100 Black Innovators in 10 Days (DAY 9: Performers)

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July 2, 2020

Welcome to 100 Black Innovators in 10 Days, a campaign aiming to showcase the work, voices, and impact that these innovators have had throughout history. Today we are featuring 10 Black Performers. These individuals use their bodies, minds, and creativity to transform stories from the page to the stage.


Billy PorterBilly Porter (1969 - )

Billy Porter is an actor, writer, and red carpet superstar. After nearly three decades as a professional actor in the theater world, he's emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, both on the big screen and walking down the red carpet. This year, he made history when he became the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as Pray Tell on FX's Pose, a role that also earned him a nod at the 2020 Golden Globes.





Issa RaeIssa Rae (1985 - )

Issa Rae is an American actress, writer, director, producer, and web series creator. She first attracted attention for her work on the YouTube web series Awkward Black Girl. She subsequently gained further recognition for creating, co-writing, and starring in the HBO television series Insecure, about the awkward experiences of a contemporary African-American woman. For her performance in Insecure, she has received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy, in 2017 and 2018.





Misty CopelandMisty Copeland (1982 - )

Rising star Misty Copeland makes history as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. She has a picture book titled Firebird in collaboration with award-winning illustrator and author Christopher Myers, published in September 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in November 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.






Gregory HinesGregory Hines (1946 - 2003)

Involved in show business since he was a toddler, Gregory Hines grew up to be a highly acclaimed tap dancer, choreographer, dramatic and comic actor, singer, and director. Hines personified the art of classical tap in the 1980s and '90s. He won a Tony Award as best actor in a musical in 1992 for his portrayal of Jelly Roll Morton, the pioneering jazz composer, his fourth Tony nomination as a performer






Donald GloverDonald Glover (1983 - )

Called “the most prolific creator of his generation,” Donald Glover is the brainchild behind the FX TV comedy Atlanta. He not only stars in the show but also serves as its creator, producer, director and co-writer. Outside of his work on Atlanta, Glover is also a Grammy-Award winning rapper who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino and a stand-up comedian.






Bill "Bojangles" RobinsonBill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878 - 1949)

Have you ever tap danced or watched others shuffle and tap? Some of those moves you've seen may have been created by legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Born on May 25, 1878, in Richmond, Virginia, Robinson invented a new way to tap, transforming it from a flat-footed dance to a style that pushed the performer to his toes. Many of Robinson's steps, including the famous "stair dance," are commonly used today.






Josephine BakerJosephine Baker (1906 - 1975)

Josephine Baker was an openly bisexual singer, actor, and performer who fought for equity for queer people, women, and people of color throughout her life. Baker heavily denounced segregation and refused to perform at segregated venues. She worked to advance the cause of Civil Rights, speaking at the 1963 March on Washington, and she was even offered a leadership role within the movement by Coretta Scott King after her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Baker adopted 12 children of different ethnicities and raised them together in one home. She referred to them as “The Rainbow Tribe”, and saw them as a model for racial diversity that the world at large should follow.





Nicole ByerNicole Byer (1986 - )

Byer is an actress, comedian and writer. She hosts the baking show Nailed It and has a sitcom loosely based on her life called Loosely Exactly Nicole. She also hosts a podcast called Why Won't You Date Me. You've also seen her on MTV's Girl Code, 30 Rock, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, @Midnight, Adult Swim, Chelsea Lately, Transparent, and Lady Dynamite. She co-wrote and starred in the Pursuit of Sexiness which Variety named a web series to watch. Nicole was featured as a Time Out LA comic to watch in 2015, and Refinery 29 says she’s a female comic to look out for. She’s also been featured in Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Elle and Ebony.





Laverne CoxLaverne Cox (1972 - )

With various ‘firsts’ in her already impressive career, the Emmy-nominated actress, documentary film producer and prominent equal rights advocate continues to make history in her career and significant strides in her activism. Debuting on the scene in the critically acclaimed series Orange is The New Black, Laverne is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show. An advocate with an empowering message, she was also named as one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Women of the Year, one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential African Americans, one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by the Huffington Post, and honored with the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project, and the Reader’s Choice Award from “Out” Magazine.





Roy Wood Jr.Roy Wood Jr. (1978 - )

Roy Wood Jr. is an American comedian, deejay, actor, producer, and writer. He has served as a correspondent for The Daily Show on Comedy Central since 2015. Wood has appeared as a comic on many late-night talk shows, performed for the troops on numerous USO tours, and finished third in the 7th season of NBC's Last Comic Standing before going on to host his own morning show, The Roy Wood Jr Show.






Want to learn more? Stay tuned as we highlight 100 black innovators from a wide range of fields. We hope you feel inspired by the accomplishments of these immensely talented individuals.


In case you missed it, check out the other innovators we have highlighted so far: