be a blessing to others.

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Clara Brown was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. She had a husband and four children that were the light of her life. The owner that was keeping her family together died, her heart was ripped apart when her husband and kids were sold at auction. Clara was eventually freed in her 50’s, and tried her hand at entrepreneurship. She set up a successful laundry business in Kansas, but was called to the Colorado gold rush region. Clara became the first African-American woman to make it to the region and found success there as well. Clara sought many economic opportunities including buying property and investing in mines. The whole while she was still searching for the family that was cruelly stolen from her. Clara head of the death of one of her daughters but couldn’t find any trace of her husband and son. Ever the warrior, she continued on. Clara was able to help 16 other former slaves, who had migrated to Kansas, start a community and farm the land. Eventually in her eighties, she was reunited with one of her daughter’s, close to 50 years after they were separated. She never lost hope.

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Don’t be afraid to change plans late in the game.

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Alexa Canady was born on November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. In 1981, Alexa was the first African-American female in the United States to become a neurosurgeon. The road there was privileged but not easy. As the only black child in her rural elementary school, Alexa was “used to being disregarded”. Her teacher lied to the school about her test results and gave her scores to a white girl. Alexa didn’t let this deter her. Alexa was the first female African-American to get a surgical internship at Yale University. Her advice to others, “Challenge yourself with the hardest courses and material you can find. At a certain point in your schooling, everyone is smart, and the one who does the best works the hardest.”

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Make your own seat at the table.

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Charlayne Hunter-Gault was born on February 27, 1942. In 1961, at the height of segregation, she became the first African-American woman to enroll at the University of Georgia. Charlayne had to endure life-threatening situations at the school. Soon after arriving on campus, Charlayne’s dorm was surrounded by a crowd of 1,000 people. The crowd threw firecrackers, bottles, and bricks at her window, which resulted in Charlayne getting suspended from the University. Some community members rallied for her return, which prompted a resolution that drew over 300 faculty member signatures. Still, the court had to intervene in order to get her reinstated. After graduating, with a journalism degree in 1963, Charlayne became an esteemed, award-winning journalist and correspondent, working for media outlets such as the New York Times, PBS and NPR. She was a newspaper reporter and broadcast journalist who was unafraid to cover hard hitting current events topics, geopolitics, and issues of race. When she became a writer for the New York Times, Charlayne’s influence got the paper to stop using the word “Negro” in reference to African Americans. In 2005, Charlayne was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame.

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Vote like your life depends on it.

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Amelia Boynton was a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement. Born on August 11, 1911, in Savannah, Georgia. Amelia was a key component in the day referred to as “Bloody Sunday”. Knowing how important is was to get more African Americans to the polls, Amelia held Black voter registration drives in Selma, Alabama. Along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. III, Amelia marched in opposition of hundreds of Police officers carrying not only guns, but also cattle prods, tear gas, and billy clubs. Amelia was beaten so brutally, she fell unconscious. Even after this catastrophe, the strength of the community did not falter. It took two more attempts and 25,000 to finally get all the way across the bridge. This prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the voting rights act on August 6, 1965. Always budding in her pursuit for greatness, Amelia was the first African-American woman to run for congress in Alabama. Although not elected, she continued to work tirelessly to a lifelong dedication to the struggle of freedom. She educated African-Americans on the importance of voting, property, and education rights. Emphasizing the importance of financial, moral, intellectual, and political strength. Her motto was “A voteless people is a hopeless people.”

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Akayla Boyd
acboyd36@gmail.com

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