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Black History Month: The First Time Something Was Done Ever, Then A Black Woman Did It.

We know Oprah. 


Kamala Harris, Viola Davis, and Serena & Venus Williams.  We know ‘em. 


But do we know the trailblazers ahead of them?  


This Black History Month, let’s take the time to celebrate Black women firsts. Let’s highlight the often overlooked contributions and achievements of Black women throughout history. And then let’s compare them to the first time the thing happened. EVER. 


You may be wondering what the point of this is. We already have Tyra Banks and Michelle Obama.  By recognizing these groundbreaking accomplishments, we can challenge traditional narratives that have marginalized or excluded Black women from historical accounts. This celebration can inspire future generations of Black women to pursue their dreams and break down barriers in various fields.


By honouring Black women firsts, we are helping promote diversity and inclusion. We are shining a spotlight on the achievements of Black women, and encouraging a more inclusive and representative society where all individuals have the opportunity to excel regardless of their background.


My hope is to foster a sense of pride and empowerment within the Black community by showcasing the resilience and strength of Black women throughout history.  


So let’s celebrate Black woman firsts, recognize and respect the struggles and perseverance they have faced and continue to face in society, and acknowledge their resilience and determination in overcoming obstacles and achieving success despite systemic barriers. 


By amplifying these stories, we can work towards a more equitable and just society where all individuals are valued and celebrated for their unique contributions.


With that said, let’s jump into the list of barrier breakers! Here are ten things that compare the first time it was done ever, and then when it was done by a Black woman. The number of years it took are also included.


  1. First Black Woman in Space: Mae Jemison (1992) vs. Yuri Gagarin (1961) - It took 31 years  

  2. First Black Woman Elected to Congress in the USA: Shirley Chisholm (1968) vs. Several House of Representatives (1789) - It took 179 years  

  3. First Black Woman Millionaire: Madam CJ Walker (1910) vs. John Jacob Astor (1800) - It took 110 years 

  4. First Black Canadian Governor General: (Includes men & women) Michaelle Jean (2005) vs. Charles Stanley Monck (1867) - It took 138 years 

  5. First Female Elected Head of African State: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006) vs. Kwame Nkrumah (1957) - It took 49 years 

  6. First Black Woman to Win an Olympic Gold Medal from any Country:  Alice Coachman (1948) vs. James Connolly (1896) - It took 52 years

  7. First Trans Woman of Colour to Write and Direct a TV Episode: Janet Mock (2018) vs. J. Hartley Manners (1928) - It took 90 years  

  8. First Black Female Principal Dancer in the American Ballet Company: Misty Copeland (2015) vs. Lucia Chase (1939) - It took 76 years

  9. First Black Woman to Run a Michelin-Starred Restaurant: Mariya Russell (2019) vs. Various Restaurants in France (1926) - It took 93 years

  10. First Black Woman with a Top US Hot 100 Country Song:  Beyoncé (2024) vs. Ricky Nelson (1958) - It took 66 years


Does anything stand out for you? Which one surprised you the most? 






My hope after seeing this is that you are uncomfortable. Knowing that you may have been a reason why another person didn’t belong or achieve their goals.  No one deserves to be held back by systemic and overt barriers. 


My calls to action for you, dear readers:

  1. Increase representation. Give everyone a seat at the table.  There’s a reason why the #RepresentationMatters hashtag is so popular

  2. Give recognition when it is deserved. Celebrating someone else’s success does not diminish your successes. 

  3. Use the same standards across the board. You may be more forgiving towards people who are like you. Or, alternatively, you might be more critical or keep higher standards for people who are different. Pay attention to these unconscious criticisms. 

  4. Celebrate Black firsts, be proud, and build on the air of hope and possibility that comes with these wins. 


While these firsts are exciting, they also highlight the work that still needs to be done to create a more inclusive and equitable society. Celebrating Black firsts is not only a recognition of individual achievements but also a celebration of the resilience, talent, and contributions of Black people to society as a whole. 


Let’s break down more barriers, shall we?




 

Hi, I'm Samantha, an Inclusive Leadership Coach that is eager to support you with breaking free & living a limitless authentic life after being pushed aside in society. Think of it as solution focused Coaching with a social justice twist. Whatever you want to work on, leadership or otherwise, you'll transform your life and experience shifts you never thought possible.


As a person obsessed with leadership, I want to see an increase the number of equity-deserving people - women, racialized, disabled and 2SLGBTQIA+ folks - in leadership roles. I want to create the most diverse and equitable workforce where everyone can bring their full authentic selves to work.


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