Titi Branch; Kamara James; Ali Mazrui
Joe Corrigan/Getty Images; Twitter; Wikimedia Commons

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.

Juanita Moore

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The Oscar-nominated actress, best known for her role in Imitation of Life, died Jan. 1 in Los Angeles at age 99.

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Amiri Baraka

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The poet, playwright, activist and father of Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras Baraka died Jan. 9 in Newark at the age of 79.

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Franklin McCain

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McCain—one of the Greensboro Four, who sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in North Carolina and sparked the 1960s sit-in movement—died Jan. 9 in Greensboro at the age of 73.

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Morrie Turner

Wikimedia Commons

The first African-American comic strip artist, Turner, who created the Wee Pals comic strip, died Jan. 25 in Sacramento, Calif., at 90 years of age.

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Stuart Hall

Twitter

The Jamaican sociologist and cultural theorist, who was known as the “godfather of multiculturalism,” died in London Feb. 20 at age 82.

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Angelo Henderson

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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.

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Chokwe Lumumba

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The black nationalist icon and mayor of Jackson, Miss., died Feb. 25 in Jackson at age 66.

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Ophelia Devore-Mitchell

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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.

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Victor White III

Courtesy of Victor White Sr.

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.

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Frankie Knuckles

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The legendary DJ and “godfather of house music” was 59 when he died in Chicago on March 31.

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Chuck Stone

NABJ.org

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.

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Zeituni Onyango

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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.

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Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter

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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.

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Rodney ‘DJ E-Z Rock’ Bryce

Twitter

Bryce, half of hip-hop duo Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock—whose 1988 single “It Takes Two” became legendary—was 46 when he died April 24.

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Sam Greenlee

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The Chicago poet and author, best known for his novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, died in Chicago May 19 at age 83.

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Lee Chamberlin

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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.

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Maya Angelou

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The prolific author, poet and activist died May 28 in Winston-Salem, N.C., at age 86.

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Raymond Boone Sr.

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The founder, editor and publisher of Virginia’s Richmond Free Press died in Richmond June 3 at age 76.

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Ruby Dee

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The actress, activist and wife of the late Ossie Davis died in New Rochelle, N.Y., June 11 at the age of 91.

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Tony Gwynn

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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.

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Bobby Womack

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The soul legend, who sang classic hits including “Across 110th Street” and “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” died June 27 in Tarzana, Calif. He was 70 years old.

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Meshach Taylor

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The actor, best known for his role in the TV series Designing Women, died in Altadena, Calif., June 28 at age 67.

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Walter Dean Myers

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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.

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Alice Coachman

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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.

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Eric Garner

Garner with his wife, Esaw (courtesy of the Garner family)

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.

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Sheik Humarr Khan

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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.

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John Crawford III

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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.

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Michael Brown

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The unarmed 18-year-old was killed Aug. 9 by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. His death, along with others, sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.

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Ezell Ford

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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.

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John Blake Jr.

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The jazz violinist, who merged classical technique with spirituals, folk music and blues, died in Philadelphia Aug. 15 at age 67.

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Kajieme Powell

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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.

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William Greaves

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The documentary filmmaker, producer and host of the groundbreaking TV news program Black Journal died in New York City Aug. 25 at age 87.

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Charlie Powell

Boxing.com  

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.

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Gerald Wilson

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The jazz trumpeter, composer and big band leader whose career spanned eight decades died Sept. 8 in Los Angeles at age 96.

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Marvin Barnes

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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.

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Lonnie Lynn Sr.

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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.

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Joe Sample

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Sample’s single “In All My Wildest Dreams” was sampled on rapper Tupac Shakur’s hit “Dear Mama.” The jazz-funk keyboardist and founder of the Crusaders died Sept. 12 in Houston at age 75.

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Kamara James

Twitter

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.

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J. California Cooper

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Cooper was an award-winning author and playwright best known for her collection of short stories, including A Piece of Mine and Homemade Love. She died in Seattle Sept. 20 at age 82.

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Caldwell Jones

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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.

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Comer Cottrell

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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.

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Jean-Claude Duvalier

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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.

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Geoffrey Holder

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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.

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Ike Jones

Ingerstevens.org

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.

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Thomas Eric Duncan

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Duncan, who became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died Oct. 8 in Dallas at age 42.

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Ali Mazrui

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The world-renowned Kenyan-born scholar died in Vestal, N.Y., Oct. 12 at the age of 81.

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Norward Roussell

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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.

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Efua Dorkenoo

Wikimedia Commons

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.

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Oscar Taveras

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The promising outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals died in the Dominican Republic Oct. 26 at age 22.

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Michael Sata

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The president of Zambia died Oct. 28 in London at the age of 77.

Dollree Mapp

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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.

Clement Alexander Price

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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.

Aura Rosser

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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.

Henry ‘Big Bank Hank’ Jackson

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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.

Tanesha Anderson

Courtesy of Joell Anderson 

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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. 

Bunny Briggs

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The tap dance virtuoso died in Las Vegas Nov. 15 at age 92.

Jimmy Ruffin

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The legendary Motown singer, whose hits included “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and “Hold On to My Love,” died Nov. 17 in Las Vegas at the age of 78.

Akai Gurley

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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.

Tamir Rice

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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.

Herman J. Russell

Cover photo from Russell’s book Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire/Chicago Review Press

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The Atlanta real estate titan died Nov. 15 at age 83.

Marion Barry Jr.

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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.

Mary Hinkson

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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.

Brumsic Brandon Jr.

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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.

A.J. Cooper

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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.

Deshawnda ‘Tata’ Sanchez

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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.

Titi Branch

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The Queens, N.Y., native, a co-founder of Miss Jessie’s natural-hair-care line, died Dec. 4 at the age of 45.

Bryan Burwell

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist, who regularly appeared on HBO and ESPN, died Dec. 4 at age 59.

Michel du Cille

Twitter

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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.

Ernie Terrell

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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.

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