With our culture’s heavy interest in all that is wrong with the world, we seem to forget the stories of bravery and overcoming that are in our midst.
Case in point: These black women who are role models for any person who chooses to read their history and acknowledge the bravery contained within their stories. If you’re at a loss about what to teach your daughters during Black History Month, start with these women from the modern era.
1. Ursula Burns
Burns began her business career as a summer intern at Xerox, and 29 years later, she was appointed as the CEO of the company. She is the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. From the outside looking in, no one would imagine that she grew up in a New York City housing project.
2. Ertharin Cousin
Now the executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Cousin grew up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. In her time as the executive director of WFP, she has overseen the feeding of 177 million people.
3. Michelle Obama
Obama is married to the most powerful man in the world, but she is a force to be reckoned with herself. She graduated from Princeton and then Harvard Law, and as the First Lady of the United States, she has spearheaded movements to combat childhood obesity, increase support for troops and help Americans obtain higher education.
4. Rosalind Brewer
If you’ve recently enjoyed the wares of Sam’s Club, you have Brewer to thank for your access to the goods. Brewer is the CEO of Sam’s Club, and oversees the company’s revenue of roughly $56 billion each year. She started her career as a chemist, and steadily rose in ranks after her graduation from college.
5. Rosa Parks
Our country lost a legend when Parks passed away in 2005. She famously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus for a white patron. Her act of civil disobedience began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which many historians view as a key movement in the fight for African-American civil rights.
6. Maya Angelou
Angelou wrote, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” During Angelou’s life, she was the epitome of that statement. She overcame childhood poverty, sexual assault and domestic violence to become a civil rights leader, poet and famed storyteller before her passing in 2014.
7. Bethann Hardison
Hardison is more than just a pretty face — she is adamant about bringing diversity to the fashion industry she loves. She started her career in the garment industry in New York City, but was quickly discovered and became a fashion model. She then leveraged her career into the creation of a modeling agency, and currently uses her well-respected voice to bring attention to the need for models of all backgrounds on the catwalk.
8. Nina Simone
Simone was born to a poor family in North Carolina, and she was the sixth child out of eight. She began playing the piano at the age of 3, and her quick talent with music helped her earn the opportunity to study at Juilliard as a teenager. She used her considerable vocal and jazz talents to bring attention to the plight of African-Americans.
9. Oprah Winfrey
Winfrey is a household name and one of the most influential women in the world. She had humble beginnings, however, when she was born to a teen mother in rural Mississippi. Winfrey has stated that she was raped at 9 and pregnant at 14, but she still overcame these hardships and built a reputation as a powerful media voice shortly after landing her first television job as a teenager. Winfrey is now ranked as the richest African-American of the 21st century.
10. Robin Roberts
We know Roberts’ smiling face as the co-anchor of Good Morning America, but she got her start in broadcasting as a sports anchor for a local television station in the 1980s, when Title IX was still relatively fresh in American history. She then built her career into sports-casting at ESPN, and her poise earned her increasingly challenging roles in media.