Celebrating Some of the Most Influential African American Leaders (2024)

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February 2, 2022

Celebrating Some of the Most Influential African American Leaders (1)

Being a leader isn’t always easy. It often requires you to overcome adversity, face challenges head-on, and fight for what’s right. In celebration of Black History Month, we are highlighting some of the most influential African American leaders who did just that.

Their Greatest Achievements

There’s something to be learned from each and every one of these powerful agents of change – most notable of which are their efforts to make the world a better place and take a stand against injustice, inequality, and adversity. These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who fought against racial inequality. King was a proponent of nonviolence and peaceful protest. He was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which aims to achieve racial equality peacefully. He went down in history as a hero and one of the most influential leaders in the world.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist in Alabama and the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Parks is known most for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, which inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott brought about the ruling by the Supreme Court that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States and the very first African American president. He served two terms and made several noteworthy accomplishments. Obama worked to strengthen the economy during a global financial crisis, championed healthcare reform with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his efforts to improve international relations, just to name a few.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and write at a young age. After escaping slavery, he became an author, public speaker, and prominent leader of the abolitionist movement. In addition to his abolitionary work, Douglass also supported and advocated for women’s rights.

oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a famous television producer and personality, philanthropist, and author. She is the first African American woman to have her very own television production company. Winfrey worked to pass the National Child Protection Act and has created and contributed to numerous non-profit organizations that support, educate, and empower women and children.

Harriet Tubman

A brave leader during the Underground Railroad movement, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and spent 11 years guiding other enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad as a “conductor.” Tubman was also a spy, scout, nurse, and soldier during the Civil War for the Union Army.

Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers was a World War II veteran and Civil Rights leader. He was the NAACP’s first field officer in Mississippi. He helped lead protests against the segregation of public primary schools, beaches, parks, and at the University of Mississippi. Evers also organized voter registration drives and started new NAACP chapters in Mississippi.

Jackie Robinson

As a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson was the first African American professional baseball player in U.S. Major League Baseball. After he retired, Robinson was dedicated to civil rights activism and worked to raise money for both the NAACP and SCLC.

Booker T. Washington

Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington overcame many barriers that were blocking him from getting an education. After his family gained freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation, there were no schools in his area. However, he didn’t let that stop him. Instead, he walked 500 miles to enroll in school at the Hampton Institute. Washington excelled academically and became the first teacher and principal at the Tuskegee Institute. In addition, he was an author, adviser to several presidents, and one of the most influential African American public speakers in his day.

Shirley Chisholm

The first African-American woman elected to serve in Congress in 1968, Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to seek the U.S. presidential nomination from a major party. She co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, which is designed to guarantee equal rights, opportunities, and access for African Americans and other marginalized groups.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. He was an Olympic gold medalist and the first fighter to win the world heavyweight title three times. He was also a philanthropist, humanitarian, and activist that advocated for civil rights and religious freedom. Ali earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and supported organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Special Olympics.

What Diversity Means to Us at the NSLS

At The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) we wholeheartedly believe the fact that there is strength in diversity and it’s our mission to celebrate it. We stand against discrimination and are committed to upholding this standard for our members, employees, and higher education community.

We strive to build better leaders and foster a community of success-oriented students that have a desire to make a positive impact. We know that everyone is capable of inspiring change around them and being part of a leadership program like the NSLS can help you do it. Learn more about our organization’s stance on diversity and how you can make an impact.

Celebrating Some of the Most Influential African American Leaders (2024)


Celebrating Some of the Most Influential African American Leaders? ›

There are many notable black leaders in history. Some of them are; Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Frederick Douglass, and Rosa Parks.

Who were the most influential African American leaders? ›

There are many notable black leaders in history. Some of them are; Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Frederick Douglass, and Rosa Parks.

Who are the 5 famous African Americans? ›

When it comes to pioneers in African American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Muhammad Ali are often mentioned—and rightfully so.

Who were the influential African American leaders of the 1920s? ›

Dubois, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, and Hubert Harrison "Black Socrates". Movements like UNIA and Niagara Movement, and the NAACP will also be discussed.

What was a celebration of African American culture? ›

Kwanzaa, a Swahili word that means “first fruits,” is a seven-day festival that honors African heritage in African American culture. Kwanzaa takes place each year in the United States from December 26 to January 1 and celebrates family and community through music, dance, poetry, storytelling and art.

Who was an inspiring African leader? ›

Leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, not only felt the weight of the foreign domination had become too overbearing but also sought to bring it to an end and pushed for sovereignty for their people and all of Africa.

Who are present day black heroes? ›

To continue the conversation, we'll look at Black leaders that are in the process of making history today.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris. ...
  • Doctor Kimberlé Crenshaw. ...
  • Reverend Doctor Raphael Warnock. ...
  • Doctor Kizzmekia S. ...
  • Bryan Stevenson. ...
  • Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. ...
  • Victor J Glover Jr. ...
  • Laverne Cox.
Feb 10, 2022

Who is a famous Black person? ›

Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks are often elevated—and with good reason. These figures made contributions to Black history and, by extension, American history, that cannot be overstated.

Who is the greatest Black hero? ›

7 Black History Heroes Every Student Should Know
  • Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader. Rev. ...
  • Serena Williams, Pro Athlete. ...
  • Malcolm X, Human Rights Activist. ...
  • Katherine Johnson, Mathematician. ...
  • Ruby Bridges, Civil Rights Activist. ...
  • Duke Ellington, American Composer. ...
  • Madam C.J.
Jan 26, 2024

Who are the influential Black Americans from the past 100 years? ›

Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are two of the best-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Others, like Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and scholar W.E.B. DuBois, paved the way with their own contributions in the century's first decades.

Who was the first black leader? ›

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he became the first African American to hold the office. The framers of the Constitution always hoped that our leadership would not be limited to Americans of wealth or family connections.

Who were some famous black power leaders? ›

It also includes records on several individuals, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Elaine Brown, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, Amiri Baraka, and Shirley Chisholm.

Who was the African American leader in the 1800s? ›

Hiram Revels, the first Black elected to the U.S. Senate (he took the Senate seat from Mississippi that had been vacated by Jefferson Davis in 1861) was born free in North Carolina and attended college in Illinois.

What religion is Kwanzaa? ›

The festival is a nonreligious holiday inspired by West African harvest celebrations. The word Kwanzaa means “first fruits.”

Why is it important to celebrate African Americans? ›

It's an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the achievements that African Americans have accomplished in this country, despite the history of racism and oppression.

Who invented Kwanzaa? ›

Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa.

Who were the biggest black civil rights leaders? ›

Leaders in the Struggle for Civil Rights
  • Roy Wilkins. Introduced at the August 1963 March on Washington as "the acknowledged champion of civil rights in America," Roy Wilkins headed the oldest and largest of the civil rights organizations. ...
  • Whitney M. ...
  • A. ...
  • Bayard Rustin. ...
  • Martin Luther King Jr. ...
  • James Farmer. ...
  • John Lewis.

Which leader most influenced the black power movement? ›

The inspiration behind much of the black power movement, Malcolm X's intellect, historical analysis, and powerful speeches impressed friend and foe alike. The primary spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964, he traveled to Mecca that year and returned more optimistic about social change.

Who was the dominant leader in the African-American community? ›

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an African-American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community.

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