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5 Times Kerry Washington Dressed as Female Trailblazers for Black History Month

"Black HERstory" is Washington's opportunity to celebrate and honor Black women in February and all-year round.

From Olivia Pope in Scandal to Mia Warren in Little Fires Everywhere, Kerry Washington knows a thing or two about committing to the role. Every year, the actor, producer, and activist dresses up as female trailblazers for Black History Month, much to the joy and gratitude of her fans and fellow celebs. (Drew Barrymore has liked several posts in the series, and Chelsea Handler commented on one: “You can do this.”)

Black HERstory,” as Washington and other activists call it, is an opportunity to celebrate and honor Black women who have shaped American history, and whose stories often go unheard. It’s also a way to shine light on “more than just slavery and Jim Crow,” as Washington explains. Below, check out five trailblazing figures Washington honored this year and in past years with her memorable transformations.

1: Debi Thomas

This year, Washington started off Black HERstory with a look inspired by Debi Thomas, the first African American to win a medal in the winter Olympics. “I remember watching her dance across the rink and being in awe of her strength, beauty, talent, and grace. And her costumes were 🔥🔥🔥,” Washington wrote in the caption.

Thomas earned a bronze medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics and another bronze at the 1988 World Championships before retiring. From there, she returned to school, graduating from Stanford in 1991, then earning her medical degree at Northwestern Medical School in 1997. After her residency, she began practicing orthopedic surgery.

2: Beverly Johnson

Last year, Washington started off Black History Month with a post dedicated to Beverly Johnson, who in 1974, became the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Magazine. “She showed little Black girls, the fashion industry, and the WORLD that Black is beautiful and powerful,” Washington writes. “Forever grateful to Ms. Beverly and to all of the Black models of this era that changed the game.”

In addition to working as a model, Johnson has also worked as an actor, singer, advocate, business woman, and author. The now 70-year-old is the founder and CEO of Beverly Johnson Enterprises, a fashion and lifestyle brand. She also became a New York Times Bestselling Author with her memoir, The Face That Changed It All, in 2015.

3: Pam Grier

On the last day of Black History Month in 2022, Washington honored Pam Grier, the American actor and singer. Grier got her start in Blaxploitation films — films predominantly made by Black crews for Black audiences — many of which gained worldwide recognition. She is best known for playing Foxy Brown in Jack Hill’s 1974 Foxy Brown, and Jackie Brown in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 Jackie Brown.

“She proved that Black women, and ALL women on film, could be strong, tenacious, and crazy-sexy at the same time,” Washington wrote in the caption. “The first time I saw Jackie Brown, I was in delighted awe. Grier brought electric subversive complexity and brilliance to that role, at [a] time when women’s roles (especially in action movies) were either non-existent or extremely stereotypical. She’s a true queen of her craft and I’m so honored to celebrate her in this way!”

4: Maritza Correia

As Washington states, Black HERstory is an all-year celebration — not just a month-long one. With this in mind, Washington shared another Black HERstory post last August. It was in honor of Maritza Correia McClendon, the first Black female swimmer to make the US Olympic Swim team, set a swimming record, and win an Olympic medal.

“I remember seeing Maritza stand up on that podium in 2004 and being in awe of her talent, power, and grace,” Washington wrote. “Growing up as an Afro-Latina swimmer, Maritza lacked an idol in the sport who looked like her. She was often the only Black girl in the pool. But she was determined, she worked hard, and she became the idol she had always dreamed to see. She’s inspired a generation of Black and Brown swimmers, and inspires me as well.”

5: Rosa Parks

American US history classes always cover Rosa Parks, but perhaps not in the way Washington did last year. “A lot of people think that Rosa’s activism started with her refusing to give up her seat on the bus,” Washington began. “But she lived a life of activism long before that. Fighting, boycotting, marching, and even working as an investigator for the NAACP, advocating against sexual assaults on Black women. It was Rosa Park’s act of civil disobedience on that bus that sparked a revolution. She took that seat in order to take a stand. That seat on the bus was her fighting stance — and so we continue the fight today, in whatever way we can.”

After the Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation was unconstitutional, Parks moved to Detroit to avoid the continued harassment she faced in Montgomery. It was there that she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to serve Detroit’s youth in 1987. In 1999, Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the United States presents to civilians. When she died at 92 years old in 2005, she became the first woman to lie in honor at the US Capitol.

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