African American Political Figures - Famous Black History People on Biography.com

Black History

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  • Unita Blackwell
    Unita Blackwell

    Activist and politician, Unita Blackwell became the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of Mississippi.

  • Carol Moseley Braun
    Carol Moseley Braun

    Politician, Senator, lawyer, educator. Born Carol Elizabeth Moseley on August 16, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. A leading African American political figure, Moseley Braun's career has been marked by great successes and missteps.

  • Edward Brooke
    Edward Brooke

    In 1966, Edward Brooke became the first African-American to be elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.

  • Willie Brown
    Willie Brown

    Willie Brown served as speaker of the California State Assembly for 30 years before becoming the first African-American mayor of San Francisco..

  • B.K. Bruce
    B.K. Bruce

    B.K. Bruce served on the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1881, making him the first African-American senator to serve a full term.

  • Ralph Bunche
    Ralph Bunche

    Diplomat, statesman. Born Ralph Johnson Bunche on August 7, 1904 in Detroit, Michigan. He worked his way through college and then travelled, taught at Howard University (1928-41), and wrote A World View of Race (1937).

  • Shirley Chisholm
    Shirley Chisholm

    US representative and social activist. Born Shirley St. Hill on November 30, 1924 in New York City.

  • Johnnie Cochran
    Johnnie Cochran

    Attorney. Born Johnnie Cochran Jr., on October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the great-grandson of an African-American slave. He grew up in a stable and prosperous family, with a father and mother who stressed education, independence, and a color-blind attitude.

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  • Benjamin Oliver Davis
    Benjamin Oliver Davis

    U.S. Army general, soldier. Born on July 1, 1877, in Washington, D.C. Breaking new ground, Davis became the first African American general in the United States Army.

  • Suzanne De Passé
    Suzanne De Passé

    Entrepreneur, businesswoman. At Motown Records de Passé is credited in part for the discovery of The Jackson 5. Now CEO of her own television production company, and, she became the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for screen writing.

  • Oscar Stanton De Priest
    Oscar Stanton De Priest

    Oscar Stanton De Priest's appointment to the House of Representatives made him the first African-American to be elected to Congress in the 20th century.

  • David Dinkins
    David Dinkins

    Politician David Dinkins was the first African-American mayor of New York City from 1990-1994.

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  • Berry Gordy
    Berry Gordy

    Entreprenuer. Gordy founded the Motown Record Corporation (1959), the most successful black-owned music company in the United States, where he developed the careers of many great performers of the 1960s and 70s, including Diana Ross the Supremes, and Michael Jackson.

  • Patrica Roberts Harris
    Patrica Roberts Harris

    Cabinet member, former U.S. ambassador to Luxebourg, politician, lawyer, educator. Born Patricia Roberts on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois.

  • Eric Holder
    Eric Holder

    Judge, lawyer, political advisor. Eric Holder was named U.S. Attorney General in 2009 becoming the first African-American to hold this position.

  • Eleanor Holmes
    Eleanor Holmes

    Civil rights activist, politician. Holmes used the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to fight for women's rights. She became the first female Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in 1977.

  • Charles Hamilton Houston
    Charles Hamilton Houston

    African-American lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston played a significant role in the civil rights movement, aiding the NAACP with disseminating the Jim Crow laws.

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  • Jesse Jackson
    Jesse Jackson

    Civil rights activist, Baptist minister, and presidential candidate, born October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.

  • Lisa Perez Jackson
    Lisa Perez Jackson

    Born February 8, 1962, Lisa Jackson serves as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the first African-American descent to do so.

  • Daniel James
    Daniel James

    Aviator, U.S. Air Force general. Born on February 11, 1920, in Pensacola, Florida.

  • Sheila Johnson
    Sheila Johnson

    Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET, became the first black woman to partner in three professional sports franchises: the NBA, WNBA and the NHL.

  • Barbara Jordan
    Barbara Jordan

    American lawyer, educator, and politician who served as U.S. congressional representative from Texas (1972-78).

  • Sharon Pratt Kelly
    Sharon Pratt Kelly

    Sharon Pratt Kelly is the only African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major American city when she was elected to the post in Washington D.C.

  • Alan Keyes
    Alan Keyes

    An American politician, Alan Keyes served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Organization Affairs from 1985 to 1987.

  • Edward T. Lewis
    Edward T. Lewis

    African-American politician and lawyer Edward T. Lewis served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1865 to 1867.

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  • Thurgood Marshall
    Thurgood Marshall

    Supreme Court judge, civil rights advocate. Born Thoroughgood Marshall on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. The great-grandson of a slave, he graduated as valedictorian from Howard University Law School (1933) and soon began to represent civil-rights activists.

  • Kweisi Mfume
    Kweisi Mfume

    Former President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

  • Arthur Mitchell
    Arthur Mitchell

    US representative. Born December 22, 1883 near Lafayette, Alabama. Mitchell grew up on a farm and went to Tuskegee Institute in 1897 to work as an office boy for Booker T Washington.

  • Constance Baker Motley
    Constance Baker Motley

    Lawyer and judge, born in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

  • Barack Obama
    Barack Obama

    Barack Hussein Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya. He grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British.

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  • David Paterson
    David Paterson

    Politician David Paterson is the first African-American governor of the state of New York.

  • Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
    Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

    Public official and pastor who became a prominent liberal legislator and civil-rights leader. During his tenure in the House of Representatives, he played a leading role in the passage of nearly 50 major pieces of social legislation.

  • Colin Powell
    Colin Powell

    Born Colin Luther Powell on April 5, 1937 in New York City. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was raised in the South Bronx and graduated from the City College of New York.

  • Charles Rangel
    Charles Rangel

    One of the most prominent politicians in Harlem, Charles Rangel was a founding member of the Congressional Black Congress and is currently serving his 19th term in the House of Representatives.

  • Charlotte E. Ray
    Charlotte E. Ray

    Charlotte E. Ray became the first woman to become a lawyer, graduating in 1872 from Howard University School of Law.

  • Hiriam R. Revels
    Hiriam R. Revels

    Protestant minister, US senator, educator. Born c. 1883 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

  • Condoleezza Rice
    Condoleezza Rice

    Academic, Republican politician. Born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. The only child of a Presbyterian minister and a teacher, Rice grew up surrounded by racism in the segregated South.

  • Susan Rice
    Susan Rice

    Foreign policy advisor, Susan Rice became the first African-American woman to become a United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

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  • Al Sharpton
    Al Sharpton

    Social and political activist, religious leader. Born Alfred Charles Sharpton, Jr., on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York.

  • Kimora Lee Simmons
    Kimora Lee Simmons

    Entrepreneur, model. Simmons serves as president and creative director for Phat Fashions, which includes the popular Baby Phat and Phat Farm clothing lines.

  • Russell Simmons
    Russell Simmons

    Entrepreneur. In 1984, he and partner Rick Rubin founded Def Jam Recordings, creating the foundations for hip-hop and signing hip-hop pioneers including the LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C. His Def Comedy Jam also launched the careers of aspiring comedians.

  • Percy Sutton
    Percy Sutton

    Lawyer, businessman, civil rights activist. Percy Sutton represented Malcolm X, was a Manhattan borough president, and was responsible for the renovation of the landmark Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also invested in media companies such as WLIB, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York.

  • Clarence Thomas
    Clarence Thomas

    Judge. Born June 23, 1948 near Savannah, Georgia. Shaped by his poor-but-proud family and his Catholic schooling, he went on to graduate from Holy Cross College and Yale Law School and to espouse conservative views on the situation of his fellow African-Americans.

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  • Robert Weaver
    Robert Weaver

    Housing administrator, cabinet member. Born Robert Clifton Weaver on December 29, 1907 in Washington, D.C. Weaver received a doctorate from Harvard University in 1934 and served as a member of President Franklin Roosevelt's informal 'Black Cabinet' from 1933 to 1942.

  • Douglas Wilder
    Douglas Wilder

    Politician. Born Lawrence Douglas Wilder on January 17, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. The grandson of slaves, Wilder attended racially segregated elementary and high schools and graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951.

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