This month, the nation wishes the Girl Scouts of America a very happy birthday, as the famed organization celebrates 100 years of leadership, girlhood and yes, those delicious cookies. The organization has decided to make 2012 the Year of the Girl, with events happening nationwide, all year round. As the Girl Scouts mark this historic occasion, it’s important to acknowledge the crucial contributions and cherished past of the Black girls who have been part of the GSC legacy for 95 years.

The very first African American Girl Scout troupe assembled in 1917, just five years after Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low started the organization in Savannah, Georgia. It remained segregated until the 1950’s, when the organization made a national effort to desegregate ALL Girl Scout troops. This non-compromising attitude and commitment to that mission is what made Dr. King describe these brave young women as “a force for desegregation” in 1956.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the organization saw its first African American president, Gloria D. Scott who led the group until 1978. But throughout their 95 years, young Black women have played an invaluable role to local and regional chapters. Girl Scouts of America have made a tremendous effort to reach out out to a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and organizations like the United Negro College Fund and the National Urban League to make the Girl Scouts an important piece of the Black community. By reaching out, they continue to add scores of new volunteers and members to their ranks.

Still, for many African Americans, it’s hard to imagine a girl scout that isn’t White, 4’7 with pigtails and ribbons in her hair. Yes, Shirley Temple was indeed a Girl Scout but so was tennis champ Venus Williams, former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, track and field star, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and our soul sister Dionne Warwick. There are also some 300,000 current African-American members

Happy birthday, Girl Scouts!  We salute you on 100 years of leadership, courage, beauty and strength.