Highlighting Untold Stories: Black Women Leading the Way

As a small but mighty woman-owned agency, we took our own unique approach to celebrating Black History Month with a special nod to black women that have played a powerful role in history with little recognition. Our regularly scheduled #WisdomWednesday social posts have been dedicated to these outstanding females as we share their #wisdom with our followers. 

There are so many stories that need to be told and women that deserve the spotlight, but much to our dismay, February only has four Wednesdays! Please join us in celebrating all of these amazing individuals that have had a profound impact on our world.

Sweet Emma Barrett (1897-1983) was a self-taught pianist and singer from New Orleans who paved the way for women musicians. Her eccentric style and bold personality wasn’t always received very well, but her music earned her much respect and eventually she became the focal point of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Her wisdom: turn every setback into a comeback and let the music feed your soul. 

Jane Bolin (1908-2007) was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School. As the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States, for New York’s Family Court, Bolin fought for the desegregation of childcare services, and was an active member of the civil rights movement. Her wisdom: fighting for justice is not easy, but the right thing is worth doing. 

Pauline Powell Burns (1872-1912) was a pianist and painter and is said to be the first African-American artist to exhibit art in the state of California. She was still a teenager when her works were displayed at the Mechanics Institute Fair in San Francisco in 1890. She continued to paint and play music throughout her life, but few of her artworks survive. Her wisdom: surround yourself with people who recognize your special gifts and support their cultivation.

Marian Croak is a tech pioneer who became one of the first black women (alongside Patricia Bath) to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She holds over 200 patents, and her work has enabled the video conferencing capabilities that makes remote work possible. We all appreciate her these days! Her wisdom: innovation is not just about having an idea, but sharing that idea with the world.

Ann Fudge is a revered businesswoman who is known for shattering the glass ceiling when she became CEO of Young & Rubicam in 2003. An inspiration to working women and a great example for all as her acumen and expertise is in high demand by boards and political committees alike. Her wisdom: success isn’t just about what you do, it’s also about who you are. 

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907) was born into slavery and used her passion for design to garner the attention of a wealthy clientele to eventually buy her own freedom. Keckley eventually became Mary Todd Lincoln’s personal dressmaker and friend. #thefirstfashionista Her wisdom: fueling your artistic desires can be liberating. 

Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957) was a former employer of Madame C.J. Walker, who helped pave the way for the African American personal care products/hair care industry and was one of the first African American women to become a millionaire. She was a brilliant chemist, entrepreneur, and marketer who created an entire line of hair care and beauty products specifically for black women. Her wisdom: if you give a woman the right tools, you can empower her to do anything. 

Augusta Savage (1892-1962), the first Black artist elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She often sculpted in plaster as she could not afford to cast them in a more permanent material, which is why her famous display for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, The Harp, no longer survives. Despite her circumstances, she worked to bring visibility and opportunity to her community of black artists in Harlem. Her wisdom: works of art may be impermanent, but impact and inspiration live on.

Fawn Weaver is an author, entrepreneur and investor. She is the co-founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, and its launch in 2017 made her the first African-American woman to head a major spirits brand. She’s also committed to uplifting the descendants of the Nearest Green, Jack Daniels first master distiller, and for whom the company is named. Her wisdom: talent (and stories) doesn’t stay hidden for long if everyone is invited to the table.

Loula Williams (1879-1827) helped build many businesses in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, including a three story building, which housed Loula’s confectionary, a rooming house, which provided accommodations for men and women who either could not afford housing, and the Dreamland Theater, one of two theaters in Greenwood. The Tulsa Star wrote “Her judgment in matters of business is equal to that of the most experienced business men, and for this reason she has made few mistakes.” Her wisdom: do not wait for an opportunity to find you – create your own.