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Greatest Black Achievers

A display at the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, UK

Tell us what you think of this International Slavery Museum list, in terms of its usefulness and representativeness, and we will pass on your comments to the curators of the Museum.

 The I.S.M's Greatest Black Achievers List  
Nelson Mandela, 1918 –
The great anti-apartheid campaigner, who was imprisoned for 27 years and later became the first President of independent South Africa. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 and the world’s most respected living statesman.

Martin Luther King Jr, 1929 – 68
The great civil rights leader in America, he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, but was assassinated on 4 April 1968. Famous for his rousing ‘I Have A Dream’ speech at a historic civil rights demonstration in Washington.

Kofi Anan, 1938 –
Diplomat. 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Muhammad Ali, 1942 –
Boxer and World Citizen. Three times world champion and regarded by many as the boxer and sportsperson in history.

Aime Cesaire, 1913 –
Writer and Black Rights Activist. Leading figure in the Negritude and African independence movements.

Steve Biko, 1946 – 77
Black Rights Activist. Suspicious death in police custody as an inspirational campaigner against apartheid in South Africa.

Benjamin Zephaniah, 1958 –
Poet. Also noted for his Black rights activism, rejecting a British OBE award in 2003 in protest against British historical oppression of the black peoples.

Arthur Wharton, 1865 – 1930
Footballer. First professional footballer in England. Also a great athlete, in 1886, becoming the fastest sprinter in Britain.

Phillis Wheatley, 1753 – 1784
Poet. Enslaved as a child, later becoming the first published black poet in America.

Oprah Winfrey, 1954 –
Media. A pioneering leader in television chat shows with her enduring Oprah Winfrey Show. Also publisher, lifestyle guru and sometime actress.

Malcolm X, 1925 – 65
Civil Rights Activist. Assassinated fiery leader of the Civil Rights Movement in America.

Gaspar Yanga, 1570 – 1609
Slave Leader. Led a rebellion that gave independence to a mountain colony of slaves for many years.

Rosa Parks, 1913 – 2005
Civil Rights Activist. Her iconic refusal to obey racist transport laws in Alabama, 1955, launched or precipitated civil rights activism in America.

Vincente Ferreira Pastinha, 1889 – 1981
Martial Arts Master. Brought to Brazil and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean by African slaves, the Capoeira martial arts form was a means by which the slaves defended themselves. It is now a varied and popular Brazilian national dance and self-defence practice though it was once banned. Pastinha was an inspirational modern Master, who helped to rediscover and modernize the fighting art, opening the first Capoeira Angola school in 1942.

Leopold Sedar Senghor, 1906 – 2001
Poet and politician. A major name in modern African poetry and one of the leading thinkers of Negritude, the Africa-centred movement, which also engaged with the independence struggles. Senghor was Senegal’s first President after independence.

Pele, 1940 –
Footballer. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento Pele, he is considered history’s greatest footballer, winning the world cup thrice as a member of the Brazilian national team.

Walter Rodney, 1942 – 1980
Scholar and Pan-African politician. Guyanese Walter Rodney wrote books for the empowerment black people and was an important early theorist on understanding the postcolonial condition in the African world. His activism against oppressive regimes is believed to have been responsible for his assassination in 1980.

Mary Seacole, 1805 – 81
Nurse. Funded and found her own way to assist the wounded in the Crimean War after the same British authorities that were assisting Mary Nightingale refused to support her as a black nurse. Later opened a hospital and became a much honoured celebrity in the post-war times.

Sojourner Truth, 1797 – 1883
Abolitionist and Human Rights Campaigner. Born a slave in New York, she wrote an autobiography on her life as a slave and also campaigned for women’s rights and against the death penalty, by which many blacks were judicially killed, sometimes following inadequate proof of their guilt.

Derek Walcott, 1930 –
Poet, playwright and artist. From St Lucia, a Caribbean island, he is the 1992 Nobel Literature prizewinner.

Caryl Phillips, 1958 –
Author. Born in St Kitts. Has won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize (2004).

Ignatius Sancho, 1729 – 80
Writer and musician. First UK Black to vote in a democratic election and the first to publish his writings in Britain too. Friend of literary figure, Samuel Johnson.

Desmond Tutu, 1931 –
Archbishop and Anti-Apartheid Campaigner. Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

Harriet Tubman, 1820 – 1913
Slave Rights campaigner. Nicknamed “Moses” for assisting hundreds of slaves to escape through a network of safe houses known as the “Underground Railroad.”

John Setamu, 1949 –
As the 97th Archbishop of York, close in hierarchy to Leader of the Anglican Church, and the first Black to serve as an Anglican Archbishop in Britain. Also an outspoken social critic.

Ali Ibrahim ‘Farka’ Toure, 1939 – 2006
Musician. Malian Winner of two Grammy Awards. Leading exponent of the authentic African sound in the world.

Bessie Smith, 1892 – 1937
Blues singer, the first to become a successful recording artist.

Haile Selassie, 1892 – 1975
Politician and world spiritual leader of the Rastafarian Movement. Ethiopian Head of State and an inspirational figure in the anti-colonial and independence struggles.

Sam Sharpe, 1801–32
Jamaican national hero and Baptist Preacher, who led the Christmas Rebellion against slavery. Was executed by British forces.

Kwame Nkrumah, 1909 – 72
Politician. A Founder of the Pan African Movement and leader of the anti-colonial struggles. Became the first President of independent Ghana

George Padmore, 1902 – 59
Leader of the anti-colonial movement and one of its outstanding liberation theorists.

Nanny, Known to History:1720 –34
Slave Leader. National heroine of Jamaica. Called Nanny of the Maroons for her fearless guerrilla attacks on British forces to free hundreds of captive maroonn slave. Killed by the British.

Jesse Owens, 1913 – 80
Athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, defying the Aryan supremacist propaganda of Hitler and his German Nazi leadership. By giving a black power salute after receiving his medals.

Olaudah Equiano, 1745 – 97
Abolitionist, explorer and author of an autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African.

Trevor McDonald, 1939 –

Miriam Makeba, 1932 –

Bob Marley, 1945 – 81

CLR James, 1901 – 89

Kelly Holmes, 1970 –

Jamaica Kincaid, 1949 –

Jaime Hurtado, died 1999

Philip Emeagwali, 1954 –

Marcus Garvey, 1887 – 1940

Howard Gayle, 1958 –

Frantz Fanon, 1925 – 61

Toni Morrison, 1931 –

Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1743 – 1803

Nicolas Guillen, 1902 – 1989

Patrice Lumumba, 1925 – 1961

William Arthur Lewis, 1915 – 1991

Roi Ankhara Kwabena, 1956 –

Lewis Howard Latimer, 1848 – 1928

Gilberto Gil, 1942 –

Felix Eboue, 1884 – 1944

G. Daniel Ekharte, 1896 – 1964

Quince Duncan, 1940 –

John Conteh, 1951 –

WEB du Bois, 1868 – 1963

Paul Bogle, 1822 – 65

William Cuffey, 1788 – 1870

John Archer, 1863 – 1923

Charles Drew, 1904 – 50

Bussa, died 1816

Shirley Bassey, 1937 –

Stokeley Carmichael, 1941 – 98

Fred D’Aguiar, 1960 –

George Washigton Carver, 1864 – 1943

Oscar D’Leon, 1943 –

Viv Anderson, 1956 –

Maya Angelou, 1928 –

Maurice Rupert Bishop, 1944 – 83

Susana Baca de la Colina, 1944 –

Learie Constantine, 1901 – 71

Benedita da Silva, 1942 –

Frederick Douglas, 1818 – 95

Wole Soyinka, 1934 –

Tell us what you think of this List. Who would you include or exclude?

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