This month is Black History Month so here is an overview of some of the most influential African American seniors who are still making a difference.
Maya Angelou, 85 years old:
Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She is hailed as one of the most powerful voices to ever come from the African American community. She started writing for The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt and later wrote for The African Review and The Ghanaian Times. Angelou mastered French, Spanish Italian, Arabic, and Farsi while abroad. In 1970, Angelou wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her internationally acclaimed and autobiographical novel. Her screenplay, Georgia, was the first written by an African American woman and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She has served on two presidential committees, received honorary degrees from 30 Universities and is a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Morgan Freeman, 76 years old:
Freeman was born in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee with an innate passion for acting. He loved acting as a child but did not land his big break until he starred in the African-American Broadway production of Hello Dolly! He had roles in some television shows and movies, but nothing career changing until he was cast in Street Smart in 1987 which earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Freeman led efforts to raise money for Katrina victims and in 2004 he organized relief funds for hurricane victims in Grenada. He was Oscar nominated for his roles in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Invictus. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Million Dollar Baby.
Bill Cosby, 76 years old:
Cosby was born in 1937 in Philadelphia, Pa. He took a break from college in the early 60s to start his standup career. In 1965 he became the first African American to co-star in a dramatic television series I Spy. By the 1970s, Cosby had great acclaim through his comedy and roles in children’s television programs. He returned to the University of Massachusetts and received his Master’s degree in 1972 and a Doctorate degree in 1976. The Cosby Show aired in 1984 and became the highest ranking show of all time. Cosby continues to be an advocate for family friendly comedy and programming. He also has honorary degrees from 13 institutions and still does a lot of philanthropic work.
Toni Morrison, 83 years old:
Morrison was born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She is an award winning novelist, poet and professor. Her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved and she won the Nobel Prize in 1993. She holds honorary degrees from several prestigious universities and has taught at universities including Princeton University and at the State University of New York. She is one of the most highly regarded voices for women and specifically African American women in her writing.