Celebrating Black History Month: 28 Inspirational People

Black History Month is about celebrating our blackness, not rejecting it. Everyday is an opportunity to learn about the many individuals who inundate society with hope, innovation and knowledge that spawn our culture today.

  1. bell hooks, Author and Activist

bell hooks creates a safe community for African American women and men through the spoken word. Publishing her first book at the age of 19, Ain’t I a Woman, hooks establishes an open dialogue, exposing the raw realities of womanhood, society, and life.  

  1. Maya Angelou, American Poet  

Prior to working alongside Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement, Angelou promoted racial equality through journalism and activism. Best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a work influenced by the racism she experienced throughout her youth, Angelou was one of the most consequential poets of our time. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Feminist and Writer

As a Nigerian writer, Chimamanda stresses the importance that We Should All Be Feminists. She speaks from her soul, staying true to her identity as she works against the embedded mindset that black women are less than their white counterparts. She teaches all women of color that they should love themselves wholly, because Black women are more than just a skin color.

  1. Maxine Waters, U.S. Representative

Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, is one of the most powerful Black women today. She is an outspoken woman, aiming to push the efforts for African Americans, women, children, and the poor. With many accomplishments underneath her belt, Walters works to diminish the differences between individuals and band together a force of strength, aiming to close the gap between race, class and gender.

  1. Elaine Welteroth, Former Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue

As an American journalist, Welteroth moved Teen Vogue into a new direction that is not afraid of taking the conversation to politics alongside beauty and fashion. Welteroth continuously encourages young women to take a stance within society and speak freely without shame.

  1. Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

As the First Lady, Michelle Obama did not stray away from controversial issues, but instead challenged them head on. By targeting the obesity epidemic in the U.S., Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! Campaign, encouraging people to get active. Michelle Obama continuously nurtured the youth by launching the School Lunch Program, providing 21-million low income kids with free and reduced price lunches. On top of all of her other responsibilities, Michelle Obama ensured to put many of her efforts towards the youth and poor, realizing that they are the future of this country.

  1. Yara Shahidi, American Actress

At the age of 18, Yara Shahidi expands her voice to the youth, reaching across all platforms to embrace blackness and diversify the conversation. As an actress, Shahidi uses her wide platform to spread her voice, promoting awareness into the minds of the future generation.

  1. Tracee Ellis Ross, American Actress

Tracee Ellis Ross is a Golden Globe Award winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy). She uses her outlet as an actress to educate the black community, informing them that there is space for their story in the entertainment industry. While there is a place for African Americans to succeed within the industry, Ross uses the Time’s Up movement to diminish the inequality within the workplace so it is a safe place for everyone.

  1. Eartha Kitt, American Singer

At 8, Eartha Kitt moved to New York in hopes to eventually attend a performing arts school. At 16, she won a scholarship to tour with Katherine Dunham and joined a dance troupe that sparked her career as a solo artist. Discovered in Paris for her popular nightclub performances, Kitt launched her career onto Broadway and a singer, coming out with the hit song: “Santa Baby.”

  1. Sojourner Truth, Women’s Rights Activist

Famous for her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Truth battled against the inequalities Black women faced in the 1850s. Although she was born into slavery, Truth escaped with her infant daughter, using her freedom as the ammunition to her career as an abolitionist and worked towards prison reform and the women’s suffrage movement.

  1. James Baldwin, Novelist

James Baldwin was a social critic and writer, promoting awareness around the topics of sexuality and humanity. By expressing himself creatively, Baldwin debuted his first novel, Go Tell it To the Mountain, inspired by the impact of Christian Church had on Blacks in America. He went on to create many works, often inspired by his own experiences, like Giovanni’s Room, which explored the topic of homosexuality and bisexuality that drew on his own experience of being a gay man in America.

  1. Ryan Coogler, Film Director

Ryan Coogler is a film director, first working on Fruitvale Station as a co-writer and director, then moving onto Creed in 2015. With both being a big hit onscreen, Coogler had the opportunity of directing Marvel’s first Black superhero film: Black Panther. Just in the first week alone, it made $300 million dollars with the largest Black cast, receiving 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  1. Barack Obama, Former President of the United States  

First of the African descent to become a U.S. President, Obama immediately brought the country back out of the Great Recession, cutting unemployment rate in half from 10% to 4.7%. Along with his other numerous accomplishments, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his immense work for the people of the United States.

  1. Ida B. Wells, Journalist

As a fearless journalist and newspaper editor, Wells used her position to investigate lynchings and exposed the harsh treatments against Black individuals. She worked towards the liberation of women and Blacks, eventually becoming one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909.

  1. Shirley Chisholm, Politician

Becoming the first black woman seated in Congress, Shirley Chisholm was elected into the House of Representatives for New York in 1968. Serving until 1983, Chisholm’s dedicated her term to campaign for the rights of women and Blacks, also becoming the first Black woman to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

  1. Oprah Winfrey, Media Proprietor

Oprah Winfrey become more than just a television personality. She used her platform to discuss the importance of social reform, and now is the Chairman and CEO of  Harpo Productions and OWN Network. She has also dedicated her time to expanding education for young women in South Africa with The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Awarded the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama for her impact, Oprah continues to influence and mentor society today, her achievements never-ending.

  1. Ava DuVernay, Film Director

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is the first African American Woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Picture award. She directed Oscar Nominated film Selma, following Dr. Martin Luther King’s struggle during the Civil Rights Movement and the documentary, 13th, exposing the criminalization against African Americans. On April 6, DuVernay will release A Wrinkle In Time, featuring Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

  1. Sterling K. Brown, Actor

Award-winning actor, Sterling K. Brown, first received recognition in “The People vs OJ Simpson” and was awarded an Emmy. After coming onto the popular series, “This Is Us,” Brown became the first African American to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Television series.

  1. Roxane Gay, Writer

This year, Gay debuted her best-selling memoir, Hunger, a direct narrative on the societal pressures of being obese in America. The book is layered with the untold stories throughout her childhood that shifted her into a confident woman living inside of a society obsessed with appearances.

  1. S. Lee Merritt, Social Rights Attorney

Working as an attorney in Philadelphia, people have worked with Merritt in cases concerning police brutality and racial violence. He has worked with the many individuals violated by officers, including Deandre Harris and the family of Jordan Edwards. Merritt devotes his time to his practice in order to promote that Black Lives Matter.

  1. Colin Kaepernick, Football Quarterback and Social Activist

Although taking a knee during the national anthem cost Kaepernick his job while protesting against the racial injustice in America, this inspired many athletes to take similar action. Continuing his support for young people, Kaepernick is committed to social activism, promoting reform for all African Americans and even started the Know Your Rights Camp for young people.  

  1. Alison Désir, Harlem Run Founder

In the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Alison Désir organized a five day run to the nation’s capital in time for the Women’s March. From Harlem to Washington D.C., Désir, raised more than $100,000 for Planned Parenthood, using running as an act for social change.

  1. Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times Journalist

Yamiche Alcindor covers politics and social justice for the New York Times. Working as a journalist has given her the opportunity to share not only her voice, but the many stories of African American who often go unheard. She is a national reporter who continues to peel back the layers of classism, racism and sexism, sharing only factual and fair knowledge through the lens of the media.

  1. Kendrick Lamar, Rapper

Kendrick Lamar is unapologetically black, expressing his own artistry through the perspective of a black man living in today’s society. His lyrics are not crafted to make you feel comfortable, but rather uses his artistry to open up to the discussion of racism and police brutality in modern day America.

  1. Shonda Rhimes, Television Producer

Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning writer, director and producer of the hit television series, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Rhimes is continuously opening up the doors for black females in leading roles that are specifically written for black women. She is expanding the gate for the rise of diversity on screen, emphasizing the importance of diversification on television.

  1. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, Founders of Black Lives Matter

In 2013, Garza, Cullors, and Tometi became the leaders of the BLM Movement, which was a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Now, this movement has become a global network of Black activists seeking liberation from oppression. Black organizers are established in various communities, in hopes to intervene the brutality inflicted on Black men and women.

  1. Tamika D. Mallory, Co-Founder and President of Women’s March

Tamika D. Mallory spoke out against the social inequalities women face, by organizing a Women’s March that followed the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. This spawned a worldwide event that inspired thousands of women to join in protest against the inequalities against women and African Americans.

  1. Dr. Martin Luther King, Minister and Leader of Civil Rights Movement

Devoting his life to promoting social reform for men and women of color, Dr. Martin Luther King organized 200,000 individuals for the March on Washington with other civil groups where he famously delivered the ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ to end the economic inequality against African Americans. King crafted boycotts, conferences and sit-ins that adhere to civil disobedience, a call for action to treat blacks equally with respect.


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