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President Barack Obama recognized African American women in his Presidential Proclamation on Wednesday in honor of Black History Month. As part of a longer speech, he said, “As courageous visionaries who led the fight to end slavery and tenacious activists who fought to expand basic civil rights to all Americans, African American women have long served as champions of social and political change.” YES!

To celebrate the rich history African Americans have brought to this country, here are three firsts. These are some powerful women- enjoy!

Ruth Simmons is the First African American president of an Ivy league school (Brown University). She was president of Smith College and then moved into her current position as president of Brown University, though she has put in her resignation and will leave her position at the end of this school year to resume teaching after a short break. She is a professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies.She has been a very popular president and students have expressed that they are going to miss her.  . She fought to not have ROTC on campus stating that military values were not in line with the school’s values. Ruth Simmons was elected Brown’s first female president in November 2000. Simmons assumed office in fall of 2001. In 2002, Newsweek selected her as a Ms. Woman of the Year and in 2001, Time named her as America’s best college president.

Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) was the first female African American pilot and the first African American to hold an International Pilot License. One of thirteen children, she grew up in a sharecropper family in Texas and while smart, didn’t have a lot of opportunity. She went to live with her brothers in Chicago when she was a young adult and listening to their stories about flying planes, she decided she wanted to become a pilot, but because she was black and a woman, they wouldn’t let her in any of the American flight schools and as a woman, none of the black pilots would train her either. Bessie Coleman ended up going to Paris to study flying and become a pilot. She then got trained in exhibition flying and in September 1921, she became a media sensation in the United States. She was known as “Queen Bess,” was highly popular among black and white people, and was a strong advocate for the advancement of African Americans.

Michelle Obama is the first African American first lady of the United States. She is the wife of the 44th and current President of the United States, Barack Obama. She grew up on the south side of Chicago and then attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She still has her law license, but it’s on hold as she doesn’t need it right now. She has been a big support of Barack. During the campaign, she discussed race and education by using motherhood as a framework. She will say that first and foremost she is a mother to Malia and Sasha, but as the first lady, she is a role model for women. Her style has been noticed and has caught on big. Americans see her as their fashion icon. She is an advocate for poverty awareness, nutrition and healthy eating and she can do twenty-five push ups. She is an awesome first lady and outside of that, she’s just plain rad. A strong first lady makes our country stronger. I feel proud that she is in that role.

Grrl Code: Strong women make America strong. Notice the strong women around you and recognize strong women who stand for women’s rights and the health and strength of all people. Celebrate the strength African American women have had throughout the trials of history as well as in the present by fighting against racism.

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