From Malcolm X in the USA to Nkrumah in Ghana, history is never complete without such names popping up. Today we are going to look at the part 1 of our compilation of History’s greatest black achievers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stokely Carmichael – Civil rights activist, 1941-98
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Carmichael moved to Harlem at 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.
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, colonization and his Guyanese and British heritage. His works have been translated into 12 languages.
Kofi Annan – Diplomat, born 1938
Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. His role in working for global peace was recognized when he and the UN were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He helped to reform the UN and strengthen its peacekeeping abilities.
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.
Maurice Rupert Bishop – Politician, revolutionary, 1944-83
Creator of the People’s Revolutionary Government in Grenada, leader of a bloodless coup against the government and inspired by figures such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. He was overthrown and assassinated by members of his own government.
Charles Drew – Scientist, 1904-50
An African-American physician, he revolutionized 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.
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 colonization.
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.