A leader in the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century, Martin Luther King Jr. is best remembered for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. A man of Christian faith who was inspired by Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent activism, he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality.
Kwame Nkrumah was a Ghanaian revolutionary and politician. He played an important role in the independence of the Gold Coast in 1957, after which he served as the first prime minister of Ghana from 1957 to 1960 and then as the first president of Ghana from 1960 to 1966. He also played an influential role as an advocate of Pan-Africanism.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is credited with many pioneering neurosurgical procedures. He became a Library of Congress “Living Legend” and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He later contested in the 2016 presidential primaries, has authored numerous books, was a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and earned 60 honorary doctorates.
Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation and a co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. During his stint with the UN, he launched the UN Global Compact and worked to combat HIV/AIDS.
The 66th United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made history in 2005 when she became the first female black Secretary of State. She is also the first female to serve as National Security Advisor, a position which she served from 2001 to 2005. One of the most powerful women in the world at one point of time, she has been depicted in Hollywood films.
A courageous political leader, Shirley Chisholm made history when she became the first African-American woman to be elected the United States Congresswoman. Later, she yet again created history when she—though unsuccessfullyVran for Democratic Party's presidential nomination to contest for US presidency. Throughout her career, she advocated racial equality and women empowerment. As an author, she penned two books.
Kenneth Kaunda is a Zambian former politician. He served as the first president of Zambia from 1964 to 1991. A major figure in Zambia’s struggle for independence from British rule, he became the first president of independent Zambia. As the president, he implemented many educational and economic reforms to accelerate the rate of modernization in the country.
Mobutu Sese Seko was a Congolese military officer and politician. From 1965 to 1997, Mobutu served as the president of Zaire. During his long reign as the president, Mobutu garnered notoriety for nepotism and corruption. His life and work inspired Belgian filmmaker, Thierry Michel, to make a three-part documentary titled Mobutu, King of Zaire.
Ugandan politician, Yoweri Museveni, has been serving as the president of Uganda since 1986. He played a key role in a series of rebellions that overpowered Ugandan political leaders Idi Amin and Milton Obote before capturing power in the 1980s. Under his presidency, Uganda has achieved significant success in fighting HIV/AIDS. The country has also experienced relative peace under Museveni.
Abiy Ahmed is an Ethiopian politician and the current prime minister of Ethiopia. Since becoming the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed has been lauded for launching a wide program of economic and political reforms in Ethiopia. He also played a major role in ending the 20-year Eritrean–Ethiopian War for which he was honored with the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Popularly known as one of the Big Six—leaders of six important civil rights organizations who masterminded the Great March on Washington in 1963—John Lewis played an important role in the civil rights movement that eventually ended racial segregation in the US. Also a statesman, Lewis was honored with many awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Thabo Mbeki is a South African politician who is currently serving as the chancellor of the University of South Africa. From 1999 to 2008, he served as the president of South Africa. During his tenure as the president, the South African economy grew, creating employment opportunities. Over the years, he has received several awards, including the prestigious Good Governance Award.
Charles Taylor is a former Liberian politician who served as the 22nd President of Liberia. As a young man, he was the head of a Libyan-backed rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, and played a key role in initiating the First Liberian Civil War. He was elected the president after the war in 1997. He resigned in 2003.
The incumbent Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is the leader of the Jubilee Party of Kenya. Son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, he was dragged into a controversy after sweeping the 2017 re-elections by winning 98% of the total votes. However, a Supreme Court ruling dismissed all charges against him.
Omar al-Bashir is a Sudanese politician who served as the seventh president of Sudan. A former military officer, he is the founder of the National Congress Party that remained the dominant political party in the country until 2019. He was deposed in a coup d'état the same year and subsequently arrested and convicted on multiple corruption charges.
Cyril Ramaphosa is a politician and the current president of South Africa. Also the president of South Africa's popular political party African National Congress (ANC), Ramaphosa played a key role during the nation's transition to democracy during which he served as ANC's chief negotiator. He also played a crucial role in ending apartheid and was considered Nelson Mandela's political heir.
Initially a teacher, Nigerian former president Goodluck Jonathan, boasts of a PhD in zoology and has also headed an oil-oriented government agency. He plunged into politics with the PDP, and his tenure as the president witnessed major acts of terror by the jihadist group Boko Haram.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines was an important figure and leader of the Haitian Revolution. He went on to rule an independent Haiti, which became the first country to abolish slavery permanently. Considered one of Haiti's founding fathers, Dessalines reigned as the emperor of Haiti from 1804 until his murder in 1806. Today, he is regarded as an icon of Haitian nationalism.
Better known as the father of renowned golfer Tiger Woods, Earl Woods had initially been a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He excelled in baseball in college and learned to play golf much later, at 42. Addicted to the sport, he taught it to his son, who later became a golf legend.
Raila Odinga is a Kenyan politician who has been the Leader of Opposition since 2013. From 2008 to 2013, Odinga served as the prime minister of Kenya. Before becoming the prime minister, Raila Odinga served as the Minister for Roads, Public Works, and Housing. At the African Union Commission in 2018, he was appointed High Representative for Infrastructure Development.
Canaan Banana was a Zimbabwean politician, theologian, and Methodist minister. In 1980, Banana became the first president of Zimbabwe, a position which he held until 1987. Ten years later, he made the headlines when he was involved in a highly publicized trial after being accused of being a homosexual. He served six months in prison after being convicted of sodomy.
William Ruto is a Kenyan politician and the current Kenyan deputy president. Between 6 and 8 October 2014, Ruto served as the acting president when President Uhuru Kenyatta was in the Netherlands at the International Criminal Court. Apart from being a politician, William Ruto also owns an interest in several real estate developments, including the Weston Hotel in Kenya.
Andrew Young Jr. is an American activist, politician, and diplomat. Young is best known for his role in the civil rights movement; a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young served as the executive director of a civil rights organization called Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Andrew Young is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, and scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of an organization for the defense of women's rights, the AHA Foundation. She actively opposes forced marriage, honor violence, and child marriage. A former Muslim, she now identifies as an atheist and is a vocal critic of Islam. She is a recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize.