The Most Influential White Americans in Black America
1 year ago
A look at the White Americans who have had the greatest impact Black American lives
While there have already been tongue in cheek lists featuring the white Americans perceived as the most “down” with black folks, Loop21.com has decided to put together a list of the white Americans who have genuinely had the greatest impact on the lives of black Americans in the last century. Some played key roles in altering America’s laws to end legalized racial inequality, while others have helped increase the cultural influence of black Americans through the arts and entertainment, but all have made significant contributions to the black experience in America, whether they know it or not. (And in some cases, whether we want to admit it or not.)
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
1) Grace Mirabella (1930-the present) and Anna Wintour, (1949-the present) Fashion Editors
In 1974 Grace Mirabella became the first editor at American VOGUE to break the cover color barrier when African-American model Beverly Johnson graced the fashion bible’s cover. Mirabella’s successor Anna Wintour, one of the most powerful women in fashion in the world, has since overseen a number of covers featuring a diverse array of black women, among them Oprah Winfrey and First Lady Michelle Obama. Wintour also made history by featuring black women on the cover of the magazine’s September issue, first placing supermodel Naomi Campbell on the cover in 1988 (which Wintour has admitted sparked controversy) and later placing Halle Berry on the cover in 2010. Wintour is also credited with helping to establish black editors Andre Leon Talley and Edward Enninful as two of the most influential people in an industry not known for its diversity.
2) Rick Rubin, (1963- the present) Music producer and Executive
Though the name Russell Simmons is practically synonymous with Def Jam, Rubin originally conceptualized the label. After meeting Simmons during his college years, the two embarked upon one of music’s most successful partnerships and one of hip-hop’s most important. Rubin is credited with taking hip-hop mainstream, thanks to a friend suggesting the collaboration between Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith which became the classic “Walk this Way,” a defining moment in hip hop and music. Rubin has since become one of the most influential producers in the history of music working with artists as diverse as Johnny Cash and the Beastie Boys, landing him a spot on TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list.
3) Brandon Tartikoff, Television Executive (1949-1997)
During his tenure as head of Entertainment at NBC in the 1980’s, Tartikoff spearheaded such landmark programming as “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World,” programs that to this day are credited with forever changing the image of black Americans in mainstream culture. “The Cosby Show” is even credited with laying the groundwork for the eventual election of President Obama.
4) The Rolling Stones, rock band (Active: 1962-the present)
Like many white artists of that era, (including their contemporaries, the Beatles), the Rolling Stones’ early work consisted primarily of songs originally recorded by black artists which they subsequently introduced to mainstream white audiences. The band’s first single was a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come on,” while the group’s first hit was a cover of “It’s all over now,” by Bobby and Shirley Womack. But unlike some of the other non-black artists of that era, the Stones have remained loyal and vocal champions of the black artists that influenced their work and success, among them Muddy Waters and Little Walter.
5) Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, Founders of STAX Records (Founded: 1957) AND Leonard and Phil Chess, Executives at Chess Records (Active: 1950-1975)
Unbeknownst to many in the early days of Rock N’ Roll the primary competitors to MOTOWN (the legendary record label that gave us the Supremes and the Temptations) were record labels run by white Americans. Stax Records is credited with making stars out of such black music legends as Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes while Chess Records was responsible for providing platforms for some of the most influential artists in the history of music, among them Etta James and Chuck Berry.