1. Joe Louis, was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests. Louis’s championship reign lasted from 1937 to 1949
(140 consecutive months), during which he participated in 27 championship fights, 26 championship fights during his reign; the 27th, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles’ heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis’ reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division. In 2005, Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring’s list of 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.
Louis’s cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II. He also was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport’s color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor’s exemption in a PGA event in 1952.
2. John Roseboro, an outstanding baseball player, succeeded Roy Campanella as the Dodgers’ full-time catcher in 1957. For the next ten years he caught some of the greatest pitchers in the national league and was a four-time All-Star. He was the starting catcher in the 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1966 World Series, with the Dodgers winning the championship the first three times.
3. Mary Wells, R&B Artist, singer who helped to define the emerging sound of Motown in the early 1960s. With a string of hit singles mainly composed by Smokey Robinson, including “Two Lovers” (1962), the Grammy-nominated “You Beat Me to the Punch” (1962) and her signature hit, “My Guy” (1964), she departure from the company in 1964. She was one of Motown’s first singing superstars.
5. Franklin Ajaye, Comedian (Car Wash), stand-up comedian. His nickname is “The Jazz Comedian” as he also played jazz for a time earlier in his entertainment career.
6. Stevie Wonder, is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist. Wonder signed with Motown Records’ Tamla label at the age of eleven, and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day.
Among Wonder’s best known works are singles such as “Superstition”, “Sir Duke”, “I Wish” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. Well known albums also include Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. He has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and received twenty-two Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist. Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the United States. In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s fiftieth anniversary, with Wonder at number five.
7. Sharon Sayles-Belton, administrator, activist, and politician. Co-founded the Harriet Tubman Shelter for Battered Women. She is currently the VP of Community Relations and Government Affairs for Thomson Reuters Legal business. Sayles Belton’s political career began in 1983 when she was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, serving in that capacity for ten years, and as council president from 1990 to 1993. In 1993, she was elected mayor of Minneapolis for two terms. She retired from elective politics on January 2, 2002, after serving Minneapolis for 18 years. She was the first Black Female Mayor to be elected in Minneapolis.
8. Dennis Keith Rodman, a retired American professional basketball player of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Born in Trenton, New Jersey, he was nicknamed “Dennis the Menace” and “The Worm” and was known for his fierce defensive and rebounding abilities. Playing small forward in his early years before becoming a power forward, Rodman earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors seven times and was voted NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice. He also led the NBA in rebounds per game for a record seven consecutive years and won five NBA championships (1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998). On April 1, 2011, the Pistons retired Rodman’s #10 jersey that he wore throughout his tenure with the team.
9. Darius Rucker, A musician. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, he first gained fame as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, which he founded in 1986 at the University of South Carolina along with Mark Bryan, Jim “Soni” Sonefeld and Dean Felber. The band has released five studio albums with him as a member, and charted six top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Rucker co-wrote the majority of the band’s songs with the other three members.
He released a solo R&B album, Back to Then, in 2002 on Hidden Beach Recordings but did not chart any singles from it. Six years later, Rucker signed to Capitol Records Nashville as a country music artist, releasing the album Learn to Live that year. Its first single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, made him the first African American to chart a number one on the Hot Country Songs charts since Charley Pride in 1983. It was followed by two more number-one singles, “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright” and the number three “History in the Making”. In 2009, he became the first African American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association, and only the second African American to win any award from the association. A second Capitol album, Charleston, SC 1966, was released on October 12, 2010, and was led off by the number-one “Come Back Song”.
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