Drake; Idris Elba; Kendrick Lamar
Anna Webber/Getty Images; Handout/Getty Images; Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Black men triumphed in 2013. From film to politics and music, here's a look at how they captured America's hearts and minds.

Steve McQueen

The British auteur scored seven Golden Globe nominations—including one for best picture-drama—for his groundbreaking film, 12 Years a Slave, based on the memoir of Solomon Northrup. More than one critic described it as “the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery.”

Cory Booker


Former Newark Mayor Booker won a tougher than expected election in November to become the U.S. Senate’s only Democratic and only elected black member. Now, he’s got a “Festivus” bro-mance going on Twitter with Senate colleague Rand Paul about the war on drugs and mandatory-minimum sentencing.

Kiese Laymon


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Laymon’s “contemporary Southern gothic” debut novel, Long Division, “a little fantasy, a little mystery and a lot hilarious." Hip-hop historian Jeff Chang dubbed the book “a classic American novel” “that I picked up and just couldn’t stop reading.”

Dante de Blasio


His ‘fro—which can only be described as magnificent—helped his dad, Bill de Blasio, win the race to become New York City’s mayor. And even the president was envious.

David Ortiz and Gov. Deval Patrick


Between the fiery “this is our f—-ing city!” rallying cry from Ortiz and the sure-handed, “Boston Strong” leadership of Gov. Patrick, black men answered the call in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Jahvaris Fulton


In the face of a national furor, Trayvon Martin’s older brother stood tall with his parents, in and out of court speaking up for the younger brother, who wasn’t there to defend himself. After the trial, he went on to intern in the Miami office of Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

Lee Daniels


The filmmaker of Monster’s Ball and Precious directed and produced Lee Daniels' The Butler, based on the life of Eugene Allen, who worked for eight American presidents. The film was celebrated by everyone from Joe Scarborough to Oprah Winfrey and was a star turn for Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz and David Oyelowo.

Kendrick Lamar


Pleasing critics and fans is no easy task in today’s rap game, but in 2013, the California rapper replanted the flag for lyricism in a genre that’s increasingly producer- and beat-driven. There was a minor dustup surrounding his profile in GQ, but it sparked an interesting debate, not pointless chaos. (Are you listening, Kanye?)

Idris Elba


The story goes that when Nelson Mandela saw early clips of Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the South African leader picked up the iPad and asked the director, “Is that me?” It was a legitimate inquiry; Elba captured Mandela’s idiosyncrasies perfectly. His portrayal of Mandela was almost eerie. It earned Elba an Academy Award nomination that he’ll likely win.



Sonically, the kids think that Drake’s an heir to Kanye West, a noble feat. This year he became a global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors and released an album that garnered him three Grammy nominations, including best rap album for Nothing Was the Same.

Michael B. Jordan


Who can forget the memorable scene in The Wire when a young Michael B. Jordan, who played Wallace, a drug dealer, pleaded for his life, ever so compellingly, right before his untimely death? It was a harrowing performance, yet the Emmys ignored him—and the entire series. In 2013, it means that much more that his portrayal of Oscar Grant, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a Bay Area transit officer while in custody is being praised by Hollywood’s elite.

LeBron James


There was a lot of hoopla—and let’s face it, hate—when James left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, and this year James showed naysayers why it was the smartest decision of his professional career. He and the Miami Heat brought home the championship once again, a back-to-back win. He also wed his longtime girlfriend and mother of his two sons, Savannah Brinson, in a San Diego wedding in September.