Black Women’s History 40 Question Challenge

As Black History Month (February) comes to an end, and Women’s History Month (March) is about to begin let’s check our knowledge of Black and Women’s History!

Created by Margaret Zierdt, National Women’s History Project Board Member

  1. Who was head of National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her work for social equality?
  2. Who was an advocate for civil rights, a fund raiser for NAACP, and the first black person to sign a long-term Hollywood contract in 1942?
  3. Who was member of Harlem Renaissance, an anthropologist, and author of many books, including “Their Eyes Were Watching God”?
  4. Who was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field – in the 1960 Olympics for the 100 and 200 meters and the 400 meter relay?
  5. Who was denied permission to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) auditorium because of her race in 1939, but later became the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955?
  6. Who is the dancer, singer, actor, fund raiser, author, and poet who read a specially-composed poem at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993?
  7. Who was a nightclub and cabaret idol of Paris in the 1920’s and a freedom fighter during World War II?
  8. What black woman chemist developed an extract from the Awa Root which relieved leprosy symptoms when injected and which was widely used until sulfa drugs were invented in the 1940’s?
  9. Who was a civil rights activist and President of the Arkansas NAACP who advised the nine high school students who integrated the Little Rock public schools in 1957?
  10. Who founded the college that became the Bethune-Cookman University in Florida and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935?
  11. Who was the first black female newspaper publisher and editor in North America (in Ontario, Canada), and the first black woman to enroll in law school ( Howard University)?
  12. Who was the first black woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license, and was a barnstorming aviator who performed daredevil tricks?
  13. Who was the first black Congresswoman, beginning in 1968; and who in 1972 ran for President and won 151 delegates at the Democratic Convention?
  14. Who was America’s first great black choreographer, dancer, and teacher who formed the first black dance troupe in the 1940’s?
  15. Who founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973, a group focusing on helping millions of children living in poverty?
  16. Who was first black woman to win a tennis championship at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open?
  17. Who was the first black woman to write a Broadway play (1959) which was made into a movie (1961), “A Raisin in the Sun”?
  18. Who was the first black concert pianist to play with a European orchestra in 1904?
  19. Who was first woman of color to go into space on the shuttle Endeavor in 1992?
  20. Who was the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet – as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter in 1977, and then served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1979?
  21. Who was the first woman bank president in America?
  22. What slave named Isabella became a fiery orator supporting anit-slavery and woman suffrage after gaining her freedom?
  23. Who is considered the first black woman journalist who advocated for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery?
  24. Who was an award-winning poet who penned “For My People” in 1942, and a novelist who wrote “Jubilee” in 1966?
  25. Who was the black educator who founded the National Training School for Girls about 1909 in Washington, D.C. which was re-named in her honor after her death?
  26. What woman was the first African-American in New England to serve as Master of a public high school which position she held for 40 years?
  27. Who was the first black woman lawyer in the U.S. and the first woman admitted to the District of Columbia bar (1872)?
  28. Who won the 2-day, seven-event heptathlon competition at the Goodwill Games in July, 1986 and won a gold medal in the heptathlon at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992?
  29. What educator was the fourth African American woman to earn a doctoral degree (from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1924)?
  30. Who was first African-American woman to earn a BA degree in United States – from Oberlin College in 1862?
  31. Who was the first black president of an Ivy League University and the first female president of Brown University?
  32. What abstract painter was the first fine arts student to graduate from Howard University, and the first woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City?
  33. What female athlete is considered “the fastest woman of all time” and set the record for the 100 and 200 meters in 1988?
  34. Who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and secured the freedom of at least 300 enslaved people, making 19 trips into the South over 10 years, and served as a spy and scout for the Union Army?
  35. Who helped black artists and disadvantaged children while winning 13 Grammys and being honored as the “First Lady of Song”?
  36. What anthropology professor became the first African-American woman president of Spelman College in 1987?
  37. What actress appeared in “Gone With the Wind,” received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1975, and won an Emmy for her role on television in 1979?
  38. Who became a self-made millionaire philanthropist after creating a hair product sold house-to-house, and later held what may be the first national meeting of businesswomen in the U.S. in 1917?
  39. Who was the first African-American woman to become an ordained minister, a lawyer who helped found the first legal periodical about women’s rights, and co-founded the National Organization of Women?
  40. What African-American woman was born enslaved, gained her freedom in 1856, became a entrepreneur and philanthropist, and co-founded the first black church in Los Angeles?


  1. Dorothy Height (1912 – 2010)
  2. Lena Horne (1917 – 2010)
  3. Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960)
  4. Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940 – 1994)
  5. Marian Anderson (1897 – 1993)
  6. Maya Angelou (1928)
  7. Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
  8. Alice Ball (1892- 1916)
  9. Daisy Lee May Bates (1914 – 1999)
  10. Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955)
  11. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823 – 1893)
  12. Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1926)
  13. Shirley Chisholm 1924 – 2005)
  14. Katherine Dunham (1909 – 2006)
  15. Marian Wright Edelman (1939)
  16. Althea Gibson ( 1927 – 2003)
  17. Lorraine Hansberry (1930 – 1965)
  18. Hazel Harrison (1883 – 1969)
  19. Dr. Mae Jemison (1956)
  20. Patricia Roberts Harris (1924 – 1985)
  21. Maggie Lena Walker (1867- 1934)
  22. Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – 1883)
  23. Maria Stewart (1803 – 1879)
  24. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander (1915 – 1998)
  25. Nannie Burroughs (1879 – 1961)
  26. Maria Louise Baldwin (1856 – 1922)
  27. Charlotte Ray (1850 – 1911)
  28. Jacqueline “Jackie” Joyner Kersee (1962)
  29. Anna Cooper (1858 or 59 – 1964)
  30. Mary Jane Patterson (1840 – 1894)
  31. Ruth Jean Simmons (1945)
  32. Alma Thomas (1891 – 1978)
  33. Delorez Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner (1959 – 1998)
  34. Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross, c.1822 – 1913)
  35. Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996)
  36. Johnnetta Cole (1936)
  37. The lma “Butterfly” McQueen (1911 – 1995)
  38. Madam C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919)
  39. Pauli Murray (1910 – 1985)
  40. Biddy Mason (1818 – 1891)

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