Read About Black Women: Black History Month Features #2
Happy Black History Month! We're still featuring black women who have made and continue to make history on the Got a Girl Crush Instagram. (If you aren't following us yet, it's about time you did!) Here are the women that have inspired us this week:
At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Ava DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th. DuVernay's next film, A Wrinkle in Time, reportedly has a budget exceeding $100 million, making @ava the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size.
Known as the “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald won the Apollo Theater Amateur Night at the age of 17 in 1934, wrote a #1 single in 1938, and was the first Black musician to win a Grammy in 1958. Fitzgerald went on to win 14 Grammys over the course of her career, and she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. While a lot of her canon of work is iconic, her whole lifetime of work is something you should familiarize yourself with.
Nina Simone was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century, an icon of American music. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works. She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment.
Cora Mae Brown
Cora Mae Brown was the first African-American woman elected to a state senate in the United States, winning a seat in the Michigan State Senate in 1952. Working closely with the community during the Great Depression and into the war years, Brown aided and encouraged young African American women to grow professionally during an economically difficult time.
In the 1920s, Actress Hattie McDaniel became one of the first African-American woman to perform on radio. She then became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940, in Gone with the Wind, for her role as Mammy, a slave servant woman during in the South during the Civil War. McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.
Madam C. J. Walker
Born Sarah Breedlove, Walker created specialized hair products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. She also worked as a philanthropist by making financial donations to numerous organizations and becoming a patron of the arts.
A poet and novelist, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 and was extremely active in the black arts movement. Her work deals with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in the black community.
Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel, the comic that inspired the now box-office smashing Black Panther movie.
Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, academic, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Jo-Issa "Issa" Rae Diop is an American actress, writer, director, producer and web series creator. She is best known as the creator of the YouTube web series "Awkward Black Girl' and the award-winning HBO series Insecure.