- Martin Luther King, Jr
2. Barack Obama
When Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president of the United States in November 2008, “never in my lifetime” was the popular refrain, especially among older African-Americans from the Jim Crow South who remembered grandparents who had been enslaved. Obama’s mixed race background (Kenyan father, white Midwestern mother), Ivy League pedigree (Columbia, Harvard Law), community activism on Chicago’s tough South Side as well as stints as an Illinois and U.S. senator, made him uniquely qualified to guide the nation in a more multiracial and globally-dependent 21st century.
Engaging the youth, Obama, heavily assisted by social media, made “Yes, we can” more than a campaign slogan. As POTUS, he’s been confronted with Tea Party politics full of racist undertones and blamed for spillover from George W. Bush’s presidency. Still, the President, wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha represent African-Americans at their best every day.
3. Oprah Winfrey
4. Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey A visionary pan-African leader and thinker. A practical man, he could have united all blacks if he had not been jailed.
5. Malcolm X
6. Frederick Douglas
7. Claude Anderson
8. Thurgood Marshall-
Using the law to serve African Americans, Thurgood Marshall tried many cases before the Supreme Court, winning 29 out of 32 actually. Still, none have been more critical than 1954’s landmark Brown v. Board victory overturning the Plessy v. Ferguson decision that had legally sanctioned a “separate but equal” doctrine since 1896. A 1933 graduate of the Howard University School of Law, the Baltimore native’s action was deliberate as he followed his teacher and mentor Charles Hamilton Houston to the NAACP where they launched the strategic plan to topple Jim Crow one legal challenge at time, slowly chipping away at its infrastructure.
Appointed the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Marshall expanded his role in righting the Constitution in the very hall that he had challenged it, ensuring that liberty and equality applied to all Americans until his retirement in 1991.
9. Neely Fuller
10. Frances Cress Welsing