International Women’s Day is the 24-hour period where we celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and across nations. When it comes to the diaspora, there’s no shortage of iconic women from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and America to pay homage to and that’s what we’re doing here with these stunning vintage photos of 11 groundbreaking Black women you should know.
Celia Cruz (October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003)
Known as the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz was a Cuban Singer who proudly embraced her Afro-Latina heritage which was heavily thread into her music and style of dress. Banned from her native Havana during the Cuban revolution, Cruz became a symbol of freedom for her refusal to bend to the demands of Fidel Castro’s political regime.
Miriam Makeba (March 4, 1932 – November 9, 2008)
Miriam Makeba was a famous South African Afropop and Jazz singer who was among the first musicians from the continent to receive worldwide recognition. Makeba became known as Mama Africa for her legacy as a civil rights activist, namely as an advocate for the abolition of apartheid and her work for other humanitarian causes as a UN goodwill ambassador.
Iman (July 25, 1955)
Iman was born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid in Mogadishu, the capital of Somali. After being discovered by an American photographer while at University, Iman went on to have an illustrious career as a model, landing her first gig at Vogue. But it’s her foray into makeup that makes Iman a true pioneer, having launched Iman Cosmetics in 1994 which grew to be a multi-million dollar business, specializing in foundation shades for women of color.
Angélique Kidjo (July 14, 1960)
Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer-songwriter and, arguably, one of the most famous and widely lauded contemporary African female musicians. Kidjo’s music spans countless genres, four languages, and a multitude of countries. And off stage, she uses her influence to advocate for the rights of women and girls, specifically with the founding of The Batonga Foundation, which gives girls access to secondary and higher education so they can become Africa’s next leaders.
Donyale Luna (August 31, 1945 – May 17, 1979)
Though she only lived to be 33, in her short time as an American model Donyale Luna achieved a great deal. When she was sketched by an illustrator for the January 1965 edition of Harper’s Bazaar, the cover became the first ever tp feature a Black model. And just one year later she became the first Black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue, opening the door for women like Iman and Naomi Campbell to follow.
Grace Jones (May 19, 1948)
Naomi Campbell (May 22, 1970)
Born in South London of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican heritage, Naomi Campbell was the premiere Black supermodel of the late ’80s and 1990s and is regarded, along with five contemporaries of her time, as one of the “original supermodels.” Despite the labeling, Campbell has used her platform to speak out against racial discrimination in the modeling industry.
Sade (January 16, 1959)
Born Helen Folasade Adu, Sade is a British Nigerian singer-songwriter and producer regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. Having influenced artists across all genres of music for decades, Sade, who is famously private, recorder her first new music in seven years this year for the Wrinkle in Time soundtrack.
Rita Marley (July 25, 1946)
Cuban-born Jamaican singer Rita Marley’s legacy extends beyond her music career and that of her late husband, Bob. Marley also established a non-profit to help alleviate poverty among the elderly and youth in developing countries. She has adopted 35 children in Ethiopia and been named an honorary citizen of Ghana as a result of her work in the country, which includes assisting more than 200 children at Konkonuru Methodist School.
Hazel Scott (June 11, 1920 – October 2, 1981)
Classical pianist and singer Hazel Scott was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, before her mother brought her to New York City at the age of 4. By 8, she was recognized as a musical prodigy and awarded a scholarship to Julliard. Thriving as a jazz musician throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Scott became the first Black woman to have a TV show, The Hazel Scott Show, in 1950.
Jennifer Hosten (October 31, 1947)
Named Miss World 1970, Jennifer Hosten became the first woman from Grenada to win the title and the first Black woman overall at the age of 22. Despite the protests, controversy, and accusations of racism that followed her win, Hosten served her post and toured several countries as a diplomat on behalf of her country.