women's history month

To commemorate these events, Photo Start is shining the spotlight on three African-American, female photographers who led the way for women and for black people during times that had obstacles for both. 


Florestine Perrault Collins (1895-1988)


Collins broke many barriers, becoming a successful photographer and small business owner in New Orleans in the 1920s! Her first studio was in her living room, and by the early ‘30s, she moved to a prime location downtown. Collins was known for her dignified portraits and photographs of weddings and other family events. 


Learn more about Florestine Perrault Collins


Vera Jackson (1912-1999)


In the 1930s and ‘40s, Jackson was a photojournalist in Los Angeles, known for her evocative storytelling. After studying photography in a locally sponsored program and working as a photographer’s assistant, she landed her first job at the California Eagle, an African-American newspaper. Jackson earned a Masters in Education in 1954 from the University of Southern California and became a teacher. She continued working as a photographer documenting the civil rights movement and celebrity culture. Her famous portrait subjects included Jackie Robinson, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, and Hattie McDaniel.


Learn more about Vera Jackson here and here


Elizabeth “Tex” Williams (1924-present)


Williams joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1944 with the goal of becoming a photographer. She was one of the few African-Americans accepted into the Army’s training program for photographers. Since the military was racially segregated, Williams had unique access to African-American soldiers, documenting their daily life. She was also the only woman flying on Army-Air Force maneuvers. After the war, she became the first black person and first woman to graduate from the Army Signal Corps School in New Jersey, and graduated at the top of her photography class. Williams made a career of the Army, providing photography for air and ground maneuvers, medical procedures, and defense intelligence until her retirement in 1970.


Learn more about Elizabeth “Tex” Williams


These women followed their passions and found success despite systems stacked against them. They led the way for women and for African Americans to follow their dreams of working in photography.


How can you be the leader for the girls and young women in your life? You can set an example by speaking up when you witness sexism or harassment, by supporting women-owned businesses, by volunteering, and by voting. Check out UN Women for more actions you can take. 


You can also support Photo Start programs at Akili Dada. Based in Nairobi, Akili Dada’s mission is to nurture transformative leadership in girls and young women from underserved backgrounds to meet the urgent need for more African women in leadership. Go to our #be_the_light campaign page, select “Dedicate This Gift” and write in “Akili Dada”. 


And lastly, right now you can share this post and in so doing share these fabulous women’s stories with your network. 


Working together, we can lead our Students into a brighter future. 


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