Image Name Field(s) Dates Notes Ref. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, Politicians, Lawyers, and Other Government Leaders, Brooks Kraft / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images, Black History and Women Timeline 1990 to 1999, Biography of the Rev. Whether you are researching a topic for Black History Month or just want to learn more, this listing of famous African Americans will help you find people who truly achieved greatness. The earliest known black American poets include Jupiter Hammon, Lucy Terry and Phillis Wheatley, all of whom were active in the 18th century. Author, poet, folklorist, civil rights leader. Controversial quote, "Hitler was a very great man;" in response to a Jewish journalist referring to him as a "Black Hitler.". Created the "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups. Whether performing on stage, in films, or on TV, Black Americans entertained the United States throughout the 20th century. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Augustine was born near Hippo (modern-day Algeria). Barack Obama: 2008 election night rally President-elect Barack Obama waving to the crowd at a massive election night rally in Chicago's Grant Park on November 4, 2008. Inventor. Carver is famous for many inventions including a number of uses for the peanut. First African-American field officer in the United States Army. Charles Drew's work in blood transfusions, for example, saved thousands of lives during World War II and is still used in medicine today. 1844-1929. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; one-time Nation of Islam leader. William H. Carney. Gained national recognition for his 1896 Lyrics of a Lowly Life. Believed that people of African descent should work together to battle prejudice, inequality. The "First Lady of Song;" winner of 13 Grammy awards. African Americans, one of the largest of the many ethnic groups in the United States. Former ‘Democrat’ party leader Barack Obama created history back in 2009 after being sworn in as the first African American president of the United States. Some, like Olympic track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, have set new records for athletic achievement. Despite the fact that African Americans have been suppressed in every possible way for many centuries, they have a rich culture and history. Brought soulful sound to everything from country music to pop standards to now-iconic rendition of "America the Beautiful.". In 1944, an African American soldier, Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., was appointed as commissioned officer and was promoted to command a US warship which was the first time for any black officer. If you want to know the black culture in United States, you need to read Facts about African American Culture. The movie combines science fiction, authentic African visual art and music, building on the ideology of Afrofuturism cultural movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are two of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century. One O`Clock Jump and Jumpin` at the Woodside were among his more popular numbers. This article thus seeks to bring to the limelight just a few of the great African American Inventors who have made indelible marks through their groundbreaking inventions. Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) Known For: Being the first African-American in Major League Baseball. In 1831, led failed slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia; the most remarkable instance of black resistance to enslavement. First African-American woman elected to Congress. Instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi. First African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. College All-American in football, lacrosse; Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. Nearly every professional and amateur sport has a Black star athlete. Maya Angelou. First African American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Ella Baker. With it being African American Music Appreciation Month, we decided to count down the 50 most important Black music artists of all time in the … There would be no jazz music today were it not for the contributions of artists like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong, who were instrumental in the evolution of this uniquely American music genre. George Washington Carver was an African American scientist and educator. This was a major event in the history of Civil Rights in the United States. Radical activist, member of the Black Panther party, working for racial, gender equity; prison abolition. Prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance; works included The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912). Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues; career highlights span five decades; legendary showman. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are two of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Singer, songwriter, producer, musician, humanitarian, social activist. Sarah Breedlove; founded the Madame C.J. Was also a strong supporter of Prohibition and woman`s suffrage. The following individuals have been selected from thousands of examples of selfless acts, sacrificing, in some cases, their own lives for the betterment of all. 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. First player to win MVP awards in both National, American leagues. Communist, labor organizer, social activist. A.K.A. Invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc. Invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc. Kids and other researchers can scan this page for facts fast. During most of 17th and 18th centuries, male slaves outnumbered female slaves but this slave sex ratio level when a large number of African women were brought in between 1730 and 1750. Elijah McCoy. Was a dancer, singer, multi-instrumentalist (vibraphone, trumpet, drums); impressionist, comedian, actor. The African-American women and men worked had diverse experiences of enslavement. Considered "The Father of Chicago Blues.". Prominent member of the Black Panther party; author of Soul on Ice. Read more Advertising. Innovations and advancements of Black scientists and educations transformed life in the 20th century. Lew Alcindor; NBA`s all-time leading scorer. Not just politics, African American men are making waves in different fields, such as sports, cinema and literature. First African American to serve as diplomatic minister to a foreign country. Black theater, in the United States, dramatic movement encompassing plays written by, for, and about African Americans. Jennifer Rosenberg is a historian and writer who specializes in 20th-century history. Garrett is the originator of a technology we use even in this present day. Books like Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" and "Beloved" by Toni Morrison are masterpieces of fiction, while Maya Angelou and Alex Haley have made major contributions to literature, poetry, autobiography, and pop culture. In 1816, founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadelphia. 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!" Highest ranking African-American government official in history. First black Congressman from the Democratic Party. Most noted for inventing the multiple-effect evaporator, an energy-efficient means of evaporating water. Famous African American Inventors 1. Dubbed the "Mother of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement.". Bouldin stood out as a light and a beacon in the African American community of San Antonio and should be honored for his contributions to San Antonio as a whole. Some of these singers also enjoy a major fan following on social media platforms as well. Church. Others, like Gen. Colin Powell, are notable political and military leaders. The latest breaking news, comment and features from The Independent. Mansa Musa (c. 1280 – c. 1337) Mansa Musa was the ruler of the African country Mali. "Sage of Anacostia;" among the most prominent and influential African-American lecturers and authors in U.S. history. Some, like Sidney Poitier, challenged racial attitudes with his role in popular films like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," while others, such as Oprah Winfrey, have become media moguls and cultural icons. "Father of Pan-Africanism" with issues of segregation, political disenfranchisement. Contralto, best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Known for deep bass voice, suave delivery. Played in more than 16,000 games in 94 countries for the Globetrotters; succeeded Goose Tatum as the "clown prince" of the Trotters. De Klerk, Haile Selassie, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Anwar Sadat, Kofi Annan and Wangari Maathai. Examples include James Brown’s King Shotaway (1823), Angelina W. Grimke’s Rachel (1916), and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Taught former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency; known for suggesting hundreds of uses for the peanut, other plants. Hall of Famer; holds career mark for home runs, RBIs, other records. One of the first African-American poets whose works were published. Politician, civil rights activist, minister. A.K.A. The African American culture is very unique. Successful in a number of styles; member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Garrett Morgan Garrett Morgan. First African American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Black men and women made great contributions to American society throughout the 20th century, advancing civil rights as well as science, government, sports, and entertainment. A.K.A. It is important to realize that Negro History Week was not born in a vacuum. The events of World War 2 helped to force social changes which included the desegregation of the U.S. military forces. Few details of his life are known. African Americans played an important role in the military during World War 2. 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. Some consider him to be the best all-around ball player the Negro Leagues ever produced. (c. 1864–1943) Founder of the first independent black Christian denomination in the U.S., the A.U.M.P. He became an influential bishop and Christian writer. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader, Civil Rights Movement Timeline From 1951 to 1959, 5 Men Who Inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to Be a Leader, 6 Revealing Autobiographies by African American Thinkers, Civil Rights Movement Timeline From 1960 to 1964, Civil Rights Movement Timeline From 1965 to 1969, 10 of the Most Important Black Women in U.S. History, B.A., History, University of California at Davis. Stokely Carmichael. "Queen of Soul;" first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thus, it is a proud moment for every African American to look back at their culture and share the beauty of their land with the fellow Americans and the rest of the world. Shuffle Along (with Noble Sissle), in 1921, was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans. And Booker T. Washington's pioneering work in agricultural research transformed farming. Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, becoming the first African American to lead a major American political party. the "Brown Bomber;" heavyweight boxing champion. Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Nina Simone are a few other African American singers who have made their community proud. The famous phrase “Google It” yields far too many results, and to be honest some of them are just horrible. Dr. Wharton is the first African American to head a predominately White university in the 20th century. Black Americans have advocated for civil rights since the earliest days of the United States. Famous for whistling and singing "The Whistling Coon" and "The Laughing Coon.". Best remembered as a champion of the "Back-to-Africa" movement. First black heavyweight boxing champion of the world. The culture is used as their identity to differentiate them from the colored and white people. Considered the greatest defensive center to ever play the game. Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman, reformer. Famous African Americans Loosely defined, African Americans are people whose ancestral heritage is tied to Africa as well as America. DuBois, paved the way with their own contributions in the century's first decades. It is implemented on their music, writing style, painting, art, clothes, hairstyle and many more. African Americans have made a great contribution to the poetry of the United States as well as the world since the 18th century. Often referred to as a spokesman for African Americans and … Black Americans have served with distinction in all three branches of government, in the military, and in legal practice. (Satchel Paige). Sgt. Best known for his comic strip Krazy Kat. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. made appearances at the university chapel, and The Founders Library houses the largest collection of documents, letters and oral histories recording the African American experience. The individuals that make up the whole of the black population, have offered up their talents to forward the cause of peace and prosperity in America. From the earliest days of the African presence in the United States, blacks have contributed to the fiber of American culture, ranging from useful inventions to innovative musical interludes, and beyond. The son of an enslaved black woman and a white man, Johnson was born into slavery around 1763. DuBois, paved the way with their own contributions in the century's first decades. Obviously, this table provides only a small sample of these courageous Americans; u-s-history.com will continue to add to this list from time to time. From trailblazing firsts to impressive cultural shifts, in the past 20 years, these famous African American women (like former First Lady Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tamron Hall, and Gabrielle Union, to mention a few) have made a name for themselves while creating a platform for so many more to follow in their footsteps. First African American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century. Collection Highlights: African American Artists . The poem “Bar Fight”, written in 1746 by Terry but not published until 1855, is the first poem known to have been written by a … Poet, memoirist, actress, civil rights activist. Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, documented these movements in her 2010 book, which involved 15 years of … Most famous piece was Maple Leaf Rag, set standard for ragtime genre. Isabella Baumfree; noted speaker for both the abolitionist movement and the women`s rights movement. The only NBA rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP Award. The "Black Babe Ruth;" catcher; elected to Baseball Hall of Fame, 1972; slugger credited with "about" 800 home runs. Regarded as the best receiver ever to play the game; arguably the greatest football player ever; holder of 38 NFL records. Vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist, actress, blues singer. Was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz after World War II. Was able to make the calculations to predict solar and lunar eclipses and to compile an ephemeris for the Benjamin Banneker`s Almanac. First African-American general in the U.S. Army. As an abolitionist, she acted as intelligence gatherer, refugee organizer, raid leader, nurse, revival speaker, and fund raiser. First baseman; called the "Black Lou Gehrig" as a result of hitting prowess, defensive position. One of the key figures behind the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Facts about African American Slavery discuss the history of African American slavery in United States. Acclaimed American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. Year and City of Birth: 1985, Winston-Salem, N.C. “Endia Beal is amongst a crop of young African American photographers that I have had the privilege of mentoring through the … First African American to make vocal blues recordings, in 1920. So, I put together a list of black historical figures. Was a charismatic, innovative performer with musical skill; bright personality transformed jazz into a popular art form. Instrumental in bringing recognition to the genre of African-American literature. Thurgood Marshall, a leading civil rights lawyer, ended up on the U.S. Supreme Court. Born a slave, she was freed when slavery … Rock and roll singer, songwriter, guitarist. Hall of Fame pitcher; voted to the all-20th-century team. … A.K.A. First African-American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour. A.K.A. G.W. Was the first African American, and first individual of non-European ethnicity or race, to be so honored in the history of the prize. Boxer; war protester; member, Nation of Islam; civil rights protester; poet. Best known as founder of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration following Christmas. Won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom before assassination in 1968; known for advocating non-violence, racial equality; peacemaker, martyr. Jackie Robinson - First African-American to play in Major League Baseball; Augusta Savage - Artist during the Harlem Renaissance; Robert Smalls - Civil War hero who later became a Congressman; Sojourner Truth - An escaped slave who fought for the end of the slavery and women's rights; Harriet Tubman - An escaped slave who became a leader in the Underground Railroad helping more slaves … Also the first African-American to be appointed United States Marine Corps officer was Frederick C. Branch, in 1945. "The Say Hey Kid," played center field; Hall of Famer; regarded as one of the finest players ever to have played the game. Second African American to serve on U.S. Supreme Court. Civil rights activist, minister, Nobel laureate. June Bacon-Bercey: meteorology: 1932-Believed to be the first African-American woman to gain a degree in meteorology and confirmed to be the first African-American woman to be a televised meteorologist. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Others, like Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and scholar W.E.B. Men and women who made a positive contribution to the world – in the fields of politics, literature, music, activism and spirituality. Known for his novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain. 1842-1908. Widow of the slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.; noted community leader in her own right. This list of famous African Americans is a quick reference guide. Others, like Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and scholar W.E.B. Includes Nelson Mandela, F.W. Considered to be the original "clown prince" of the Trotters. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. African Americans are mainly of African ancestry, but many have non-Black ancestors as well. Many Black Americans have expressed reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine, a wariness some attribute to the enduring legacy of the egregious … First African American elected to the U.S. Senate. Civil rights activist, sociologist, historian, writer, editor, poet, freemason, scholar. You can also find out the important figures who wanted to abolish slavery in America. Poet, novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist. Kennedy Center Honors recipient, most known for her frenetic interpretation of "Proud Mary" by Credence Clearwater Revival. New York City would continue to serve as a catalyst for African American artists for decades, with Jean-Michel Basquiat among the Big Apple's most famous artists—and contemporary art's most universally recognized figures.. Basquiat was born in Brooklyn to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father in 1960. Particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the 1920s through the 1960s. No survey of 20th-century American literature would be complete without major contributions from Black writers. Joshua Johnson, The Westwood Children, c. 1807, oil on canvas, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1959.11.1 Joshua Johnson is America’s earliest-known professional African American artist. Won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, embarrassing German dictator Adolf Hitler. Co-founder, inspirational leader of the Black Panther party. Entertainer, actor, comic, educator, television producer, philanthropist. Best known for her autobiographical writings I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969); All God`s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986). But African Americans have been essential to all aspects of music, from opera singer Marian Anderson to pop icon Michael Jackson. A.K.A. His presence in MLB … TV entertainer known for roles in I Spy, The Bill Cosby Show, others. "Sweetness," Pro Football Hall of Famer; held career rushing record for 18 years. du Sable built his first house in the 1770s, 30 years before Fort Dearborn was established on the banks of the Chicago River. "Air Jordan," "His Airness;" named "the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century," by ESPN. Famous Africans – A list of famous Africans. Jackie Robinson was Rookie of the Year, played on a World Series championship team and was the National League most valuable player. Fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. The "Big Dipper;" regarded as one of the most dominant basketball players of all time. W.E.B. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973. Here are 10 of them. Cassius Clay; three-time heavyweight boxing champion; crowned Sportsman of the (20th) Century by Sports Illustrated. Bouldin died on July 5, 1936 and his death certificate was signed by the famous black medical doctor, Madison L. Preacher. Others, like Jackie Robinson, also are remembered for courageously breaking longstanding racial barriers in their sport. A list of famous African people who made a significant contribution to the world. Blacks have served and died in defense of their adopted homeland. First African-American umpire in Major League Baseball. Sgt. Civil War hero. Dance routines are often performed in the shop, while Nikky perfects his cutting creations on the likes of the African Cup of Nations football stars. DuBois. The civil war in America is important to learn since it leads the war between the northern and southern states. Best known for the "Bo Diddley beat", a rhumba-based beat. Known as "Stagecoach Mary", Fields was the first African-American to work for the U.S. postal service. That people of African ancestry, but many have non-Black ancestors as well culture and history member! Abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman, reformer in her own right of leader! 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