The turn of the millennium marked a new era for African American public figures, who continued to break down barriers and make their mark on history. From politics and activism to entertainment and business, Black men and women have continued to shape the course of American culture and society in the 21st century. In this blog post, we will explore the lives and legacies of some of the most influential African American public figures from 2000 onwards.
Through their achievements and contributions, these individuals have inspired and empowered generations of Black Americans, while also challenging the status quo and bringing about positive change. Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on the profound impact they have had on our world.
Colin Powell accomplished several significant achievements in the 21st century, particularly in the realm of politics and international relations. In the early 2000s, he served as the United States Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, becoming the first Black American to hold the position.
In addition to his political accomplishments, Powell has also been a vocal advocate for education and social justice, particularly in the African American community. He has served as a mentor to young people and has worked to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. Overall, Colin Powell’s achievements in the 21st century have made him a respected and influential figure both in the United States and around the world. In 2014, Powell was appointed to the board of directors for Salesforce.com.
Lori Lightfoot is a prominent Black politician for a number of reasons, most notably for her groundbreaking election as the first Black woman and first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as Mayor of Chicago. Her election in 2019 marked a historic moment for both the city of Chicago and the country as a whole, as she shattered long-standing barriers and opened the door for other marginalized groups to pursue positions of power and influence.
Prior to her mayoral tenure, Lightfoot served as a federal prosecutor and later as the President of the Chicago Police Board, where she gained a reputation for advocating for police reform and greater accountability. As Mayor, she has continued to prioritize issues such as public safety, economic development, and education, while also working to address the city’s longstanding issues with racial inequality and social justice.
Barack Obama is a prominent African American for many reasons, most notably for his historic election as the first Black President of the United States. His presidency, which spanned from 2009 to 2017, was marked by significant accomplishments, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Consumer Protection Act .
Obama’s rise to power was also a significant moment in American history, as he shattered long-standing barriers and opened the door for future generations of Black politicians and leaders. Beyond his political accomplishments, Obama has been a symbol of hope and inspiration for many African Americans, particularly young people who see him as a role model and a source of pride. He has used his platform and his voice to advocate for social justice and racial equality, speaking out against police brutality and other forms of systemic racism.
After the Presidency, Obama has maintained a residency in Washington, D.C. and maintains an active presence in politics. In addition to politics, Obama has also been an educator, teaching at the University of Chicago Law School for more than a decade.
Wes Moore won Maryland’s governorship in the 2022 election. He was the state’s first African American governor. Before Moore, only two African Americans had been elected as governor, while three others were appointed. Born in Maryland, Moore grew up in a low-income neighborhood and experienced firsthand the challenges and inequalities faced by many Black Americans. However, he was able to overcome these obstacles through education and hard work, eventually attending Johns Hopkins University and later earning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University.
In addition to his academic achievements, Moore is also the author of several bestselling books, including “The Other Wes Moore”, which explores the lives of two men with the same name who grew up in similar circumstances but ended up on very different paths. Through his writing and his public speaking, Moore has become a leading voice on issues related to race, inequality, and social justice, advocating for greater investment in education and economic opportunity for all Americans. He has also founded several non-profit organizations, including BridgeEdU, which helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in college and beyond.
Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Brown Jackson previously served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, as well as a federal public defender and a federal prosecutor. She also served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for nearly a decade.
Brown Jackson has also issued several judicial rulings that have protected the rights of real people in the courtroom. One major decision was Willis vs. Gray. In this case, Robert Willis, a 51-year old teacher, was fired as part of a district-wide reduction in teachers in the District of Columbia Public School System. In this case, Brown Jackson ruled that we couldn’t fight the reduction policy itself, but allowed his age and race discrimination case to go forward.
Images courtesy of United States Senate Committee, Wall Street Business Journal and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images