Only 1 in 67 People Can Name All of These Famous African Americans. Can You?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

While their history in the United States is littered with countless forms of adversity against them, many African Americans throughout the years have managed to leave their mark on the country and make it a better and more accepting place. Do you believe in dreams? Then let’s see if you can name all of these famous African Americans.

Maya Angelou – born April 4, 1928 and died May 28, 2014 – is an African American memoirist, civil rights activist and poet. She is widely praised for her literary works, especially her debut autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”.

The first African American president of the U.S.; Barack Obama served as the 44th president of the United States for a period of eight years, from 2009 to 2017. Before this, he served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004 and then served as a United States senator (representing Illinois) from 2005 to 2008.

Charles Drew (born June 3, 1904 and died April 1, 1950) was an American medical researcher, physician and surgeon who helped to advance aspects of blood storage and blood transfusions, which directly led to developing large-scale blood banks in World War II. Drew was an outspoken protester against the racial segregation of blood donation – since there was no scientific cause for the practice.

James Earl Jones is without a doubt one of the most prolific actors in American history; having a career that well exceeds 60 years. Jones is known for his part in The Great White Hope, as well as his voice work in The Lion King (Mufasa) and Star Wars (Darth Vader).

Emmett Till has posthumously become an icon of the Civil Rights Movement as a result the cause of his death. Carolyn Bryant accused Emmett of whistling and flirting with her (something she admitted years later that she had fabricated) and so a few days later her husband (and others) abducted, beat, mutilated and finally shot Till in the head. Emmett Till died at the age of 14 and his funeral was attended by tens of thousands.

Wilt Chamberlain – full name Wilton Norman Chamberlain – was an American basketball player who is commonly considered to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain holds numerous records, and is the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game.

Before she was an actress, Halle Berry was actually a proficient model, being the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and sixth place in Miss World 1986. She is the only black woman to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is one of the most prolific and acclaimed actors in modern filmmaking. He is well known for portraying several real-life figures; including his celebrated portrayal of Malcom X. He has won several awards for his performances, including two Academy Awards.

Muhammad Ali was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where he began training as an amateur boxer when he was just 12 years old. At the young age of 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year.

Roy Ottoway Wilkins (born August 30, 1901 and died September 8, 1981) was a prominent activist in the Civil Rights Movement from the 1930s to the 1970s. He is also well known for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Morgan Freeman is an American actor who has won several awards, including an Academy Award for his role in Million Dollar Baby. Freeman has since expanded into directing and even does work as a narrator.

Richard Nathaniel Wright is a celebrated African American author who wrote several poems, non-fiction books, short stories and novels. While he was alive, many of his works were viewed as being controversial since they highlighted racial issues and real-life acts of discrimination.

Ella Baker was by far one of the most influential women in the Civil Rights Movement; even though she may not have been the most well-known. Baker worked alongside several civil rights leaders in the 20th century, including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Stevie Wonder is considered to be one of the most critically and commercially successful musical performers of the late 20th century. He is also an activist and is well known for his successful campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a holiday.

Duke Ellington was an African American composer, pianist and bandleader of a jazz orchestra. He toured extensively with his orchestra, even in Europe; and managed to lead them for over 50 years until his death. He is also known for having written over a thousand compositions.

Bessie Coleman was the first woman of African-American descent (and also the first of Native American descent) to hold a pilot license. Coleman was interested in flying from an early age; however, since African Americans and women had no US flight school opportunities at the time, she instead saved up money to go to France and earn her license there.

Malcolm X has been hailed as one of the most influential African Americans in history. Although he initially criticized the Civil Rights Movement as being ineffectual and unsuccessful, later on he would find himself willing to work with them – while advocating for some more effective changes in their policies.

Eddie Murphy is a man who has had many different successful careers in entertainment, including but not limited to: comedian, actor, producer, singer and writer. Murphy is one of the most financially successful actors.

Sugar Ray Leonard is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, and won world titles in five weight divisions. He was named "Boxer of the Decade" in the 1980s and was a part of the “fabulous four” with Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Durán.

Althea Gibson was an African American tennis player and also a professional golfer. She was the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title (doing so in 1956) and she won both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in both 1957 and also again in 1958.

Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is widely regarded as one of the most skilled, well-known golfers of all time. At the height of his professional career, he was considered to be one of the highest paid athletes in the world and also ranked number one for a total of 683 weeks.

Widely hailed as one of the most skilled basketball players of all time, Magic Johnson is now currently retired but he holds the position of president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a member of the “Dream Team” (1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team) that won the gold medal in 1992.

If any singer needs no introduction it is Michael Jackson, the undisputed “King of Pop." While it is obvious that he has influenced countless musical artists around the world, he has also had a significant impact on the evolution of dance techniques and their popularization.

Dorothy Dandridge was an African American actress, singer, and dancer. She is well known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress – which she received for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones.

Undeniably one of the most influential figures in North American black culture, Marcus Garvey was an activist and a supporter of Pan-Africanism. He was also an outspoken criticizer of Western communism, especially on topics of how the political movement related to people of African ancestry.

Sidney Poitier (full title Sir Sidney Poitier) is an American actor, film director, author and diplomat. He is best known for being the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor – for his part in Lilies of the Field.

While Diana Ross is obviously best known for her extensive singing career, she has also found success as a songwriter, actress and record producer. She was the lead singer of the Supremes; the best charting girl group in US history, and one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.

At the time of his retirement in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points scored (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes played (57,446), field goals made (15,837), field goal attempts (28,307), blocked shots (3,189), defensive rebounds (9,394), career wins (1,074) and personal fouls (4,657). He still currently holds the records for points scored and career wins.

Spike Lee has, through his personal production company, produced over 35 films. His efforts in the film industry have earned him numerous awards and two Academy Award nominations. His is well known for focusing on topics of race relations and racism.

Colin Powell is the first and only (as of now) African American who has served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the first African American to serve as United States secretary of state, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.

James Howard Meredith is not only an important Civil Rights Movement figure, but he is also an Air Force veteran, a writer and a political adviser. He is responsible for the largest civil rights march in Mississippi, which he had original started a solo march but soon amassed over 15,000 marchers after he was shot on the second day by a white gunman.

Aretha Franklin is an African American singer and songwriter. She has recorded a total of 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top 10 pop singles, 100 R&B entries and 20 number-one R&B singles, becoming the most charted female artist in the chart's history.

Josephine Baker was a woman of seemingly polarizing occupations. On one hand she was a prolific dancer and entertainer especially throughout Europe. On the other hand, she was also a celebrated Civil Rights activist and even a French Resistance agent

Nat King Cole was one of the most powerful and influential figures in jazz music and is largely responsible for its mainstream appeal even to this day. During his lifetime, he recorded over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts.

While he may be experiencing worldwide success as a businessman today, Michael Jordan also experienced unrivaled success as a basketball player as well. He has been hailed as the greatest basketball player of all time by countless critics and professional organizations.

While Michael Jackson was dubbed the “King of Pop” Oprah Winfrey was dubbed by many as the "Queen of All Media." She has been ranked the richest African-American and is also considered to be the greatest black philanthropist in American history. She is also North America's first multi-billionaire black person.

Ralph Ellison was an African American novelist, literary critic and scholar. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He is known for his political content as well, specifically Shadow and Act, a collection of political, social and critical essays

Richard Pryor was best known as an African American comedian; however, he was also an actor and a social critic (which often found its way into his comedy routines). Several successful comedians (including Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle) regard Pryor as the greatest comedian of all time.

Madame C.J. Walker was many things throughout her life: social activist, philanthropist and political activist; however, what she is most famous for is her success as an entrepreneur. She is widely considered to be the first female self-made millionaire in America.

While he was an exceptional baseball player in his own right, what Jackie Robinson is most famous for is his importance in ending racial segregation in professional baseball. He was the first black player to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Often referred to as “The Genius," Ray Charles was an African American musician, singer, songwriter and composer who pioneered the soul music genre. Charles achieved all of this success and fame while being blind from the age of 7.

Langston Hughes is well known for being one of the initial innovators of jazz poetry and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was also an influential social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist. He spoke about issues that dealt with racism, black identity and sexuality.

Will Smith is quite possibly one of the greatest entertainers of all time, earning accolades and awards with virtually every career path that he has pursued. On TV he earned success in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as a musician he has won four Grammy Awards, and as a movie actor he has received countless awards and nominations. He is also a celebrated producer and comedian.

Charles Barkley is one of the greatest NBA players of all time and often regarded as one of the most animated players as well. He was a part of the Olympic “Dream Team” and was actually the highest-scoring member of that team.

Booker T. Washington lived on the cusp of radical racial change in the United States. He was in fact from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery. He is celebrated as an author, educator and (more often than not remembered as) an advisor to presidents of the United States.

When the Civil Rights Movement is talked about, one name always comes up more often than the rest – Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspired by his Christian upbringing and individuals such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr chose to adopt nonviolent means of activism to try and achieve his goals.

Where would rock music be today without the hands and mind of Jimi Hendrix? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chooses to label him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”. A surprisingly great achievement, since his mainstream music career only spanned four years.

Often referred to as “mother of the freedom movement” and also “the first lady of civil rights”, Rosa Parks is hailed as one of the most recognizable icons of the civil rights movement. While she was not the first person to oppose segregation on public transportation, her case was the most effective and publicized.

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