1. Joe Thomas, Musician both a singer and saxophone soloist. He began his professional career in 1930 playing the alto saxophone with Horace Henderson. After a year, he changed to the tenor saxophone, the instrument with which he became famous after joining Stuff Smith in 1932. Jimmie Lunceford heard him play in Buffalo, N.Y., and asked Thomas to join his group. Thomas settled into the Lunceford band until Jimmie’s death in 1947.
Thomas’ energy as both a singer and saxophone soloist played a major role in establishing the success of the Lunceford band. After Jimmie’s death, Thomas led the Lunceford band with Eddie Wilcox, but left after one year to form his own group. In the early 1950s, Thomas settled in Kansas City, MO, to run the Bruce R. Watkins Funeral Home and lead the St. Stephen’s Baptist Church choir. Thomas did appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, and recorded as a leader with the Jimmie Rowles quartet in 1979 but otherwise retired from jazz when he moved to Kansas City.
His huge and melodious tone is said to have influenced an entire generation of saxophonists in the 1940s.
2. Ernest Crichlow, Associated with the Harlem Art Center during the 1930’s as a noted painter and illustrator whose objectives will be to advocate social commentary and communication through art.
His first exhibition was in 1938 in the Harlem Community Center in Harlem, New York. One of his best known works, the lithograph Lovers III shows a young black woman being harassed in her bedroom by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Crichlow’s work was exhibited in the 1939 New York World’s Fair and in the Library of Congress the following year.
Over the next few decades, his work was regularly shown in leading US art galleries especially in the northeast although he held two exhibitions in Atlanta University in the 1940s. By the end of his career, his work had been honored by President Carter. His 1967 painting White Fence showing a young white girl being separated by a fence from five black girls was the most notable from his later career along with a 25 panel mural at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.
Crichlow was also well-known as an illustrator for children’s literature providing art work for Two in a Team, Maria, Lift Every Voice and Magic Mirrors. He founded the Cinque Gallery in 1969 with Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden as well as teaching art at New York University and the Art Students League.
3. Shirley Goodman, R&B singer known best for Shirley and Lee (Let The Good Times Roll), a 1950s R&B duo. In 1956 The duo recorded “Let the Good Times Roll”, which became their biggest hit single reaching #1 on the US R&B chart and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Although a follow-up single, “I Feel Good” (not to be confused with their 1955 single “Feel So Good”), also made the charts, the duo’s later releases were less successful, and Goodman and Leonard split up in 1962. Leonard made some subsequent solo records with little success. Later in her career, she had a resurgence with the disco hit, Shirley and Company “Shame, Shame, Shame” in the 1970s. The record became an international pop hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard chart and presaging the disco boom.
4. Al Wilson, Soul singer best known for the million-selling #1 hit, “Show and Tell”. He is also remembered for his Northern soul anthem, “The Snake”.
5. Phylicia Rashad, Tony Award winning actress and singer, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show.
In 2004, Rashād became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaption of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
Rashād was dubbed “the mother” of the African American community at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards.
6. Mark DeBarge, R&B/soul singer-songwriter, trumpeter and flugelhorn player best known for his work as member of 1980s Motown singing family group DeBarge. He is best known for co-penning the group’s popular album track, “Stay With Me”, later covered by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Ashanti and Mariah Carey.
7. Paula Abdul, recording artist, dancer, choreographer, actress and television personality. In the 1980s, Abdul rose from cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers to highly sought-after choreographer at the height of the music video era before scoring a string of pop music-R&B hits in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Her six number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 tie her for fifth among the female solo performers who have reached #1 there. She won a Grammy for “Best Music Video – Short Form” for “Opposites Attract” and twice won the “Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography”.
8. Travis Cortez Mays, former professional basketball player who was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the 1st round (14th overall pick) of the 1990 NBA Draft.
9. Bumper Robinson (Larry Clarence Robinson II), Actor “A Different World”, His first acting role was an appearance in a Jell-O pudding pop commercial starring Bill Cosby. As a young child, he also appeared on The Jeffersons, Webster, Night Court, and Days of our Lives, and played the part of Zammis in the 1985 movie Enemy Mine starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr.
10. Zoe Saldana, actress, She had her breakthrough role in the 2002 film Drumline, and later gained prominence for her roles as Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Uhura in the 2009 film Star Trek, and Neytiri in James Cameron’s Avatar. In 2010 she appeared in the film The Losers.