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Modern Day Black History Makers

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Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 23:02


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colin powell

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Ben Carson

Elective Decisions

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From literature to philanthropy, the work of African-Americans is being recognized, adored and honored for quality, brilliance, and authenticity. As a people, they continue to make groundbreaking strides in all major and minor industries in both the United States and abroad-- inspiring change and giving life to change agents. 

Modern Era Firsts 

Barack H. Obama 

Born: August 4, 1961 

Age: 50 

Category: Politician

The first African-American president of the United States of America, Barack Obama (D) has made a life, serving people. Beginning his work as a community organizer, Obama understands the meaning of mobilizing and the impact it has on a community. He seeks to help alleviate poverty and hopes that his policies on: education reform, tax reform, equal pay and the mortgage crisis will help lessen the gap between rich and poor. Since his role as commander in chief he has come under much scrutiny for things such as extending the Bush tax cuts, his massive healthcare reform bill, bailing out the banks during the worst trough of the recession. Obama currently has a 49 percent approval rating and is running for a second term in office. 

Oprah Gail Winfrey 

Born: January 29, 1954

Age: 58

Category: Entrepreneur/Philanthropist

Oprah Winfrey has had her share of difficulties. While staying with her mom in Wisconsin, she was molested for three years. She then became sexually active, gave birth a baby boy who died in infancy, was a failing student and at 14, she was homeless. However, despite her beginnings, she made a turn around when she moved to Tennessee to live with her father. She became an honors student, graduated high school and started college. After her first year, she did not return, however, because her broadcasting career was already blossoming. 

Winfrey is a pioneer in the media industry. She produces her own talk show and the launch of her magazine, O was the most successful start-up in the history of the industry. She is also the highest-paid performer on television, the richest self-made woman and African-American of the 20th century. Winfrey is considered one of the world's most generous philanthropists, having sent more than 400 men to Morehouse College and founded a school for girls in Africa. 


Colin Luther Powell

Born: April 5, 1937

Age: 74

Description: Military

Colin Powell is the only, African-American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the highest military position in the department of defense and first African-American Secretary of State. A four-star general, the Harlem native was known as the "reluctant warrior." He saw America through operations such as Desert Storm, the Persian Gulf War and the Panama invasion, which removed Manuel Noriega from power. Powell believed in diplomacy and would rarely suggest military intervention. Powell served as Joint Chief of Staff chairman under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. 


Benjamin Carson Sr.

Born: September 18, 1951

Age: 60 

Description: Neurosurgeon 

Detroit native Benjamin Solomon Carson was the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate Siamese twins. He attended Yale University for his undergraduate degree and went on to complete medical school at University of Michigan Medical School. At age 33, he became John's Hopkins youngest major division director, as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Carson's noted surgery includes first intrauterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy.

Carson is lauded around the world for his master surgeon skills and currently holds 61 honorary doctorate degrees and countless awards of distinction. 

Hal Jackson 

Born: November 3, 1914

Age: 97

Description: Entertainment (Radio)

Howard alum, Hal Jackson is a prominent disc jockey that broke color barriers in the radio industry. In the beginning of his career, Jackson became the first African-American sports broadcaster and in 1939 hosted WINX Washington. He later moved to New York and obtained another first, as the radio of host three radio shows on three different stations.

In 1971, his radio company Inner City Broadcasting Corporation became the first African-American owned and operated station in New York City. Jackson has stations owned and operated throughout the United States. In 1990, he became the first minority inducted into the National Association of Broadcaster's Hall of Fame. In 1995, he became the first African-American inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. And in 2010 the Library of American Broadcasting deemed him the "Giant in Broadcasting". Currently, Jackson still hosts a radio show called Sunday classics.

Other Notable Modern Day Firsts

• Ruth J. Simmons – First African-American to be President of an Ivy League school (Brown University). 

Condoleezza Rice – First African-American woman to be Secretary of State. 

• Eric Holder – First African-American Attorney General. 

• James H. Meridith – First African-American student enrolled at the university of Mississippi, integrating the school in 1962.

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