1. Jan E. Matzeliger, inventor in the shoe industry.(Shoe lasting Machine). Matzeliger obtained a patent for his invention in 1883. His machine could produce between 150 to 700 pairs of shoes a day, cutting shoe prices across the nation in half. In recognition of his accomplishment, he was honored on a postage stamp on September 15, 1991.
2. Silas Hogan, Bluesman (Swamp Blues), blues musician. Hogan most notably recorded “Airport Blues” and “Lonesome La La”, was the front man of the Rhythm Ramblers, and became an inductee in the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame.
3. Julius Nipsey Russell, comedian, best known today for his appearances as a guest panelist on game shows from the 1960s through the 1990s, especially Match Game, Password, Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth and Pyramid. His appearances were distinguished in part by the short, humorous poems he would recite during the broadcast. These lyrics became so closely associated with Russell that Dick Clark, Bill Cullen, Betty White, and others regularly referred to him as “the poet laureate of television.” He also had a leading role in the film version of The Wiz. Russell was also a frequent guest on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.
4. James Edward (Snooky) Pryor, Chicago blues harmonica player. While serving in the U.S. Army he would blow bugle calls through the powerful PA system, which led him to experiment with playing the harmonica that way. Upon discharge from the Army in 1945, he obtained his own amplifier, and began playing harmonica at the outdoor Maxwell Street market, becoming a regular on the Chicago blues scene.
5. Bobby Short, cabaret singer and pianist, best known for his interpretations of songs by popular composers of the first half of the 20th century such as Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Noel Coward and George and Ira Gershwin.
He also championed African-American composers of the same period such as Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Andy Razaf, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, presenting their work not in a polemical way, but as simply the obvious equal of that of their white contemporaries.
His dedication to his great love – what he called the “Great American Song” – left him equally adept at performing the witty lyrics of Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” or Gershwin and Duke’s “I Can’t Get Started.”
Short always said his favorite songwriters were Ellington, Arlen and Kern, and he was instrumental in spearheading the construction of the Ellington Memorial in his beloved New York City.
6. Julian Edwin (Cannonball) Adderley, was a jazz alto saxophonist of the hard-bop era of the 1950s and 1960. Adderley is remembered for his 1966 single Mercy Mercy Mercy, a crossover hit on the pop charts, and for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis, including on the epochal album Kind of Blue (1959). He was the brother of jazz cornetist Nat Adderley, a longtime member of his band.
7. Jessye Norman, opera singer. Norman is a well-known contemporary opera singer and recitalist, and is one of the highest paid performers in classical music. A dramatic soprano, Norman is associated in particular with the roles of Aida, Cassandre, Alceste, and Leonore..
8. Claude McKay, was a writer and poet. He was a figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), andBanana Bottom (1933). McKay also authored a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940). His book of poetry, Harlem Shadows (1922) was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance.