Black History Month Creators


A collage of famous historical African American creators listed below in the article, from top left to top right (William D. Foster, Ella Fitzgerald. Louis Armstrong). From bottom left to bottom right (Gordon Parks, Beverly Johnson, Jacob Lawrence) – Courtesy of Sattu Samura ‘21

Sattu Samura, Arts and Entertainment Editor

With February being Black History Month, it is important to recognize prominent African American figures who have shaped and made major contributions to the arts. Listed below are 6 creators whose artistic achievements shaped the Arts and Entertainment industry that we know today.


Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was a famous jazz musician who transformed the history of jazz music indelibly. She was the first African American woman to win a Grammy and was known as “The First Lady of Song.” She sold over 40 million albums, won 13 Grammys and worked with popular singers like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Duke Ellington. Her audience was comprised of people from all races and religions. She was known for her soft vocals and extremely wide vocal range.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was an influential jazz musician, singer, and entertainer prominent in the mid 1900’s. He made major contributions to the jazz industry and helped to shape jazz music as a whole. A few of his songs that he is well known for is “La vie en Rose,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Hello, Dolly,” and “Star Dust.” He was the first African American jazz musician to write an autobiography and the first to star in a major Hollywood movie in the film Pennies from Heaven.

Gordon Parks

Born in 1912, Gordon Parks was an prominent African American photographer. His photographs displayed the life and hardships of African Americans during this time period and at the height of Jim Crow. The series “Segregation Story” brought to light the adversity and poverty African Americans were facing at the time that was being ignored and refused to be acknowledged by the culture.

Jacob Lawrence

Born in 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and raised in Harlem, New York during the Great Depression, Lawrence was a painter and visual storyteller that depicted African American life through his paintings and used them as a form of protest. The subjects of his paintings ranged from street scenes, everyday African American life, and narrative series displaying the afflictions of African Americans at the time. His paintings often include vibrant and discordant color choices with flattened uses of form and space. Lawrence has quoted that he painted from his own experiences.

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson is widely known as the first African American supermodel to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974. She went on to on the cover of the French edition of Elle in 2012 and appear in 500 other magazines. Her appearance significantly changed beauty ideals in US and paved the way for more African American models in the future. Along with being a talented model, she is also an actress, singer, and businesswoman.

William D. (Bill) Foster

Bill Foster was an influential African American film producer who paved the way for the creation of the black film industry. He became the first African American to build a film production company. His motive was to depict African Americans truthfully and not how others depicted them which was common with crude racial stereotypes such as blackface. He also acted under the pseudonym, Juli Jones. He paved the way for the production of several other black film companies.