03/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

10 African American Women Who Changed the World

Black History Month dates back to 1976, when "Negro History Week" was extended to the month of February. That year doesn't seem so long ago, but when we stop to consider where we are in 2009, it's shocking to see how far we've come. Along with celebrating black history, we're also celebrating the fact that the NAACP will celebrate its 100th anniversary on February 12. We're rejoicing that a man of color now occupies the most powerful position in the country. It might seem like social change happens slowly, but witnessing such momentous events in our lifetime makes its occurrence undeniable.

Though Obama's election ignited a nation with optimism, it is just as inspirational that a woman came so close to the presidency. We have much to be grateful for this month, and it seems essential to recognize the achievements of some of the African American women whose pioneering efforts made this groundbreaking election possible.

1. Sojourner Truth
Sojourner was born into slavery with the name Isabella Baumfree. She changed her name after escaping from her owner and became a Christian preacher while living with a family in New York. After the state's Emancipation Act was passed, she became a vehement and vocal supporter of abolition and women's rights. She traveled the country giving speeches, including a famous one entitled Ain't I a Woman? that emphasized the strength and power of women and the need for equality between the sexes.