Arthur Robert Ashe (1943–1993), Richmond
Tennis Player, Writer, and Humanitarian
Sara Bagby (ca. 1833–1906), Wheeling
Plantiff in cause célèbre
With "a decided taste for freedom,' Sara Lucy Bagby was embroiled in a celebrated legal case that tested the infamous Fugitive Slave Act during the secession crisis.
Clara Olivia Byrd Baker (1886–1979), Williamsburg
Educator and Civic Leader
Aline Black (1906–1974), Norfolk
Educator and Civil Rights Advocate
Michael L. Blakey (February 23, 1953– ), Williamsburg
Physical anthropologist Michael L. Blakey helped analyze and interpret the important evidence uncovered at the African Burial Ground in Manhattan
Elizabeth A. Coles Bouey (1890–1957), Richmond
Founder of the National Association of Ministers' Wives
William Breedlove (ca. 1820–1871), Essex County
Member of the Virginia Convention of 1867-1868
Lucy Goode Brooks (1818–1900), Richmond
Henry Box Brown (1815 or 1816–June 15 1897), Richmond
Abolitionist and performer
After his family was suddenly sold out of the state in 1848, he shipped himself in a wooden crate to freedom in 1849.
Isaac David Burrell (1865–1914), Roanoke
Physician and Pharmacist
Evelyn Butts (1924–1993), Norfolk
Principal in a case to invalidate the poll tax
Evelyn Thomas Butts led a successful challenge of Virginia’s poll tax all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
John Cephas (1930–2009), Caroline County
Renowned blues musician
John Cephas has become a world ambassador representing the Virginia Piedmont Blues tradition.
Fields Cook (ca. 1817–1897), Richmond and Alexandria
Baptist minister and Republician Party leader
Esther Georgia Irving Cooper (1881–1970), Arlington County
Civil Rights Activist
Percy Casino Corbin (1888–1952), Pulaski County
Physician and Civil Rights Advocate
John Wesley Cromwell (1846–1927), Portsmouth, Norfolk County, and Alexandria
Educator and Journalist
Annie Belle Daniels, Newport News
Annie Belle Daniels, the founder of the Madam Daniels School of Beauty Culture, is an influential civil rights and political activist in Newport News.
Noah Davis (March, 1804–April 7, 1867), Fredericksburg
author of an emancipation narrative
Born into slavery, Noah Davis raised more than $4,000 to free himself and his family members during the 1840s and 1850s.
Florence Farley (1928–), Roanoke and Petersburg
Psychologist, Educator, Elected Official, Artist
Florence Saunders Farley has fought against racism and bias to open doors in science and politics for African American women in Virginia.
James Farmer (1920–1999), Spotsylvania County
Civil rights leader
As director of the Congress of Racial Equality and as initiator of the Freedom Rides, James Farmer played a critical role in the national civil rights movement.
Dorothy Hamm (1919–2004), Caroline and Arlington Counties
Civil Rights and Community Activist
Through legal and political actions, civil rights activist Dorothy Bigelow Hamm fought for African American equality.
Oliver White Hill (1907–2007), Richmond
Attorney and civil rights leader
Oliver White Hill served as counsel in the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.
Christopher Howard (1969–), Hampden-Sydney
24th President of Hampden-Sydney College
Christopher Bernard Howard sets an example for Hampden-Sydney students—and for everyone—through his impressive résumé of service to the country and youth-enrichment efforts in Africa and the United States.
John Jasper (1812–1901), Richmond
An extraordinary orator who preached throughout the eastern United States, John Jasper in 1867 established Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, in Richmond.
Robert Walter Johnson (1899–1971), Lynchburg
Physician and tennis coach
Robert Walter Johnson was a driving force behind the integration of the sport of tennis.
Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951), Clover
Principal in a medical cause célèbre
Henrietta Lacks's cells, known in the medical world as HeLa cells, were the first human cells to be grown successfully outside the body for more than a short time.
Willie Lanier (August 21, 1945– ), Richmond
Athlete and entrepreneur
Willie Lanier broke through racial barriers in professional football by becoming the first African American to play middle linebacker, the position that directs the defense on the field.
Edna Lewis (1916–2006), Orange County
Chef and author
Edna Lewis created nationwide interest in southern cuisine and demonstrated that food could be more than just nourishment, but also a celebration of life.
Henry Marsh, III (1933–), Richmond
Civil Rights Attorney and Elected Official
Throughout his law career and the public offices he has held, Henry L. Marsh has committed his life to bringing equal rights and opportunities to African Americans.
Leland Melvin (1964–), Lynchburg
Leland D. Melvin inspires young people and encourages them to aspire to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Amaza Meredith (1895–1984), Lynchburg and Petersburg
Artist and architect
Amaza Lee Meredith broke through racial and gender barriers in architecture and artistic design.
Oscar Micheaux (1884–1951), Roanoke
Often recognized as the country's first African American filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux established a film office in Roanoke, where he produced at least six silent movies.
Yvonne B. Miller (July 4, 1934–July 3, 2012), Norfolk
The first African American woman elected to the House of Delegates and to the Senate of Virginia, Yvonne B. Miller worked tirelessly as a politician, educator, and advocate for underrepresented Virginians.
Irene Amos Morgan (1917–2007), Gloucester County
Principal in a civil rights case
Irene Morgan's challenge to the Virginia law requiring segregated seating on interstate buses resulted in a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Dangerfield Newby (ca. 1820–1859), Culpeper County
Participant in John Brown's Raid
Dangerfield Newby was one of five African Americans who took up arms against slavery with fellow abolitionist John Brown at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859.
Joseph Thomas Newsome (1869–1942), Newport News
Lawyer and Editor
A leading figure in Newport News, Joseph Thomas Newsome struggled to bring education and voting rights to the African American community.
Gowan Pamphlet (ca. 1750–1807 or 1808), Williamsburg
Gowan Pamphlet was born enslaved, but persevered to become a well-known preacher, gain his freedom, and establish a Baptist church in Williamsburg that continues as an active congregation today.
Mary Peake (1823–1862), Hampton
Mary Smith Kelsey Peake was an educator of both free and enslaved African Americans prior to and during the Civil War.
John Rollison (d. 1780), York County
Entrepreneur and landowner
John Rollison negotiated the legal and social restrictions of men of color in colonial Virginia to become a well-respected, wealthy man in York County.
Wendell Scott (1921–1990), Danville
Stock Car racer
Wendell Oliver Scott was the first African American to drive in the highest level of stock car racing and remains to date the only African American to have won a major NASCAR race.
Lucy Francis Simms (d. 1934), Harrisonburg
Born into slavery, Lucy Francis Simms was a highly respected elementary school teacher in Harrisonburg for more then fifty years.
John Arthur Stokes, Prince Edward County
Civil rights activist
As a student at Robert Russa Moton High School, John Stokes helped lead a strike by pupils to gain better education facilities, an act of defiance that contributed to the integration of public schools in the United States.
Claudia Whitworth (1927–), Roanoke
Humanitarian, philanthropist, and editor and publisher of the roanoke tribune
Claudia Alexander Whitworth has worked diligently over the decades to improve the quality of life in Roanoke.