1. Josiah Henson, 18th century abolitionist. Henson made several trips and led over 200 slaves to Canada. During his time in Canada, Josiah Henson started the Dawn Institute in Chatham, Ontario, a refuge for fugitive slaves where they were taught trades to support themselves and their families. When Henson went to the World’s Fair in London, he became the first ex-slave to be granted an audience with Queen Victoria.
2. Adah Menkens, Actress and poet, In 1857, she appeared in “The Lady of Lyons” in Shreveport, Louisiana, and in “Fazio” in New Orleans. She began to publish verse about that time; several poems appeared in the “Cincinnati Israelite” during the late 1850s and in the “New York Sunday Mercury” in 1860 to 1861. Menken first appeared on stage in New York City in March 1859.
3. John Wesley Work III, Composer/historian and educator, As a composer he is famous for compositions “My Lord What A Morning,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and “There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonight.” His major contributions include “American Negro Songs and Spirituals” (1940) and “Jubilee” (1962).
His grandfather, John Wesley Work, was a church choir director in Nashville, where he wrote and arranged music for his choirs. Some of his choristers were members of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. His father, John Wesley Work Jr., was a singer, folksong collector and professor of music, Latin, and history at Fisk, and his mother, Agnes Haynes Work, was a singer who helped train the Fisk group. His uncle, Frederick Jerome Work, also collected and arranged folksongs, and his brother, Julian, became a professional musician and composer.
4. Erroll Garner, jazz pianist and composer known for his swing playing and ballads. His best-known composition, the ballad “Misty”, which has become a jazz standard. Garner’s fame started with the recording of “Laura” in 1946. He gave recitals at the Cleveland Music Hall and at New York’s Town Hall. He won music awards in many countries and devoted much of his later years to composing scores for movies, Broadway shows, and ballets.
5. James Emanuel, poet, He has edited five Broadside Critics books (1971-1975); earned a Columbia University doctorate; had professorships in New York, France, and Poland; published almost 400-plus poems (in 14 individual books, 145 or more anthologies, and many journals), 32 literary essays, and the now-classic anthology “Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America,” an autobiography, and seminal book on Langston Hughes.
6. Jaki Byard, Jazzman (Piano\Saxophone), jazz pianist and composer who also played trumpet andsaxophone, among several other instruments. He was noteworthy for his eclectic style, incorporating everything from ragtime and stride to free jazz. In describing his contribution to the Phil Woods album Musique du Bois, National Public Radio described him as “one of the most compelling and versatile pianists in jazz”.
Byard began playing professionally at the age of 15. After serving in World War II he toured with Earl Bostic in the late 1940s, and, by now based in Boston, made his recording debut with Charlie Mariano in 1951. Later, he was a member of the bands of Herb Pomeroy (1952-55, recording in 1957) and Maynard Ferguson (1959-62).
Moving to New York, Byard recorded extensively with Charles Mingus in the periods 1962 to 1964 and 1970, touring Europe with him in 1964. He also made important recordings as a sideman with Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin and Sam Rivers. As a leader, he recorded a string of albums for the Prestige label during the 1960s. He fronted an occasional big band, the Apollo Stompers. He taught at the New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Hartt School of Music and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
7. Natalie Hinderas, pianist and composer. Throughout her career, she promoted and recorded works by Black performers and composers, among them R. Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still, John W. Work, and George Walker. She received a number of awards and degrees including the Martha Baird Rockefeller fellowship and an honorary doctorate degree from Swarthmore College. Natalie Hinderas was a full professor at Temple University
8. Wardell Anthony “Ward” Connerly, conservative activist, businessman, and former University of California Regent. He is also the founder and the chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, a national non-profit organization in opposition to racial and gender preferences. He is considered to be the man behind California’s Proposition 209 outlawing affirmative action. His twelve-year tenure on the Board of Regents ended on March 1, 2005.
9. Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson is a Rapp Artist, actor, screenwriter, film director, and producer. He began his career as a member of C.I.A. and later joined the rap group N.W.A. After leaving N.W.A in December 1989, he built a successful solo career in music, and also as a writer, director, actor and producer in cinema. Additionally, he has served as one of the producers of the Showtime television series Barbershop and the TBS series Are We There Yet?, both of which are based upon films in which he portrayed the lead character.