Inspirational Black Women Who Have Shaped My Perspective
Written by Barbara (she/her), who is a Black woman living in England.
3 min read
In my upbringing within a predominantly all Black country (Nigeria), I initially failed to grasp the significance of celebrating Black culture. However, as I've grown more knowledgeable over the years, I've come to recognize the importance of celebrating inspirational Black women and Black feminists, learning from historical leaders, and striving to incorporate the lessons we can learn from inspiring Black women into our society.
Five Inspirational Black Women
I want to pay tribute to five remarkable and inspirational Black women who have profoundly influenced me and contributed to the shaping of my identity. Through their stories and achievements, and their work as Black feminists, these women have not only inspired me personally but have also made invaluable contributions to Black culture and excellence. In honour of this year’s Black History Month, it’s time for Saluting Our Sisters!
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks
Known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’, Rosa Parks is an inspirational Black woman who truly symbolises courage and resilience. Her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sparked by her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man, marked the beginning of a fight against racial segregation in public transportation.
Rosa's refusal to surrender her seat, a stand taken on principle, led to her arrest on 01 December 1955. Her famous words, "The only tired I was, was tired of giving in," ignited a revolutionary change in the fight against racial segregation. The United States Congress has honoured Rosa as ‘the first lady of civil rights’ and ‘the mother of the freedom movement’.
When discussing the horrors of the slave trade, the name of one inspiring Black woman stands out above all others: Harriet Tubman. Harriet's legacy lies in her tireless efforts to guide enslaved individuals to freedom via the Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery activists. As an escaped enslaved woman herself, Harriet served as a ‘conductor’ on this clandestine route, leading countless others to liberty.
Harriet Tubman's life was marked by her incredible bravery:
- She made approximately 13 perilous journeys through the Underground Railroad, all while there was a $40,000 “dead or alive” bounty on her head.
- Her enduring quote, "For no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasts, and when the time comes for me to go, the Lord would let them take me," exemplifies her unwavering determination.
Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which aims to plant trees across Kenya, alleviate poverty, and combat conflict. Wangari, one of the most inspirational Black women living in Kenya at the time, believed in the interconnectedness of environmental degradation, poverty, and conflict.
Wangari became the first Black African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in environmental conservation. She was one of many Black feminists who were ‘ecofeminists’, as she believed that to solve environmental problems there is a need to eliminate discrimination against women and gender-based stereotyping of gender roles.
Professor Dora Akunyili
Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili passed away in June 2014 but she left an indelible mark on Nigeria's history, and I’ll always remember her as one of the nation’s most inspirational Black women. Some of her most significant achievements include:
- Being the minister of the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication in the Nigerian government
- Leading the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
- Making substantial improvements in reducing drug-counterfeiting and increasing food safety.
- Receiving over 90 awards honouring her commitment to the causes she cared about.
Dora faced threats to her life due to her work, and she faced numerous challenges during her career — particularly due to corruption and conflicts of interest around food and drug-related issues.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you’ve listened to Flawless by Beyoncé, Chimamanda made a great reference in that song from one of her popular books.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Black feminist writer, is often referred to as the ‘Mother of Feminism’. She has made significant contributions to the discourse on gender equality through her powerful writing:
- Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, received international acclaim for its vivid depiction of the Nigerian Civil War's devastating impact.
- She has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Her thought-provoking quote, "I am a person who believes in asking questions, in not conforming for the sake of conforming", inspires me to challenge gender inequality and advocate for positivity.
The list of inspirational Black women goes on…
The five extraordinary and inspiring Black women listed here have not only motivated and uplifted me on a personal level, but they’ve have also played vital roles in advancing our society. Their stories illuminate the path to achieving the seemingly impossible and serve as enduring beacons of hope and progress for all.