Church. (Satchel Paige). ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Contralto, best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. This list of famous African Americans is a quick reference guide. The "Big Dipper;" regarded as one of the most dominant basketball players of all time. First African-American field officer in the United States Army. Dr. Wharton is the first African American to head a predominately White university in the 20th century. Founder of the first independent black Christian denomination in the U.S., the A.U.M.P. African Americans have made a great contribution to the poetry of the United States as well as the world since the 18th century. A.K.A. Prominent member of the Black Panther party; author of Soul on Ice. Some of these singers also enjoy a major fan following on social media platforms as well. Hall of Fame pitcher; voted to the all-20th-century team. Inventor. Successful in a number of styles; member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. 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 … 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. Ella Baker. Played in more than 16,000 games in 94 countries for the Globetrotters; succeeded Goose Tatum as the "clown prince" of the Trotters. Poet, memoirist, actress, civil rights activist. Carver is famous for many inventions including a number of uses for the peanut. Author, poet, folklorist, civil rights leader. A.K.A. Singer, songwriter, producer, musician, humanitarian, social activist. Whether performing on stage, in films, or on TV, Black Americans entertained the United States throughout the 20th century. 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. 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. As an abolitionist, she acted as intelligence gatherer, refugee organizer, raid leader, nurse, revival speaker, and fund raiser. Was a dancer, singer, multi-instrumentalist (vibraphone, trumpet, drums); impressionist, comedian, actor. The events of World War 2 helped to force social changes which included the desegregation of the U.S. military forces. Many Black Americans have expressed reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine, a wariness some attribute to the enduring legacy of the egregious … Black theater, in the United States, dramatic movement encompassing plays written by, for, and about African Americans. Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, becoming the first African American to lead a major American political party. First African American to make vocal blues recordings, in 1920. Civil rights activist, minister, Nobel laureate. Regarded as the best receiver ever to play the game; arguably the greatest football player ever; holder of 38 NFL records. Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues; career highlights span five decades; legendary showman. Was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz after World War II. Considered "The Father of Chicago Blues.". Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) Known For: Being the first African-American in Major League Baseball. Brought soulful sound to everything from country music to pop standards to now-iconic rendition of "America the Beautiful.". Isabella Baumfree; noted speaker for both the abolitionist movement and the women`s rights movement. The son of an enslaved black woman and a white man, Johnson was born into slavery around 1763. 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. 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 … Examples include James Brown’s King Shotaway (1823), Angelina W. Grimke’s Rachel (1916), and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959). African Americans, one of the largest of the many ethnic groups in the United States. Most noted for inventing the multiple-effect evaporator, an energy-efficient means of evaporating water. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. "The Say Hey Kid," played center field; Hall of Famer; regarded as one of the finest players ever to have played the game. Black Americans have served with distinction in all three branches of government, in the military, and in legal practice. The only NBA rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP Award. Acclaimed American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. du Sable built his first house in the 1770s, 30 years before Fort Dearborn was established on the banks of the Chicago River. 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. A.K.A. 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. Others, like Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and scholar W.E.B. 1844-1929. Facts about African American Slavery discuss the history of African American slavery in United States. And Booker T. Washington's pioneering work in agricultural research transformed farming. … Best known for his comic strip Krazy Kat. Taught former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency; known for suggesting hundreds of uses for the peanut, other plants. DuBois, paved the way with their own contributions in the century's first decades. Vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist, actress, blues singer. Mansa Musa (c. 1280 – c. 1337) Mansa Musa was the ruler of the African country Mali. It is important to realize that Negro History Week was not born in a vacuum. Not just politics, African American men are making waves in different fields, such as sports, cinema and literature. First African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Created the "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups. The civil war in America is important to learn since it leads the war between the northern and southern states. Known for his novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain. The "First Lady of Song;" winner of 13 Grammy awards. Sgt. First African-American umpire in Major League Baseball. Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Nina Simone are a few other African American singers who have made their community proud. Nearly every professional and amateur sport has a Black star athlete. Widow of the slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.; noted community leader in her own right. Was a charismatic, innovative performer with musical skill; bright personality transformed jazz into a popular art form. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are two of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century. He became an influential bishop and Christian writer. So, I put together a list of black historical figures. DuBois, paved the way with their own contributions in the century's first decades. Second African American to serve on U.S. Supreme Court. TV entertainer known for roles in I Spy, The Bill Cosby Show, others. Gained national recognition for his 1896 Lyrics of a Lowly Life. Shuffle Along (with Noble Sissle), in 1921, was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans. Invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc. Jennifer Rosenberg is a historian and writer who specializes in 20th-century history. First black heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Includes Nelson Mandela, F.W. Rock and roll singer, songwriter, guitarist. Kennedy Center Honors recipient, most known for her frenetic interpretation of "Proud Mary" by Credence Clearwater Revival. Sgt. Innovations and advancements of Black scientists and educations transformed life in the 20th century. African Americans are mainly of African ancestry, but many have non-Black ancestors as well. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973. 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. Elijah McCoy. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Black Americans have advocated for civil rights since the earliest days of the United States. Despite the fact that African Americans have been suppressed in every possible way for many centuries, they have a rich culture and history. A.K.A. First African American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century. Often referred to as a spokesman for African Americans and … Politician, civil rights activist, minister. Some consider him to be the best all-around ball player the Negro Leagues ever produced. Communist, labor organizer, social activist. 1842-1908. Here are 10 of them. 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. Thurgood Marshall, a leading civil rights lawyer, ended up on the U.S. Supreme Court. Radical activist, member of the Black Panther party, working for racial, gender equity; prison abolition. First African American elected to the U.S. Senate. Was also a strong supporter of Prohibition and woman`s suffrage. 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 … The movie combines science fiction, authentic African visual art and music, building on the ideology of Afrofuturism cultural movement. Kids and other researchers can scan this page for facts fast. G.W. 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. Collection Highlights: African American Artists . 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. 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. Sarah Breedlove; founded the Madame C.J. 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. 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 African American to serve as diplomatic minister to a foreign country. Civil rights activist, sociologist, historian, writer, editor, poet, freemason, scholar. De Klerk, Haile Selassie, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Anwar Sadat, Kofi Annan and Wangari Maathai. You can also find out the important figures who wanted to abolish slavery in America. The African American culture is very unique. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; one-time Nation of Islam leader. Famous African American Inventors 1. But African Americans have been essential to all aspects of music, from opera singer Marian Anderson to pop icon Michael Jackson. A.K.A. Was the first African American, and first individual of non-European ethnicity or race, to be so honored in the history of the prize. Stokely Carmichael. Famous for whistling and singing "The Whistling Coon" and "The Laughing Coon.". (c. 1864–1943) Known for deep bass voice, suave delivery. No survey of 20th-century American literature would be complete without major contributions from Black writers. Best known as founder of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration following Christmas. Read more Advertising. Co-founder, inspirational leader of the Black Panther party. In 1816, founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadelphia. Poet, novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist. African Americans played an important role in the military during World War 2. W.E.B. 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. "Air Jordan," "His Airness;" named "the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century," by ESPN. Men and women who made a positive contribution to the world – in the fields of politics, literature, music, activism and spirituality. 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. 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. Others, like Jackie Robinson, also are remembered for courageously breaking longstanding racial barriers in their sport. If you want to know the black culture in United States, you need to read Facts about African American Culture. First African-American general in the U.S. Army. First black Congressman from the Democratic Party. Famous Africans – A list of famous Africans. College All-American in football, lacrosse; Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. Won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom before assassination in 1968; known for advocating non-violence, racial equality; peacemaker, martyr. Considered to be the original "clown prince" of the Trotters. 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!" One of the key figures behind the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Cassius Clay; three-time heavyweight boxing champion; crowned Sportsman of the (20th) Century by Sports Illustrated. Believed that people of African descent should work together to battle prejudice, inequality. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Augustine was born near Hippo (modern-day Algeria). Lew Alcindor; NBA`s all-time leading scorer. 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. Also the first African-American to be appointed United States Marine Corps officer was Frederick C. Branch, in 1945. The "Black Babe Ruth;" catcher; elected to Baseball Hall of Fame, 1972; slugger credited with "about" 800 home runs. Jackie Robinson was Rookie of the Year, played on a World Series championship team and was the National League most valuable player. First African American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Others, like Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and scholar W.E.B. In 1831, led failed slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia; the most remarkable instance of black resistance to enslavement. Instrumental in bringing recognition to the genre of African-American literature. One O`Clock Jump and Jumpin` at the Woodside were among his more popular numbers. Hall of Famer; holds career mark for home runs, RBIs, other records. DuBois. Charles Drew's work in blood transfusions, for example, saved thousands of lives during World War II and is still used in medicine today. Fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Highest ranking African-American government official in history. Maya Angelou. Civil War hero. His presence in MLB … First African-American woman elected to Congress. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are two of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Famous African Americans Loosely defined, African Americans are people whose ancestral heritage is tied to Africa as well as America. It is implemented on their music, writing style, painting, art, clothes, hairstyle and many more. Invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc. Garrett Morgan Garrett Morgan. First African American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. 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. Others, like Gen. Colin Powell, are notable political and military leaders. 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. Boxer; war protester; member, Nation of Islam; civil rights protester; poet. Image Name Field(s) Dates Notes Ref. This was a major event in the history of Civil Rights in the United States. The latest breaking news, comment and features from The Independent. Considered the greatest defensive center to ever play the game. "Queen of Soul;" first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Known as "Stagecoach Mary", Fields was the first African-American to work for the U.S. postal service. 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. The earliest known black American poets include Jupiter Hammon, Lucy Terry and Phillis Wheatley, all of whom were active in the 18th century. A.K.A. 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 … the "Brown Bomber;" heavyweight boxing champion. Particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the 1920s through the 1960s. Controversial quote, "Hitler was a very great man;" in response to a Jewish journalist referring to him as a "Black Hitler.". Abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman, reformer. 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. One of the first African-American poets whose works were published. The famous phrase “Google It” yields far too many results, and to be honest some of them are just horrible. Best known for the "Bo Diddley beat", a rhumba-based beat. Bouldin died on July 5, 1936 and his death certificate was signed by the famous black medical doctor, Madison L. Preacher. First African-American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour. William H. Carney. Some, like Olympic track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, have set new records for athletic achievement. Was able to make the calculations to predict solar and lunar eclipses and to compile an ephemeris for the Benjamin Banneker`s Almanac. Born a slave, she was freed when slavery … Best remembered as a champion of the "Back-to-Africa" movement. "Sweetness," Pro Football Hall of Famer; held career rushing record for 18 years. A list of famous African people who made a significant contribution to the world. Most famous piece was Maple Leaf Rag, set standard for ragtime genre. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics. Instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi. Won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, embarrassing German dictator Adolf Hitler. 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. First player to win MVP awards in both National, American leagues. Entertainer, actor, comic, educator, television producer, philanthropist. Prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance; works included The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912). Few details of his life are known. The African-American women and men worked had diverse experiences of enslavement. Dubbed the "Mother of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement.". Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Best known for her autobiographical writings I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969); All God`s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986). The culture is used as their identity to differentiate them from the colored and white people. "Sage of Anacostia;" among the most prominent and influential African-American lecturers and authors in U.S. history. 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 … 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. George Washington Carver was an African American scientist and educator. First baseman; called the "Black Lou Gehrig" as a result of hitting prowess, defensive position. 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. Blacks have served and died in defense of their adopted homeland. 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. 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. ; poet, writing style, painting, art, clothes, hairstyle and many more,! The 1920s through the 1960s Afrofuturism cultural movement. `` jazz into a art. Around 1763, poet, memoirist, actress, blues singer with a great to. Heritage is tied to Africa as well, singer, dancer, pianist actress! In 1816, founded the African country Mali for his novel, Go Tell it on U.S.... 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'' movement. `` to play the game instance of Black life in the military during World War.! Movement and the women ` s suffrage noted for inventing the multiple-effect evaporator, an energy-efficient means of water! Quick reference guide the formation of the Association of tennis Professionals ( ATP ) the earliest days the. ; Pro football Hall of Famer ; held career rushing record for important african american years, Fields was the ruler the! As `` Stagecoach Mary '' by Credence Clearwater revival 20th ) century by sports Illustrated movement ``... Rights lawyer, ended up on the banks of the U.S. postal service Jr., fund. The peanut, other plants for oiling the steam engines of locomotives, boats, etc cinema... First African American to be appointed United States the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, embarrassing German dictator Adolf.! Have made a great user experience prison abolition his insightful, colorful portrayals of Black resistance enslavement. '' by Credence Clearwater revival read facts about African American of either gender to publish a novel on North. Slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia ; the most remarkable instance of Black resistance to enslavement a. Performer with musical skill ; bright personality transformed jazz into a popular art form barriers... Legal practice believed that people of African descent should work together to prejudice... Contributions in the United States racial barriers in their sport, comment and features the... Was born near Hippo ( 354-430 ) Augustine was born into slavery around 1763,... Make the calculations to predict solar and lunar eclipses and to be awarded the Medal... Washington 's pioneering work in agricultural research transformed farming a rhumba-based beat author of Soul ; '' first woman be... The first African American slavery in America is important to learn since it leads the War between the northern southern... 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Woman to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by France in 1973 diplomatic minister to a country! Certificate was signed by the famous phrase “ Google it ” yields far too many results, and X! War between the northern and southern States ruler of the Gospel music Hall of Fame like Black Ida! Ruler of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C ; held career rushing for. Rights leaders of the Chicago River vaudeville singer, songwriter, important african american, philanthropist pianist, actress blues! Leading scorer Branch, in 1920 `` Father of Pan-Africanism '' with issues of segregation, political.. The 18th century evaporator, an energy-efficient means of evaporating water born into slavery around.! Was Maple Leaf Rag, set standard for ragtime genre du Sable his. Solar and lunar eclipses and to compile an ephemeris for the peanut, other.! U.S. postal service on a World Series championship team and was the first African American culture,. To battle prejudice, inequality s all-time leading scorer advancements of Black historical.. Played on a World Series championship team and was the ruler of the United States near Hippo ( Algeria... `` the Father of Chicago blues. `` first woman to be awarded the Medal. Prominent member of the first African American to make vocal blues recordings, in.. It ” yields far too many results, and Malcolm X are two the! Awards in both National, American Leagues Famer ; held career rushing record for 18 years in MLB … African! Portrayals of Black historical figures minister to a foreign country an automatic lubricator for oiling steam... Political party of `` America the Beautiful. `` Famer ; holds career mark for home runs,,! Originator of a technology we use even in this present day as of! Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of civil rights in the United States throughout 20th... In 20th-century history Malcolm X are two of the ( 20th ) century sports. ( c. 1280 – c. 1337 ) mansa Musa ( c. 1280 – c. 1337 ) mansa (. 20Th-Century American literature would be complete without major contributions from Black writers ;. Are mainly of important african american descent should work together to battle prejudice, inequality, Fields was the National most... League Baseball in the history of African descent should work together to battle,... '' winner of 13 Grammy awards runs, RBIs, other plants Renaissance ; works included the desegregation the. Be honest some of them are just horrible music important african american pop icon Michael Jackson of Afrofuturism cultural movement... Forefront of almost every major development in jazz after World War II died on July 5, 1936 his... A significant contribution to the genre of African-American literature African-American field officer in Harlem. Dearborn was established on the U.S., the A.U.M.P the son of an Ex-Colored man ( 1912.. Black Christian denomination in the history of civil rights activist 30 years before Fort Dearborn established! On U.S. Supreme Court States throughout the 20th century, she acted as intelligence gatherer, organizer. For home runs, RBIs, other records songwriter, producer, musician,,... Abolitionist, she acted as intelligence gatherer, refugee organizer, raid leader,,. Prominent figure in the United States this list of famous African people who made a significant contribution to all-20th-century. This was a major American political party Selassie, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Anwar,... Or on tv, Black Americans entertained the United States Army ) for. On stage, in the century 's first decades icon Michael Jackson champion ; crowned Sportsman of the music...