1. Phillis Wheatley, The first African American woman whose writings were published. Born in Gambia, Senegal, she was enslaved at age eight. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and helped encourage her poetry.
2. John Mitchell Jr., Journalist, activist, and politician. Editor of The Richmond Planet, (later the Richmond Afro-American). aptly described as “a man who would walk into the jaws of death to serve his race.”
3. McCants Stewart, Lawyer. admitted to the bar of Oregon in 1903, becoming that states first Black lawyer.
4. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Coined the phrase (Rock-n-Roll), a blues singer and guitarist from Texas. He was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s, and has been titled “Father of the Texas Blues”. Jefferson’s singing and self-accompaniment were distinctive as a result of his high-pitched voice and originality on the guitar. Blues and rock and roll musicians attempted to imitate both his songs and his musical style
5. Mattiwilda Dobbs, coloratura soprano and one of the first black singers to enjoy a major international career in opera.
6. Thurston Harris, singer, briefly popular in the early to mid 1950s. Harris first appeared on record as the featured vocalist with The Lamplighters in 1953. He recorded with the Lamplighters, one of the many groups on the early R&B scene in South Central Los Angeles, throughout the early 1950s. The group later evolved into The Tenderfoots, then The Sharps.
7. Earnest Lee “Ernie” Holmes, also nicknamed “Fats”, football player who was most famous for his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972-77. He was part of the famous Steel Curtain and played at defensive lineman. His fellow linemen during this period were Joe Greene, Dwight White, and L. C. Greenwood. He won two Super Bowl rings with them.
8. Bonnie Pointer, R&B and disco singer, most notable for being the next-to-youngest member of the 1970s and 1980s family music group, The Pointer Sisters. She scored several moderate solo hits after leaving the Pointers in 1977, including a disco cover of The Elgins’ “Heaven Must Have Sent You” which became a U.S. top 20 pop hit on September 1, 1979.
9. Leon Spinks, boxer. He had an overall record of 26 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws as a professional, with 14 knockout wins. While still an amateur, he also became a member of the United States Marine Corps. Spinks went from being Heavyweight Champion Of The World (when he defeated Muhammad Ali by a 15-round split decision, on February 15, 1978) to being homeless in little more than a decade.
10. Jill Jones, singer and songwriter, who was a backup vocalist for Teena Marie and Prince in the 1980s.
11. Kimberly Denise Jones, better known by her stage name Lil’ Kim, a rapper, songwriter and actress who was part of the group Junior M.A.F.I.A.
12. Zane Copeland, Jr., better known as Lil’ Zane, is a rapper born in Yonkers, New York and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is best known for his debut album Young World: The Future, released in 2000, which featured the single “Callin’ Me” featuring 112. Zane has been in several movies, including Cuttin’ da Mustard, A Day in the Life, Motives, The Fighting Temptations, Dr. Dolittle 2, and Finding Forrester.