Throughout history, Black women are often overlooked and undervalued despite their education, status or contributions. The following examples are some trailblazing Black women who have set the standards and paved the way at the University of Alabama.
“Not enough Black students know about great Black women who have come and done amazing things in their lives. They are never talked about, and other young Black women need to know that greatness can come from anywhere. We need that spark of inspiration and drive that says we are more than just our stereotypes,” said Pearl Hargray, a junior majoring in accounting.
In 1965, Vivian Malone Jones became the first Black graduate from the university. Her enrollment with the university resulted in the infamous stand in the schoolhouse door from George Wallace. After receiving her degree she moved to Washington D.C. and joined the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice where she worked as a research analyst. In 1977, she became the executive director of the Voter Education Project. In 2000, she received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from UA.
Dianne Kirksey-Floyd was an actress, playwright, director and pioneer that enrolled in 1967. During her time on-campus she created a legacy that follows her today. She founded the Black Student Union at UA. She was the first Black Bama Belle and the first Black woman to appear on the homecoming court. She was also the first Black woman to be an officer of the Associated Women’s Students organization.
Lena Prewitt became the first Black professor at the university in 1970 for the Culverhouse College of Business before her retirement. She is also responsible for being the only Black person to work with Wernher von Braun at NASA for the Saturn V project.
Laci Jordan graduated from the university with two degrees, one in criminal justice and the other in design. She has had her art commissioned by various brands such as Disney, Nike, Ulta Beauty and New York Times to name a few.
Sonequa Martin-Green is another UA alumna who received a degree in theatre. Throughout the years she has appeared in high-profile shows and movies. She has also been featured in The Walking Dead and Star Trek: The Discovery. Her appearance in Star Trek made her the first Black woman to lead the Star Trek cast. She also voiced a character for the 2021 movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy.
“I’ve heard of Sonequa Martin-Green from watching The Walking Dead and the preview for Star Trek: The Discovery, but I never knew she was an alumna and I find that very sad because I admire that woman,” said Hargray.
“In a predominantly white institution, it is important to not just spotlight but also acknowledge Black women’s contributions since many of us are overlooked or have to work twice as hard in these spaces. This ensures that the hard work that has been put in is appreciated,” said Jayla Carr, a junior majoring in political science.
It’s important that we acknowledge these amazing Black women so other students will know the lasting impact they had on the university and in their career fields. The university uses the phrase “Where Legends are Made” and these courageous women are proof of that statement.