Some of the Most Influential African American Men and Women of the Last Decade

Kayla Winston-Bass

Black History Month is now upon us. There are many well-known inspirations such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but there are also plenty of modern-day activists that you may or may not have heard of. As we come into a new age, the range of influential African Americans has grown. From politicians to sports players to fairytale characters, each person on this list has positively contributed to black culture.

Princess Tiana / 2010

Princess Tiana. Photo courtesy of Disney.

Although this may seem a bit unorthodox, Princess Tiana’s confidence, bravery and optimistic spirit heavily impacted young black girls. She was Disney’s first black princess, and her heroic fairytale is still talked about following the “Princess and the Frog” release almost 10 years ago.

Kenneth Frazier / 2011

Kenneth Frazier.

Frazier joined Merck & Co, a multinational pharmaceutical business, in 1992. After working there for almost 20 years, Frazier became the first African American to lead a major pharmaceutical company when he took the role of Chief Executive Officer., an extensive life science and informational news source, considered Frazier “one of the most prominent African Americans in biopharma.”

Barack Obama / 2012

An image of Barack Obama smiling to the camera in front of a desk in the the Oval Office. 

Barack Obama made history in 2012 by becoming the first black President. He continued to make history in 2016 when he was re-elected for a second term. Not only did his kindness, personality and loving family charm America once again. But one of his most memorable achievements is stopping the Great Recession from becoming the second Great Depression.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs / 2013

Cheryl Boone Isaacs at the 87th Oscars Nominations Announcements in 2015. Photo courtesy of MingleMediaTV.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs became the first African American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 2013. She was the third woman to hold this position. The following year, Isaacs won the NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award.

Michelle Howard / 2014

Admiral Michelle J. Howard.

Michelle Howard first made history in 1999, when she became the first black woman to captain a naval ship, but for her, it didn’t stop there. In 2014 she also became the first African American woman to be promoted to four-star admiral in the U.S Navy. Two years later, Howard was appointed as the 38th vice-chief of naval operations. 

Michael Curry / 2015

Michael Bruce Curry. Photo courtesy of Jonathunder.

Michael Curry advocates for causes such as racial injustice, LGBTQ+ equality and the #MeToo Movement, which helps bring awareness to sexual assault and violence victims. He made history in 2015 by becoming the first black bishop of The Episcopal Church. Fun fact, Bishop Curry gave a compelling sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Jason Towns / 2016

No copyright-free image available.

There aren’t many people of color involved in tech and startups, but Jason Towns is working to change that. In 2016, Towns launched Groundwork, a $10 million project aimed to connect minorities with resources to help assist in startups.

Jordan Peele / 2017

Jordan Peele at the Peabody Awards.

The Root announced Jordan Peele as the most influential African American of 2017. Peele is most famously known for writing, directing and producing the critically acclaimed movie “Get Out.” The film opened at number one at the box office and made history as the highest-grossing original debut ever.

Tarana Burke / 2018

Tarana Burke.

Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist who coined and started the #MeToo Movement. She first started using the words “me too” in 2006 to bring awareness of sexual assault and abuse. Then actress Alyssa Milano shared those two words along with the hashtag on social media. The next 24 hours changed everything when more than 12 million people took part in the movement. The #MeToo is still continuously used to empower women, and some men, today.

Janet Mock / 2019

Janet Mock.

Janet Mock wrote, produced and directed the highly praised FX series “Pose.” Later she became the first openly transgender woman of color to sign on to a major studio deal. She gave Netflix exclusive rights to her series in a three-year contract. 

These remarkable, multi-talented African Americans have and still continuously work to change the game for black people.