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The Names We Can’t Forget: 25 Faces of Black History


While doing research with my older son’s for his Black History project, I learned that Robert F. Flemming, Jr. created the version of the guitar that we know today. When I put his name in the search engine, hardly anything is found. If you Google “Who invented the guitar” Mr. Flemming’s name doesn’t pop up at all. Names for who invented the electric guitar do but none of them are him. It’s amazing! It’s like he was completely erased. If he were not on that list for my son’s school project, I would have never known his name.


This isn’t a new issue. Tom Hanks, an Oscar Winning actor and filmmaker, shared that he “never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black .” It’s as if our history is being erased and forgotten.


It got me to thinking about all the names we have never heard, all the inventions we were never credited, all the stories we were never told. I love hearing what Dr. King and Rosa Parks have done for us, but what about our other history?


Here are 25 named in the history of film, television that we cannot forget. Do you know them all?


Spike Lee

Born: March 20, 1957

Atlanta, GA

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and professor. His production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced more than 35 films since 1983. He made his directorial debut with She's Gotta Have It.


Ryan Coogler

Born: May 23, 1986

Oakland, CA


Ryan Kyle Coogler is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station, won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed (2015), and the Marvel film Black Panther (2018). Coogler has a net worth of around $10 million.


Niecy Nash

Born: February 23, 1970

Los Angeles, CA


Carol Denise Nash is an American comedian, actress, television host, model, and producer, best known for her performances on television. Nash hosted the Style Network show Clean House from 2003 to 2010, for which she won an Emmy Award in 2010. She played the role of Deputy Raineesha Williams in the Comedy Central comedy series Reno 911! (2003–2009). Nash played the role of civil rights activist Richie Jean Jackson in the historical drama film Selma directed by Ava DuVernay. In 2017, Nash was cast in a leading role in the TNT crime comedy-drama series, Claws, produced by Rashida Jones about a South Florida nail salon. Nash has an estimated net worth go $4 million.



Harry Belafonte

Born: March 1, 1927

Harlem, New York, NY


Harry Belafonte is a Jamaican-American singer, activist, and actor. One of the most successful stars in black American history, Belafonte was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Trinidadian Caribbean musical style. Harry, being a close friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, was a supporter of the 50s and 60s Civil Rights Movement. Belafonte performs as the American Civil Liberties Union ambassador for issues around juvenile justice. Harry has a net worth of at least $28 million.


Ava DuVernay

Born: August 24, 1972

Long Beach, CA


Ava Marie DuVernay is an American filmmaker. She won the directing award in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first black woman to win the award. DuVernay amplifies the work of people of color and women of all kinds through her non-profit film collective ARRAY, named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. Based on the infamous case of The Central Park Five, her next project is entitled WHEN THEY SEE US and will be released worldwide on Netflix in May 2019. Ava's net worth is somewhere near $60 million.



Redd Foxx

Born: December 9, 1922, St. Louis, MO

Died: October 11, 1991, Los Angeles, CA


Known by his stage name of Redd Foxx, John Elroy Sanford was a famous stand-up comedian and actor best known for his sexually explicit acts in the 50s and 60s while performing at night clubs. Foxx performed on more than 50 records and would be deemed the "King of the Party Records" for his work. In 1972, Foxx was signed as junk dealer named Fred Sanford in a NBC sitcom. While on the set of The Royal Family in 1991, Redd suffered a massive heart attack and passed at the age of 68.


Korey Wise

Born: July 26, 1972 (age 48), New York City, NY

Korey Wise is now an activist who is well known for advocating for criminal justice reform. Wise travels the country sharing his stories of being wrongfully convicted in the Central Park jogger case that occurred on April 19, 1989 for the attack of then 28-year-old Trisha Meili. Wise was convicted along side Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray Raymond Santana Jr. and Yusef Salaam. The were also convicted of the attacks on eight other people on that night. Wise spent 14 years incarcerated, maintaining his innocence from until he was exonerated in 2002. Wise's net worth is around $15 million.


Wanda Sykes

Born: March 7, 1964

Portsmouth, VA


Wanda Yvette Sykes is a comedian, actress, and writer. Sykes was first recognized for her work as a writer on The Chris Rock Show. She won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1999 for her efforts on the show. In 2003, Wanda wrote, produced, and starred in Fox's Wanda at Large. Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America in 2004. Wanda Sykes Net Worth: Wanda Sykes has an estimated net worth of around $6 million.


Aaron Vincent McGruder

May 29, 1974

Chicago, IL


Aaron McGruder is a writer, producer, screenwriter and cartoonist. McGruder is best known for bringing The Boondocks alive with his writing and drawing skills. The Boondocks was a Universal Press Syndicate comic turned animated TV series. McGruder was the creator, executive producer, and head writer of one of the most memorable black culture inspired animated series of recent history. Aaron's estimated net worth of more the $10 million.


DJ Pooh

Born June 29, 1969

Los Angeles, CA


Mark Jordan, better known by his stage name of DJ Pooh is a record producer, rapper, screenwriter, actor and director. He has produced albums for many rappers like LL Cool J and Ice Cube along with many others. DJ Pooh began in film in 1991 by producing the driveby shooting sequence in Boyz n the Hood. He went on in 1995 to help co-write the film Friday with Ice Cube, in which he portrays the character "Red.” His current net worth is reported to be close to $13 million.


Jackie Ormes

Born: August 1, 1911, Pittsburgh, PA

Died: December 26, 1985, Chicago, IL


Jackie Ormes is known as the first black woman cartoonist and creator of the Torchy Brown comic strip and the Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger panel. She was known for working between the 1930s and 50s for black newspapers like The Pittsburgh Courier and The Chicago Defender. Torchy gave off an image of a black woman who was dripping in confidence and bravery. Her bravery was see in her cartoon panels. After the death of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy who was lynched in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman, Jackie responded in a single-panel comic. It was of a black girl speaking with another saying, "I don't want to seem touchy on the subject... but that new little white tea kettle just whistled at me!"


Chadwick Boseman

Born: November 29, 1977, Anderson, SC

Died: August 28, 2020, Los Angeles, CA


Chadwick Aaron Boseman was an American actor and producer and known for his roles as several historical figures like James Brown, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson. But it is his iconic role as the Black Panther in the Marvel Universe that made him a household name and a symbol of the black community for the 21st century. His role won him a Screen Actors Guild Award and a NAACP Image Award. Boseman was worth an estimated $12 million at the time of his death. He passed today after privately dealing with colon cancer for four years. Rest in power, King. #WakandaForever.


John Singleton

Born: January 6, 1968, Los Angeles, CA

Died: April 28, 2019, Los Angeles, CA


John Daniel Singleton was a film director, screenwriter, actor and producer. He is known best for writing as well as directing the iconic Boyz n the Hood in 1991. The film would lead him to be the first African American to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. He was only 24-years-old. Singleton based most of his works like Higher Learner, Poetic Justice and Baby Boy, on his life growing up in South Los Angeles. John died at the age of 51 in LA after suffering a stroke. He had a net worth of $35 million at the time of his death.


Loretta Mary Aiken

Born: March 19, 1894, Brevard, NC

Died: May 23, 1975, White Plains, NY


Loretta Mary Aiken, better known by her stage name of "Moms" Mabley, was a stand-up comedian and actress. Aiken left home at the age of 14 and pursued comedy career when she joined the African American vaudeville circuit under the Theatre Owners Booking Association. Mabley became the first woman comedian to be featured at the Apollo and appeared on their stage more than any other performer.



Lena Waithe

Born: May 17, 1984

Chicago, IL


Lena Waithe is an American screenwriter, producer, and actress. Waithe is the creator of the drama series The Chi, Boomerang, and Twenties. Lena also wrote and produced the iconic 2019 crime film Queen and Slim. In 2017, Lena became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The writing of the “Thanksgiving” episode of the Master of None Netflix sitcom gained her that Emmy which was loosely based on her coming out story to her mother. Her net worth is around $15 million.



Phylicia Rashad

June 19, 1948

Houston, TX


Phylicia Rashad is an American actress, singer and stage director and a women I look to as my on screen mom is best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. Her memorable role earned her Emmy Award nominations in 1985 and 1986. Rashad graduated from Howard University in 1970 with an undergrad in theater. She was dubbed "The Mother Of The Black Community“ at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards and will forever be my role model. Her current net worth is around $55 million.



Janelle Monae

Born: December 1, 1985

Kansas City, KS


Janelle Monáe Robinson is a singer, songwriter, actress, and producer but is known best for her outstanding skills as an actress. Janelle Monáe made her big screen debut in the 2016 "Moonlight" film that would later go on to win an Academy Award. She also stared in the biographical drama "Hidden Figures" in the same year. The Boston City Council named October 16, 2013 "Janelle Monáe Day" to recognize her artistry and social leadership. Janelle has a net worth of around $9 million dollars.


Travor Noah

Born: February 20, 1984