Influential Black Pop Culture Figures


Photo by @im.angelabassett on instagram

Angela Bassett looks gorgeous in this pink floor-length gown before the Critics Choice Award.

Avery Martin, Managing Editor of A & E

Angela bassett 

Angela Bassett is most known for her roles on screen, but she is also an incredibly influential member for the Black community. Born on August 16, 1958, in New York to Betty Jane and Daniel Benjamin Bassett, she was a hardworking student who became the first African American to earn National Honor Society at her school in Florida. Then, she went on to attend Yale University earning a B.A. in African American Studies and, later, earned a Masters in Fine Arts from Yale’s drama school. She moved to L.A. and made her official film debut in “FIX” (1986) as a news reporter. For the next few years, she landed bigger roles in films like “Boyz n the Hood” (1991), “Malcolm X” (1992), and the television series “The Jacksons: An American Dream” (1992). However, in 1993, she played what many consider her most memorable role: Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1993). After that, she became the first African American woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress and earned an Academy Award nomination. She has been an avid philanthropist throughout her career, but, most recently, she’s been working with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness about cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, which disproportionately affects Black communities. Basset lost her mother to diabetes. In her personal life, Bassett is married to Courtney B. Vance and has two children. Most recently, on the screen, Bassett is known for her role as Queen Ramonda in the Marvel films “Black Panther” (2018), “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022). Over her career, she has received sixteen NAACP Image Awards, two Golden Globe awards, and nominations for two Academy Awards, and seven Primetime Emmy Awards. Most importantly though, she is a prominent figure of inspiration for the Black community.

Chadwick boseman

Chadwick Boseman was a multi-award winner and American actor who had a profound impact on the Black community. Boseman was born on November 29, 1976, in South Carolina. He went on to attend Howard University—earning a bachelor of fine arts in directing—and studied at Oxford Mid-Summer Program for acting. Fun fact: Denzel Washington paid for Boseman’s Howard tuition and was a close friend of his. In 2008, he moved to L.A. where he went on to star in  “42” (2013), “Get on Up” (2014), and “Marshall” (2017). Some other films he starred in were “The Express” (2008), “Draft Day” (2014), and “Message from the King” (2016). Most notably, however, he was known for his role as the T’Challa/the Black Panther in Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018). While filming those movies, Boseman was battling colon cancer for four years and ended up passing away in late August 2020. Despite a relatively shorter time in Hollywood, Boseman certainly left an impact earning two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and an Academy Award nomination. Most significantly though, Boseman and his role as T’Challa gave boys and girls in the Black community a hero who looked like them in a world of supermans, spidermans, and wonder womans—a mark that will be remembered and cherished beyond his death.  


Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born on September 4, 1981, in Houston, Texas. She is of Louisiana Creole & African descent. Beyoncé started singing young and enrolled in local dance classes and art schools. In 1992, Beyonce, along with her family friends, auditioned for an all-girls R&B group called Girls Tyme that went on to compete in the show Star Search. The group lost, but Beyonce’s dad, Matthew Knowles, began to manage the group which later became the famous Destiny’s Child in 1996. Over the next ten years, the group hit the top of the billboard charts and had a world tour but officially disbanded in 2006. During that time, Beyonce pursued her solo career as well. In 2003, Beyoncé released her debut solo album Dangerously in Love with the hit “Crazy in Love.” The album went on to win, not one, but FIVE grammys. Beyoncé continued her solo career with the release of her first visual album, B’day (2006), I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008), and For 4 (2011). She married rapper Jay Z in 2008 and currently has 3 kids. But her next two releases marked something never before done in the music industry. With absolutely no marketing, she released the widely praised visual album BEYONCÉ on December 13, 2013, which inspired other artists to take control of when their albums dropped. Then in 2016, her visual album Lemonade premiered as a television special on HBO. Lemonade entered a new era of Beyonce that was more focused on her southern Black roots. Then, after giving birth to twins, Beyonce became Coachella’s first Black female headliner in 2018. The two-hour performance celebrated HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and Black culture and became an iconic pop culture moment. Beyonce and Jay-Z released a joint album titled Everything is Love later in 2018. With a total of 32 awards and 88 nominations from the Grammy Awards for her music, she is the most-awarded and most nominated artist in Grammy history (not to mention all the other awards she’s won). Beyonce is one of the most culturally significant figures of Black pop culture history.