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Black HERStory: Then and Now

March 16, 2023

The Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD) Business Resource Group (BRG) lifts up the lives and legacies of Black women who have made a significant contribution to American history, along with today’s trailblazers who are shaping the futures to commemorate Women’s History Month.

In recognition of this year’s theme, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Story,” ETS’s BOLD BRG recognizes the lives and impact of eight Black women who broke through the glass ceiling and overcame adversity to leave their mark on the American story, with many who continue to do so today. Their notable contributions across industries include media and news, arts and literature, civics and social justice and science and technology. In sharing their remarkable stories and lives, it serves as a reminder that they are only a few of the voices in the choir of unsung Black women whose lives and work continue to make our world a better place to live.

News and Media

Carole Simpson

Photo credit: Carole Simpson

Carole Simpson is a broadcast journalist, news anchor and author. She became the first African American woman to anchor any major US network newscast in 1988 when she became anchor of the weekend edition of “World News Tonight” on ABC®. Simpson holds the distinction of being the first person of color to moderate a US presidential debate when she broke barriers in the 1992 election cycle as moderator of the debate between former President George H.W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.


Joy Reid

Photo credit: Marcom Weekly

Joy Reid is a political analyst and host of “The ReidOut,” both on MSNBC®. The award-winning journalist also is a New York Times bestselling author, podcast host and former editor of The Grio®. In 2020, Reid became the first Black woman to host a primetime US cable news program with “The Reidout.”1

Civics and Social Justice

Septima Poinsetter Clark

Photo credit: King Institute

Septima Poinsette Clark was an educator and civil rights leader who was known for her commitment to voter registration. She saw a connection between the ability to read and voter registration. Clark aligned education efforts to voter registration by “setting up citizenship schools that helped many African-Americans register to vote.” She believed that if she empowered the community to read, that the number of people prepared to vote would also increase. Clark empowered many individuals including Rosa Parks and her program went on to be managed by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).1

Stacey Abrams

Photo credit: Fair Fight

Stacey Abrams is the modern-day advocate of voter rights. She founded “Fair Fight Action®,” an organization that aims to address voter suppression which she established “after witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State’s office” in Georgia.2 Her efforts laid the foundation to change the trajectory of voting in Georgia and boost voter participation. Abrams made history as the first Black woman of any major political party to win a gubernatorial nomination in the US. She is an attorney, voter rights advocate, politician and has authored several books. 

Arts and Literature

Laura Wheeling Waring

Photo credit: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Manuscript Division, Howard University, Washington, DC

Laura Wheeling Waring was a teacher and artist whose works include nationally treasured paintings of African Americans. Growing up, she loved to mix paint colors to reflect the different shades of brown of her family members. Yet, as a young child in the late 19th century, she saw few paintings of brown people in museums.2 She went to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts® and became the sixth generation of college graduates3 in her family. Waring furthered her studies in art in Paris where she became inspired by the works of Matisse® and decided “to paint the people she knew.” Her portraits of famous African Americans are displayed in the National Portrait Gallery®, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Archives.


Jacqueline Woodson

Photo credit: Bexley Education Foundation

Jacqueline Woodson is a teacher, writer and poet, who is best known for writing African-American literature for children and adolescents. She is the recipient of numerous accolades including serving as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the Young People’s Poet Laureate and as a MacArthur Fellow. Her works include the National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming and Newbury Honor-winning titles After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way. After college, Woodson helped to write the California standardized reading tests which led to the discovery of her first manuscript. She was inspired by the writings of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Virginia Hamilton among others. Woodson prides herself on writing from a young person’s perspective to show characters breaking through racial, economic, social and physical boundaries.6

Science and Technology

Hazel Johnson

Photo credit: Good Black News

Hazel M. Johnson, affectionately known as “The Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement,” was an environmental activist who hailed from Chicago’s South Side. When she learned that her neighborhood had the highest cancer rates in her city, she traced the roots of this crisis to the neighborhood’s polluted air, contaminated water and blighted land. In 1979, she founded People for Community Recovery, to fight for a safer environment for her neighborhood and communities around the country. Johnson also served as an early mentor to former President Barack Obama.7

Majora Carter

Photo credit: Marjora Carter Group

Majora Carter is an urban revitalization strategist, media personality and author. A South Bronx native, she founded the organization Sustainable South Bronx in 2001, which aims “to improve the environmental and economic state of the South Bronx” through several initiatives.8 She initiated the creation of Hunts Point Riverside Park in the South Bronx, which opened to the public in 2007. Carter is the recipient of numerous awards for her environmental activism and is a MacArthur Fellow and a Peabody Award winning journalist.