100 Greatest African Americans

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100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia
100 Greatest African Americans.jpg
Author Molefi Kete Asante
Country United States
Language English
Subject African-American biographies
Published 2002
Publisher Prometheus Books
Media type Print
Pages 345
ISBN 978-1-57392-963-9

100 Greatest African Americans is a biographical dictionary of one hundred historically great Black Americans (in no particular order; that is, they are not ranked), as assessed by Temple University professor Molefi Kete Asante in 2002.


Asante used five factors in establishing the list:

  • "significance in the general progress of African-Americans toward full equality in the American social and political system"
  • "self-sacrifice and a willingness to take great risks for the collective good"
  • "unusual will and determination in the face of great danger and against the most stubborn odds"
  • "a consistent posture toward raising the social, cultural and economic status of African Americans"
  • "personal achievement that reveals the best qualities of the African American people"

Critical notice[edit]

“Asante has written a volume in which he attempts to distil his work on the history of African Americans into a list of the 100 greatest people in that history — a difficult task to be sure, and one that can lead to arguments over the choices. Whether one feels Barbara Jordan would make a better choice than Shirley Chisholm, or that Matthew Gaines was a stronger educator than John Russwurm, it is hard to disagree with the people who Asante chose to highlight. He explains his choices in the introduction and makes it very clear that he left out numerous current popular people because he feels the hype around the pop persona is not what makes an individual important. He makes no attempt to rank the people he selected, because he viewed that as an impossible task, so arrangement is alphabetical. A short bibliography lists material for further research.

“The 100 people who are included range from former slaves such as Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley to more contemporary individuals such as Amiri Baraka and Toni Morrison. Among others are sports figures Jesse Owens and Tiger Woods, performers Marian Anderson and Bill Cosby, and political activists Marcus Garvey and Jesse Jackson. Each portrait covers two to four pages that summarize the person's life, work and importance, and is accompanied by a black-and-white photograph or illustration.” — Reference Books Bulletin, American Library Association

Asante's list[edit]