Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Famous People in Black History: Home

Famous People in Black History

Orate like poet Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, as well as an award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied Sociology. She has written for the New York Times and has three books forthcoming with Penguin Random House. 

Create like author Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an award winning author and journalist. He is the distinguished writer in residence at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, recipient of a MacArthur fellowship and author of the bestselling books The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World And Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015. His first novel, The Water Dancer, was released in September 2019. Ta-Nehisi is also the current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther and Captain America.

Innovate like actress Issa Rae

With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Rae first garnered attention for her award-winning web series and the accompanying New York Times best-seller, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl." She created and stars in the hit HBO show, Insecure, for which she has received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Rae made her film debut in the acclaimed drama, "The Hate U Give." This year, she starred in Netflix's "The Lovebirds" a romantic comedy and the HBO political-satire drama, "Coastal Elites."

Win like Olympian Usain Bolt

Arguably the most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen, Usain St Leo Bolt, created history at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio when he achieved the "Triple Triple", three gold medals at three consecutive Olympic Games. Usain's journey to worldwide stardom started at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing where he won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, all in world record times. He followed this up with three gold medals in the same events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London to write his name in the history books as the world's fastest man. Then One day before his 30th birthday he completed the same triple at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio to cement his legacy as a legend in world sport.

Challenge like activist Tamika Mallory

Tamika Mallory is a nationally recognized civil rights activist, award winning social justice leader and seasoned community organizer. She served as the youngest ever Executive Director of the National Action Network. Mallory was the co-chair of the Women's March on Washington, the largest single day demonstration in US history. She most recently gave what has been dubbed "the speech of a generation" - State of Emergency in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Her committed work, advocacy, frontline bravery and heroic servitude continues to fuel solitary act into global movement inspiring millions to get involved in the fight for racial and social equality. 

Heal like poet Yolo Akili

Yolo Akili Robinson is a writer, yoga teacher and the Executive Director and founder of the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). For over 15 years, Yolo has been on the forefront of progressive wellness work. At the core of Yolo's work is a commitment to health and wellness informed by social justice. his Interests are the practical embodiment of theory into systems and practices that help heal, transform and support Black communities.

Soar like gymnast Simone Biles

Simone Arianne Biles is an American artistic gymnast. With a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, Biles is the most decorated American gymnast. She is the first American woman to win seven national all-around titles and first female gymnast to earn three consecutive World All-Around titles. Biles is widely considered to be the greatest and most dominant female gymnast of all time. 

Research like historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. He is also an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder. 

Legislate like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is a third-generation Bronxite, educator, and organizer serving the 14th district of New York in the Bronx and Queens, On January of 2019, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was sworn-in as the youngest woman and the youngest Latina ever to serve in Congress. She has remained committed to serving working-class people over corporate interests and advocating for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. 

Teach like Cornell West

Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard university and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. he has written 20 books and has edited 13. he us best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters

Spread Positivity like Tabitha Brown

Tabitha Bonita Brown is an American actress, vegan food influencer and social media personality. She creates online video content incorporating veganism, humor and motivational speaking.

Challenge like Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 43rd congressional district since 1991 and is currently in her 151th term in the House. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is considered by many to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today. She has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor. Throughout her more than 40 years of public service, Maxine Waters has been on the cutting edge, tackling difficult and often controversial issues. She has combined her strong legilative and public policy acumen and high visibility in Democratic Party activities with an unusual ability to do grassroots organizing. 

Direct like Spike Lee

Oscar award-winning Spike Lee is a director, writer, actor, producer, author, and NYU Grad Film Tenured Professor whose body of work continues to grow over the last three decades. Lee's work has continually explored race relations, colorism in black community, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues. 

Invent like Mathematician Gladys West

Gladys Mae West is an American mathematician known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, and her work on the development of the satellite geoid models that were eventually incorporated into the Global Positioning System GPS. In 2018, West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Give Back like NBA player Lebron James

Lebron James is widely considered one of the best NBA players in history. James is an active supporter of non-profit organizations, including After-Scholl All-Stars, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Children's Defense fund.  He also has his own charity foundation, the LeBron James Family Foundation, which is based in Akron. In 2015, James announced a partnership with the University of Akron to provide scholarships to as many as 2,300 children beginning in 2021. In 2016, he donated $2.5 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to support an exhibit on Muhammad Ali.  In November 2017 the Akron School Board approved the "I Promise School", a public elementary school created in a partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation to help struggling elementary school students stay in school.

March like Opal Lee

Opal Lee is a retired educator and community activist. Growing up in Marshall and Fort Worth, Lee celebrated Juneteenth every year. On Juneteenth  1939, when she was 12, a white mob raided and burned her family's home. In 2016, Lee walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas to Washington D.C., in an effort to raise awareness and support for making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Juneteenth was made a National holiday n June 17, 2021.

Litigate like Attorney Ben Crump

Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump founded Ben Crump Law PLLC with the abiding belief that justice equals respect. Because of this dedication to justice, the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Martin Lee Anderson, and Breonna Taylor all turned to Mr. Crump to turn the spotlight of justice on these cases. But changing the landscape on civil rights is only half the story. Mr. Crump and his firm's attorneys are all devoted to advocating for the voiceless of our society whenever or whatever kind of harm may have befallen them. Due to his legal reputation, he has been referred to as "Black America's attorney general. 

Win like Zaila Avant-garde

Zaila is an eighth grader from New Orleans, Louisiana. On July 8, 2021, she won the 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. She became the first African American (second Black American) to win the national competition. She also holds three titles recognized by the Guinness  World Records: most basketballs dribbled simultaneously, most basketball bounces and most juggles in a minute. Her basketball skills landed her in a 2018 advertisement with basketball star Stephen Curry. 

Invest like Robert Smith

Robert Frederick Smith is an American businessman, philanthropist, chemical engineer, and investor. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. In May 2019, while at Morehouse College to deliver the commencement address, he announced that he and his family would pay off the entire student loan debt of the 2019 Morehouse College graduating class of 396 students. Mr. Smith is also the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation. Started in 2014, the Foundation provides grants to fund efforts that conserve African American experiences and culture for future generations, rectify human rights abuses, promote music education for young people, protect the environment through advocacy and awareness of the benefits of the outdoors, and uphold vital American values such as empowerment, innovation and security for all. 

Inspire like First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th President, Barrack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Through her four main initiatives, she became a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education. 

Produce like Ryan Coogler

Ryan Kyle Coogler is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station (2013), won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. he has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed (2015), and the Marvel film Black Panther (2018), the latter of which broke numerous box office records and became the highest-grossing film of all time by an African American director. 

Build like filmmaker Tyler Perry

The mastermind behind 17 feature films, 20 stage plays, seven television shows, a New York Times bestselling book, Tyler has built an empire that has attracted audiences and built communities, from the Tyler Perry Studios home base in Atlanta, Georgia, throughout the world. 

Take A Stand like Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka is a Japanese professional tennis player. She has been ranked No.1 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles. She is a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, and is the reigning champion at the US Open and the Australian Open. Osaka has gained significant recognition as an activist, having showcased support for the Black Lives Matter movement in conjunction with her matches. In May 2021, Osaka declined to participate in the mandatory press interviews citing mental health issues.

Defend like Lee Merritt

S. Lee Merritt, Esq. commonly known as "the people's lawyer", is emerging as an influential new voice in the fight for Social Justice. A Civil Right's activist and attorney, Merritt runs a high profile practice focusing on victims of police brutality, hate crimes, and corporate discrimination. As an activist, he has championed police reform and community empowerment. His office has led the way in reform in Texas, a state notorious for its failure to prosecute police officers, advocating for the first murder indictments of officers in the state in over 40 years. Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in the Summer of 2017, Merritt helped to launch the American Black Cross, a disaster relief organization geared to serve the most vulnerable sectors of society. 

Write like professor & reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and creator of the landmark 1619 Project. 

Advocate like journalist Shaun King

Jeffery Shaun King (born September 17, 1989) is an American writer, civil rights activist and co-founder of Real Justice PAC. King uses social media to promote social justice causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Strategize like lawyer Stacy Abrams

Stacey Yvonne Abrams is an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017. Dedicated to civic engagement, she founded the New Georgia Project, which submitted more than 200,000 registrations for voters of color between 2014 and 2016.

Protest like former NFL player Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick may forever be known as the quarterback who knelt for the national anthem before NFL games in 2016 as a protest against social injustice, especially against African Americans at the hands of police. Kaepernick founded the global Know Your Rights Camos to advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders. 

Dance like dancer Misty Copeland

In 2015, rising star Misty Copeland made history as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.

Lead like President Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama Jr. is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the United States.