5 Incredible Black Women From History You Haven't Heard Of

Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon/Getty.
When Hidden Figures won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at this year’s SAG Awards, Taraji P. Henson wanted to make something clear in her acceptance speech. If their hit film had accomplished one thing, it made sure that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were “hidden figures no more!” And she had a point. Many of us had never heard of the Black women at NASA whose calculations helped get a man into space during the height of racial segregation until Hidden Figures was made.

This isn’t an unfamiliar plight for Black women. Take Zora Neale Hurston, for example. The novelist who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God died poor and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her work came to notoriety posthumously thanks to Alice Walker.

It’s too easy to forget the contributions, ingenuity, and creativity of Black women. We’re often forced to move in silence through our respective fields. And even when we aren't forgotten, our legacies are often told in the service of something or someone else.

As a result, every opportunity to uplift the names of Black women who have lived in similar obscurity is worth it. We deserve respect on our names. So let’s start now.