2013’s Top Black Influencers

From Kerry Washington to Benjamin Todd Jealous, these folks shaped our year, and we know they'll shape the future.

Kendrick Lamar; Kerry Washington; Benjamin Todd Jealous; Melissa Harris-Perry (Getty Images)
Kendrick Lamar; Kerry Washington; Benjamin Todd Jealous; Melissa Harris-Perry (Getty Images)

When it came to the closely related issues of racial profiling and deadly stereotypes about African-American men, Ryan Coogler (No. 6), used film as his medium, with the heartbreaking hit Fruitvale Station.

And for their part in creating film and television presenting complex images of African Americans against the much-needed lighter storylines, we honor Shonda Rhimes (No. 9), Kerry Washington (No. 7), Mara Brock Akil (No. 66), Issa Rae (No. 31) and Ava DuVernay (No. 40). Onstage, Adepero Oduye (No. 97) is one to watch.

We calculated traditional and social media reach for every nominee and, unsurprisingly, numerous celebrities rank highly for The Root 100 on this criterion. To make the cut, however, nominees needed to score well for reach and substance. The culture-shaping stars making the cut this year included Kendrick Lamar (No. 24), Jamie Foxx (No. 16), Beyoncé (No. 18) and Janelle Monáe (No. 32).

The substance scores also help those who may have lower public profiles but whose innovations and leadership influence our lives in other vital ways. Tristan Walker (No. 33), who founded CODE2040 to place highly motivated young students of color into tech internships, is now entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz. Monique L. Nelson (No. 83) heads up the longest-standing multicultural advertising agency in the United States. Kimberly Bryant (No. 44) has created a global movement that focuses on teaching code to girls of color. Their dogged work and creativity earned them places on this year’s list.

We’ve also highlighted elected officials including Nina Turner (No. 47), Aja Brown (No. 95), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (No. 48), Anthony Foxx (No. 15) and Hakeem Jeffries (No. 72), whose bold leadership on issues impacting African Americans has resonance beyond their individual jurisdictions. Meanwhile, honorees like David Johns (No. 60), executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-American, and Jonathan McBride (No. 71), assistant to the president and director of Presidential Personnel, exert their influence behind the scenes.

Many others made the list in fields as diverse as literature (Kiese Laymon, No. 81; Jesmyn Ward, No. 79), transgender activism (Kortney Ryan Ziegler, No. 29), athletics (LeBron James, No. 21; Jason Kidd, No. 22), law (Randall Jackson, No. 84) and academia (Khalil Gibran Muhammad, No. 54; Brittney Cooper, No. 73; Christine P. Fleming Hendon, No. 100).

Please join us in congratulating this year’s winners. We’d love to hear what you think.