1. Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice,she was referred to as “The Queen of Gospel”. Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world, and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist; entertainer Harry Belafonte called her “the single most powerful black woman in the United States”. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers
2. Edward Brooke, U.S. Senator 1967–1979, Republican from Massachusetts. Politician and was the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate when he was elected as a Republican from Massachusetts in 1966, defeating his Democratic opponent,Endicott Peabody, 60.7%–38.7%. He was also the first African American elected to the Senate since the 19th century, when selection came from state legislatures, and would remain the only person of African heritage sent to the Senate in the 20th century until Democrat Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois in 1993, and was the last Republican Senator elected from Massachusetts until the 2010 election of Scott Brown. He is also the only African American reelected to the Senate.
3. William (Bootsy) Collins, Musician (Bootsy’s Rubber Band/Parliament), funk bassist, singer, and songwriter. Rising to prominence with James Brown in the late 1960s, and with Parliament-Funkadelic in the ’70s, Collins’s driving bass guitar and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk.Collins is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with fifteen other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.
4. Vice Admiral Regina Marcia Benjamin, USPHS, physician who serves as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Benjamin previously directed a nonprofit primary care medical clinic in Bayou La Batre,Alabama.
1. Chuck Berry (Charles Edward Anderson Berry), guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and considered one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
2. Ntozake Shange( Paulette Williams), playwright, and poet. As a self proclaimed black feminist, much of the content of her work addresses issues relating to race and feminism. Shange is best-known for the Obie Award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She also wrote Betsey Brown, a novel about an African American girl who runs away from home. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
3. Terry McMillan, Novelist, editor, and educator, author. Her interest in books comes from working at alibrary when she was sixteen. She received her BA in journalism in 1986 at University of California, Berkeley. Her work is characterized by strong female protagonists. Her first book, Mama, was self-published. She achieved national attention in 1992 with her third novel, Waiting to Exhale, which remained on The New York Times bestseller list for many months. In 1995, Forest Whitaker turned it into a film starring Whitney Houston. In 1998, another of McMillan’s novels, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, was made into a movie. McMillan’s novel Disappearing Acts was subsequently produced as a direct-to-cable feature, starring Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan. She also wrote the best seller A Day Late and a Dollar Short. The Interruption of Everything was published on July 19, 2005. Getting to Happy, the long-awaited sequel toWaiting to Exhale, was published on September 7, 2010.
4. Tommy Hearns, retired boxer. He won 8 world titles in six different weight divisions. Hearns became the first boxer in history to win world titles in four divisions. He would also become the first fighter in history to conquer 5 world titles in 5 different divisions. He has scored many memorable knockouts in his career and is widely considered to be one of the greatest knockout artists of all time. Hearns was voted the greatest Super Welterweight of all time and received the “Fighter of the Year” award in 1980 and 1984.
He fought 21 current, past or future world champions. Blessed with exceptional height for a welterweight (6’1″), a broad back, and unusually long arms, Hearns had a unique build combined with destructive punching power. He is known best for his devastating right hand, his powerful left hook and for carrying his left hand low—a stance he used to lure foes into an exchange, as well as to maximize the speed and change the angle of his jab, a technique called the “flicker jab”.
As a fighter, his aggression set him apart, controlling fights with his incredible reach, power and great boxing skills. He lost only one decision in his entire career, at the age of 33, to Iran “The Blade” Barkley.
5. Wynton Learson Marsalis, Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, music educator, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has promoted the appreciation of classical and jazz music often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammys in both genres, and was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for Music for a jazz recording. Marsalis is the son of jazz musician Ellis Marsalis, Jr. (pianist), grandson to Ellis Marsalis, Sr., and brother to Branford (saxophonist),Delfeayo (trombonist), Mboya, and Jason (drummer).
6. Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley-Grace (born October 18, 1968) is an American R&B/gospel singer and actress, best known for her 1988 ballad, “Thanks for My Child.”
Cheryl Riley, who worked as a nurse for handicapped children for ten years before beginning her singing career, topped the US R&B chartand hit the Top 40 on the pop chart at #32 with the 1988 ballad, “Thanks for My Child,” a song written by Full Force. It peaked at #75 in theUK Singles Chart in January 1989. The genesis of “Thanks for My Child” began with Full Force member Bowlegged Lou’s experience with the complications of his wife’s first pregnancy.
As pivotal as “Thanks for My Child” was for Riley’s career, it was not the first song Lou offered to her. She refused his offer to record “I Wonder If I Take You Home” because she did not want to spread herself too thin, but after it became a million-selling hit for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam in 1985, she thought she had missed her big break. Lou then offered her “Thanks for My Child”. Riley still had her nurse’s job when the song went to number one on the R&B chart.
The title track single to her debut LP Me Myself and I made it to number 18 on the R&B charts in early 1989. Another single, “Every Little Thing About You,” peaked at number 55 on the R&B charts later that year. Her second LP, Chapters, was issued and yielded the singles “How Can You Hurt the One You Love” and a cover of Aretha Franklin’s 1968 hit “Ain’t No Way”. Her third album All That! was released by Reprise, and featured the singles “Gimme” and “Guess I’m in Love.”
After a hiatus from the entertainment industry, Riley re-emerged in the early 2000s as a star in a number of gospel plays for best-selling playwright Tyler Perry, including Madea’s Class Reunion, Madea Goes to Jail, Why Did I Get Married? and the film version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Big Happy Family.
2. Robert (Kool) Bell, Rhythm & Blues Singer, songwriter, and bassist, who is the founding member of the jazz/R&B/soul/funk/disco band, Kool & the Gang.
3. Cece Winans, Grammy Award winning Gospel and Rhythem & Blues Artist, She has won five Grammy Awards, 18 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and several gold and platinum-selling albums. CeCe’s collection of Top Ten R&B radio hits include “Count on Me,” her powerhouse duet with Whitney Houston, from the multi-platinum Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. The multi-format smash single sold 2 million copies and hit the Top Ten on pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts. Her successful music career has also landed her in the national media spotlight with television appearances on “Oprah,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee”, the White House and many more.
4. Nick Cannon, actor, comedian, rapper, entrepreneur, record producer, radio, and television personality. On television, Cannon began as a teenage sketch comedian on All That before going on to host The Nick Cannon Show, Wild ‘N Out, and America’s Got Talent. He acted in the films Drumline, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, and Roll Bounce.
1. Andrew “Rube” Foster, baseball player, manager, and pioneer executive in the Negro leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.
2. Brother Jack McDuff, jazz organist and organ trio bandleader who was most prominent during the hard bop and soul jazz era of the 1960s, often performing with an organ trio.
3. LaMonte McLemore, R&B Singer (Fifth Demensions), Entertainer Lamonte McLemore graduated from High School in1952 and enlisted in the United States Navy, where he worked as an aerial photographer.
Athletically gifted, McLemore was the first African American athlete to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals. He moved to Los Angeles and landed a short lived minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a strong-arm pitcher.
In 1958, McLemore began his career as a photographer with Halmont Graphics, a company he co-partnered. He became the first African American photographer hired by Harper’s Bazaar magazine and the photographer chosen to shoot Stevie Wonder’s first album cover. McLemore has been a photographer for Jet and Ebony magazines for over forty years.
4. BeBe Winans, a gospel and R&B singer. He is a member of the noted Winans family, most members of which are also gospel artists.
5. Douglas E. Davis, better known by the stage name Doug E. Fresh, is an Rapp Artist, record producer, and beat boxer, also known as “the Human Beat Box”. One of the early pioneers of beat boxing, Fresh is able to accurately imitate drum machines and various special effects using only his mouth, throat and a microphone.
6. Abdul-Malik Kashie Yoba,better known by his stage name Malik Yoba, is an actor and occasional singer. He is perhaps best known for his starring role as NYPD Detective J.C. Williams on the FOX police drama series New York Undercover. Currently, he appears as former FBI Special Agent Bill Harken on the Syfy drama series Alphas.
7. Marcus Sanders, R&B Singer, Member of Hi-Five formed in 1990 in Waco, Texas. Members also included Tony Thompson, Roderick Clark, Russell Neal, and Toriano Easley. They were signed to Jive Records who helped them release their first album, the self-titled Hi-Five, in 1990. Hi-Five broke up in 1994.
1. Dr. Vivien Thomas, surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock’s experimental animal laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country’s most prominent surgeons. Vivien Thomas was the first African American without a doctorate degree to perform open heart surgery on a white patient in the United States.
2. Isabel Sanford, actress best known for her role as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson on the CBS television sitcoms All in the Family (1971–1975) and The Jeffersons She was the first African-American actress to win a Lead Actress Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981), and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
3. Charlie (Bird) Parker, famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Parker, with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, is widely considered to have been one of the most influential jazz musicians. Parker acquired the nickname “Yardbird” early in his career and the shortened form “Bird” remained Parker’s sobriquet for the rest of his life, inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as “Yardbird Suite”, “Ornithology” and “Bird of Paradise.”
5. Dinah Washington born Ruth Lee Jones, was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. She has been cited as “the most popular black female recording artist of the ’50s”, and called “The Queen of the Blues”. She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993
6. Albertina Walker, Albertina had four siblings born in Bibb County and four born in Chicago. Albertina began singing in the youth choir at the West Point Baptist Church at an early age, and joined several Gospel groups thereafter, including The Pete Williams Singers and the Robert Anderson Singers. Albertina was greatly influenced by Mahalia Jackson, her friend and confidante. Mahalia Jackson took her on the road when she was just a teenager. “Mahalia used to kid me. She’d say, ‘Girl, you need to go sing by yourself.’ ” recalled Walker in a 2010 Washington Post Interview. Albertina Walker did just that. In 1951, she formed the group called The Caravans. She was popularly referred to as the “Queen of Gospel Music”, initially by such notables as the late Reverend James Cleveland and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., for her outstanding achievements within the genre after the death of Mahalia Jackson in 1972.
In the early 1950s Walker founded her own Gospel music group The Caravans, enlisting fellow singers from The Robert Anderson Singers (Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels). The Caravans’ membership has included: James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Loleatta Holloway, Cassietta George, and Delores Washington. Walker retired The Caravans in the late 1960s, performing as a solo artist.
7. Wyomia Tyus, Won a gold medal for two Consecutive Olympics (1964-1968). The first person to retain the Olympic title in the 100 m. Participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics at age 19. In the heats of the event, she equaled Wilma Rudolph’s World Record, propelling her to a favored position for the final, where her main rival would be fellow American Edith McGuire. Tyus won the final, beating McGuire by two tenths. At the same Olympics, she also won a silver medal with the 4 x 100 m relay team, finishing only behind Poland.
8. Michael Joseph Jackson, was an American recording artist, dancer, singer-songwriter, musician, and philanthropist. Referred to as the King of Pop, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contribution to music, dance, and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5, then the Jacksons in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971.
In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, were credited with transforming the medium into an art form and a promotional tool, and the popularity of these videos helped to bring the relatively new television channel MTV to fame. Videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” made him a staple on MTV in the 1990s. Through stage performances and music videos, Jackson popularized a number of dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style have influenced numerous hip hop, pop, contemporary R&B, and rock artists.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first (and currently only) dancer from the world of pop and rock ‘n’ roll. Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award); 26 American Music Awards (more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century”); 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career (more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era); and the estimated sale of over 750 million records worldwide. Jackson won hundreds of awards, which have made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music.