In honor of Black History Month, The Charles celebrates black excellence and achievements in the arts, culture, fashion, sports, and tech. Black History Month is an essential time to recognize the central role blacks have played in shaping the past, present, and future of the United States. From Madam C.J. Walker to Andre D. Wagner, black people have used their talents to make a profound impact on our world. Take a look at the black people that continue to inspire us daily.
Adrienne Raquel is a NYC based photographer and art director specializing in femininity, beauty, nature, and color. Recently, Adrienne shot the iconic cover for Nylon featuring an all-black creative team.
Andre D. Wagner is a Brooklyn based artist and photographer who focuses on poetic and lyrical nuances of daily life and everyday people. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, he came to New York in 2011 hoping to pursue a career in social work but soon fell in love with photography after working for a photo studio in Manhattan. He speaks the visual language of city streets, people, public transportation, and the youth of the 21st century, aiming for creative expression through his black and white film prints.
Jean-Michel Basquiat is a gritty graffiti artist who emerged from the New York hip-hop & punk scene as a critically embraced and popularly celebrated artist of the Neo-Expressionist movement. Graffiti first caught his eye in the late 1970’s where he tagged subway trains and Manhattan buildings. In the mid 1980’s, Basquiat collaborated with Andy Warhol, exhibited paintings in internationally, and became the youngest artist to showcase his work in the Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery.
Sharmadean Reid is a former brand consultant and entrepreneur from Wolverhampton, U.K. She is the founder and CEO of WAH Nails, a revolutionary nail salon that began as a street smart feminist zine and soon developed into the driving force of nail art in London. Recently, Reid also founded Beauty Stack, a networked platform for beauty professionals. Reid continues to empower beauty and retail lovers through tech.
Gordon Parks is a photographer, musician, writer, and film director who became known for his photojournalism portrayals of civil rights, poverty, and African-Americans in the 1940’s-1970’s. This self-taught artist became the first African-American photographer in Life and Vogue magazine.
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Serena Williams is an unapologetically strong (both literally and physically!) tennis player, who ranked #1 in Singles on eight separate occasions. Outside of her professional tennis career, she created the Serena Williams Fund, aiming to provide equal access to education for youth and assist victims of senseless violence. Williams is the ultimate expression of dedication and spirit and serves as a role model for women around the world.
Kenneth Chenault is a business executive who has single handedly turned around American Express by revolutionizing their operating and business model. Not to mention, Chenault was the third black person ever to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. Tyson is an advocate for expanding the operations of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, arguing that “the most powerful agency on the dreams of a nation is currently underfunded to do what it needs to be doing.”
John Lewis is one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, he is one of thirteen original Freedom Riders, and was a chairman for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. He has served as the Chief Deputy Whip since 1991, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip since 2003, and he is now a U.S. Representative for Georgia. Lewis has been awarded many honors, including The Presidential Medal of Freedom. All in all, Lewis has truly dedicated his life to the betterment of this country, despite all obstacles – a complete representation of perseverance.
Debi Thomas is the first black figure skater Olympic medalist, winning the 1986 U.S National Title and World Championships. On top of that, Debi is a graduate from Stanford University and former orthopedic surgeon.