1. Chester Arthur Franklin, Businessman, Newpaper Publisher, Colorado (Star) and Kansas City (The City Call). He published the first issue on May 6, 1919. He only hired journalists with college degrees and focused his paper on serious topics concerning African Americans.
2. Gwendolyn Brooks, Poetess (Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for Annie Allen), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985. Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine at the age of thirteen. When Brooks was sixteen years old, she had compiled a portfolio of around seventy-five published poems. Aged 17, Brooks stuck to her roots and began submitting her work to “Lights and Shadows”, the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Although her poems range in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to using blues rhythms in free verse, her characters are often drawn from the poor inner city. During this same period, she also attended Wilson Junior College, from where she graduated in 1936. After publishing more than seventy-five poems, Brooks began to work a series of typing jobs.
By 1941, Brooks was taking part in poetry workshops. One particularly influential workshop was organized by Inez Cunningham Stark. Stark was an affluent white woman with a strong literary background, and the workshop participants were all African-American. The group dynamic of Stark’s workshop proved especially effective in energizing Brooks and her poetry began to be taken seriously (The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, Editor, 2005). In 1943 she received an award for poetry from the Midwestern Writers’ Conference.
Her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, published in 1945 by Harper and Row, brought her instant critical acclaim. She received her first Guggenheim Fellowship and was one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle magazine. In 1950, she published her second book of poetry, Annie Allen, which won her Poetry magazine’s Eunice Tietjens Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first given to an African-American.
3. David C. Driskell, a scholar in the field of African American art and an artist. Driskell is an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Driskell holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University and nine Honorary Doctoral degrees. In 2000, Driskell was honored by President Bill Clinton as one of 12 recipients of the National Humanities Medal. A publication, David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar by Julie L. McGee detailing Driskell’s life and work, was published in 2006.
4. Nikki Giovanni, poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Her primary focus is on the individual and the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others. Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride, respect for family, and her own experiences as a daughter, a civil rights activist, and a mother. She is currently a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech.
5. Billy Butler, Singer/Songwriter, soul singer and active principally in the 1960s. Butler is Jerry Butler’s younger brother. He recorded for Okeh Records in the middle of the 1960s, working with producer Carl Davis. He was backed by ‘The Enchanters’. His biggest hit was 1965’s “I Can’t Work No Longer”, which reached #6 on the U.S. Billboard Black Singles chart and #60 on the Billboard Hot 100. After 1966 he left Okeh and continued recording into the early 1970s. Butler also wrote songs for his brother, as well as for musicians such as Major Lance and Gene Chandler. Today, He plays the guitar in his brother, Jerry’s, band.
6. Antonio Reid better known as L.A. Reid, A three-time Grammy Award-winning record executive, songwriter, and record producer. Best known as the co-founder of LaFace Records, he is responsible for signing and helping bring Mariah Carey, P!nk, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Kanye West, Avril Lavigne, Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher, Ciara, OutKast, and Dido to multi-platinum album sales.
He is the President and CEO of Hitco Music Publishing, based in Atlanta, and was the Chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam Music Groupuntil 2011 when he signed up to appear as a judge on the upcoming U.S. version of The X Factor.
7. Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as simply Prince, is a singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. He has been known under the unpronounceable symbol, which he used between 1993 and 2000. During that period he was frequently referred to in the media as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince“, or simply “The Artist“.
Prince produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles. Prince founded his own recording studio and label, writing, self-producing and playing most, or all, of the instruments on his recordings. In addition, Prince has been a “talent promoter” for the careers of Sheila E., Carmen Electra, The Time and Vanity 6, and has written songs for these artists and others (including Chaka Khan,The Bangles, and Sinéad O’Connor).
Prince also has several hundred unreleased songs in his “vault”. He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and anAcademy Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year he was eligible.