As we wind down 2014 and look ahead to 2015, we want to take a moment to remember the people who passed on this year. From celebrities to athletes to the list of unarmed black men whose deaths launched a movement, the lives of the people included here mattered, and we will never forget the contributions they made.
The poet, playwright, activist and father of Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras Baraka died Jan. 9 in Newark at the age of 79.
The Jamaican sociologist and cultural theorist, who was known as the “godfather of multiculturalism,” died in London Feb. 20 at age 82.
Henderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of one of Detroit’s most popular news talk shows, died Feb. 15 in Pontiac, Mich., at the age of 51.
The black nationalist icon and mayor of Jackson, Miss., died Feb. 25 in Jackson at age 66.
Devore-Mitchell, a model and charm-school director who helped open the fashion world to African Americans and redefined the standard definition of beauty, died Feb. 28 in New York City at 92 years of age.
The Louisiana man died March 2 while handcuffed in police custody. His death, by a gunshot wound to the chest that police claim was self-inflicted, was dubbed the “Houdini handcuff suicide” and had family members demanding answers. White was only 22 years old.
The legendary DJ and “godfather of house music” was 59 when he died in Chicago on March 31.
The legendary editor, professor, former Tuskegee Airman and founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists died April 6 in Chapel Hill, N.C., at age 89.
President Barack Obama’s aunt, who won asylum in 2010 after living illegally in Boston for several years, died in that city April 7 at the age of 61.
The middleweight boxer, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years for a triple homicide and whose story was told in a film starring Denzel Washington, died April 20 in Toronto at age 76.
Chamberlin, one of the original cast members of the hit PBS children’s show The Electric Company, died May 25 in Chapel Hill, N.C., at the age of 76.
The prolific author, poet and activist died May 28 in Winston-Salem, N.C., at age 86.
The founder, editor and publisher of Virginia’s Richmond Free Press died in Richmond June 3 at age 76.
The actress, activist and wife of the late Ossie Davis died in New Rochelle, N.Y., June 11 at the age of 91.
Gwynn, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who played for the San Diego Padres and was considered one of the best hitters in baseball, was 54 when he died in Poway, Calif., June 16.
The actor, best known for his role in the TV series Designing Women, died in Altadena, Calif., June 28 at age 67.
The author of young-adult fiction that featured the stories of African Americans died in New York City July 1 at the age of 76.
The track-and-field legend, who became the first black woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics, died July 14 in Albany, Ga., at 90 years of age.
The Staten Island, N.Y., father of six died July 17 after being put in a choke hold by a New York City police officer. Garner was one of several unarmed black men killed by police whose deaths sparked nationwide protest. He was 43.
The Sierra Leonean doctor, who was one of the world’s top Ebola doctors, died July 29 while treating victims of the disease. Khan was 39 years old.
The Ohio father was shot and killed Aug. 5 by police while holding a toy gun in a Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart store after a call to 911 falsely claimed that he was waving a gun at customers. He was 22.
Ford was an unarmed black man killed by Los Angeles police Aug. 11 while he was walking home. His death, days after the shooting of Michael Brown, joined a growing list of unarmed men killed by police. He was 25 years old.
The jazz violinist, who merged classical technique with spirituals, folk music and blues, died in Philadelphia Aug. 15 at age 67.
Powell was killed by St. Louis police after a 911 caller reported that he had robbed a store. Police say Powell wielded a knife and refused to comply with orders. Video of the incident shows that Powell was shoot immediately and wasn’t as close as the officers claim. He was 25.
The documentary filmmaker, producer and host of the groundbreaking TV news program Black Journal died in New York City Aug. 25 at age 87.
Powell, whose athletic prowess in several sports was the stuff of legend and who played seven seasons of professional football, died Sept. 1 in San Diego at the age of 82.
The jazz trumpeter, composer and big band leader whose career spanned eight decades died Sept. 8 in Los Angeles at age 96.
Barnes—a talented NBA player whose career was derailed by a descent into drugs and alcohol—was 62 when he died Sept. 8 in Providence, R.I.
A former player in the American Basketball Association and the father of rapper and actor Lonnie Lynn Jr., aka Common, died in Denver Sept. 12 at age 71.
James, who at 19 was one of the youngest fencers to represent the United States at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, died in Modesto, Calif., Sept. 20 at the age of 29.
Jones was a prolific shot blocker in the NBA, where he spent most of his 17-year pro career playing center and power forward for the Philadelphia 76ers. He was 64 when he died Sept. 21 in Stockbridge, Ga.
Cottrell, who built a hair-care-product empire by bringing the Jheri curl to the masses with the Curly Kit, died Oct. 3 in Dallas at age 82.
The former president of Haiti, known as Baby Doc, ruled the country with an iron fist, much like his father, dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Baby Doc died in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 4 at the age of 63.
Holder—a multitalented dancer, choreographer, designer and director who became well known as the “uncola man” in the 7Up ads of the 1970s and ’80s—died in New York City Oct. 5 at age 84.
Jones, a pioneering film and TV producer from the 1960s whose credits include A Man Called Adam, starring Sammy Davis Jr., and A Woman Called Moses, a TV miniseries about the life of Harriet Tubman (played by Cicely Tyson), died Oct. 5 in Los Angeles at the age of 84.
Duncan, who became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died Oct. 8 in Dallas at age 42.
The world-renowned Kenyan-born scholar died in Vestal, N.Y., Oct. 12 at the age of 81.
Roussell, who was Selma, Ala.’s first black superintendent of schools and championed the cause of equal educational opportunity, died in Selma Oct. 13 at age 80.
The activist, who helped lead the campaign against female genital cutting in Africa and the Middle East, was 65 when she died in London Oct. 20.
The promising outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals died in the Dominican Republic Oct. 26 at age 22.
The president of Zambia died Oct. 28 in London at the age of 77.
Mapp, whose refusal to allow Cleveland police officers into her home in 1957 led to a landmark Supreme Court case that set limits on police power, died in Conyers, Ga., Oct. 31. She was either 90 or 91.
Price, a distinguished history professor who became a promoter and champion of Newark, N.J., through his writings and tours of the city, died Nov. 5 in New Brunswick, N.J., at age 69.
Rosser was shot and killed Nov. 9 by Ann Arbor, Mich., police officers who were responding to a domestic violence call. Police say she came at them with a knife, but her family disputes this claim. She was 40 years old.
As one-third of the Sugarhill Gang, Jackson helped thrust hip-hop into the mainstream with the group’s hit single “Rapper’s Delight,” creating a phenomenon that continues to shape the culture today. Jackson died Nov. 11 in Englewood, N.J., at the age of 57.
Anderson, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died Nov. 13 after she was allegedly slammed onto the pavement by Cleveland police officers outside her house. She was 37 years old.
The tap dance virtuoso died in Las Vegas Nov. 15 at age 92.
Gurley, who was accidentally shot and killed Nov. 20 by a rookie New York City police officer while walking down the stairs of a Brooklyn apartment building with his girlfriend, was 28 years old.
The 12-year-old Cleveland boy was killed by police while playing in a park near his home. Police were responding to a 911 call that claimed a man was waving a gun. Video footage shows police shooting Tamir immediately upon arrival.
The Atlanta real estate titan died Nov. 15 at age 83.
Barry—the four-term mayor of Washington, D.C., who was famously caught on camera smoking crack cocaine and later re-emerged to run the city again—died Nov. 23 in D.C. at the age of 78.
Hinkson, a leading dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Co.—one of the first two African-American dancers to join the legendary troupe—died in New York City Nov. 26 at age 89.
Brandon, who created Luther—one of the first nationally syndicated comic strips to feature a mainly black cast of characters—died Nov. 28 in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at the age of 87.
The Washington, D.C., politician was running for the City Council seat vacated by Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser when he died Dec. 3 at age 34.
Sanchez, 21, was shot and killed Dec. 3 in Compton, Calif., while pounding on a door seeking help. Sanchez’s death was one of several killings of transgender women of color around the country.
The Queens, N.Y., native, a co-founder of Miss Jessie’s natural-hair-care line, died Dec. 4 at the age of 45.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist, who regularly appeared on HBO and ESPN, died Dec. 4 at age 59.
Du Cille was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose work appeared in the Miami Herald and the Washington Post. He was 58 when he died Dec. 11 in Liberia.
Terrell, the boxer who was famously pummeled in a bout with Muhammad Ali for refusing to call the former Cassius Clay by his Muslim name, died Dec. 16 in Chicago at age 75.