The National Portrait Gallery recently premiered AT&T Celebrates "The Black List," an exhibition featuring 50 large-sized portraits of accomplished African Americans that will remain on display until April 22, 2012.

"The Black List" was conceived, photographed and filmed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders in his East Village apartment in New York City after a nudge from his friend, the acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison (who's also a part of the exhibition). It was subsequently made into a documentary that aired on HBO in 2008.

National Urban League President Marc Morial is one of the 50 distinguished African Americans included in "The Black List." The Root caught up with Morial at a special reception held at the gallery.


The Root: How does it feel to be "blacklisted"?

Marc Morial: [Laughs.] A great sense of pride and meaning to be a part of a great group of history makers and change agents from so many who've made a difference.

TR: What kind of response have you gotten since being featured on The Black List, the HBO documentary, and now, the traveling portrait exhibition?


MM: People who know you are proud of you and those who don't know you will come talk to you. It's a great chance for all of us to share a part of our personal lives. That's a very good feeling. This "Black List" project will inspire and lift up some young people who will see that you can live a life of purpose.

TR: Speaking of blacklisting, what would you say has been the riskiest stance you've had to take in your career?

MM: When you talk about risks, I think of being guided by principles and common sense, which in turn will lead you to the right decisions and from time to time, maybe, some mistakes. I'm guided by a sense of mission and purpose. I thank God for giving me a chance to put my talent to work on behalf of others.


TR: From your vantage point, what's the biggest challenge facing the African-American community?

MM: Jobs and economic empowerment. It's the biggest problem, which has many roots in education, training, opportunity and access. History has demonstrated that when more people in our community โ€” and more people in the nation โ€” are working, things are better for all.

Abdul Ali frequently writes about culture for The Root. Follow him on Twitter.