Current Black Heroes in Every Field Because Representation Matters

 Lewis Hamilton - Flickr Commons 

Lewis Hamilton - Flickr Commons 

By Andrew Pillow

As the world is reveling in the success of Black Panther, we should use this opportunity to discuss blacks in other fields that don’t get a lot of attention. Part of the appeal of Black Panther is that many black kids had never seen a black superhero before; this is true for many other fields as well.

  • My students had never seen a current black inventor.
  • My students had never heard of black directors.
  • My students were shocked to learn of the existence of black race car drivers.
  • There are many other fields like coding and software engineers where students knew blacks existed, but couldn’t actually name one.

In order to combat the non-representation that we see on TV, here are some black people in other fields your students may not know.  For the purposes of this list, I am only highlighting fields students perceive as traditionally white dominated. 

Startup founders: Who are some black examples of Mark Zuckerberg?

Riana Lynn – Founder and CEO of FoodTrace, a startup that builds mapping apps and software for food sourcing management.

Tristan Walker – Founder & CEO of Walker & Company Brands.

Christopher Gray – Founder of a Scholarship app called Scholly. He received an investment on the show, Shark Tank.

Inventors and Engineers: Who are some black examples similar to Elon Musk?

Lonnie Johnson – Nuclear Engineer with tons of different patents, but you probably know him best for inventing the Super Soaker water gun.

Mark Dean – Computer scientist who holds three of the nine patents for being the co-creator of the 1981 IBM personal computer. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Other Sports: Who are successful black athletes in sports that aren’t basketball, football, or track and field?

Lewis Hamilton (Racing) – He is one of the first black Formula 1 drivers.  He’s also currently ranked number 1 in the world and on track to be the greatest ever.  

Ibtihaj Muhammad (Fencing) – She is an Olympic level sword fighter that made waves when she became the first woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States. She eventually won a bronze medal.

Simone Manuel (Swimming) – This swimmer pulled a huge upset to win the 100 metres freestyle. Which gives her legitimate claim to being the fastest female swimmer in the world.

Movie Directors: Who are black examples similar to Steven Spielberg?

Ryan Coogler – He’s only directed three movies, but they were Fruitvale Station, Creed, and Black Panther which were all massive successes.

Antoine Fuqua – He has directed a ton of movies but he is probably best known for Training Day.

This is by no means an “exhaustive list” of people, but hopefully it gives you a good start on finding current non-rappers and basketball players  you can share with your students.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.