Black women have been trailblazers since the beginning of time. However, many people lack knowledge of historically famous Black women because there is very little Black history taught in American school systems. Malcolm X never lied when he said, "It is the process of mis-education that inhibits the full potential of a nation."
According to the National Council for Social Studies, "Only one to two lessons or 8–9 percent of total class time is devoted to Black history in U.S. history classrooms." So no need to sweat about how you could have done better when you were given limited tools to do so. This is why self-educating yourself about Black history written by us should be a continuous journey you choose to explore. Here is a mixed list of some of the most groundbreaking Black women figures that lead the way for all of us.
Famous Black Healthcare Workers You Oughta Know
It's only right to start off honoring the heroes that help save our lives daily.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler
In 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first Black woman in America to receive an MD degree. She was the only Black graduate at the time when she earned her degree at New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts. After the Civil War, Rebecca moved to Richmond, VA, and worked with other Black doctors who were taking care of formerly enslaved people in the Freedmen's Bureau.
In 1883, Crumpler wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses: In Two Parts. Her book amplified the experiences of women's and children's health and is written for "mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the affiliations of the human race."
Alexa Irene Canady
At times, we all lack self-confidence like Alexa Irene Canady did while attending college—but even in our weary seasons, we can gain momentum to overcome our fears. And she did just that, becoming the first Black neurosurgeon in America in 1981. In just a few years, Canady even rose to become the Chief of Neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital of Michigan. Alexa continued working for several decades as a pediatric neurosurgeon until June 2001, when she retired.
Mary MahoneyAccording to the National Women's History Museum, Mary Mahoney became the first licensed Black nurse in America in 1879. She wasn't able to work in a hospital due to discrimination towards Black people in the 19th century, so she became a private nurse instead. In 1908, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Several years later, after the 19th Amendment was approved, she became one of the first women registered to vote in Boston, MA.
Famous Black Political Women Leaders You Oughta Know
Angela Davis is a profound Civil Rights activist known for her involvement in the 1960s with the Communist party. She was also a part of the Black Panther Party for a few months until she got weary of the political group's sexism issues. Davis was later targeted by the FBI, making its 10 Most Wanted List, due to her launching a campaign to free "The Soledad Brothers"—who were also all Black Panther Party members arrested in the 60s after being charged for allegedly murdering a white prison guard.
Davis is a scholar at heart; she attempted running for Vice President twice in the 80s and is the author of several books about civil rights. She is still alive today, teaching at colleges and leading trailblazing conversations about civil rights, mass incarceration, and intersectional experiences Black women face in feminism.
The first Black woman to refuse to give up her bus seat for a white person was not Rosa Parks; it was actually Claudette Colvin. At the time, she was only 15 years old, and the event occurred ten months prior to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. Colvin wasn't as spoken about because of colorism issues, and her mother told her to keep quiet. In an interview with the New York Times in 2009, she stated that her mother told her, "Let Rosa be the one. White people aren't going to bother Rosa—her skin is lighter than yours, and they like her."
Assata Shakur, a.k.a. Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was a former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army activist. In 1973, Shakur was pulled over by New Jersey state troopers, shot twice, and charged with allegedly killing a police officer and several other alleged crimes. Law enforcement was trying to put her behind bars for months prior because of her association with those civil rights political groups.
She ended up serving six and a half years in prison and was brutally beaten during her time in jail. In 1979, she escaped jail with the help of Black Liberation Army members that posed as visitors and fled to Cuba. Assata was the first woman to be placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list because of her alleged charges and escaping jail. Over 30 years later and Cuba's government has still protected Shakur offering her political asylum.
Famous Black Women Writers You Oughta Know
I'm sure that most of us all heard of the late Maya Angelou at this point in life, but did many of us know her ethics, morals, and all that she stood for? Maya Angelou was a Civil Rights activist, author of several books, and a nominated Pulitzer Prize poet. Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, received critical applause for its depiction of sexual assault and racism. She was also a lead factor in Black feminism, and she worked with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian feminist writer, librarian, and poet-activist. Her book Sister Outsider has become one of the most recognized and studied text in Black studies, women's studies, and queer theory. Her writing voice was confrontational, direct, and she stressed that it is up to the oppressor to educate themselves. Lorde is also known for her essays about sexual identity, homophobia, feminism, sexism, and class.
Bell Hooks is an activist, feminist, educator, and the author of over three dozen exquisitely written books. Hooks is known for writing critical essays regarding social injustice and several topics about the Black community. Some of her most popular books areAin't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, All About Love, and my all-time favoriteSalvation: Black People and Love.
Famous Black Women Figures In Sports You Oughta Know
The first Black woman to compete in the U.S. National Championship in 1951 was Althea Gibson. Gibson opened the doors for Black athletics globally trailblazing as the legendary tennis player she was. She won single titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, and the Associated Press recognized her as the Female Athlete of the Year two years in a row. Gibson wasn't only excellent at tennis; in 1963, she also became a professional golfer right after winning some of her legendary tennis titles.
In 1960, Wilma Rudolph was named the fastest woman in the world and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in the same Olympic games. Rudolph used her platform championing civil rights, refusing to attend a segregated homecoming parade celebrating her victories. After she retired from track and field, Rudolph earned a degree from Tennessee State University and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Sheryl Denise Swoopes
In 1997, Sheryl Denise Swoopes was the first player to be signed by the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Swoopes was nicknamed "the female Michael Jordan" because of her defensive and offensive skills on the basketball court. Over her fourteen-year WNBA career, she was a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA champion. Sheryl was the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her.
Black women have been lighting the way since the beginning of time—regardless of their setbacks, they are always known for their resilience and persistence through every storm.
Featured image by Giphy
Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
They say you can’t heal in the same place that made you sick. And I couldn’t.
The year was 2019, and I knew I had to go. My spirit was calling me to be alone and to go alone. It was required in that season. A few months prior, I had quit my job. And it was late 2017 when I had met trauma.
I was completely broken, and every part of me hurt. I was no longer the lighthearted Camille that everyone loved and knew me to be. I remember a family friend saying, “You’re not the same.” And I wasn’t. I no longer recognized the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I needed major healing.
It was 2018 when I found the courage to seek mental health therapy. At that point, I knew there was nothing more that my friends could do for me. I was all cried out, and the silence was killing me. At the time, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety, depression, and PTSD. How?
How did I let trauma take complete control of my life? But I had to forgive myself for all the things I did not know.
At the time, my therapist introduced me to journaling as a coping mechanism. Words ultimately became my best friend. In many ways, I would like to think that writing saved me. I am in love with words, and I always have been. My writing was and still is my safe space. It unlocked opportunities I never imagined – like writing for xoNecole.
And with this gift, I can now tell you a story about my own trauma, healing, self-discovery, and the journey to learning how to celebrate myself.
Starting a Healing Journey
In early Spring 2019, I was told by a Reiki healer that I was going to embark on a journey. She told me it was going to be lonely, but I was never alone. The thing is I never once mentioned to this woman my travel plans. It was August 2019 when I planned my solo trip to Europe. It was going to be 38 days alone on a continent I knew absolutely nothing about. By the end of summer and a nine-hour flight later, I touched down in London.
I fell in love with every single thing. I fell in love with everything I could see – colors, cobblestone streets, spiral staircases, adorned windows, architecture, garden terraces, nature, and people. I fell in love with everything I could hear – accents, language, history, and music. I fell in love with everything I could taste – wines, foods, and desserts. I fell in love with everything I could feel – ocean breezes, white sands, and well-designed buildings. I fell in love with everything that fed my soul. People, stories, and connections. I fell in love with myself.
I always say women have the ability to heal others naturally. It was here in my travels that I started to pay attention to the concepts of purpose, connection, energy, alignment, and universal signs. I began to truly realize not only my strengths and universal gifts but also how to use them too. I started to step into my authentic self. I began to realize who Camille really was. A free spirit with a heart of gold.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
A New Season
By the time I had returned from Europe, it was late Fall 2019, and I was a completely different person.
I spent most of my time pouring into myself. Self-development and self-love became key. Everything that I previously settled for in family, friends, and relationships – I went and gave to myself. Read that again. I became completely in love with who I was becoming, and I still am. I had let go of tradition, conditional beliefs, people pleasing, and living my life to make my parents proud.
I had let go of being a “straight arrow,” and the idea of having it all figured out. I outgrew tradition and cultural norms. Sometimes, those things can be so blinding.
I began to shift. I adopted and altered the things that aligned with my purpose and values.
I became risk-tolerant instead of risk-averse.
I canceled my fears.
I welcomed uncertainty, knowing I would always land on my feet.
This newfound level of confidence came out of nowhere. It was no longer a question of if I can do this. The question became, how can I do this? I stayed open to possibilities and opportunities in whichever form they came to me. I became selective and intentional with my time and energy, too. I went from being a 9 to 5 government employee, then a corporate consultant, to a small business owner not once but twice by 2021.
If you ask me who I am now, I would say I am authentically a creative. I write from my heart, and I speak from my core. My voice is my power, and my words hold weight. By trade, I am a paralegal and a business consultant.
How Trauma Shows Up in the Body
Even though I was able to heal my heart, my mind, and my spirit, I wasn’t quite done healing. And I didn’t even know it. In the last seven years, I gained weight. This was a direct result of a broken heart, emotional trauma, mental health issues, stress, and poor lifestyle choices. I was a good 50 pounds overweight, too. I knew something was wrong with my body when it stopped responding to my dietary and lifestyle efforts.
I started to advocate for my health in the winter of 2022 to get clarity and answers. I sought the care of medical specialists, asked the right questions, requested second opinions, and tested and retested my blood. Not one doctor could properly diagnose me, either.
When Western medicine failed me, I chose holistic medicine. What I learned and what I understood was that my physical health issues were a straight-up trauma response. I cried. I was always conscious about my health, and now I’m sick with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yes, PTSD triggers and is linked to autoimmune diseases.
I remember thinking, “I did this to myself, and I have to fix it.”
I spent the majority of 2023 detoxing with Chinese herbs, making every lifestyle change possible. My body was holding on to dead weight – it had to go for me to continue to become.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Summer 2023 couldn’t come any faster. I completed my holistic detox with sacrifice and ease. While everyone saw just a “body transformation,” for me, it was an emotional release.
I was no longer reminded of what transpired. I cried again.
There were so many days, months, and years that I thought I would never get me back. And I believed it. I mean, who wouldn’t? Medical experts adamantly told me that there was nothing wrong with me. All I wanted was to feel like myself again. I missed me so badly.
I looked for me everywhere. I couldn’t find her until I paused and did the inner work.
I wouldn’t change one thing about my healing journey. It all had to happen so I could be in this current moment. And this girl right here – I know exactly who she is. I know what she stands for through and through. And I’ll never stray from that.
I’ve grown so much, yet in some ways, I’m rediscovering who this girl is again. It’s so intoxicating.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Returning to Europe
I have always wanted to go back to Europe. Europe is a magical place to be. It's the energy, the people, and the lifestyle for me. But the timing wasn’t right. It took the wedding of a close friend of mine to make my return happen. I returned to Europe in August 2023. This time to Greece.
At first, I didn’t realize the significance of the timing. But make no mistake, this was alignment, a full circle moment, and a testimony to myself. I started a healing journey in August 2019, and I returned as a completely different person this year.
Happy, whole, and healed. Resilient and confident.
I knew I was meant to share a pivotal moment in my friend’s life and celebrate myself. My word for 2023 was joy, and I wanted all of it. More importantly, I deserved it.
I fell in love with everything all over again. Everything that I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, that is. I created moments and memories. And I felt each moment and memory deeply in new places and with new faces. Greece owed me absolutely nothing. Europe will always and forever have a special place in my heart.
My five-year healing journey taught me to always choose myself. I am grateful because my entire journey brought me home to myself. And one thing about me is that when I am in the right environment — I thrive. Always.
The journey to self-discovery is worth the uncomfortable moments and ugly crying. It’s worth the undoing, redoing, and reprocessing to finally come to a place of happiness, peace, and being comfortable in your own skin.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by AzmanJaka/Getty Images