Black History Month is as much about honoring the history of Black Americans in the United States as it is about celebrating Black people today. The Khan Academy team wants you to meet their favorite Black creatives, from poets to photographers to ballerinas to visual artists.
Team members share in their own words why they are inspired by the work of these individuals. We hope you discover some new creatives and get inspired, too.
Sonya Renee Taylor, poet and author
Through spoken word and nonfiction literature (like her latest publication The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love), Sonya Renee Taylor creates the space and tools to be better connected with oneself and one’s community.
Website and Instagram @thebodyisnotanapology
Submitted by Diana, Legal
Gordon Parks, photographer
Gordon Parks was a pioneer in documentary photography and social commentary, showing, rather than telling, his views of American life through his work. In addition to being a photographer, he broke out into all sorts of other creative pursuits, including music and film.
He passed away some years ago, but you can follow the foundation in his name on Instagram @gordonparksfoundation.
Submitted by Todd, Design
P. Djèlí Clark, author
P. Djèlí Clark writes speculative fiction that imagines alternate histories of Cairo and New Orleans. His stories are engrossing and fun, while also providing a delightful window into a variety of cultural experiences.
Submitted by Sean, Engineering
Shantell Martin, artist and muralist
Exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity, and play, Martin is a cultural facilitator, forging new connections between fine art, education, design, philosophy, and technology.
Her work can be seen all over New York and Brooklyn—on walls, murals, climbing gyms, YOU NAME IT. I loved seeing her work around the city, and it would inspire me on a daily basis.
Website and Instagram @shantell_martin
Submitted by Alyssa, Design
Amanda Gorman, poet
Amanda Gorman is an inspiration, especially to today’s youth. She was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate at age 19. Her poems are a voice for issues of oppression, race, and marginalization. She recently read “The Hill We Climb” at the Biden/Harris Inauguration and “Chorus of the Captains” during the 2021 Super Bowl.
Website and Instagram @amandascgorman
Submitted by Dan, Marketing
Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem
Through curation and scholarship over decades, she has promoted and elevated African American visual artists, even when they were ignored, dismissed, and worse.
Website and Instagram @thelmagolden
Submitted by Vicki, Philanthropy
Jesmyn Ward, author
The stories Jesmyn Ward tells are deeply empathetic and compassionate. They are the stories of those who society tends to gloss over, but Ward gives them a voice. She has won two National Book Awards, and I truly believe that there are many more awards in her future. My two favorite books are The Men We Reaped and Sing, Unburied Sing.
Submitted by Stephanie, Marketing
LaToya Ruby Frazier, photographer
She is one of the best photographers working today. On top of that, her work really opened eyes to environmental injustice and racism. She started by documenting life in her hometown, a former steel mill city, mainly with family scenes, and the environmental and economic effects the steel industry had on her community were a theme in this work. More recently, she has taken on more overtly activist work, for example documenting the water crisis in Flint.
Website and TED Talk
Submitted by Paul, Philanthropy
Trevor Noah, author and comedian
After reading Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime, I realized just how brilliant he is. His memoir includes memorable pieces about how violent the political campaigns were in South Africa when he grew up and how brave his mom was raising him by herself. I appreciate him even more when I watch the Daily Show now.
Submitted by Elle, Marketing
Michaela DePrince, ballet dancer
Michaela grew up as an orphan in Sierra Leone before being adopted and moving to the US. As a young girl, she saw a ballerina on a magazine cover and knew she wanted to become a dancer. Since then, she has become a world-renowned ballerina and inspires other young people to persevere and achieve their dreams.
Submitted by Julie, Philanthropy
Kara Walker, visual artist
Kara Elizabeth Walker is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, printmaker, installation artist, and filmmaker who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. She was a HUGE influence on me as I was exploring studio art in college—such a smart, talented artist and incredible at her craft.
Website and Instagram @kara_walker_official
Submitted by Alyssa, Design
Jamelle Bouie, journalist and photographer
I’ve been following Jamelle Bouie’s writing since he started at Slate six years ago, and I was overjoyed to see him become a staff columnist at the New York Times. I normally avoid op-eds as a rule, but I will always read one of Bouie’s pieces, because they are, without fail, cogently argued and chock-full of historical citations. He excels at drawing connections between the present and our not-so-recent past; I’ve learned more about Reconstruction from Jamelle Bouie and Khan Academy than I ever did in high school.
He’s also a very skilled photographer and home cook, and I like getting his favorite recipes, photos, and recommended readings in his newsletter.
Oh, and sometimes he reviews novelty cereals for Serious Eats. The man is everywhere!
Submitted by David R., Content
Yrsa Daley-Ward, storyteller
Yrsa creates phrases I want to sticky-note to my mirror. A personal favorite, “If you have to fold to fit in it ain’t right.” Check out this introduction.
Submitted by Susan, Product Management
Carl Hancock Rux, writer, performer, and recording artist
Want to join our team at Khan Academy? Our students, teachers, and parents come from all walks of life and so do we. We hire great people from a wide variety of backgrounds, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes our company stronger. Valuing diversity, equity and inclusion not only matters, but is necessary for us to actualize our mission and truly impact the communities we serve. Learn more and find open positions.