Over the past hundred years, women have slowly become more powerful and successful due to feminist movements. In the early 1900s, first-wave feminism resulted in equality in property rights, and most importantly, woman’s right to vote in 1920. But in the 1960s, second-wave feminism, or woman’s liberation, focused on many key issues like gender inequality in the workplace and reproductive rights. Music has also played an important role by inspiring and encouraging women to take a stand for what they believe in. Here are some of the most influential songs from the woman’s liberation era to now that have helped shape black women into the powerful females they have become.
“Respect”- Aretha Franklin
Considered one of the best songs of the R&B era, this song served as a woman’s plea for respect and recognition at the height of the woman’s liberation movement.
Notable history moments: The FDA approves the oral contraceptive pill and it’s made available in 1991; the Equal Pay Act establishes equal pay for women and men doing equal work; Constance Baker Motley elected first black federal judge; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans employment discrimination based on race, gender and more; Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black congresswoman
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”- Diana Ross
This song represented how no obstacle would stand in a woman’s way of getting what she wanted, and certainly, deserved.
Notable history moments: Woman’s Equality Day was designated as August 26 of every year; the Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced in Congress; Cheryl Brown becomes the first black contestant in the Miss America pageant; Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black and second woman to run for President; the first battered woman’s shelter opens in Urbana, IL; Mary Bush Wilson becomes the first black board chair of the NAACP; Barbara Jordan becomes the first woman and first black to give the keynote address at a national convention for the Democratic party; for the first time in U.S. history, more women than men enter college in 1978
“She Works Hard for the Money”- Donna Summer
This music video for this song debuted on MTV, and became the first video by a Black artist to get heavy rotation by the music channel. In the video, a group of women in work uniforms dance in the streets to signify their independence. This song and video symbolized how the hard work that women had put in was finally starting to pay off.
Notable history moments: President Jimmy Carter declares March 8 as International Woman’s Day; Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman elected to the US Supreme Court; 22 states add Equal Rights Amendments to their state constitutions; opportunities arise for women to become lawyers, doctors, scientists, politicians, astronauts and more
“Not Gon Cry”- Mary J. Blige
The 1990s marked the beginning of third-wave feminism which encouraged women to define feminism for themselves and incorporate their own identities into the belief system. Blige’s song, “Not Gon’ Cry” represented a newly-defined woman who wasn’t going to let a man (especially his cheating ways) bring her down.
Notable history moments: Alice Walker becomes the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and Toni Morrison becomes the first black to win the Nobel Prize for literature; Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America; the first female Attorney General and Secretary of State are elected; Hillary Clinton became the first US First Lady with an independent political and activist career separate from her husband, former president Bill Clinton; Carrie Saxon Perry becomes the first black female mayor of a large American city (Hartford, CT); Oprah Winfrey becomes the first black to host of a nationally-syndicated talk show and founded Harpo Productions
“Independent Woman”- Destiny’s Child
This chart-topping hit by Destiny’s Child symbolized the millennium woman who had proven herself to the world that she could be an independent power force.
Notable history moments: Astronaut Mae Jemison becomes the first black woman in space; Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first black woman elected to the US Senate; Joycelyn Elders becomes the first black and first female US Surgeon General; Condoleeza Rice becomes the first black woman to be named Secretary of State; Supreme Court upheld affirmative action held in university admissions; Ruth Simmons became the first black president of an Ivy League university (Brown University)
“Moment 4 Life”- Nicki Minaj
Overnight star Nicki Minaj tells her story of chasing and living out her dream on her biggest single to-date. This song signifies that every woman can fulfill her dream if she never gives up.
Notable history moments: The first black US First Lady Michelle Obama announces her campaign, Let’s Move, to end childhood obesity
—— By: Crystal Tate