AIC Celebrates African American Women Who Paved The Way

Avé Mullen

Atlanta, Georgia – It’s time to celebrate Black History Month!

Originating from historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1926, Black History Month is an annual tradition recognizing the significant people, events, and contributions of African American culture.

When the observance first began, African American History was only celebrated for a week, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 20), two historical figures who made groundbreaking changes in the Black community. It was actually a group of college students from Kent State University who proposed the idea of celebrating Black History for the entire month, and soon after, they kicked off their celebration in 1970 on their college campus.

Black History Month is the best way to highlight the most influential and powerful figures in our communities who paved the way for others to be great. Here are two of my favorite who I would like to share with AIC.

Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson was an African American actress, model, and mother from Harlem, New York. She was most famous for her portrayal of a strong Black mother in popular films such as The Help (2011), Roots (1977), and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). However, Cicely Tyson extended her influence beyond her films to her audience and to her fans who she empowered.

“I loved Cicely Tyson,” exclaimed Asianna Garner, a Black film enthusiast. “She was like a mom/grandmother to me right through my TV screen. I always watched her in Tyler Perry films.”

Tyson’s career extended over seventy years. In 1977, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame for her great contributions towards Black cinema, and in 2010 the NAACP presented her with its 95th Spingarn Award for her outstanding levels of achievement. She was also married to the famous jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, and lived to be 96 years old. She recently passed away on January 28, 2021 leaving her friends, family, and many fans mourning her loss.

Cicely Tyson’s legacy will continue to impact Black culture and cinema with her messages of African pride and women’s empowerment.

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas state senate and the first Black Texan in Congress. She was born in Houston where she went to Texas Southern University. She then attended law school at Boston University. Jordan became a lawyer in Massachusetts and then returned to Texas to open her own law office.

“She was a great role model for women all over,” shared Linedlay Alcide, a senior at AIC. “People like her is what inspires me to finish college and make something out of myself.”

During her time in Congress, Jordan made a memorable opening speech during Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings in 1974.

Jordan passed away at only 59 years old in 1996. Her birthday will be remembered and celebrated on February 21. She would have been 86 this year.

Barbara Jordan is a powerful figure to celebrate during Black History Month because she trail-blazed the way for Black women to work in the government while standing up against racial discrimination in the South. Barbara Jordan’s legacy continues to inspire and empower African Americans and women to reach their full potential.

The legacies of Cicely Tyson and Barbara Jordan empowered the women in their communities and beyond. Tommy Smith, a senior and football player at AIC commented on their legacies, saying, “I think it’s important to highlight these women because they fought so hard to be treated equally.”

Today in 2021, Black History Month remains a significant observance not only to individuals in the African American community but to all cultures. American International College students and educators strive to create a close-knit community where the cultures represented in its diverse population can have a sense of pride. As Black History Month continues to be celebrated throughout the rest of February, let’s remember and celebrate these two powerful African American women who have impacted and shaped Black culture in a tremendous way.