Septimia Octavilla, A.D. 160

Septimia Octavilla was born in present-day Libya, the daughter of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia, and the sister of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. She was Italian on her mother’s side and North African on her father’s. Little is known about her life.

Philippa of Hainault, 1335

Philippa was born in 1314, the daughter of Count William I and Countess Joan of Hainault, in modern-day Belgium. Her precise racial heritage is unknown, but it has been suggested that she had Moorish ancestry. According to a description given by a contemporary, “Her eyes are blackish brown and deep. Her nose is fairly smooth and even, save that it is somewhat broad at the tip and flattened…Her nostrils are also broad, her mouth fairly wide…Moreover, she is brown of skin all over…” In 1330, Philippa married King Edward III of England, where she ruled for 39 years as a much beloved queen.

Simonetta da Collevecchio, 1510

Simonetta was a servant of African descent who served in the household of the ruling Florentine family, the Medici. In 1510 she gave birth to Alessandro de’ Medici, commonly assumed to be the son of the Medici patriarch Lorenzo II. Alessandro, known as the Moor, ruled Florence from 1531 to 1537.

Jacquotte Delahaye, 1650

Jacquotte was born in Haiti to a French father and a Haitian mother. Her mother died giving birth to Jacquotte’s brother, and her father died while she was still young. In order to support her brother, who suffered from mental disabilities, Jacquotte took to piracy. At one point she was forced to fake her own death and live in disguise as a man. When she eventually discarded the disguise, she became known as Back From the Dead Red due to the color of her hair.

Marie-Alexandrine Dumas, 1810

Marie-Alexandrine Dumas was the daughter of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a commander-in-chief in the French army under Napoleon and the highest-ranking military officer of African descent who has ever served in a European army. Marie’s brother, Alexandre Dumas, was the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.