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18 Black Women Breaking Boundaries In The 21st Century

The sky's the limit.

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1. Ezola Foster

In 2000, Foster, who grew up in the segregated South, became the first black woman to be nominated for vice president by a Federal Election Commision-recognized and federally funded party.
Scott Nelson / Getty Images

In 2000, Foster, who grew up in the segregated South, became the first black woman to be nominated for vice president by a Federal Election Commision-recognized and federally funded party.

2. Ruth Simmons

Simmons, formerly the president of Smith College, became the first black woman to head an Ivy League university when she became the 18th president of Brown in 2001. She resigned in 2012.
Kris Connor / Getty Images

Simmons, formerly the president of Smith College, became the first black woman to head an Ivy League university when she became the 18th president of Brown in 2001. She resigned in 2012.

3. Condoleezza Rice

In 2001, Rice became the first black woman to serve as the U.S. national security adviser. She then became the first black woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state in 2005.
Rob Kim / Getty Images

In 2001, Rice became the first black woman to serve as the U.S. national security adviser. She then became the first black woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state in 2005.

4. Vonetta Flowers

Not only was Flowers the first of her family to attend college, she was also the University of Alabama at Birmingham's first seven-time All-American. Her athletic skills would eventually lead to a gold medal in bobsledding at the Winter Olympics in 2002, making her the first black woman to earn one.
Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

Not only was Flowers the first of her family to attend college, she was also the University of Alabama at Birmingham's first seven-time All-American. Her athletic skills would eventually lead to a gold medal in bobsledding at the Winter Olympics in 2002, making her the first black woman to earn one.

5. Venus Williams

Venus and her sister Serena, also on this list, are legends in the tennis world. In 2002, Venus became the first black woman to hold the No. 1 rank in tennis.
William West / Getty Images

Venus and her sister Serena, also on this list, are legends in the tennis world. In 2002, Venus became the first black woman to hold the No. 1 rank in tennis.

6. Serena Williams

Serena Williams is the only female player to have won over $60 million in prize money and also has numerous wins and titles under her belt. In 2002 took the number one spot from her sister and became the first black woman to hold the year-end No. 1 rank in tennis.
Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Serena Williams is the only female player to have won over $60 million in prize money and also has numerous wins and titles under her belt. In 2002 took the number one spot from her sister and became the first black woman to hold the year-end No. 1 rank in tennis.

7. Halle Berry

Halle Berry kicked off 2002 by becoming the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball.
Timothy A. Clary / Getty Images

Halle Berry kicked off 2002 by becoming the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball.

8. Phylicia Rashad

In 2004, Phylicia Rashad made Broadway history when she became the first black woman to win a Tony for Best Actress in a play for her role in Raisin In The Sun.
Brad Barket / Getty Images

In 2004, Phylicia Rashad made Broadway history when she became the first black woman to win a Tony for Best Actress in a play for her role in Raisin In The Sun.

9. Cheryl Boone Issacs

While diversity in Hollywood remains a big problem, progress is slowly being made. In 2013, Isaacs was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making her the third woman and first African-American to hold the position.
Mark Ralston / Getty Images

While diversity in Hollywood remains a big problem, progress is slowly being made. In 2013, Isaacs was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making her the third woman and first African-American to hold the position.

10. Ava DuVernay

For her critically acclaimed film Selma, DuVernay received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. It marked the first time in history a black woman had been nominated for the award.
Adrian Sanchez-gonzalez / Getty Images

For her critically acclaimed film Selma, DuVernay received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. It marked the first time in history a black woman had been nominated for the award.

11. Beyoncé

In 2001, Queen Bey became the second woman and first black female artist to win an ASCAP award for Pop Songwriter of The Year. And, as we all know, she continues to wow us today.
Joe Klamar / Getty Images

In 2001, Queen Bey became the second woman and first black female artist to win an ASCAP award for Pop Songwriter of The Year. And, as we all know, she continues to wow us today.

12. Princess Tiana

Disney finally wised up in 2009 and created its first black princess, giving millions of little girls everywhere the opportunity to see a princess that looked like them onscreen.
Disney / princess.disney.com

Disney finally wised up in 2009 and created its first black princess, giving millions of little girls everywhere the opportunity to see a princess that looked like them onscreen.

13. Vernice Armour

In 2002, Vernice Arnour became the first black woman to become a female combat pilot. Her hard work pushed her from beat cop to combat pilot in just three years.
prsa.org

In 2002, Vernice Arnour became the first black woman to become a female combat pilot. Her hard work pushed her from beat cop to combat pilot in just three years.

14. Sophia Danenberg

Sophia Danenberg accomplished an awesome feat at 7 a.m. on May 19, 2006, when she sat atop Mount Everest.
expeditiondenali.nols.edu

Sophia Danenberg accomplished an awesome feat at 7 a.m. on May 19, 2006, when she sat atop Mount Everest.

15. Barbara Hillary

Hillary, a retired nurse and lung cancer survivor who was raised in Harlem, became the first black woman to reach the North Pole at the age of 75 in 2006.
greenspirations.wordpress.com

Hillary, a retired nurse and lung cancer survivor who was raised in Harlem, became the first black woman to reach the North Pole at the age of 75 in 2006.

16. Sheila C. Johnson

Co-founder of BET, the first black woman to have stakes in three professional sports teams, and vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson became the first female billionaire in 2001, along with her then-husband Robert Johnson. She may no longer be a billionaire, but she is still ranked the seventh-richest African-American in the U.S. and is second only to Oprah among black women.
Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Co-founder of BET, the first black woman to have stakes in three professional sports teams, and vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson became the first female billionaire in 2001, along with her then-husband Robert Johnson. She may no longer be a billionaire, but she is still ranked the seventh-richest African-American in the U.S. and is second only to Oprah among black women.

17. Nicki Minaj

Not only does Nicki Minaj empower women, but she makes history. She became the most charted female rapper in history when her song "Only" reached No. 1 on the R&B/hip-hop chart.
Theo Wargo

Not only does Nicki Minaj empower women, but she makes history. She became the most charted female rapper in history when her song "Only" reached No. 1 on the R&B/hip-hop chart.

18. Lupita Nyong'o

Some of you may not know that Nyong'o made history when she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The star was the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to ever win the award.
Andrew Goodman / Getty Images

Some of you may not know that Nyong'o made history when she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The star was the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to ever win the award.

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