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24 Black Celebs Who Risked Fame & Fortune To Move Us Forward


Bill Russell

The Hall Of Fame basketball player is known as one of the greatest winners of all time, victorious in 11 NBA championships. However, even though he was one of the greatest players to ever play, Russell faced intense discrimination while playing in Boston.

For our people, Russell’s role off the basketball court was equally important as it was on it. Russell has been a consistent advocate of equality. As a highly visible public figure in the years when the country was emerging from a century of legally sanctioned discrimination, Russell threw his prestige behind the dawning civil rights movement, participating with Martin Luther King Jr.  During the historic 1963 March on Washington, Russell sat in the front row to hear King’s inspiring “I Have a Dream” speech.

Russell was a prominent voice among athletes during the civil rights era and he paved the way for many black athletes to play without fear or discrimination.



Sidney Poitier

More than an actor and Academy-Award winner, Sidney Poitier is an artist. A writer and director, a thinker and critic, a humanitarian and diplomat, his stature as a cultural icon was built on his stance against human suffering.

Throughout the 1950s, the Bahamian entertainer starred in important and controversial movies. Addressing issues of racial equality abroad, he made “Cry, The Beloved Country” about apartheid in South Africa and “To Sir, With Love,” about social and racial issues in London. He later took on problems closer to home in “Blackboard Jungle” and especially, “The Defiant Ones,” about two escaped prisoners who must overcome issues of race in their struggle for freedom.

For his role in “The Defiant Ones,” Poitier was nominated for an Academy Award.


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