Journalist and novelist. He got his big break when an interview he conducted with famous trumpeter. Miles Davis was published in “Playboy” magazine. The story was such a success that he did a series of write ups that became "The Playboy Interviews," in which he talked to figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Leontyne Price, Quincy Jones, and Malcolm X. His conversations with Malcolm X for that piece led him to be the collaborator on “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” his first book. He then went on to write “Roots”, a novel based on his family's history that became massively successful and his best known work. It stimulated interest in Black genealogy and an appreciation for Black history.
Poet whose works deal with the everyday life of urban Blacks. She was the first Black American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize (1950). In 1976, she became the first Black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and later was the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.
Businesswoman. Cofounded the Johnson Publishing Company with her husband. The company was the publisher of Ebony, Jet and the Ebony Fashion Fair. The Ebony Fashion Fair began as a fundraiser for Flint-Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans. It became a pioneer in using Black models on the runway and helped highlight the works of Black designers. Johnson went on to found Fashion Fair cosmetics which was once the largest black-owned cosmetics company in the world and is still in business.
Businessman and philanthropist. After serving as an aide to Senator Robert F Kennedy, Graves would land a seat on the advisory board of the Small Business Administration. He started Earl G. Graves, Ltd, and under that began a consulting firm and published Black Enterprise Magazine. The firm grew to include publishing, marketing, radio, television, and event coordinating arms. The firm is the co-owner of the private equity fund that formed with Travelers Group, Inc. He also co-owned the largest Pepsi franchise with Magic Johnson.
Scholar and historian. A journalist at the Atlanta Daily Word and JET Magazine. He went on to become the Executive Editor of Ebony Magazine. The magazine served as his base for the publication of series of articles on Black history, many of which became books. His article "Thomas Jefferson's Negro Grandchildren" brought black oral history into the world of journalism and published histories.
Billye S Aaron
Media personality & nonprofit executive. In 1968 she became the first woman in the southeastern United States to regularly co-host a television show, starting with her debut on "Today in Georgia" before getting her own show “Billye” in 1973. She also served as the development director for the Atlanta chapter of the United Negro College Fund for 14 years. A longtime member of the NAACP, she served as Director Emeritus of the Legal Defense Fund. She is also the widow of Hank Aaron.
Samuel DuBois Cook
A professor and political scientist, Dr. Cook is best known for being the first Black faculty member at Duke University , and as President of Dillard University for 22 years. He worked to promote positive societal change through his analysis of the impact of race in southern politics after WWII. He also played a prominent role in promoting a shift in relations between Black and Jewish Americans with his establishment of the Center for Black-Jewish relations.
General Russel L. Honoré
Retired Army lieutenant general. 37-year veteran best known for serving as commander of the Joint Task Force responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina affected areas across the gulf coast. General Honoré held numerous commands, including Vice Director for Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commander of the Standing Joint Force Headquarters-Homeland Security.
Educator and publisher. Orlando Capitola Ward Taylor was New Orleans’ first Black radio announcer. He hosted “The Negro Forum” on WNOE for 22 years and co-published the Louisiana Weekly where he was also the editor. He also published “The Crescent City Pictorial” which remains one of the best visual documents of early 20th century Black life in New Orleans. He also worked in Orleans Parish public schools for 42 years.
Constance C. Dejoie Sr
Businessman and entrepreneur. Co-founded the Louisiana Weekly with O.C.W Taylor in 1925. The paper is still operational online as of 2022. Dejoie was also a successful businessman in the insurance industry and under his leadership the family business, Unity Industrial Life Insurance Company, was able to expand into Chicago and survived the Great Depression.
Morris Jeff Sr.
Social worker and activist. A pioneer in establishing recreational and educational programs for Black children in New Orleans. After working as a teacher and laborer through the WPA (Works Progress Administration), he earned a position in the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) where he became head of the “Colored Division” and led education and recreation programs for the city’s children. Under his leadership, NORD built a reputation as one of the nation’s best recreational districts.
Rosa Freeman Keller
Local philanthropist and activist. Born to a very elite white family Keller used her influence to open doors that were closed to Black people. She leveraged her position on the board of Dillard University with her position on the library board to desegregate the system. Starting with the Broadmoor branch that now bears her name. In 1964, she also financed the lawsuit that desegregated Tulane University and participated in voter registration projects with leaders in the Black community.
Local social worker. Initially a teacher but out of a “deep concern” for children and families she became a social worker. She spent part of her career at the City of New Orleans’ Welfare, Children and Family Services Division. But she is best known as the founding dean of the Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) School of Social Work where she taught for more than 40 years.
Educator and activist. Leader in the Mississippi chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee he worked to hand political power to Black people through voting education and voter registration drives. He continued to push education to the forefront of the civil rights agenda when in the '80s he founded the Algebra Project, a math training program focused on empowering students from underfunded public schools and poor communities.
Lawyer and politician. A storied politician he served as New Orleans Councilman at Large, and as a member of the Louisiana State House. Then as the 56th mayor of New Orleans he oversaw massive desegregation within city government. Black employment with the city rose from 19% to 43% under his administration. After leaving office, he was appointed to be the 7th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Jimmy Carter. He then served as judge on the Louisiana 4th circuit court of appeals until his retirement in 2000.
Sybil Haydel Morial
Educator and activist. The wife of the first African American mayor of the City of New Orleans, Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, she spent her career in the education field, first as a public-school teacher and then later, as a dean at Xavier University in New Orleans for 28 years. A community activist, she filed lawsuits against the Orleans Parish School Board for enforcing a law that kept Orleans Parish school teachers from advocating for integration or belonging to associations that favor integration. She also cofounded the organization that would become the Louisiana League of Good Government.
Oretha Castle Haley
Civil rights activist. Co-founder and later President of the New Orleans chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). One of the protesters arrested at the sit in of McCrory’s lunch counter. The suit wound its way to the US Supreme Court and won, overturning a city ban on sit ins. Her home served as the New Orleans headquarters for the Freedom Riders. After working as a field secretary in rural Louisiana she returned to New Orleans where she led efforts to desegregate play grounds and served as deputy administrator of Charity Hospital.
Doris Jean Castle
Civil rights activist and sister to Oretha Castle Haley. In addition to her work with CORE and as a Freedom Rider herself, she worked as a fundraiser for the National Welfare Rights Organization. She also worked for the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty Initiative, the Urban League and Odyssey House.
Dorothy Mae Taylor
Activist and politician. Initially a teacher in the Head Start Program, she worked to improve resources for Black families in New Orleans. She went on to become the first Black woman to be elected to and serve in the Louisiana House of Representatives. After leaving the legislature, Taylor served as president of the Central City Neighborhood Health Clinic, before becoming the first Black woman elected to New Orleans City Council in 1986. While on the council in 1992 she most famously wrote the ordinance that Mardi Gras Krewes must adopt open membership admissions or else lose their parade permit. It forced the Krewes of Comus & Momus off the parade routes to this day.
Activist and mentor. A member of CORE, he participated in boycotts of businesses that refused to hire Blacks, lunch counter sit ins, and as a Freedom Rider. Notable for his blunt honesty he is credited with swaying then attorney general Robert F. Kennedy during a 1963 meeting with other civil rights figures that led to President Kennedy’s address on Civil rights the next month. As a mentor, he is known locally as Big Duck as wherever he goes there is likely a line of youth following him.
David Dennis Sr.
Activist and Lawyer. He worked as Co-Director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), as director of Mississippi's Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and as one of the organizers of the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. More recently he is the director of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project with Bob Moses.
John T. Scott
Artist. A painter, printmaker, collagist, but best known as a sculptor whose work exists “at the intersection of art, history and culture.” A prolific artist, he also had a 40-year tenure as a teacher and mentor at Xavier University. He was passionate about using his work to provoke conversations about human expression, human and civil rights and human interaction and often drew on the Afro-Caribbean culture and musical heritage of New Orleans. In addition to places in permanent exhibits across the nation, his work can be seen in Woldenberg Park and the DeSaix Circle in New Orleans.
Alden J. McDonald Jr.
Entrepreneur & Businessman. Served as the first president and CEO of Liberty Bank and Trust for 50 years. One of the largest Black owned banks in the nation, it was started in 1972 in order to give black people an equal footing, equal access to money, and equal access to economics. Since bank’s start he has been active in the New Orleans business community. He also played a central role in the establishment of the Black Economic Development Council, helping many minority businesses to secure public and private contracts for goods and services. Dooky Chase was able to expand in size thanks to fair loans from Liberty Bank.
Clarence Henry Sr.
Civic leader. He began work as a longshoreman at the age of 18. He was elected President of Longshoremen’s Local 1419 in 1954. He fought unceasingly for his members on many fronts, including wages, safety laws, job discrimination, equal public accommodations, and voter registration. He was an organizer and served on the committee that would become Total Community Action (TCA) and as a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Board of Directors.