Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, has the distinction of being the first African-American president of the nation. A civil rights attorney and an academic, he has been credited with bringing about a significant improvement in America’s reputation abroad. His efforts to strengthen international diplomacy was recognized with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12 Ben Carson
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.
14 Colin Powell
A veteran politician who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State. A member of the Republican Party, he was an army man prior to entering politics. He was a four-star general at the time of his retirement. After leaving politics, he pursued a career as a public speaker.
Louis Farrakhan, formerly known as Louis X, is the leader of the ‘Nation of Islam’ which has been called a black nationalist organisation and a hate group. He has been described as anti-Semitic by monitoring organisations and has been accused of promoting anti-white theology and black superiority over whites. He was banned from Facebook in 2019 for being an extremist.
Elijah Cummings was an important and influential American politician and advocate of civil rights. Such was his impact on American politics that after his death, he became the first black lawmaker to be honored with a state funeral at the United States Capitol. His official funeral was attended by personalities like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.
17 Herman Cain
The son of a janitor and a domestic help, Herman Cain used his talent in math to join Purdue University. He had worked with the Navy and been an analyst for Coca-Cola. He later headed Pillsbury as its VP. He had announced his presidential candidacy in 2012 but later withdrew.
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.
20 George Weah
22 Abiy Ahmed
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.
24 Diane Abbott
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.
26 Paul Kagame
27 Tim Scott
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.
30 John Lewis
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.
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.
32 John Conyers
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.
35 Thabo Mbeki
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.
37 Allen West
39 Marion Barry
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.
41 Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma is a South African politician and fourth president of South Africa. During his presidency, which lasted from 2009 to 2018, Zuma was accused of racketeering and corruption which ultimately led to his resignation. Apart from being a politician, Zuma also runs the Jacob Zuma Foundation, which aims at building houses for the poor and sending children to school.
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.
43 Graça Machel
Graça Machel is known for her association with Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and has been the country’s first education minister. She has also been married to both former Mozambican president Samora Machel and South African president Nelson Mandela. Through The Elders, she is devoted to working for women’s and children’s rights.
A Democrat politician and lawyer, Kamala Harris is the vice president-elect of the United States. She will assume the office on 20 January 2021, alongside President-elect Joe Biden. Half-Indian, half-Jamaican, Harris is the first woman, the first Black person and the first Asian-American to be elected vice president.
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.