Since emancipation, Black people have been fighting for our civil rights. Just the thought of it may conjure up black-and-white photos of community elders holding hands and fighting to cross the bridge in Selma, Alabama, and of course, the passing of the Civil Rights Act.
While we typically think of the civil rights era as a long time ago, plenty of work against injustice—from voting rights and racialized police brutality to housing reform—is yet to be done. It’s easy to revere the historic leaders of the movement toward racial and social equality like Dr. Martin Luther King, Shirley Chisolm or Malcolm X, but it can be harder to notice historical figures when they’re currently in the making. As we celebrate Women's History Month, here are five Black female activists and trailblazers making incredible strides toward equality for Black Americans and other railroaded groups.
Karen Boykin-Towns: Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors, NAACP
Boykin-Towns has garnered a reputation as a dynamic, effective leader and a visionary in her community and in her role at the NAACP. She has successfully initiated changes in policy, advocacy and communications within the historic organization, and most recently was part of the team to bring the NAACP Image Awards back to the live stage since the start of the pandemic.
Amanda Gorman: Poet Laureate
When Gorman was 16, she started a project called One Pen One Page in Los Angeles, which focused on increasing literacy and fostering youth activism in her community. Nine years later, she performed at President Biden’s inauguration. Now Gorman's a senior at Harvard University and continues to advocate for literacy and education with the non-profit 826 National.
Kristen Clarke: President of National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
In 2022, President Biden nominated Clarke to be the first Black woman to lead the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. She is a former member of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as president and executive director of the non-profit National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Throughout her career, she's advocated for voting rights, gender equality and much more on behalf of the Black women and the community.
Nekima Levy Armstrong: Founder of the Racial Justice Network
Levy-Armstrong wears many hats: she’s a civil rights attorney, an author, executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation and founder of the Racial Justice Network. She has been a prominent activist—especially in the greater Minneapolis area—rallying for justice after police killings of Black Americans. The Racial Justice Network is dedicated to building social support for marginalized groups.
Zyahna Bryant: Youngest Member of Virginia’s Inaugural African American Advisory Board
Currently, Bryant is not only serving her university community on the University of Virginia’s Council of UVA-Community Partnerships but has been intensely involved in the larger Charlottesville community since she was just 12 years old. She’s organized a march for Trayvon Martin and advocated for the removal of Confederate statues on the UVA campus (which later became the subject of the infamous Charlottesville marches in 2017). She is dedicated to fighting for educational equality and closing the racial achievement gap.