100 Most Influential Black Americans and Organization Leaders

Ebony, May 1995 | Go to article overview

100 Most Influential Black Americans and Organization Leaders


WHEN, in September 1963, EBONY published its first list of "America's 100 Most Influential Negroes," the honorees included a Who's Who of African-American history, men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Marian Anderson, Ralph Bunche, Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington and Edith Sampson.

Thirty-two years later, the name and even the nature of Black power and influence have changed. But the individuals selected for the 1995 list of the 100+ Most Influential Black Americans and Organization Leaders, including three repeaters from the 1963 list (The Rev. Le on H. Sullivan, Dorothy I. Height and publisher John Sengstacke), share at least one characteristic with the pioneering group: all affect in a decisive way the lives, thinking and actions of large segments of Black America and, in many cases, White America. To cite two spectacular examples, Colin L. Powell, the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of America's most admired personalities, returns to the list with possibly more influence in mainstream America than he enjoyed as a military leader, and Michael Jordan is a cultural phenomenon whose decisions affect stock market quotations. Joining Powell and Jordan on the 1995 list are Myrlie Evers-Williams, the new chair of the NAACP, and Hugh B. Price, the new president of the National Urban League. Also cited for the first time are Federal Communications Commission member Andrew Barrett, the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the new president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and three mayors of major U.S. cities: Wellington Webb of Denver, Marc Morial of New Orleans, and Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, Mo.

As in the past, the 100 Most Influential list was compiled by the editors of EBONY in consultation with national opinion leaders. Being featured on the list does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of any particular individual or ideology.

Two criteria guided the experts and editors who made the final recommendations:

1. Does the individual transcend his or her position and command widespread national influence.

2. Does the individual affect in a decisive way the lives, thinking and actions of large segments of the Black population, either by his or her position in a key group or by his or her personal reach and influence?

Three criteria were used in judging nominees for the 100+ list of Organization Leaders:

1. The nominee must be the chief executive officer of an independent organization that commands widespread influence in Black America.

2. The organization must be a broad-based national group with a mass membership, a national headquarters and a full-time staff.

3. The nominee and his or her organization must transcend a particular field, occupation or specialty and must have an ongoing program affecting the vital interests of African-Americans.

Colin L. Powell, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, probably has more influence today in mainstream America than he enjoyed as a military leader.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, who first came to national prominence as the widow of assassinated NAACP leader Medgar Evers, called for a new direction after her election as chair of the NAACP.

More than a great athlete, Michael Jordan is a cultural phenomenon whose decisions affect the stock market and the bottom line of U.S. corporations. Tens of millions of Americans, Black and White, young and old, hailed his return to basketball.

Hugh B. Price, a former foundation executive, assumed presidency of the National Urban League in a period of unprecedented ferment and change in the top leadership of major Black organizations.

EBONY 100+

MAYA ANGELOU

Poet and Lecturer

DENNIS ARCHER

Mayor Detroit

RICHARD ARRINGTON

Mayor Birmingham, Ala.

RICHARD H. AUSTIN

Secretary of State Michigan

MARION BARRY

Mayor Washington, D.

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