Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in 1924 in St. Louis. Hailed as one of the greatest written and spoken voices in contemporary history, she has seen life from many viewpoints. In her early life, she was a Creole cook, a streetcar conductor, a cocktail waitress, a dancer, a madam in a house of ill repute and an unwed mother.
Oprah Winfrey born in 1954 in Kosciusko, Miss. is one of the most influential women in the world and with a net worth of reportedly $2 billion is the richest African American woman in the nation. She is a media executive, owner of her magazine and television network, both named OWN, as well as a philanthropist, who has founded several schools in Africa and provided homes for Katrina victims flooded out in New Orleans.
He was president of Johnson Publications located in Chicago where he founded Jet, Ebony, EM magazines, and Negro Digest. Discrimination was so severe in the 1940’s when he launched his first magazines, Johnson had to dress up like a janitor and accompany a white lawyer to be able to enter the building he later bought as his headquarters. When he tried to obtain ads from white firms and to get white corporations to carry his cosmetic lines he was refused.
In 1968 used his skills as a defensive tackle to disarm Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Robert Kennedy. The shooting took place while Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president and Grier, a close friend in attendance, wrestled Sirhan down until police came. Grier was not only a skilled athlete but also an actor and singer.
In honor of Black History month, each day I will be sharing with you profiles of 50 amazing African American role models who I interviewed in 1985 for my book And Still We Rise. Some, like Maya Angelou, who allowed me to re-frame the title of her poem And Still I Rise for my book, Dick Gregory, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Arthur Ashe have made their heavenly transitions.
This was the first book to expose lies embedded in his rise to one of the nation’s foremost black leaders. She chronicles original behind-the-scene pieces of history – the MLK assassination story, growing up in a shack, Operation Breadbasket finances, and Jackson’s personal life. Exclusively available on this website.