We’re in a time of historic firsts. Earlier this year we sworn in our first black female vice president. What a time to be alive! Black women are notorious for being trailblazers and the first at many things. Shirley Chisholm, Madam CJ Walker, Vanessa L. Williams, Mae Jamison, Halle Berry, Wangari Maathai, Althea Gibson, and Tyra Banks are just a few women who have paved the way for others throughout our lifetime. While we may be the first, we certainly won’t be the last. In celebration of this historic event, I am spotlighting a few women who were recognized as the first to do something remarkable, inspiring generations to come.
Before Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, there was Dominique Dawes. In 1996, she captivated our hearts by becoming the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic-gold-medal in gymnastics and the first black woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics. She is also the first female gymnast to be apart of three Olympic winning medal teams since 1968. Whew! Excellence on all levels.
We all know the late Toni Morrison as one of the most profound novelist of our times. It’s no surprise that she was the first black woman to win the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature. In her acceptance speech she stated, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Incredible words from an incredible writer. Her work continues to be an inspiration to people everywhere.
Many of you may not be familiar with Julie Dash, as she is often not credited enough for her amazing work in the film industry. Dash is the first black woman to have a nationally released feature-length film. Her 1991 film Daughters of the Dust, is considered one of the most significant films of the past 30 years. It also won best cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival. While Dash has transitioned to more television films, her work remains as prevalent as ever. Some of her television films include Funny Valentines (1999), Love Song (2000), and who can forget the 2002 Rosa Parks Story starring Angela Bassett. Y’all better put some respect on Ms. Dash’s name.