Black Role Models of Yesterday and Today


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Now that we’re in February, The Good Stuff is bringing you a list of some noteworthy black role models to celebrate Black History Month. Of course, we couldn’t put everyone on the list, but here are a few African Americans who have made accomplishments in sports, science, entertainment and more.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur AsheSource: sportsinblackandwhite.com 

Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. made such a name for himself in the world of tennis, that he even has a stadium named after him in New York. He was once world No. 1 (in 1968) and has won three Grand Slam titles: the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He’s also credited as being the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team, and was said to have paved the way for many African American tennis players of today, including the Williams sisters.

Misty Copeland

Misty CopelandSource: nytimes.com

Who can forget Misty Copeland’s inspirational I Will What I Want Under Armour campaign? This dancer for the American Ballet Theatre is also an author and, now, a most certain role model. Her dancing has inspired young girls everywhere with the knowledge that they don’t have to fit the norm to follow their dreams. This prodigy, who started dancing at the age of 13 — which is considered old for a dance — is the third black soloist with the ABT.

Maya Angelou

Maya AngelouSource: hercampus.com

Dr. Maya Angelou wore many hats. Not only was she a well-known poet, but she was also an author, dancer, singer, actress and the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She has published such works as And Still I Rise and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings just to name a few. When she wasn’t publishing, she was quite active in the Civil Rights movement working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Despite having a rough childhood where she mute for five years, Angelou eventually found her voice and shared it with the world before she passed away in May of last year.

George Washington Carver

George Washington CarverSource: wikipedia.org

George Washington Carver was more than just a peanut farmer. In fact, Carver was a botanist and inventor. Born into slavery, Carver managed to discover 300 uses for the peanut, and also more than a hundred uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. He developed products from peanuts, including paints, cosmetics, nitroglycerin. Time magazine even called him the “Black Leonardo” in 1941.

Barack Obama

Barack ObamaSource: slate.com

The current President of the United States is also the first black person to hold the office. This former senator from Illinois has dealt with struggles from both sides of the political spectrum, from healthcare reform to the legitimacy of his birth certificate. Now serving in his second term, the election of the 44th President will forever go down as a proud moment in America’s history in terms of progressive race relations.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda RhimesSource: variety.com

You might know her work better than her face, but Shonda Rhimes is a true role model and pioneer. This screenwriter, director and producer is also the creator and showrunner for four top shows on television: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practive, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. Rhimes graduated from Darthmouth and both of her parents hold prestigious positions at universities. Three of her four TV shows air back to back on ABC on Thursday nights. The scheduled programming is referred to a “TGIT,” and the Associated Press has called Shonda’s entire night of network TV reign “unmatched in TV history”.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah WinfreySource: collider.com

Commonly known as one of the most powerful and influential people in America, Oprah Winfrey also made the Forbes 400 list, with her net worth of around $4 billion (currently North America’s only black billionaire). This black role model made a name for herself as a talk show host and has even worked as an actress and producer. Winfrey also spends a majority of her time as a philanthropist providing college scholarships and grants, supporting nonprofit organizations and creating schools in Africa.

Again, this is just a handful of black role models of yesterday and today. There are a bevy of African American heroes who also deserve to be celebrated this month and every month. Let us know who else should have made the list below in the comments.


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