Black women role models and icons

Amazing black women who inspire, motivate and encourage us.

Phenomenal, intelligent, life giving, and alluring are just but a few words worthy of describing an iconic black woman… whose effortless poise is unmatched, resounding beauty is immutable and whose soul’s positive pulse is magnetic.

However, in order to fully grasp her true essence and to recognize the scope of her magnificence we ought to look at her journey dating back a few centuries ago.

Queen Nzinga.

During slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, apartheid and segregation millions of people of African descent went through the most dehumanizing, painful, horrid and inexcusable acts ever committed in history.

Perpetuated by one human being to another, on the basis of ludicrous superiority, devoid of any rationale or significant contemplation of the predisposed consequences and effects on the recipients, black people were sunk to the lowest depths of life.

Torn from families, shipped like cargo and worked like mules- black men and women were not only stripped naked off their clothes but also their dignity and self-worth.

This was of course a precursor to wiping off any trace of our culture and sense of pride in order to justify cruelty on us by calling us less than, savages, or more accurately expressed in their terms then: three fifths of a man.

Plagued with sleepless nights and endless days in the scorching heat and cold winters, our fore fathers and mothers bled, sweat and shivered through it all let alone died.

Yet on top of all this a black woman had to also deal with gender based bias. Why…? I don’t know!! But it somehow seemed befitting in their eyes to concurrently subjugate, trod down and demean her for simply being black- and a woman.

Inhumane. Inexcusable. Cruelty.

They swiftly came down on her crushing her body, heart and soul from every direction and she had to “know her place” lest she was no more. There were hierarchies and she often found herself at the bottom of them. She was first: a slave, second: a woman, then third: a black woman.

For a time her body wasn’t hers anymore, because they were cruel and boorish, so they took it. Her voice wasn’t hers anymore, because they said she couldn’t possibly have anything important to utter, so they took it. Her mind wasn’t hers anymore, because they said it couldn’t possibly be of any impact, so they took it.

Nevertheless, she adorned herself with confidence, armed herself with unshakable purpose and guarded herself with unswerving tenacity and began fighting for her freedom, equality and rightful place in society defined only by her.

She never lost sight of who she was but remained steadfast and looked introspectively for inspiration and guidance that would get her through her miseries. Instead of being broken, she broke not only the physical shackles of slavery but indeed the mental ones too that were placed on her.

Harriet Tubman.

It is precisely because of such irrefutable and outstanding attributes that more exemplary and trailblazing black women are defying odds every other day by overcoming racial prejudice and gender based bias as they rise to the helm of their careers and society.

In their journeys they have endured and overcome challenges through their unshaken spirits which enabled them to soar to great heights. And as they soared they took time to uplift, liberate and pave ways for one another and for future generations so that history would never repeat itself. Here are a few black women who despite their circumstances, never cracked!

Ellen Johnson. Nikki Giovanni. Alek Wek. India Arie.
  1. Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

First democratically elected female head of state in Africa. 24th president of Liberia 2006- 2018.

“Of course, I am the first democratically elected woman president in Africa, and that raises a lot of expectations. Because I represent the aspirations of women all over Africa, I must succeed for them.” — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

2. Nikki Giovanni

Acclaimed Poet. Writer. Educator. Formed her own company to publish her first book since nobody would publish her.

“Once you know who you are, you don’t have to worry anymore.” — Nikki Giovanni

3. Alek Wek

Model. Designer. Fled civil war at age 14 to become one of the most influential model of all time.

“I have no problem with whatever the next big look is, just don’t try and tell me that only one look is beautiful” — Alek Wek

4. India Arie

Singer. Songwriter. 21 Grammy nominations. 4 won.

“Work on yourself and treat yourself, talk to yourself the way you would talk to somebody who you’re trying to heal.” — India Arie

Bell Hooks. Lupita Nyong’o. Joy Buolamwini. Shirley Ann Jackson.

5. Dr. Bell Hooks

Acclaimed Writer. Intellectual. Feminist. Authored over 3 dozen books.

“If we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them.” — Bell Hooks

6. Lupita Nyong’o

Award winning Actress. Author. Black Panther. Star Wars. US. 12 years a slave. Queen of Katwe. Sulwe.

“I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something I just had to be.” — Lupita Nyong’o

7. Joy Buolamwini

Founder of Algorithmic Justice League. Computer Scientist. Digital Activist. Poet of Code. (click the link below to watch video)

“AI, Ain’t I a woman?”Joy Buolamwini

8. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Theoretical Physicist. President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. First black woman to receive a Doctorate from MIT.

“We need young people to see role models of color in corporate America, in academia and in government.” — Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Ursula Burns. Upile Chisala. Ava DuVernay. Mandisa Mfeka.

9. Ursula Burns

Chairman and CEO VEON. Former CEO Xerox. First black woman CEO fortune 500 Company. Engineer.

“There are a couple of things in your life that you will never change and one of the things I would never give up was my hair.” — Ursula Burns

10. Upile Chisala

Writer. Storyteller. Her debut collection: Soft Magic.

“I am dripping melanin and honey. I am black without apology.” — Upile Chisala

11. Ava DuVernay

Director. Writer. Producer. Selma. A wrinkle in time. Highest grossing black woman director.

“There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a different perspective. It is a reflection as opposed to an interpretation” — Ava DuVernay

12. Major Mandisa Mfeka

First Black female Fighter Pilot in South Africa.

“I’m not only doing it for myself am doing it for that young girl that I see at the air show, who when I look at I see myself.” — Major Mandisa Mfeka

Adut Akech. Alice Walker. Nina Simone. Lisette Titre- Montgomery.

13. Adut Akech

Model. From Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to 2018 Model of the year.

“I also look up to Lupita Nyong’o, and through her, I’ve learned about beauty and being comfortable in your own skin and I gained the confidence of knowing my own beauty and worth.” — Adut Akech

14. Alice Walker

Novelist. Poet. Activist. Volumes of Essays, Novels, Children books, Short stories and poems.

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister? “ — Alice Walker

15. Nina Simone

Singer. Songwriter. Activist. Personally one of the finest voice to ever grace my ears. songs: Feeling good. Four women. Don’t let me be misunderstood.

“You don’t have to live next to me Just give me my equality.” — Nina Simone

16. Lisette Titre Montgomery

Video games artist. Designer. Art Director. Games: Tiger Woods Golf. The Simpsons. South Park. Psychonauts 2.

“If some brown girl in Missouri sees me and realizes this is something she can do, perfect!” — Lisette Titre Montgomery

Hadiyah Nicole. Amandla Stenberg. Chimamanda Adichie. June Jordan.

17. Dr. Hadiyah Nicole Green

Medical Physicist. Cancer Research. Second Black woman to earn a PhD. in Physics.

“I think that it’s important for other women to see if I can do it, if other black women can do it, they can do it as well.” — Dr. Hadiyah Nicole Green

18. Amandla Stenberg

Award winning Actress. Singer. Song writer. Movies: Colombiana. The Hunger Games. Everything, Everything. The Hate U Give.

“My blackness does not inhibit me from being beautiful and intelligent. In fact, it is the reason why I am beautiful and intelligent.” — Amandla Stenberg

19. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Writer. Novelist. Purple Hibiscus. Americanah. Half of a Yellow Sun.

“Never ever accept ‘Because you are a woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

20. June Jordan

Acclaimed Poet. Essayist. Activist. 27 volumes across genres. Black English.

“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am black; it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” — June Jordan

Fern Hunt. Vicki Fuller. Susan Taylor. Mabel Wilson.

21. Dr. Fern Y. Hunt

Mathematician. Professor. 2019 American Mathematical Society Fellow.

“Don’t allow people to as it were play with your essence, have a warrior presence about that soft core that is you.” — Dr. Fern Hunt

22. Vicki L. Fuller

Former CIO New York State Common Retirement Fund. Board of Directors (Independent): Williams.

“Anybody who knows my background knows that I won’t be silent on diversity, both because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s also an edge.” — Vicki l Fuller

23. Susan L. Taylor

Former Editor in Chief Essence Magazine. Founder and CEO: National Cares Mentoring Movement.

“Women and particularly black women, we have certainly come into the fullness of our power and we know who we are, we’re moving together with strategy.” — Susan L. Taylor

24. Professor Mabel O. Wilson

Designer. Cultural historian. Professor of Architecture Colombia GSAPP.

“If you want to find out the history of African American architecture, you have to go back and look at all the black builders who, particularly by the 20th century, weren’t ‘licensed architects.’ “ — Mabel O. Wilson

The achievements of the aforementioned Iconic, visionary and outstanding women go beyond a few lines of introduction. This is barely a scratch on the surface and in order to learn more about their achievements, accolades and respective journeys, kindly visit their individual websites.

Any form correction accepted. Thank you!

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Mark Odecho

Mark Odecho

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A writer with a passion for stories on people of African Descent.