Grateful American® Foundation

Black Americans Who Shook the World

1. Shirley Chisholm
(1924-2005)
First black woman elected to Congress, and first to seek the Democratic nomination for President.

2. W. E. B. Du Bois
(1868-1963)
Writer, historian and civil rights activist.

3. Duke Ellington
(1899-1974)
Composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra from 1923 until his death.

4. Henrietta Lacks
(1920-1951)
Her immortalized cancer cells are the source of the HeLa line; one of the most important in medical research.

5. Toni Morrison
(1931-2019)
American novelist; winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature; author of Sula, The Bluest Eye, and Beloved.

6. Charles Richard Drew
(1904-1950)
An American surgeon, who researched the field of blood
transfusions, improve blood storage techniques,
and developed blood banks.

7. Thurgood Marshall
(1908-1993)
First Black to become an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme
Court; successfully argued Brown v. the Board of Education, which
deemed discrimination in the schools illegal.

8. Quincy Jones
b. 1933
Record producer, musician, songwriter; film and television producer.

9. Jackie Robinson
(1919-1972)
Civil rights leader, and first African American to play in Major League Baseball.It is said he broke the color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

10. Barack Obama
b. 1961
Lawyer, author, first African-American president.

11. Sojourner Truth
(c.1797-1883)
Abolitionist, author; first black woman to win a case against a white man.

12. Madam C. J. Walker
(1867-1919)
African-American entrepreneur; first self-made female millionaire recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.

13. Ella Baker
(1903-1986)
African-American civil rights leader who worked with W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King.

14. Gordon Parks
(1912-2006)
Photographer, director.

15. Harriet Tubman
(c. 1820-1913)
Spy, nurse, abolitionist; she freed 70 slaves through her network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

16. Ida. B. Wells
(1862-1931)
Investigative journalist, educator; a founder of the NAACP.

17. Sidney Poitier
(1927-2022)
Bahamian-American actor, director, and diplomat, first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

18. Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
(1880-1970)
First African American general in the Army.

19. Martin Luther King Jr.
(1929-1968)
Baptist Minister. Civil Rights Activist. Winner 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
20. Frederick Douglass
(c.1818-1895)
Abolitionist, Orator, Newspaper Publisher, Writer; Ally of Abraham Lincoln.
21. Mohammad Ali
(1942-2016)
The Best Boxer in American History.
22. Michael Jackson
(1958-2009)
Singer, Songwriter, Dancer; “King Of Pop”.
23. Booker T. Washington
(1856-1915)
Author, educator, and founder of Tuskegee Institute.
24. Jesse Owens
(1913-1980)
African American track and field athlete who won four gold medals
in the 1936 Olympics.
25. Aretha Franklin
(1942-2018)
Singer, songwriter, and pianist; the “Queen of Soul.”
26. Zora Neale Hurston
(1891-1960)
Author, filmmaker, anthropologist.
27. Katherine Johnson
(1918 – 2020)
NASA scientist, “human computer”; Subject of the film, Hidden Figures.
28. Mary McLeod Bethune
(1875 – 1955)
American educator, civil rights leader.
29. Maya Angelou
(1928 – 2014)
Poet, memoirist, civil rights activist; performer.