Mother-Daughter Duo's Photo Project Features 5-Year-Old as Iconic Black Women

by Tavia Gilchrist

When Florida mom Chauncia Boyd Rogers noticed her daughter’s elementary school had no events planned to commemorate Black History Month, she took matters into her own hands.

“I was thinking her school would do something because they have events for various other cultural celebration days on the calendar, even obscure holidays,” Chauncia said. Her daughter, Ava Noelle Rogers, 5, attends a diverse school just blocks from Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Her classmates include many Afro-Caribbean, Latino, and European students, but few African-American children. “Maybe it didn’t occur to them to think about it,” Chauncia said. “So I just thought it’s time for me to teach her this myself.”

The result was a remarkable photo essay worthy of any month of the year.

Dressed in red lipstick, jewels, and a red cape with her hair pulled back, Ava poses as billionaire Oprah Winfrey, based on an internet photo her mom found. In another picture, she’s a youthful Michelle Obama, with pouty lips and serious, focused eyes that mimic a side-by-side photo of the first lady.

Chauncia Rogers combined her love of photography with her training as a photojournalist to recreate the portraits. And she used the mother-daughter photo shoots as teachable moments, discussing the each woman’s historical significance with Ava. “She recognized Oprah from movies, but I told her that Oprah is also a humanitarian, a talk show host and a billionaire. That doesn’t mean a lot to her right now,” Chauncia said.

Together, the mother-daughter team have created a “who’s who” list of influential black women in history. In one picture, Ava’s white bonnet, black necklace, and blue shirt transform her into famous enslaved writer Phillis Wheatley. She rocks Angela Davis’ blown-out Afro in another photo, and her facial expression is spot on with Davis’ contemplative glare. In a self-portrait of Josephine Baker, Ava’s shiny black top hat and tux are a dead ringer for the African-American dancer, singer, and activist.

For Ava, it’s a time to dress-up and play with mommy’s makeup. “I like the pictures,” she says, but admits she gets tired after a while and then it’s time to do something else.

This is Chauncia’s reminder to keep the photo shoots fun, light, and creative. Together, Boyd and her daughter use everyday household items, including blankets, shirts, jewelry, and even doilies to recreate the costumes in the pictures. “I didn’t want to take away from her imagination by just buying a lot of things, so I pull from her imagination where she takes things from around the house and gives them other uses,” Chauncia said.

Chauncia Rogers originally planned to compile the photos as part of a calendar for her mother and Ava’s great-grandparents, but the photos have sparked a viral sensation on Chauncia’s Facebook page and her friend’s Twitter accounts. She posts several photos a week and says her friends are constantly messaging her, waiting for the next photo. And the attention seems to grow with each post. “I never thought to ask for exposure,” said Chauncia. “I was just teaching Ava about black history at home.”

View the photos below and tell us what you think!

Ava as Angela Davis, the famed American political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s and was actively involved in the ‪‎Civil Rights Movement.

Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer. She is the wife of the 44th and current President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Josephine Baker was an African-American dancer, singer, and activist. She is considered to be one of the first Black international stars.

Ava as Oprah Winfrey, an African-American media mogul, philanthropist, and one of the richest women in the world.


Ava is featured as Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Carol Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14). The four girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963. The bombing marked a turning point in the ‪Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa in the mid 1700s, enslaved, and transported to the United States, where she was owned by a family in Boston, Mass. The family taught her to read and write and Wheatley was soon recognized for her remarkable intelligence, publishing several volumes of poetry starting at age 13.

Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman is believed to be the first African-American female pilot.

Ava as Misty Copeland, a ballerina with the renowned American Ballet Theatre. She is the company’s third African-American soloist and their first in nearly 20 years.

Mary Eliza Mahoney is believed to be the first African-American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States.

Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author who is best known for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Dominique Dawes is a gymnast who was a 10-year member of the U.S. National Gymnastics team, the 1994 U.S. All-Around Senior National Champion, a three-time Olympian, a World Championships silver medalist and a member of the gold-medal winning "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Ava is Loretta Lynch, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. In 2014, President Obama nominated her to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States. She is awaiting Senate confirmation.

Keija Minor is the first African-American woman to serve as editor-in-chief of Brides magazine. She is also the first African-American to lead any of Condé Nast's 18 consumer magazines in the company’s history.

Edna Lewis was a chef and author best known for her books on traditional Southern cuisine.

Virginia Proctor Powell Florence was a scholar who is believed to be the first Black woman to earn a degree in library science and become a professional librarian.

Patricia Bath is an ophthalmologist, inventor and academic. She holds several patents for medical devices and co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

Ava as Robin Roberts, a television journalist and the current anchor of ABC's morning news show, Good Morning America.

Tyra Banks is a world-famous supermodel, producer, author, actress, and entrepreneur.

Marie V. Brittan Brown was an African-American nurse and inventor who was granted a patent for one of the first home security systems in 1969.

Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz vocalist who sold 40 million copies of her albums during her recording career and received the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was the first African-American woman to win a Grammy and she earned 13 throughout her career.

Ava as Alice Ball, an African-American chemist who developed an injectable oil extract that was the most effective treatment of leprosy until the 1940s. She is believed to be the first woman and first African-American to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a Master's degree.

Ella Baker was an African-American civil and human rights activist who worked alongside some of the most famous civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Marian Wright Edelman is an activist and advocate for the rights of children. She was the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and is president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

Ava as Harriet Tubman, the famed abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and made several missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, using a network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, and sociologist who documented lynching in the United States.

Condoleezza Rice is a political scientist and diplomat who served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. She was also President Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman of any race to serve in that position.

Ava as Fanny Jackson Coppin, an educator and missionary who was born into slavery and granted her freedom at age 12. In 1865, she graduated with a bachelors degree from Oberlin College and she is believed to be the first African-American woman to become a school principal.

Photo credits: Chauncia Boyd Rogers

Tavia Gilchrist an experienced journalist with nearly twenty years of media experience. She spent several years as a reporter at the St. Louis American, an African-American newspaper, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She currently lives in the Washington D.C. area, where she works in trade and business journalism.