1. Pamela Suzette “Pam” Grier, actress. She became famous in the early 1970s, after starring in a string of moderately successful women in prison and blaxploitation films such as 1974’s Foxy Brown. Her career was revitalized in 1997 after her appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown. She is one of a few African-American actresses to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She has also been nominated for a SAG as well as a Satellite Award for her performance in the iconic filmJackie Brown. She received an Emmy Award nomination for her work in an Animated Program Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Rotten Tomatoes has ranked her as the second Greatest Female Action Heroine in film history. Director Quentin Tarantino remarked that she may have been cinema’s first female action star.
2. Lucy Ann Delaney, author, former slave, and activist, notable for her 1891 narrative From the Darkness Cometh the Light, or, Struggles for Freedom. This is the only first-person account of a “freedom suit” and one of the few post-Emancipation published slave narratives.
The memoir recounts her mother Polly Berry’s legal battles in St. Louis, Missouri for her own and her daughter’s freedom from slavery. For her daughter’s case, Berry attracted the support of Edward Bates, a prominent Whig politician and judge, and the future US Attorney Generalunder President Abraham Lincoln. He argued the case of Lucy Ann Berry in court and won in February 1844. Their cases were two of 301 freedom suits filed in St. Louis from 1814-1860. Discovered in the late 20th century, the case files are held by the Missouri Historical Society and searchable in an online database.
3. Mamie Smith, Singer, vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist and actress, who appeared in several motion pictures late in her career. Her
first major break came in 1918, when she appeared in Perry Bradford’s musical “Made in Harlem.” As a vaudeville singer she performed a number of styles including jazz and blues. She entered blues history by being the first African American artist to make vocal blues recordings in 1920.
4. Nora Douglas Holt, singer, composer and music critic, who was born in Kansas and was the first African American to receive amasters degree in the United States. She composed over 200 works of music and was associated with the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance and the co-founder of the National Association of Negro Musicians.
5. Aaron Douglas, Artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Developed a unique aesthetic that linked Black Americans with their African past by using imagery derived from African sculptural and ancestral art to express aspects of the Black experience in the United States.
6. Phillip Michael Thomas, Thomas’ most famous role is that of detective Ricardo Tubbs on the hit 1980s TV series Miami Vice. His first notable roles were in Coonskin and opposite Irene Cara in the 1976 film Sparkle. Following his success in Miami Vice, Thomas appeared in numerous made-for-TV movies and advertisements for telephone psychic services. He served as a spokesperson for cell phone entertainment company Nextones, and he supplied the voice for the character Lance Vance on the video games Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
7. Lenny Kravis, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer andarranger, whose “retro” style incorporates elements of rock, soul, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk and ballads.
In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, Kravitz often plays all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and percussion himself when recording. He is known for his elaborate stage performances and music videos. Kravitz has had multiple number 1 hits on the US Top Singles Charts, though none by himself on the Hot 100, and many more worldwide. He won the Grammy Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category and most consecutive wins in one category. He has been nominated and won other awards, namely American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Radio Music Awards,BRIT Awards and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
8. Ricky Jordan, Former first baseman in Major League Baseballwho played from 1988 to 1996 for the Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners. His first game in Major League Baseball came on July 17, 1988. During his first at-bat that game, he hit a home run. Jordan was noted for being a very good pinch hitter.
9. Lauryn Noelle Hill, recording artist, musician, producer and actress. Early in her career, she established her reputation as a member of the Fugees. In 1998, she launched her solo career with the release of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The recording earned Hill five Grammy Awards, including the coveted Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Hill began her acting career at a young age, appearing on the soap opera As The World Turns as Kira Johnson. In 1993, she co-starred in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit as Rita Louise Watson, in which she performed the songs “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” (a duet with Tanya Blount) and “Joyful, Joyful”. It was in this role that she first came to national prominence,