Fannie Lou Hamer
Hamer is best known for championing black voting rights, especially in her home state of Mississippi, one of many hotbeds for racially motivated voter suppression.
Madam C.J. Walker
Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, is widely regarded as one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Prompted by her experience with early hair loss during the 1890s, Walker created hair care remedies primarily with black women in mind.
Mary McLeod Bethune
After struggling to balance school with working on a plantation to help support her family, Bethune went on to become an educator herself, founding the Daytona Educational and Industrial Institute for girls in 1904. Bethune’s successful stewardship and fundraising for the school eventually gave way to a 1932 merger with the Cookman Institute to form what’s now known as Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college.
Although she lived mere blocks away from an all-white elementary school, segregation forced Ruby Bridges to travel for miles every day to attend an all-black kindergarten. Then, in 1960, Bridges was thrust into the national spotlight at the tender age of 6, as the first black child to racially integrate an all-white elementary school in the South. The move came less than a decade after the Supreme Court‘s Brown v. Board of Education ruling struck down school segregation.