In celebration of Black History Month we’ve put together our list of 20 of the most influential black Shifters of all time. We define a Shifter as “someone who uses their creativity or creates something to impact culture or fill a void in the world around them”. While there are many people who could have easily made our list, these are the people who stood out to us in 2016.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Used his gift with words to lead the Black civil rights movement in the United States.
OPRAH WINFREY Created one of the most influential media empires of all time.
MICHAEL JACKSON Used his gift with music and dance to arguably become the greatest entertainer of all time.
BILL COSBY First African American male to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and first African American to win a Primetime Emmy Award. Inspired a generation of Black people to do better through the Cosby Show.
DEBRA MARTIN CHASE First African American woman to have a solo producing deal at a major studio.
ETHEL WATERS First African American to star in her own television program.
HERBERT CARNEGIE First Black person to be offered a contract to play in the NHL. Founded the Future Aces Foundation and the Future Aces Creed to inspire and assist youth and adults to become the best they can be.
SIDNEY POITIER First Black person to win an Academy Award for best actor.
HARRY BELAFONTE Singer/songwriter, actor and activist. One of the most successful Caribbean American pop stars in history.
QUEEN LATIFAH One of the first and most successful female rappers of all time. Successfully crossed over into an award-winning actress.
STEVIE WONDER One of the most successful singer-songwriters of the late 20th century. Winner of 25 Grammy Awards, more than any other solo male artist.
MAYA ANGELOU Award-winning poet and author. Civil rights activist.
OSCAR PETERSON Overcame colour barriers to become one of the greatest jazz pianists. Eight time Grammy winner.
ELLA FITZGERALD AND COUNT BASIE First African-American Grammy Award winners
BOB MARLEY One of the bestselling recording artists of all time. Most successful musical act from the Caribbean of all time.
BEN CARSON First surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.
PHYLICIA RASHAD Redefined the Black family by starring on the Cosby Show. First African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.
THOMAS L. JENNINGS First African American to receive a United States patent.
JUDY W. REED First African American woman to receive a United States patent.
TIANA First African American animated Disney Princess