SENECA FALLS, N.Y. – “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin and Nobel laureate and “Beloved” author Toni Morrison will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame Thursday as part of a posthumous class of Black honorees that also includes Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were widely used in biomedical research; Barbara Hillary, the first Black woman to travel to both the North and South Poles, and civil rights activists Barbara Rose Johns Powell and Mary Church Terrell.
The evening ceremony will be the first in a series of planned virtual inductions meant to correct a lack of diversity among honorees, hall officials said in a news release.
“In order to openly acknowledge and amend the disparities within the nomination pool, the virtual induction series will recognize and induct other marginalized women of achievement including those from the Latinx, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ+ sisterhoods, as well as additional Black women,” it said.
The National Women's Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 in Seneca Falls, the site of the first women’s rights convention.
Franklin had dozens of hits over a half-century and her signature song, “Respect,” has stood as a cultural icon. She won 18 Grammy awards and, in 1987, became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit in 2018. She was 76.
Morrison helped raise American multiculturalism to the world stage. She was nearly 40 when her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” was published. After just six novels, Morrison in 1993 became the first Black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, earning praise from the Swedish academy for her “visionary force.”
In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Morrison a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was 88 years old when she died last year.