National Black Women’s History Month: Breaking Glass Ceilings

Following National Women’s History Month and International Women’s History Week in March, we celebrate International Black Women’s History Month in April.

During the Civil Rights and the Women’s Suffrage movements, African American women were criticized for choosing between rights as a woman over race, and conversely, choosing race over gender. The intersectionality of race and gender is unique to African American women, which is why the celebration of Black Women’s History Month is so important. It embodies the awareness of that dual inequality that African American women face similarly shared by other Black women of the diaspora.

The following timeline reflects our progress as we continue to break glass ceilings working through intersectionality issues.

A Historical Timeline of Some Milestones Affecting Black Women’s Movement in America

1851 – Sojourner Truth gives her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

1913 – Ida B. Wells-Barnett and sixty other black women attended the first Women’s Suffrage Movement, parade refusing to go to the back, returned to the march with her own delegation.

1920 – The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passes, which gives women the right to vote.

1963 – The Equal Pay Act passes. It promises equitable wages for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national origin, or sex of the worker.

1964 – The Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate based race, color, religion, national origin, or sex was fueled by women like Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer.

1968 – Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and in 1972 Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman the first to run for President of the United States.

1969 – The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that women meeting the physical requirements can work jobs that had been for men only.

1972 – Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of federal supported education programs.

1973 – Roe v. Wade rules that state laws restricting access to abortion are unconstitutional.

1974 – Housing and credit discrimination based of sex was outlawed.

1979 – The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by 189 countries.

1981 – Patricia Harris Roberts became the first Black woman UN Ambassador.

1992 – “The Year of the Woman” — After lawyer Anita Hill accuses Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, record numbers of women are elected to Congress.

1993 – Carol Moseley Braun was the first Black woman elected to the Senate.

1994 – The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has helped greatly reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking against women in the past 20 years.

2005 – Condoleezza Rice became the first Black Woman to serve as Secretary of State. 

2006 – Tarana Burke founded the “Me Too Movement” to bring awareness to the prevelence of sexual harassment and assault.

2012 – Michele Obama becomes the first African American First Lady.

2017 – Tamika Mallory and Women’s March in Washington organizers protest for gun control, feminism and Black Lives Matter.

2018 – The second “Year of the Woman” —  Several women were elected to Congress, which brings the percentage of women in Congress to a record high of 24%, many of whom were Black. Lauren Underwood, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Lucy McBath and Jahana Hayes are a few of the women who are elected. Kamala Harris became the second Black female Senator in the United States.

2021 – The highest number of Black women are elected to Congress at one time — 25. Kamala Harris the first Black women to become Vice President.

2021 – President Biden appointed the first Black woman as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. He also appointed Cecilia Rouse as the first Black woman to the Council of Economic Advisers, chair. He named Linda Thomasa-Greenfield to the UN as the second black female Ambassador in U.S. history. 

Further Reading

Black Women in Congress, Rutgers University
Black Women Turned Electoral Power into Political Power in 2018,
History of Women of Color in U.S. Politics, Rutgers University
15 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month in 2021, Your Dream Blog
April Has Been International Black Women’s History Month, and It’s About Time We Celebrate It Right,