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Long before we had the regal Lupita Nyong’o, we had the radiant Alek Wek, and before queen Beyonce was slaying the stage, there was of course, the indomitable Tina Turner.

For decades, before some of our favorite celebs were even born, there were powerhouse women, women brave enough to tackle racism and sexism while breaking barriers in music, film, sports, and politics. Shirley Chisholm, Teresa Graves and Althea Gibson – just to name a few – were some of the African-American women who showed that raw, authentic talent tramples prejudice any day.

In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a gallery of some of the fierce ladies who paved the way for our favorite stars today.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

Because Of Them We Can: Women Who Paved The Way
Photo of Grace JONES
20 photos