Throughout 2021, we’ve lost some major contributors to black culture and the world at large. from television and film, music, politics and art, we have witnessed the transition of some of the most heralded pioneers, barrier breakers and tastemakers in their respective fields. In the words of an African proverb, “good people must die, but death cannot kill their names.”
At ebony, we honor the lives and legacies of those who passed away in 2021.
Reading: Famous black people who died in 2021
hank aaron, mlb legend, 86
(February 5, 1934 – January 22, 2021)
Widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hank Aaron’s prowess throughout his 23-year career allowed him to rewrite the record books. When he retired from MLB in 1976, the 25-time all-star was the all-time leader in home runs, RBIs (2,297), extra-base hits (1,477) and total bases. (6856).
cicely tyson, iconic actress, 96
(December 19, 1924-January 28, 2021)
Cicely Tyson, the groundbreaking Academy Award-nominated actress, passed away just days before the release of her highly anticipated memoir Just the Way I Am. Winner of two Emmy Awards, the incomparable actress poured out her heart in her theatrical performances and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
john chaney, legendary college basketball coach
(January 21, 1932 – January 29, 2021)
During his 24-year tenure as head coach at temple university, john chaney embodied how tough north philadelphia basketball was. Before coming to Temple, Chaney won the 1978 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament. Following his retirement, he was one of the most revered and winning coaches in NCAA history.
mary wilson, co-founder of supremes, 76
(March 6, 1944 – February 8, 2021)
As the co-founder of Supremes, one of the most successful girl groups of all time, Mary Wilson helped shape the “Motown sound.” Along with Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, Wilson remained the only original member and ambassador of the group until her death.
vincent jackson, former nfl star, 38
(January 14, 1983 – February 15, 2021)
In 12 NFL seasons, Vincent Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and topped 1,000 receiving yards six times in his career. In retirement, he co-founded the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation with his wife Lindsey to help military families, graduated from the University of South Florida, and owned five restaurants in Tampa, Las Vegas, and San Diego. /p>
prince markie dee, co-founder of fat boys, 52
(February 19, 1968 – February 18, 2021)
As one-third of the pioneering rap trio, The Fat Boys, Prince Markie Dee was one of the main pioneers of hip hop’s rise to the mainstream. In addition to his work with the seminal rap group, he worked as a radio host/DJ on 103.5 the beat wmib radio in miami, on the rock the bells sirius xm station, and hosted his own show, the prince markie dee show. .
crying bunny, reggae icon, 73
(April 10, 1947 – March 2, 2021)
Considered one of the long-time standard-bearers of reggae music, Bunny Wailer is an original member of the reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The legendary musician has also won three Grammy Awards.
“wonderful” marvin hagler, boxing legend, 66
(May 23, 1954 – March 13, 2021)
Without a doubt, one of the greatest boxers of all time, the marvelous Marvin Hagler reigned as the undisputed champion of the middleweight division from 1980 to 1987 with 12 successful title defenses. As the undisputed middleweight champion for six years and seven months, he has the second-longest active reign in the last century and holds the record for the sixth-longest reign as champion in middleweight history.
yaphet kotto, actor, 81 years old
(November 15, 1939 – March 15, 2021)
yaphet kotto boasted one of the most diverse careers on the big and small screen. He is known for numerous film roles, as well as starring in the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999) as Lieutenant Al Giardello. He also appeared in the sci-fi horror film Alien (1979), the sci-fi action film The Running Man (1987), the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), in which he played the main villain. , Mr. big.
elgin baylor, nba legend, 86
(September 16, 1934 – March 22, 2021)
Appearing in eight Finals during his illustrious 14-year NBA career with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, Elgin Baylor is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. In his later years, he worked as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clipper for more than 20 years.
dmx, rapper, actor, 50
(December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021)
earl simmons, also known as dmx, left an indelible mark on hip hop and pop culture. he dominated the rap game in 1998, becoming the second rapper to release two number one albums in the same year. As an actor, he starred in several highly successful action movies and will always be remembered as one of the most beloved and charismatic rappers of all time.
black rob, rapper, 51
(June 8, 1968 – April 17, 2021)
With their 2000 single “Whoa!”, which reached No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100, Black Rob helped put bad boy records back on the map. A talented storyteller, he was an influential figure on the New York hip hop scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
shock g, rapper-producer, 57
(August 25, 1963 – April 22, 2021)
shock g was the lead vocalist and producer of the funk-influenced hip hop digital underground group. The group gave the world “The Humpty Dance” and introduced the world to Tupac Shakur, co-producing his debut album 2Pacalypse Now.
lee evans, olympic champion, 74
(February 25, 1947 – May 19, 2021)
lee evans won two gold medals at the 1968 summer olympics, setting world records in the 400 meters and the 4 × 400 meter relay, both aged 20 and 24. she co-founded the Olympic project for human rights, participated in the boycott of athletes during the 1968 Olympics.
paul mooney, comedian, writer, 79
(Aug 4, 1941 – May 19, 2021)
paul mooney was your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian. He was a writer for Sanford and Son, The Richard Pryor Show, Living Color, and was a legendary comedian known for his analysis of race in America.
clarence williams iii, actor, 81 years old
(August 21, 1939 – June 4, 2021)
Clarence Williams III had his main breakout television role playing undercover cop Linc Hayes on ABC’s Mod Squad. Since then, she has played numerous roles on stage and screen, including I’ll Give You A Sucka, Half-Baked, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Drama Purple Rain.
suzzanne douglas, actress, 64 years old
(April 12, 1957 – July 6, 2021)
An acclaimed actress, Suzanne Douglas first rose to fame for her portrayal of Amy Simms in the 1989 tap dance/drama film, for which she won a NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress in a movie. She played Geraldine “Jerri” Peterson on the WB sitcom The Parent’ Hood and many other television and film roles in her remarkable career.
biz markie, hip hop legend, 57
(April 8, 1964 – July 16, 2021)
biz markie was one of the most infectious personalities in hip hop history. Bursting onto the scene, during the 1980s, Biz was best known for his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” which became a top 40 hit worldwide. He once again enjoyed worldwide success as a sought-after DJ and appeared in several movies and TV series, including the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba!
bob moses, civil rights leader, 86
(January 23, 1935 – July 25, 2021)
A freedom fighter of the highest order, Bob Moses was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on Voter Education and Registration in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. Later in his life, he received a MacArthur Fellowship and established the Algebra Project that propelled mathematical literacy around the world.
chucky thompson, music producer, 53
(July 12, 1968 – August 9, 2021)
chucky thompson was one of the key architects of the bad boy sound and his collaborations with mary j. blige in my life, produced legendary results. He went on to produce hit tracks on Ready to Die, Faith Evans’s Faith and many more.
miguel k. williams, actor, 54
(November 22, 1966 – September 6, 2021)
regardless of the role he played, michael k. Williams brought an undeniable presence to each character. He played Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire and Albert “Chalky” White on Boardwalk Empire. In his latest role, playing Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country, he received an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama.
melvin van peebles, filmmaker and film director, 89
(August 21, 1932 – September 21, 2021)
Known as the “godfather of film noir,” Melvin Van Peebles broke many barriers in Hollywood for black filmmakers. In 1967 he released his first feature film The Story of a Three Day Pass. and in 1971, he released his best-known work, creating and starring in sweet sweetback’s badasssss song, which is considered one of the gold standards of the blaxploitation genre.
colin powell, military veteran and statesman
(April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021)
In his illustrious career as a military leader and statesman, Colin Powell has distinguished himself as one of the greatest leaders of his generation. He was the first African American Secretary of State of the United States, the first Black National Security Advisor (1987 to 1989), and the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989 to 1993). In 1991, Powell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. w. bush.
jovita moore, tv news anchor, 53
(October 4, 1967 – October 28, 2021)
jovita moore was a mainstay in atlanta as a newscaster and philanthropist. Since 1998, Moore was the evening anchor for Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News and won several Emmy Awards for her news broadcasts.
ronnie wilson, co-founder of the gang gap, 73
(April 7, 1948-November 2, 2021)
along with his brothers charlie and robert, ronnie wilson was a founding member of the legendary r&b/funk trio, the gap band. The group released several classics such as “early morning”, “burn me rubber”, “you threw a bomb at me”, “longing for your love” and “outstanding”, which is one of the most sampled songs of all time.
young dolph, rapper, 36
(July 27, 1985 – November 17, 2021)
young dolph, a legend in his hometown of memphis, burst onto the hip hop scene with his debut studio album, king of memphis. His last album, Rich Slave, was released in 2020 and became his highest-charting LP, debuting at number four on the Billboard 200.
lee elder, professional golfer, 87
(July 14, 1934 – November 28, 2021)
lee elder, a pioneer in professional golf, was the first african-american to play in the masters tournament. In 1979, he became the first black person to qualify to play in the Ryder Cup. At the age of 50, he joined the Senior PGA Tour, winning a total of eight Senior Tour tournaments between 1984 and 1988.
virgil abloh, fashion designer, 41
(September 30, 1980 – November 28, 2021)
virgil abloh, a creative visionary, was the artistic director of the louis vuitton menswear collection and CEO of off-white, a fashion house he founded in 2013. he was named by time magazine as one of the 100 people most influential people in the world in 2018.
greg tate, writer and cultural critic, 64
(October 14, 1957 – December 7, 2021)
a true renaissance man, gregory tate, prolific writer, guitarist for the band burnt sugar, as well as a founding member of the black rock coalition, was well known for his long career as a cultural critic for the voice of the people. Tate’s work focused on African-American music and culture, where he helped establish hip-hop criticism. His 1992 volume Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America is considered a seminal work in music criticism.
robbie shakespeare, reggae bassist, 68
(September 27, 1953 – December 8, 2021)
Best known as one half of the reggae duo Sly and Robbie, Robbie Shakespeare is considered one of the most influential reggae bassists of all time. As a producer, the multiple Grammy Award winner has worked with artists from various genres such as Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Joe Cocker, Yoko Ono and Grace Jones
demaryius thomas, former nfl star, 33
(December 25, 1987 – December 9, 2021)
Throughout his stellar NFL career, demaryius thomas was named to five consecutive pro bowl teams and was part of the broncos team that won super bowl 50. in addition to the broncos, he played for the houston texans and finished his career with the new york jets.
bell hooks, author and teacher, 69
(September 25, 1952 – December 15, 2021)
bell hooks, an internationally recognized academic, black feminist, activist, and teacher, was an intellectual giant for nearly 40 years. Throughout her scholarship, Hooks challenged the patriarchal and misogynistic norms of society, the effects of capitalism, race, and the perpetuation of systems of oppression and class domination.
leonard hubbard, former roots bassist, 62
(c. 1959 – December 16, 2021)
For 25 years, Leonard Hubbard was the bassist for the Grammy Award-winning hip hop band, The Roots. Although he departed from the roots for health reasons, Hubbard was still in demand as a session player and backing musician. at the time of his passing, he had curated an album of music that he composed and performed throughout his remarkable career.
kangol boy, co-founder of utfo, 55
(August 10, 1966 – December 18, 2021)
shaun shiller fequiere, famous by his stage name kangol kid, was a founding member of the legendary group utfo. Along with fellow rapper Educated, Doctor Ice, and Mix Master Ice members, the group was best known for their 1984 classic song “Roxanne, Roxanne.” The song hit the top 10 on the R&B charts and sparked what became known as the “Roxanne Wars.”
bishop desmond tutu, religious leader and activist, 90
(October 7, 1931 – December 26, 2021)
Anglican bishop and South African theologian, Bishop Desmond Tutu was known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was bishop of the South African city of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, becoming the first black African to hold either position. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent work for civil and racial equity in South Africa. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.