The Root 100 celebrates the best and brightest of those in the black community who constantly give back to the community. Each year The Root compiles a list of the most influential African Americans in the fields of business, science, politics, technology, social justice, sports and entertainment.

Our 2016 list was topped by the great and powerful Beyoncé, LeBron James and Jesse Williams, but don’t let the star-studded top spots fool you—The Root 100 honors those who honor us. While many people on this list may be celebrities, there are many others on the list who are not the most celebrated people in the world, but their lights are enough to illuminate their incredible service.

These are people like Marlon Marshall (No. 43), who, as director of states and political engagement for the Hillary Clinton campaign, was the highest-ranking African-American staffer of any presidential campaign; and Symone Sanders (No. 65), who, during the primary season of the last election, served as Bernie Sanders’ press secretary and fiercely fought to ensure his message was heard.

Or not-so-known names like Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds (No. 14), who bravely and calmly live-streamed the aftermath of the police shooting that took the life of her fiance, Philando Castile, showing the world the horror of police brutality in real time; and University of Missouri grad student Jonathan Butler (No. 18), who put his life on the line when he engaged in a hunger strike to force the resignation of the university president for failing to act against racism on campus.

So, as you can see, The Root 100 list is diverse and rich with black folks who fight for a cause greater than themselves. We had the pleasure of sitting down with a few of our awesome honorees—Wesley Lowery (No. 39), Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins (No. 72), Nia-Malika Henderson (No. 22), Leslie Odom Jr. (No. 6), Will Packer (No. 15), Charlene Carruthers (No. 7), Luvvie Ajayi (No. 73), Bomani Jones (No. 17) and Alicia Garza (No. 19)—to give them a chance to tell their stories from their own lips.


Check out many of our amazing honorees and why their work deserves to be honored: