The list below features links to information about lives of many of South Carolina's most distinguished African Americans. It focuses on those who made major advancements or who broke major racial barriers.
Viola Davis - Born at Singleton Plantation in St Matthews, Viola is the only black woman to be nominated three times for an Academy Award and the only African-American to win the "Triple Crown of Acting" earning two Tonys for King Hedley II (2001) and Fences (2010), an Emmy for TV's How To Get Away With Murder (2015), and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the screen version of Fences (2017).
Eartha Kitt - Born on an Orangeburg County cotton farm in 1927, Eartha Kitt became a world-famous entertainer with her own star on Hollywood Boulevard. Her 1953 recording of Santa Baby and her recurring role as Catwoman on TV's Batman are familiar examples of her work. While many of her roles epitomized the Hollywood stereotype of "sex kitten," her social consciousness often made it difficult for her to land jobs. Her refusal to perform for segregated audiences effectively relegated her to European venues in the 1940s and 50s. In the 1970s, she was blacklisted by the American entertainment industry when she spoke out against Vietnam at a White House luncheon. But Eartha Kitt's career came back, time and time again. In 1997 she returned to South Carolina to perform a benefit concert at Benedict College, which helped establish a scholarship fund for dance students.
John Henry McCray - civil rights activist, journalist, editor and publisher of The Lighthouse and Informer
– Article - John Henry McCray recalls the fight for teacher salary equalization in South Carolina
Robert Smalls - Beaufort slave who hijacked a Confederate steamship, disguised himself as a white captain, and sailed to Union safety ... later became a captain in US Navy and a representative in the US Congress
– More info