List of Black Achievers

The following people are on the Black Achievers Wall in the International Slavery Museum.

  • Muhammad Ali - boxer, born 1942. Widely considered to be the greatest athlete of all time. Not only did Ali dominate the world of boxing (the BBC and Sports Illustrated hailed him 'Sportsman of the Century' in 1999), he was also a key figure in the civil rights movement after refusing to fight in Vietnam because of how Blacks were treated in America.
  • Viv Anderson - footballer, born 1956. Anderson went down in the history books in 1978 as the first Black player to appear in a full international for England. He won the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest as well as domestic titles. In 1999, he was appointed MBE for services to football.
  • Maya Angelou - author, poet, playwright, born 1928. A great voice of Black literature. Angelou's memoirs expose the difficulties of growing up as a Black woman in St Louis. Her achievements are many and varied, and she was the first African-American woman admitted to the Directors Guild of America.
  • Kofi Annan - diplomat, born 1938. Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. His role in working for global peace was recognised when he and the UN were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He helped to reform the UN and strengthen its peacekeeping abilities.
  • John Archer - campaigner, 1863-1923. In 1913 John Archer was elected Mayor of Battersea, the first person of African descent to reach such a position in the UK. An equality campaigner, he chaired the Pan-African Congress in London in 1921 and was president of the African Progress Union.
  • Susana Baca de la Colina - singer, born 1944. Baca has played a major role in the resurgence of Afro-Peruvian music. Inspired by the music she heard as a child, she has founded the Centro Experimental de Musica Negrocontinuo (Institute of the Black Continuum), dedicated to the genre.
  • Shirley Bassey - singer, born 1937. Arguably the greatest Welsh singer of all time, Bassey is the only artist to perform three James Bond themes. The Cardiff-born diva has recently made a popular revival (she was made a Dame in 2000) and can apparently count the Queen as a fan.
  • Steve Biko - activist, 1946-77. A leading campaigner against apartheid in South Africa and co-founder of the Black People's Convention, Biko suffered a fatal head injury while in police custody. Richard Attenborough turned Biko's struggle for equality into the feature film Cry Freedom.
  • Maurice Rupert Bishop - politician, revolutionary, 1944-83. Creator of the People's Revolutionary Government in Grenada, and the leader of a bloodless coup against the government inspired by figures such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. He was overthrown and assassinated by members of his own government.
  • Paul Bogle - cleric, 1822-65. A hero in Jamaica, Bogle was a Baptist deacon who used his education and wealth to help the Black community. He led the Morant Bay Rebellion, in which many were killed by British troops sent to quell the uprising. He was hung by the British.
  • Bussa - slave leader, died 1816. A national hero of Barbados, Bussa led around 400 slaves in a revolt against slave owners in 1816. Although Bussa was killed in battle and the revolt failed, he is remembered as one of the key figures in the emancipation of the slaves.
  • Stokely Carmichael - civil rights activist, 1941-98. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Carmichael moved to Harlem aged 11. He was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, bringing Black students together to protest against segregation. One of the first activists to use the term 'Black Power'.
  • George Washington Carver - botanist, 1864-1943. Dubbed a "Black Leonardo" by Time magazine, Carver - born into slavery himself - developed revolutionary farming techniques that helped former slaves in Alabama become self-sufficient. His methods helped to restore the South after the Civil War.
  • Aimé Césaire - writer, born 1913. Born in Martinique, the co-founder of the literary and political movement Négritude is one of the Caribbean's most popular writers. A campaigner against African colonies, Césaire also published Une Tempête in 1968, a radical adaptation of The Tempest.
  • James Clarke - swimmer, 1886 – 1946. Born in Guyana, James arrived as a ship stowaway in Liverpool aged 14. He was adopted by a family living in the Scotland Road area. A strong swimmer, he regularly rescued local children who got into difficulties swimming in the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. James initiated swimming as part of formal education at his local pool. He was the first Black man in Liverpool to have a street named after him.
  • Learie Constantine - cricketer, politician, lawyer, 1901-71. One of the finest all-rounders in cricket, Constantine moved to England from the West Indies to play professionally. He became involved in politics, fighting discrimination. He was the first Black Governor of the BBC and the first Black life peer.
  • John Conteh - boxer, born 1951. Boasting a record of 34 wins, one draw and four losses, John Conteh is considered one of the greatest ever English boxers. Born in Merseyside, he won the WBC Light Heavyweight Championship in 1974 and a gold medal at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.
  • William Cuffey - activist, 1788-1870. Cuffey was the son of a former slave and a leading figure in the Chartist movement that opposed the imbalance of the distribution of wealth in Britain. The reformist movement is considered the first major working-class movement in the world.
  • Fred D'Aguiar - writer, born 1960. Poet, novelist and playwright, regarded as one of the great British writers of his generation. He focuses on the role of the immigrant in Britain, slavery, colonisation and his Guyanese and British heritage. His works have been translated into 12 languages.
  • Oscar D'Leon - musician, born 1943. Performing and recording for 30 years, D'Leon is a superstar in the world of salsa. Born in Venezuela, he started singing and performing while earning a living driving taxis. Partly due to his underprivileged background, he is an idol in his home country.
  • Benedita da Silva - politician, born 1942. Born in a Brazilian shantytown, Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio is a key political figure, fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. In 1994 she became Brazil's first Black woman Federal Senator, and she has served as Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro.
  • Frederick Douglass - abolitionist, writer, statesman, 1818-95. A former slave, Douglass became one of the primary abolitionists in America. His books and speeches focused on his experiences. He started The North Star, a newspaper edited and written by Black people. He later campaigned for the rights of women.
  • Charles Drew - scientist, 1904-50. An African-American physician, he revolutionised the science - and politics - of blood transfusions. Along with developing blood storage techniques and improved means of transfusing, Drew opposed the practice of racial segregation in blood donation.
  • WEB Du Bois - sociologist, activist, 1868-1963. The first African American to gain a PhD from Harvard, Du Bois wrote several studies on American Black society. He later became a key figure in the civil rights movement and co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  • Quince Duncan - writer, born 1940. The West Indian grew up under racial oppression in the Costa Rican city of San José. His fiction highlights the experiences of the Black African in South America, and gained an international reputation as a human-rights leader promoting tolerance.
  • Félix Eboué - politician, 1884-1944. Eboué became the first Black man to be appointed governor in the French colonies, in Guadeloupe; as governor of Chad, he joined the Free French in their struggle against the Nazis and persuaded other French-African countries to follow.
  • Pastor G Daniel Ekarte - minister, social activist, 1896-1964. Pastor Ekarte founded the African Churches Mission in Liverpool, which from 1945-1949 looked after 'brown babies': the unwanted offspring of Black American GIs and the city's white women. Hundreds of residents lined the streets for his funeral.
  • Philip Emeagwali - scientist, born 1954. A winner of the Gordon Bell prize in 1989, the Nigerian-born computer scientist and geologist is a symbol of African achievement. Emeagwali, voted the 35th greatest African of all time in The New African, played a role in the birth of the internet.
  • Olaudah Equiano - writer, explorer, 1745-97. Equiano's autobiography, 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African', is one of the most important works to address abolition. A former slave who bought his freedom, he toured the UK talking about his experiences.
  • Frantz Fanon - writer, psychiatrist, 1925-61. Born in the French colony of Martinique, Fanon's writing highlights violence as the only method by which colonial repression can be overturned. His work had a great influence across America and Europe and inspired numerous civil rights activists.
  • Aretha Franklin - musician, born 1942. One of the giants of American music and commonly referred to as ‘The Queen of Soul’, Franklin epitomised soul at its mostthat’great, that’s in my diary gospel-charged.  She has won many accolades and was the first African American to appear on the front cover of Time magazine. She performed during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Marcus Garvey - civil rights activist, 1887-1940. Garvey became an inspiration for future civil rights activists by travelling across America urging African-Americans to be proud of their heritage and to return to the continent. He founded the Black Star Shipping Line and United Negro Improvement Association.
  • Howard Gayle - footballer, born 1958. When he became the first Black footballer to play for Liverpool in 1977, Gayle was seen as a trailblazer in a sport that was almost all white. His pride in his background led him to being labelled as a troublemaker; today he campaigns against racism in football.
  • Gilberto Gil - musician, born 1942. A Grammy-award winning musician who sings about social activism, Gil is also Brazil's current minister of culture. He founded the Tropicalia movement in the 1960s and was treated as a political threat by the Brazilian government of the time.
  • Nicolás Guillé - poet, 1902-89. A leading figure of 'poesia égra' ('Black poetry'), the Afro-Cuban poet, writer and journalist was also an influential campaigner for social justice. His work examines what it was like to be poor and Black in Cuba.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer - voting rights activist and civil rights leader, 1917-1977. During the civil rights movement Mrs Hamer began working on welfare and voter registration programmes for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
  • Dame Kelly Holmes - athlete, born 1970. Holmes became the first British woman to win two gold medals after winning both the 800m and 1,500m at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2004 and made a dame in 2005.
  • Jaime Hurtado - politician, died 1999. Hurtado founded Ecuador's Democratic Popular Movement, a political party that fought for the welfare of the working classes. He was the first Afro-Ecuadorian to be elected to Congress and the first to run for President. He was assassinated in 1999.
  • CLR James - writer, socialist theorist, 1901-89. James is famous for seminal writings both on cricket and colonialism, most notably his book 'The Black Jacobins'. He campaigned for African and West Indian independence, and wrote the first novel by a Caribbean author to be published in the UK.
  • Dr Maulana Karenga - scholar, born 1941. A leading Africana Studies scholar, he has had a far-reaching effect on Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960s. Author of numerous books and articles, he has done seminal work in ancient Egyptian Maatian ethical philosophy. A pan-Africanist and major figure in the Black Power Movement, he is creator of the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa, the Nguzo Saba and Kawaida philosophy.
  • Dr Mae Carol Jemison - astronaut, chemical engineer, physician and educator, born 1956. In September 1992, as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Dr Jemison became the first African American woman to enter space.
  • Jamaica Kincaid - writer, born 1949. The celebrated African-American author also teaches creative writing at Harvard University. She left Antigua to escape her family's lack of ambition for her, and often writes about the country's narrow-minded nature and the effects of British colonialism.
  • Martin Luther King - civil rights activist, 1929-68. The figurehead of the American Civil Rights Movement, King became a national hero after leading the successful Montgomery bus boycott. In 1964 he received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work. He was assassinated on 4 April 1968.
  • Martin Luther King III - civil rights activist. The oldest son of the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Mrs Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III is carrying the torch lit by both of his parents into the 21st century. Mr King is an international thought leader in global human rights and lifetime board member of the King Centre in Atlanta Georgia. In 2012 Mr King delivered Liverpool’s annual Slavery Remembrance Day Memorial Lecture.
  • Roi Ankhkara Kwabena - cultural anthropologist, born 1956. Born in Trinidad, Kwabena - who calls himself a 'cultural activist' - produces art on a variety of platforms, addressing issues such as racism and immigration. He is a poet, musician, storyteller, historian and publisher, and has performed around the world.
  • Lewis Howard Latimer - inventor, 1848-1928. The son of escaped slaves, Latimer is considered one of the greatest Black inventors, notably due to his improvement of carbon filaments in light bulbs. He worked with Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell and secured many different patents.
  • Andrea Levy - author, born 1956. Andrea Levy was born in London to Jamaican parents who came to Britain on the now famous 'Empire Windrush' in 1948. Her novels reflect the experiences of Black Britons and in particular the bonds between Britain and Jamaica. Her fourth novel Small Island (2004) won her the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and was recently adapted for television.
  • Sir William Arthur Lewis - economist, 1915-91. In 1979 Sir Arthur Lewis became the first Black person to win the Nobel Prize for Economics. He advised major nations around the world while his research on economic development in emerging countries was pioneering.
  • Patrice Lumumba - politician, activist, 1925-1961. An African anti-colonial activist, Lumumba played a major role in gaining the Democratic Republic of the Congo's independence from Belgium, and was elected its first Prime Minister. He was assassinated after an army-supported coup.
  • Miriam Makeba - musician, activist, born 1932. Known as 'Mama Africa', Makeba became one of the first musicians to bring African music to the rest of the world. She was exiled by the South African government in 1960 after speaking out against apartheid in an address at the United Nations.
  • Nelson Mandela - political activist, born 1918. A key anti-apartheid figure in South Africa, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for the cause. After his release he became the country's first fully democratically elected president and leader of the African National Congress. In 1993 he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Bob Marley - musician, 1945-81. Bob Marley brought reggae to a worldwide audience, and is a hero in Jamaica as well as being seen by many Rastafarians as a prophet. His albums and shows with his band, The Wailers, were legendary. In 1978 he was awarded the United Nations' Medal of Peace.
  • Trevor McDonald - journalist, born 1939. The first Black news anchor in the UK, Trinidad-born McDonald is one of the most popular figures on TV. Starting his career on the BBC World Service, in 1999 he was given the BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television.
  • Olive Morris, civil rights activist, 1952 – 1979. A community activist in 1970s Britain, Olive was a member of the British Black Panthers as well as a founding member of the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. She took a pioneering role in squatter campaigns and housing advocacy and supported liberation movements across the Diaspora.
  • Toni Morrison - author, born 1931. In 1988 Morrison's fifth novel, 'Beloved', won the Pulitzer Prize; five years later, she became the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She acts as a mentor for many writers and is on the editorial board of The Nation magazine.
  • Nanny - Maroon leader, active 1720-34. A national heroine of Jamaica, Queen Nanny was a famous Maroon leader who frequently attacked British troops and is believed to have freed hundreds of slaves. A symbol of Maroon resistance, she is thought to have been killed by British forces.
  • Diane Nash - activist, born 1938. US civil rights and peace activist, Nash was a leading figure in the 1960s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was appointed to a national committee by President Kennedy to help draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2008 she received the National Freedom Award, and in 2009 gave the Slavery Remembrance Day memorial lecture in Liverpool.
  • Kwame Nkrumah - politician, 1909-72. The first President of Ghana, Nkrumah led the movement that gained independence from Britain in 1957. An influential Pan-Africanist, he believed in uniting Africa under one government. He died in exile after his government was overthrown in 1966.
  • Barack Hussein Obama - politician, born 1961. On 20 January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States. He was born in Hawaii and is the first African American to hold the office. He worked as a community organiser in Chicago and studied law at Harvard University, where he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review.
  • Jesse Owens - athlete, 1913-80. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens defied Nazi propaganda and won four gold medals on the track. When he died the US President Jimmy Carter said "Perhaps no athlete better symbolised the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry."
  • George Padmore - scholar, activist, 1902-59. Padmore is seen as one of the 20th century's greatest social theorists and played a large role in the decolonisation of the Caribbean and Africa. A prominent Pan-Africanist, he inspired many Black leaders and established the International African Service Bureau.
  • Vicente Ferreira Pastinha - martial arts master, 1889-1981. Pastinha is a mestre, or master, of Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art. Capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves and was illegal in the country from 1888 to the 1930s. Pastinha opened the first Capoeira Angola school in the Brazil in 1942.
  • Rosa Parks - activist, 1913-2005. Parks's refusal to give up her seat on an Alabama bus in 1955 became a symbolic moment in the American civil rights movement. The fallout launched Martin Luther King Jr to fame. The incident sparked a mass boycott of the transport system by the Black community.
  • Pelé - footballer, born 1940. Christened Edson Arantes do Nascimento Pelé, he is regarded as the world's greatest footballer. Playing for his native Brazil, Pelé won the World Cup three times. In 1999 the BBC named him the second greatest sportsperson of the millennium.
  • Caryl Phillips - author, born 1958. A novelist and writer for TV, radio, theatre and cinema, Phillips has often focused on the slave trade. In 2004 he was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Born in St Kitts and brought up in Leeds, he is now a professor of English at Yale.
  • Paul Robeson - activist, singer, actor and lawyer, 1898-1976. In the 1930s Robeson visited the Soviet Union and became a vocal advocate of communism and other left-wing causes. On his return to America he refused to sing to segregated audiences.
  • Walter Rodney - academic, political leader, 1942-80. Born in Guyana, Rodney was a leading Pan-Africanist and Black Power leader. When he joined the Working People's Alliance in Guyana he became a major figure in the resistance against the repressive government and was assassinated by a bomb.
  • Ignatius Sancho - writer, composer, 1729-80. Perhaps most notable for being the first Black Briton to vote in a UK election, he was also the first African author to have his work published in this country. Sancho wrote poetry, plays, composed music and became friends with the writer Samuel Johnson.
  • Haile Selassie - world leader, 1892-1975. Accepted by Rastafarians as a symbol of God incarnate, the former emperor of Ethiopia became a worldwide anti-Fascist figure after appealing to the United Nations for help against Mussolini's invading armies. An ally of the west and opponent of colonisation.
  • Léopold Sédar Senghor - politician, poet, 1906-2001. A poet as well as a leading figure in African politics, Senghor is one of the greatest African intellectuals of the 20th century. The first president of Senegal, he was also the co-founder of Négritude and has been credited with the relative political stability of Senegal.
  • John Sentamu - religious leader, born 1949. The 97th Archbishop of York - and the first Black man to serve as an Anglican archbishop - Sentamu has often spoken out on many topical issues and chaired the inquiry into how the police handled the death of Damilola Taylor.
  • Sam Sharpe - preacher, 1801-32. Sharpe, a Jamaican national hero, was born a slave in Montego Bay and became a Baptist preacher. In 1931 he led the Christmas Rebellion, the last major uprising in Jamaica before slavery was abolished, for which he was executed by British forces.
  • Bessie Smith - singer, 1892-1937. 'The Empress of the Blues' was the first blues singer to achieve success as a recording artist. She has influenced countless artists, including Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and played alongside such greats as Louis Armstrong.
  • Mary Seacole - nurse, 1805-81. Seacole rose to prominence during the Crimean War when she funded her own journey to Turkey and opened a hospital, after British authorities had refused her offers of help. She became a popular figure in Britain, receiving various awards for bravery.
  • Wole Soyinka - poet, writer, playwright, born 1934. One of the leading writers in Africa, Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. His work often concentrates on oppression and tyranny. He has also played a huge role in Nigerian politics and was imprisoned in 1967 during the country's civil war.
  • Ali Ibrahim 'Farka' Touré - musician, 1939-2006. Dubbed the 'African John Lee Hooker', Touré lived in Mali until his death from cancer. Winner of two Grammies, he was one of Africa's most famous musicians and always insisted that the blues was an authentically African genre.
  • Toussaint L'Ouverture - rebel slave leader, 1743-1803.
    Born a slave in Haiti (then the French colony of St Dominique), Toussaint successfully led a slave rebellion against the colonisers. A brilliant general, he went on to help France drive out the British and Spanish from the country.
  • Sojourner Truth - civil rights campaigner, 1797-1883. Born into slavery in New York, Truth became a prominent abolitionist. Alongside memorable speeches such as 'Ain't I a Woman?', she released an autobiography of her time as a slave. She also campaigned for woman's rights and against capital punishment.
  • Harriet Tubman - abolitionist, 1820-1913. A runaway slave, Tubman went on to aid the escape of hundreds of slaves via the Underground Railroad, a network of houses willing to help those on their way to freedom in Canada. Nicknamed 'Moses', she later served in the Civil War.
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu - cleric, campaigner, born 1931. A key figure in the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa, Tutu was chosen by President Mandela to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 1975 he became the first Black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
  • Derek Walcott - playwright, author, artist, born 1930. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, Walcott's poems and plays are largely influenced by growing up in the former British colony of St Lucia. Dividing his time between America and the Caribbean, much of his work addresses differences between the two cultures.
  • Arthur Wharton - footballer, 1865-1930. Best known as the first professional Black footballer in the English League, Wharton also excelled at cycling, cricket and running. In 1886 he became the fastest man in Britain. In 2004 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
  • Phillis Wheatley - poet, 1753-1784. Captured by slave traders in Senegal as a child, Wheatley became the first Black female author to have a book of poetry published in America. Supported by members of the Boston gentry, she became a literary sensation and appeared before George Washington.
  • Oprah Winfrey - media tycoon, born 1954. A living American institution, she is seen by some as the most influential woman in the world. At the centre of her various projects is her TV chat show which is syndicated around the world. In 2006 Winfrey became the world's first Black woman billionaire.
  • Malcolm X - civil rights activist, 1925-65. Malcolm X was a major campaigner for Black power and opposed the idea of racial equality. A believer in militant protest, he was assassinated not long after leaving the Nation of Islam and creating the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
  • Gaspar Yanga - rebel slave leader, 1570-1609. The leader of a slave revolt in Mexico that led to the creation of a slave colony in the mountains which, with a population of around 500, existed for more than 30 years. After violent clashes, Yanga obtained a treaty that gave the slaves their freedom.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah - poet, born 1958. Zephaniah decided to become a poet after being sent to prison, aged 14. He is now one of Britain's top contemporary poets and has also written novels. He publicly rejected an OBE in 2003 because the award reminded him of "thousands of years of brutality".

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