Prominent African-American figures from Hampton Roads

The smash hit film 'Hidden Figures' is not only a blockbuster in the box office, but has reinforced to the entire nation the great contributions that African Americans have made toward American culture and history.

So what other black figures, particularly from the Hampton Roads area, have greatly contributed to our American story?

Well, let's list them out:


William Harvey Carney

William Harvey Carney (1840-1908) was born a slave in Norfolk. Some accounts say he made his way to freedom through the Underground Railroad. He was the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism during an attack on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. When a color guard was fatally wounded, he stepped up to retrieve the American flag from his comrade and march forward with it.




Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News. She was a Grammy Award-winning jazz singer often referred to as the 'First Lady of Song'. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction and in particular, her scat singing.







Pearl Bailey

Pearl Bailey was born in Newport News and was an actress, singer and author. She won the Tony Award in 1967 and the Medal of Freedom Award in 1988.







Henry L. Marsh III

Henry L Marsh III was born in Isle of Wight County. He was involved with the Brown v. Board of Education on the Virginia front. He was also the first African-American mayor of Richmond in 1977 and became a Virginia State Senator in 1992.





Tim Reid

Tim Reid was born in Norfolk and is a writer, director and producer over several productions including, "WKRP in Cincinatti," "Simon & Simon," and "Sister, Sister." He is the co-founder of New Millenium Studios based in Petersburg, Va.




Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor was born in Williamsburg. He was the second overall draft pick in the NFL Draft in 1981 for the New York Giants. He was nominated to the the pro football Hall of Fame in 1999.






Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith was born in Norfolk. He was the first overall draft pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins. He is a member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.





Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes is from Portsmouth. She is a comedienne and actress most notably known for her roles in "The Wanda Sykes Show," "The New Adventures of OId Christine," "Evan Almighty," and "Monster-in-Law." She is also won an Emmy Award in 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2005.





Pernell Whitaker

Pernell Whitaker was born in Norfolk. He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984 and is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.





Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning was born in Chesapeake. He was the Second Overall Draft Pick in the NBA Draft in 1992. He played for the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and New Jersey Nets. He won an Olympic Gold Medla in 2000.






Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott is a songwriter, producer and record mogul from Portsmouth. She is considered the top female hip-hop artist of all time. She is a four-time Grammy Award Winner (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005).




Timothy Z. Mosley, aka Timbaland

Timbaland is a songwriter, producer and rapper from Portsmouth. He was one of the highest paid musicians according to a 2007 Forbes article. He won a Grammy in 2006.






Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams is a composer, singer, producer, rapper and fashion designer from Virginia Beach. He was part of one of the most successful production teams in hip-hop, The Neptunes. He was also a part of the performing group, NERD. He is a three-time Grammy Award Winner.




Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson is from Hampton. He played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons. He was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in 2004.







Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress is from Norfolk. He played for the Pitsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants and the New York Jets. He played for the Giants when the team won the Super Bowl XLII.






Michael Vick

Michael Vick was the first African-American quarterback to be drafted first overall in an NFL Draft in 2001. He is from Newport News. He played for the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the first to win the Archie Griffin Award.







LaShawn Merritt

LaShawn Merritt is a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Track and Field from Portsmouth.








Kam Chancellor

Kam Chancellor hails from Norfolk. He played for the Seattle Seahawks when the team won the Super Bowl XLVIII.








Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin is from Virginia Beach. He played for the Minnesota Vikings from 2009 to 2012. He also played alongside Kam Chancellor on the Seattle Seahawks when the team won the Super Bowl XLVIII. He now plays as wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills.






Chandler Fenner

Chandler Fenner is from Virginia Beach. He also played for the Seattle Seahawks when the team won the Super Bowl XLVIII.








Gabrielle Douglas

Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas is from Virginia Beach. She is the first African-American all-around gymnastics champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist.




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