20 Influential Black Women Who Made History With Their Firsts

Meet these pioneering women who shaped American history, broke boundaries, and continue to pave the way for future generations

Black women have always been at the forefront of progress and excellence, leaving an indelible mark across various industries. Their extraordinary contributions, groundbreaking achievements, and remarkable firsts have paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse world. Get ready to be captivated by the stories of 20 influential Black women who have left an enduring legacy and continue to blaze trails for others to follow.



Sojourner Truth

Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth emerged as a towering figure in the abolitionist and women's rights movements. She triumphed as the first Black woman to win a legal case against a white man, fearlessly challenging the injustices of her time.



Harriet Tubman

Known as the "Moses of her people," Harriet Tubman is best known for her efforts to end slavery, she fearlessly led countless enslaved individuals to freedom through the treacherous Underground Railroad. Her courageous exploits made her the first woman to command an armed expedition during the Civil War.



Madam C.J. Walker

A true trailblazer, Madam C.J. Walker shattered barriers as the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. Through her pioneering haircare and beauty products, she empowered Black women and forged new paths of economic independence.



Maya Angelou

A renowned memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou captivated hearts with her poignant words and unyielding spirit. Her recitation of "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration made her the first Black poet in over three decades to grace such a historic stage.



Shirley Chisholm

Picture this: it's 1968, and the United States Congress is about to experience a groundbreaking moment. Shirley Chisholm, a force to be reckoned with, steps onto the political stage and makes history as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. Can you imagine the excitement, the energy, and the hope that filled the hearts of millions of Americans? It was a moment of triumph and a giant leap forward for representation.



Mae Jemison

In 1992, Mae Jemison became a trailblazer who boldly went where no African American woman had gone before. As she boarded the Space Shuttle Endeavour, she not only embarked on a journey to the stars but also inspired generations of young minds. Mae Jemison proved that dreams have no limits, and her passion for science and education continues to ignite sparks of curiosity in the hearts of aspiring scientists around the world.



Serena Williams

When it comes to tennis, Serena Williams is a force of nature. With her powerful serves and fierce determination, she has conquered the courts, leaving a lasting mark on the sport. But it's not just her incredible athleticism that makes her a legend—it's also her tenacity in breaking down barriers. Serena became the first Black woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, and she didn't stop there. With a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam singles titles under her belt, she has etched her name in the annals of tennis history and inspired countless athletes to believe in themselves.



Halle Berry

Lights, camera, history! In 2002, Halle Berry captivated audiences with her mesmerising portrayal of Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American woman to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Halle's stellar performance not only showcased her immense talent but also highlighted the remarkable achievements of black women in the entertainment industry. Breaking stereotypes, Halle Berry's success serves as a testament to the power of representation and the endless possibilities that lie within every dream.



Michelle Obama

When Michelle Obama stepped into the role of First Lady, she brought a breath of fresh air to the White House. With her grace, intelligence, and unwavering dedication to important causes, she redefined the position and became a beacon of inspiration for women everywhere. As the first Black woman to serve as First Lady, Michelle embodied strength, compassion, and a commitment to empowering others. From promoting healthy lifestyles to championing educational initiatives, she left an indelible mark on the hearts of the nation, reminding us all that we have the power to create positive change.



Oprah Winfrey

Welcome to the Oprah Winfrey Show, where groundbreaking moments are the norm. Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime television, became the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show. From her captivating interviews to her thought-provoking discussions, Oprah used her platform to delve into important social issues and uplift the voices of the marginalised. Her impact extended far beyond the screen, as she became a symbol of empowerment and a guiding light for those in search of inspiration.



Ava DuVernay

Lights, camera, history in the making! Ava DuVernay stepped onto the stage of the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and breaked barriers with her visionary talent. With grace and tenacity, she became the first Black woman to seize the coveted director prize, leaving audiences in awe of her trailblazing brilliance.



Carla Hayden

The 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden shattered glass ceilings as the first African American and first woman to hold this esteemed position. Her passion for literacy and accessibility has revolutionised the way we engage with knowledge.



Simone Biles

The embodiment of gravity-defying artistry in the world of gymnastics, Simone Bilesis considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time. With a dazzling display of flips, twists, and jaw-dropping stunts, this unstoppable American powerhouse has clinched a whopping 25 World Championship medals. As if that weren't impressive enough, at the tender age of 16, Biles snatched the world all-around title, becoming the first African American to conquer this milestone.



Lena Waithe

Lights, camera, history-making magic! Lena Waithe scribed her way into the record books with her ground-breaking talent and unwavering authenticity. In 2017, she etched her name in gold as the first Black woman to clutch the prestigious Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Her powerful work on the "Thanksgiving" episode, inspired by her personal journey of coming out, struck a chord with audiences and catapulted her into the realm of greatness.



Marsai Martin

Meet the unstoppable force that is Marsai Martin, a young star who is conquering Hollywood with her infectious charm and talent. Known for her scene-stealing performance as Diane Johnson on the hit sitcom Black-ish, Martin decided to take charge of her destiny. In a remarkable twist, she not only starred in the comedy film Little, but also became the youngest film producer in history. Her remarkable achievements earned her a well-deserved spot on Time magazine's prestigious "Time 100 Next" list.



Kamala Harris

Paving the way for a new era of representation, Kamala Harris became a true trailblazer in the world of politics. With history on her side, Harris became the first Black woman, and first person of South Asian descent to take on the role of Vice President of the United States. Her inspiring journey serves as a beacon of hope, igniting the flames of possibility for generations to come.



Amanda Gorman

Prepare to be blown away by the awe-inspiring talent of Amanda Gorman! This remarkable wordsmith is not just your average poet—she's a force to be reckoned with. With her powerful verses, she fearlessly tackles issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalisation. In fact, she made history when she became the youngest inaugural poet to grace the stage at the 59th Presidential Inauguration. Her electrifying performance of "The Hill We Climb" left the world in awe, and it even broke the internet! Her words had such a profound impact that they resonated with people from all walks of life, transcending boundaries and captivating hearts. 



Starr Andrews

Starr Andrews has skated her way into the record books! This talented American figure skater is not one to be underestimated. In the Grand Prix era that began in 1995, she became the first Black woman to medal in singles. With each elegant movement and breathtaking jump, she defied expectations and shattered barriers. Starr Andrews has paved the way for future generations of Black women in the world of figure skating. 




This Barbadian sensation is not your average singer. Yes, she's achieved incredible success with her sultry vocals and chart-topping hits, but her talents extend far beyond the realm of music. Rihanna has made waves in the business world, reaching the pinnacle of her career by becoming the first Black woman to head a luxury fashion house under LVMH. She's a true fashion icon, an entrepreneur extraordinaire, and an unstoppable force of nature. Whether she's belting out anthems or making groundbreaking strides in the fashion industry, Rihanna's impact is undeniable. Get ready to bow down to the queen of style and sound!



Halle Bailey

Halle Bailey is set to make history as the enchanting Ariel in the classic Disney film The Little Mermaid. This multi-talented starlet, known for her incredible musical prowess as one half of the dynamic duo Chloe x Halle, landed the role that was traditionally portrayed by a white actress. Reshaping the narrative with her mesmerising voice, she's set to bring a fresh and vibrant energy to this beloved Disney character. Halle Bailey has proved that dreams can come true regardless of race or background. So get ready to be swept away by her enchanting performance and let her inspire you to believe in the power of your own voice!