Information

Important and Famous African Americans


Name

Claim to Fame

Lifespan

Summary

Benjamin Banneker

Astronomer, clockmaker, publisher

1731-1806

Was able to make the calculations to predict solar and lunar eclipses and to compile an ephemeris for the Benjamin Banneker`s Almanac.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable

First resident of Chicago

1745-1813

du Sable built his first house in the 1770s, 30 years before Fort Dearborn was established on the banks of the Chicago River.

Phillis Wheatley

Poet

1753-1784

One of the first African-American poets whose works were published.

The Reverend Richard Allen

Religious leader

1760-1831

In 1816, founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadelphia.

Peter Spencer

Religious leader

1760-1831

Founder of the first independent black Christian denomination in the U.S., the A.U.M.P. Church.

Sojourner Truth

1797-1883

A.K.A. Isabella Baumfree; noted speaker for both the abolitionist movement and the women`s rights movement.

1800s

Rebellion leader

1800-1831

In 1831, led failed slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia; the most remarkable instance of black resistance to enslavement.

Norbert Rilleaux

Inventor and engineer

1806-1894

Most noted for inventing the multiple-effect evaporator, an energy-efficient means of evaporating water.

Martin Delany

Abolitionist

1812-1885

First African-American field officer in the United States Army.

Abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman, reformer

1818-1895

"Sage of Anacostia;" among the most prominent and influential African-American lecturers and authors in U.S. history.

Writer, abolitionist

1820-1913

As an abolitionist, she acted as intelligence gatherer, refugee organizer, raid leader, nurse, revival speaker, and fund raiser.

Frances Harper

Poet, novelist, lecturer, activist

1754-1832

Was also a strong supporter of Prohibition and woman`s suffrage.

Harriet Wilson

Novelist

1825-1900

First African American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent.

William H. Carney

Civil War hero

1842-1908

Sgt. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Elijah McCoy

Inventor

1844-1929

Invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc.

George Washington Buckner

Physician and diplomat

1885-1943

First African American to serve as diplomatic minister to a foreign country.

George Washington Johnson

Pioneer recording artist

1855-1914

Famous for whistling and singing "The Whistling Coon" and "The Laughing Coon."

Political leader, educator, author

1856-1915

One of the dominant figures in African-American history from 1890 to 1915; did much to improve the friendship and working relationship between the races.

Plant scientist

1860-1943

Taught former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency; known for suggesting hundreds of uses for the peanut, other plants.

Madame C.J. Walker

First woman millionaire

1867-1919

A.K.A. Sarah Breedlove; founded the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics.

Civil rights activist, sociologist, historian, writer, editor, poet, freemason, scholar.

1868-1963

"Father of Pan-Africanism" with issues of segregation, political disenfranchisement. Believed that people of African descent should work together to battle prejudice, inequality.

Ragtime composer

ca 1867-1917

Most famous piece was Maple Leaf Rag, set standard for ragtime genre.

James W. Johnson

Author, poet, folklorist, civil rights leader

ca 1871-1938

Prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance; works included The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912).

Paul L. Dunbar

Poet

1872-1906

Gained national recognition for his 1896 Lyrics of a Lowly Life.

W.C. Handy

Blues composer

1873-1958

Known as "The Father of the Blues."

Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

General

1877-1970

First African-American general in the U.S. Army.

Jack Johnson

Pugilist

1878-1946

First black heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

George Herriman

Cartoonist

1880-1944

Best known for his comic strip Krazy Kat.

Eubie Blake

Composer and musician

1883-1983

Shuffle Along (with Noble Sissle), in 1921, was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans.

Arthur W. Mitchell

Politician

1883-1968

First black Congressman from the Democratic Party.

Mamie Smith

Vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist, actress, blues singer.

1883-1946

First African American to make vocal blues recordings, in 1920.

Marcus Garvey

Publisher, journalist, entrepreneur

1887-1940

Best remembered as a champion of the "Back-to-Africa" movement.

Bessie Coleman

Pilot

1892-1926

First black licensed pilot in the world.

Ethel Waters

Blues, gospel vocalist

1892-1977

Successful in a number of styles; member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Negro Leagues star

1896-1954

Some consider him to be the best all-around ball player the Negro Leagues ever produced.

Opera, concert singer

1897-1993

Contralto, best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Jazz composer, musician, bandleader

1899-1974

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973.

Oliver Law

Communist, labor organizer, social activist

1899-1937

Fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

1900s

Jazz trumpeter

1901-1971

Was a charismatic, innovative performer with musical skill; bright personality transformed jazz into a popular art form.

Langston Hughes

Poet, novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist

1902-1967

Particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Negro Leagues star

1903-1991

Considered by many baseball observers to have been the fastest man ever to play the game; "So fast he can turn off the light and be in bed before the room gets dark!" (Satchel Paige)

Count Basie

Jazz pianist, organist, bandleader

1904-1984

One O`Clock Jump and Jumpin` at the Woodside were among his more popular numbers.

Ralph Bunche

Diplomat; Nobel laureate, 1950

1904-1971

Was the first African American, and first individual of non-European ethnicity or race, to be so honored in the history of the prize.

Negro Leagues star

1905?-1982

Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues; career highlights span five decades; legendary showman.

Negro Leagues star

1907-1997

First baseman; called the "Black Lou Gehrig" as a result of hitting prowess, defensive position.

Jurist

1908-1993

First African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Josh Gibson

Negro Leagues star

1911-1947

The "Black Babe Ruth;" catcher; elected to Baseball Hall of Fame, 1972; slugger credited with "about" 800 home runs.

Track and field athlete

1913-1980

Won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, embarrassing German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Civil rights activist, seamstress

1913-2005

Dubbed the "Mother of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement."

Emmett Ashford

Umpire

1914-1980

First African-American umpire in Major League Baseball.

Joe Louis

Pugilist

1914-1981

A.K.A. the "Brown Bomber;" heavyweight boxing champion.

Blues musician

1915-1983

Considered "The Father of Chicago Blues."

Jazz singer

1918-1996

The "First Lady of Song;" winner of 13 Grammy awards.

^Edward Brooke III

Politician

1919-

First African American elected to the U.S. Senate.

Athlete

1919-1972

First African American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

Goose Tatum

Harlem Globetrotters

1921-1967

Considered to be the original "clown prince" of the Trotters.

James Baldwin

Novelist, short story writer, essayist

1924-1987

Known for his novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain.

Politician, educator, author

1924-2005

First African-American woman elected to Congress.

Sammy Davis Jr.

Entertainer

1925-1990

Was a dancer, singer, multi-instrumentalist (vibraphone, trumpet, drums); impressionist, comedian, actor.

Medgar Evers

Civil rights activist

1925-1963

Instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi.

Civil rights leader

1925-1965

A.K.A. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; one-time Nation of Islam leader.

Miles Davis

Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer

1926-1991

Was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz after World War II.

Althea Gibson

Sportswoman

1927-2003

First African-American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour.

Activist

1927-2006

Widow of the slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.; noted community leader in her own right.

Poet, memoirist, actress, civil rights activist

1928-

Best known for her autobiographical writings I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969); All God`s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).

Bo Diddley

Rock and roll singer, songwriter, guitarist

1928-

Best known for the "Bo Diddley beat", a rhumba-based beat.

Civil rights activist, minister, Nobel laureate

1929-1968

Won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom before assassination in 1968; known for advocating non-violence, racial equality; peacemaker, martyr.

Ray Charles

Pop musician

1930-2004

Brought soulful sound to everything from country music to pop standards to now-iconic rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Major League Baseball

1931-

"The Say Hey Kid," played center field; Hall of Famer; regarded as one of the finest players ever to have played the game.

Toni Morrison

Author, Nobel laureate

1931-

Instrumental in bringing recognition to the genre of African-American literature.

Louis Farrakhan

Nation of Islam leader

1933-

Controversial quote, "Hitler was a very great man;" in response to a Jewish journalist referring to him as a "Black Hitler."

Major League Baseball

1934-

Hall of Famer; holds career mark for home runs, RBIs, other records.

Bill Russell

Basketball

1934-

Considered the greatest defensive center to ever play the game.

Eldridge Cleaver

Civil rights activist

1935-1998

Prominent member of the Black Panther party; author of Soul on Ice.

Bob Gibson

Major League Baseball

1935-

Hall of Fame pitcher; voted to the all-20th-century team.

Meadowlark Lemon

Harlem Globetrotters

1935-

Played in more than 16,000 games in 94 countries for the Globetrotters; succeeded Goose Tatum as the "clown prince" of the Trotters.

Frank Robinson

Major League Baseball

1935-

First player to win MVP awards in both National, American leagues.

Jim Brown

Football, actor, activist

1936-

College All-American in football, lacrosse; Pro Football Hall of Fame running back.

Wilt Chamberlain

Basketball

1936-1999

The "Big Dipper;" regarded as one of the most dominant basketball players of all time.

Bill Cosby

Entertainer, actor, comic, educator, television producer, philanthropist.

1937-

TV entertainer known for roles in I Spy, The Bill Cosby Show, others.

Colin Powell

U.S. Army general, statesman

1937-

Highest ranking African-American government official in history.

"Queen of Rock"

1939-

Kennedy Center Honors recipient, most known for her frenetic interpretation of "Proud Mary" by Credence Clearwater Revival.

Ron Brown

Politician

1941-1996

Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, becoming the first African American to lead a major American political party.

Jessie Jackson

Politician, civil rights activist, minister.

1941-

Created the "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups.

Dr. Maulana Karenga

Activist, author, founder of Kwanzaa

1941-

Best known as founder of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration following Christmas.

Boxer; war protester; member, Nation of Islam; civil rights protester; poet

1942-

A.K.A. Cassius Clay; three-time heavyweight boxing champion; crowned Sportsman of the (20th) Century by Sports Illustrated.

Aretha Franklin

Gospel, soul, R&B singer

1942-

"Queen of Soul;" first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Huey Newton

Activist

1942-1989

Co-founder, inspirational leader of the Black Panther party.

Arthur Ashe

Tennis star, activist

1943-1993

One of the key figures behind the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Angela Davis

Author, activist

1944-

Radical activist, member of the Black Panther party, working for racial, gender equity; prison abolition.

Barry White

Record producer, singer

1944-2003

Known for deep bass voice, suave delivery.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Basketball

1947-

A.K.A. Lew Alcindor; NBA`s all-time leading scorer.

Clarence Thomas

Jurist

1948-

Second African American to serve on U.S. Supreme Court.

Stevie Wonder

Singer, songwriter, producer, musician, humanitarian, social activist

1950-

Recorded more than 30 Top-10 hits, won nearly two dozen Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement; been inducted into both the Rock and Roll, Songwriters halls of fame.

Walter Payton

Football

1954-1999

"Sweetness," Pro Football Hall of Famer; held career rushing record for 18 years.

Condoleezza Rice

University professor, politician

1954-

Current U.S. Secretary of State.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Basketball, entertainment entrepreneur

1959-

The only NBA rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP Award.

Jerry Rice

Football

1962-

Regarded as the best receiver ever to play the game; arguably the greatest football player ever; holder of 38 NFL records.

Michael Jordan

Basketball

1963-

"Air Jordan," "His Airness;" named "the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century," by ESPN.


Watch the video: Black Excellist: 10 Great African Americans - Ali Edition Part 1 of 4 (January 2022).