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Black History Month

2012 - Black Women in American Culture and History

From the American Revolution to the present, African American women have played a myriad of critical roles in the making of our nation.  Their labor and leadership, their motherhood and patriotism, and their intellect and artistic expression have all enriched both the African American community and the nation at large.  In slavery and freedom, their struggles have been at the heart of the human experience, and their triumphs over racism and sexism are a testimonial to our common human spirit.

From the Association for the Study of African American Life and History:

 The ODU University Libraries celebrate Black History Month 2012 with an exhibit in the Learning Commons. The exhibit features a background depicting "the labors, struggles, organization, and sacrifices of common women" that have made possible the "prominence of heralded individuals" we know today.  The exhibit was created by Edison Simmons and Marissa Jimenez. Contact Edison with questions or comments.


As part of our lobby exhibit, several women were featured for their contributions in various areas.

Science and Technology


  1. Patricia Bath, MD:  Ophthalmologist, Educator, First African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical intervention
  2. Olufunmilayo F. Olopade, MD:  Hematology Oncologist, Associate Dean for Global Health and Genetics at the University of Chicago
  3. Ruth Simmons:  President of Brown University, First black president of an Ivy League institution, Implemented first engineering program at  woman’s college
  4. Mae Jemison:  Physician and NASA astronaut, First black woman to travel in space
  5. Shirley Ann Jackson:  Physicist, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Commissioner of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission 1995-99
  6. Regina M. Benjamin, MD:  Physician, Surgeon General of the United States
  7. Yolanda Wimberly, MD:  Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Morehouse School of Medicine and Director of its Pediatric Residency Program



  1. Terrie Williams:   Founder of Stay Strong Foundation
  2. Peggie Williams:  Founder of Chronicles of Truth Productions
  3. Marian Wright Edelman:  Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund
  4. Shireen K. Lewis:  Executive Director of EduSeed and Founder of EduSeed’s SisterMentors Program
  5. Stefanie Magness:  Founder of Young Women of Distinction
  6. Joyce Madyum:  Founder of Youth Organization United to Rise
  7. Connie Lindsey:  Chair of the National Board of Directors of Girl Scouts of the USA

Fashion and Beauty


  1. Tyra Banks:  Actor, Fashion Model, Television Broadcaster
  2. Bethann Hardison:  Editor-At-Large for Vogue Italia
  3. Pat McGrath:  Make-up Artist
  4. Kimora Lee Simmons:  Fashion Designer
  5. Robin Givhan:  Fashion Critic and Style Writer
  6. Beverly Johnson:  Singer, Actor, Fashion Model
  7. Lisa Price:   Founder of Carol’s Daughter
  8. Queen Latifah:  Actor, Singer, Spokesperson
  9. Tracy Reese:  Fashion Designer
  10. Vanessa Williams:  Actor, Singer



  1. Maritza Correia:  Olympic Swimmer
  2. Serena Williams:  Tennis Player with innumerable wins, including 2 Olympic gold medals, 5 Australian Open wins, and 27 Grand Slam titles
    Venus Williams:  Tennis Player with innumerable wins, including 3 Olympic gold medals and 21 Grand Slam titles
  3. Vonetta Flowers: Bobsledder, First black athlete to win a Winter Olympics gold medal
  4. Sheila Johnson:  Team President, Managing Partner and Governor of the WNBA's Washington Mystics



  1. Bernice A. King:  Minister, President-Elect of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (Daughter of MLK Jr)
  2. Bishop Vashti McKenzie:  First woman elected as an African Methodist Episcopal Church bishop, First female president of the Council of Bishops of the AME Church
  3. Pernessa Seele:  Immunologist, CEO and founder of Balm in Gilead, Inc., a religious-based organization that provides support to people with AIDS and their families
  4. Barbara Harris:  President of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company, publishers of The Witnessmagazine, Activist, First woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion



  1. Rosalind Brewer:  Division President of Southeast Operations of Wal-Mart Stores Inc
  2. Ursula Burns:  CEO of Xerox Corp
  3. Oprah Winfrey:   Television Producer, Entrepreneur, Television talk show host, Publisher, etc
  4. Melody Hobson:  President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of  Ariel Investments, LLC, on Board of Directors for Dreamworks Animation SKG, Inc, Estee Lauder Co Inc, and Starbucks Corp



  1. Shawna Kimbrell:  First female African American fighter pilot in the US Air Force
  2. Michelle Howard:  Naval Officer, Senior Military Assistant US Navy, First African American woman to command a ship in the US Navy, 
  3. Teresa King:  Command Sergeant Major, First female commandant of the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C.



  1. Wanda Sykes: Comedian, Actor, Writer
  2. Mo’nique:  Actor, Comedian, Talk Show Host
  3. Shonda Rhimes:  Screenwriter, Director, Producer
  4. Jennifer Hudson: Actor, Singer, Spokesperson
  5. Whoopi Goldberg:  Comedian, Actor, Producer, Talk Show Host, Author, Activist
  6. Beyonce:  Singer, Songwriter, Record Producer, Actress, Dancer, Fashion Designer
  7. Jada Pinkett-Smith: Actor, Producer, Director, Author, Businesswoman



  1. Valerie Jarrett:  Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls
  2. Lisa Jackson:  Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  3. Condoleeza Rice:  US Secretary of State, 2005-2009
  4. Susan Rice:  US Ambassador to the United Nations
  5. Barbara Lee:  Congresswoman, US House of Representatives
  6. Michelle Obama:  Lawyer, First Lady of the United States
  7. Melody Barnes:  Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council

Arts & Letters

arts and letters

  1. Maya Angelou:  Writer, Poet, Playwright
  2. Annette Gordon-Reed: Writer, Professor of Law at New York Law School and Professor of History at Rutgers University
  3. Lynn Nottage:  Playwright, Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Drama
  4. Johnetta Cole:  School Administrator, Educator, President of Bennett College for Women, First black woman to serve as president of Spelman College
  5. Artis Lane:  Sculptor
  6. Nikki Giovanni:  Poet, Educator, Activist

Also featured...

Toni Morrison, Writer, Educator, Editor, First African American to win Nobel Prize in literature (1993)

Yolanda Adams, Gospel Singer

Images from AP Images database and Google Images.

Lobby Exhibit

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