Famous African Americans They're Not But Successful Nevertheless

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson

Famous African Americans are often confined in sports and music, but little is known that blacks have also made a name in various fields. Stereotypical issues aside, successful blacks are not a few in finance, invention, civil service, science, and information technology. Each one has showcased not only their personal aptitude, but immensely contributed to push the boundaries of their respective fields. Meet some of them, black, proud and deserving a spotlight even for a moment.

Famou African Americans in Finance

They can match financial wizardry with anyone, let alone grow businesses to multi-billion enterprises. These black financial advisers may well be carrying the baton for African Americans in the financial industry, but they’re probably just doing their job. Madamenoire lists some of them like Mellody Hobson, who not only heads the Chicago-based Ariel Investments, but also sits as a director for big-name companies, such as Dream Works Animation, Estee Lauder, and Starbucks Corporation. Of course, Chris Gardner just has to be in the list. He is the true-to-life inspiration of the film, “In Pursuit of Happines” billed by Will Smith. From a homeless single dad, Chris would establish Gardner Rich in 1987, which handles $1 billion worth of assets.

Famous African Americans in Inventions

For some reasons that we know, African American inventors don’t get much of our attention. Yet they exist and many of their works are right in the middle of making sure that the life we know keeps humming. Scholastic  looks back in history and gives credit where it is deservingly due. Like Elijah McCoy, who invented the oil-dripping cup to lubricate steam-engine trains. A black also helped make light bulbs last for a longer time today. Lewis Latimer perfected the carbon filament that makes bulbs light up, but the fact that he’s working for Thomas Edison didn’t help his reputation. Another common-item invention is the gas mask invented by Garret Morgan, who also came up with the traffic light idea. But the most popular invention probably goes to George Washington Carver, who invented peanut butter and 400 other plant-based products.

Famous African Americans in Government

The road to U.S. President Barack Obama started in 1855 when John Mercer Langston became the first black elected official: a town clerk of Brownhelm Township, Ohio. The first state elected official was Alexander Twilight, when he won a seat at the Vermont legislature. Likewise, Cleveland, Ohio is the first city to have a black mayor, while Louisiana is the first to have a black governor. Barack Obama, of course, is not only the first black U.S. president; he is also the first party presidential nominee. More firsts in the government can be gleaned, which lists the famous firsts by African Americans in politics.

Famous African Americans in Business

The Forbes list of wealthiest black Americans is dominated by personalities from the record and sports industries, but quite a number of them are from various backgrounds. Chris Gardner made it twice in our list, this time as one of the most successful black businessmen, nay, the most successful businessmen in the U.S.  He owns the brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co., with a billion dollar assets under its belt. A grandson of a hotel doorman also made it in the list—Don Peebles who runs the largest minority-owned real estate firms in the U.S.  with a net worth of $350 M. Likewise,  Quintin Primo III made big bucks in real estate lending, owning Capri Capital with an asset portfolio of $4.3 billion.

Famous African American in Science

African Americans also figure prominently in a wide range of scientific pursuits. Quest compiles some of these achievers from geodetics to zoology. Benjamin Banneker is a mathematician, astronomer, and surveyor, who helped the District of Columbia to establish its exact boundaries. Meantime, Charles Henry Turner’s claim to fame is being the first African American to have earned a doctorate degree.  The University of Chicago awarded him the Ph.D. in 1907, and Turner would publish nearly fifty scientific papers about insects. He was noted for establishing the fact that insects can hear a pitch. In the world of computers, Mark Dean helped IBM invented the ISA bus, the device that allows computer component to communicate to each other. He would also earn the distinction of being the first African American to hold an IBM fellowship.


Clearly, famous African Americans excel in fields outside sports and music. We just need to read beyond the stereotypes that mainstream media is shoving to us. Do you know other famous African Americans who merit attention for accomplishing something in a given field?

James Anthony

By James Anthony

A senior FinancesOnline writer on SaaS and B2B topics, James Anthony passion is keeping abreast of the industry’s cutting-edge practices (other than writing personal blog posts on why Firefly needs to be renewed). He has written extensively on these two subjects, being a firm believer in SaaS to PaaS migration and how this inevitable transition would impact economies of scale. With reviews and analyses spanning a breadth of topics from software to learning models, James is one of FinancesOnline’s most creative resources on and off the office.

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