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Recognizing Black Women in American Culture and History

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- February is recognized as African American/Black History Month and is dedicated to the individuals that helped influence American culture. This month's theme is black women in American culture and history, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. There are black women who have taken a stand for equal rights, have broken down barriers, serve as role models to other women, and are an inspiration to all Americans. As our nation continues to become even more diverse, it's vital to recognize the black women who have shaped the future for all.

The civil rights movement was 13 years of struggle for African Americans to gain equality in the United States. In 1955, at the beginning of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. Due to her refusal to change seats, she was arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct. Her arrest led to over a yearlong boycott of the bus system. The appointed spokesperson for the bus boycott was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his efforts and the actions of Parks lead to a Supreme Court ruling that segregation on a public bus system is unconstitutional. Parks continued to pursue racial equality until her death in 2005.

Mae Jemison became the first black woman to travel into space. She broke down societal barriers and set the example for young black women in America. Jemison graduated from high school at the age of 16 and went on to study at Stanford University. She graduated as a medical doctor in the early 80s and practiced medicine for four years before she decided to follow her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration accepted her into their training program in 1987. After years of training, Jemison traveled into space in 1992 for an eight-day mission around Earth. She left NASA and developed the Jemison Group, which conducts research, development and marketing of advanced technologies.

It is not necessary for a person to be prominent to be an inspiration. Ms. C. Vivian Stringer is not an inspiration for being an actress or a self-made millionaire. She is an inspiration for her role as the head coach for the Rutgers University women's basketball team. In 2009, she became the first African-American woman to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She has endured pain throughout her life but persevered to become a role model to other women. Stringer has fought racial inequality, the sudden loss of her husband, and fought for her own life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She taught her players to be a family and become involved in the local community.

While there are many black women in the world that have made a difference, each one is unique and has influenced American culture and its history. Ida Wells-Barnett led an anti-lynching campaign in the 1890s. Maya Angelou, the world famous poet, was raised in segregated Arkansas. Dr. Condoleezza Rice was the first African American woman to be appointed as Secretary of State. Black women in American culture, and history have shaped and continue to shape this great nation.