Notable Black Men and Women of Virginia

The black men and women featured below have had a significant impact on Virginia's history. Learn their stories below.

Booker T. Washington

Featured Man

Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and adviser to multiple presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite.

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Maggie L. Walker

Featured Woman

Maggie Lena Walker was an African-American businesswoman and teacher. Walker was the first African-American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president in the United States. As a leader, Walker achieved successes with the vision to make tangible improvements in the way of life for African Americans.

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Rev Cozy Bailey Photo

Rev. Cozy Bailey


Rev. Cozy Bailey is the President of the Prince William County Chapter, NAACP, and currently serves as the Associate Minister of First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, Virginia. He has served as an ordained minister since June 2010 which was preceded by his twenty-year service as a deacon. Rev. Bailey served as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) This tenure, he earned several accolades. He served in Operation Desert Storm, received the Navy Commendation Medal, Defense Meritorious Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit before later retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. Rev. Bailey received his bachelor’s degree from the Naval Academy and he later obtained his master’s degree from Boston University both while actively serving in the military. Rev. Bailey is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

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Photo Winsome Earle-Sears

Winsome Earle-Sears


Virginia's Winsome Earle-Sears is making history. She now is the first woman of color, and the first Jamaican-American, elected to statewide office. Sears was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia in November 2021, and was inaugurated in January 2022. She was first elected to public office in 2001, in an upset win as an outsider in the 90th district of the Virginia House of Delegates. Born in Jamaica, she immigrated to the U.S with her family when she was six. A military veteran, Sears served in the United States Marine Corps from 1983-86 and is married to a fellow Marine veteran. Sears holds degrees from Virginia's Tidewater Community College (A.A.), Old Dominion University (B.A., English, minor Economics) and Regent University (M.A., organizational leadership).  In 2004, she was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the U.S. Dept. of Veteran's Affairs, and in 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell appointed Sears to the Virginia Board of Education. 

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Picture of Mary Smith Peake

Mary Smith Kelsey Peake

Featured Woman

Born a free person in Norfolk, VA, Mary Peake devoted her life to the education and betterment of African Americans. A seamstress by day, Peake violated state law to teach her fellow blacks at night. She founded the first black school in Hampton at Brown Cottage in September 1861. Her school was a forerunner of Hampton University.

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Photo of Dr. Camereon Webb

Dr. Cameron Webb


Prior to his most recent appointment to the White House, Dr. Webb ran for office in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District. In his own words: "I am a kid from Spotsylvania County who understands this district and is proud to call it home. I am a doctor who wants to help keep our communities safe and healthy. I am a consensus builder who was able to get things done while working in both the Obama and Trump White Houses. I am running (ran) for Congress because I believe everyone deserves opportunities for health and success, and I will fight to make that a reality."

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Photo of Lance and Kristen

Kristen Gardner Beal and Lance Lemon


Kristen and Lance founded the online wine ship RichWine to bring clean farmed, organic, biodynamic wine. The shop prides itself on fast delivery - if ordered online by 4:00 p.m. T-F, you'll get same day service, in time to have your wine with your dinner. The owners both grew up in the Hanover area, spent time in New York City, and returned to Richmond to launch the current dream.

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Dorothy Height

Dorothy I. Height

Featured Woman

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, Richmond native Dorothy Height worked for racial justice and gender equality for more than 50 years. As president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, she advised U.S. presidents. She worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was a chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

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Photo of L. Louise Lucas

L. Louise Lucas


Senator L. Louise Lucas has been involved in social, civic and political activities most of her adult life and has served in elective office for 26 years. Senator Lucas began her federal career in 1967 as an Apprentice Shipfitter at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) in 1971 where she then became the first woman Shipfitter. Lucas began her public sector career path as Interim Executive Director of the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project (STOP) in 1985, and was appointed Executive Director in 1986.

The senator was first elected to the Virginia General Assembly in November 1991 and continues to serve the citizens of Virginia's 18th Senatorial District

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Evelyn Reid Photo

Evelyn Reid Syphax

Featured Woman

When Evelyn Syphax could not find a preschool in segregated Arlington that would accept her son, she established the Syphax Child Care Center in 1963. She offered a high quality education while emphasizing respect for each child and his or her culture and ethnicity. She also taught and served as a reading specialist in the county's public schools until retiring in 1972. A champion for children and women, she organized a local Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter to provide scholarships and mentoring programs and established a local chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women. In 2010, Virginia Union University named its School of Education for Evelyn Reid Syphax.

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Photo Mary Bowser

Mary Richards Bowser

Featured Woman

Mary Bowser was born in Richmond as a slave of the Van Lew family. Elizabeth Van Lew paid for her education in the North and granted her freedom prior to the Civil War. Bowser returned to pose as a servant in the Confederate White House and assisted Van Lew's pro-union intelligence ring.

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Dr. Cheryl Ivey Green Photo

Dr. Cherly Ivey Green


Dr. Cherly Ivey Green is the Executive Minister of First Baptist Church of South Richmond. Prior to serving as Executive Minister, she served as a computer professional at Bank of America. She has also previously served as a member and chaplain of Richmond Metropolitan Area Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She has completed several terms on the Board of Directors of the Southside Child Development Center and has served on the board of Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. She received her bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, master’s degree from Virginia Union University, and doctoral degree from United Theological Seminary. Cheryl is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

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Photo of Gregory Swanson

Gregory Hayes Swanson

Featured Man

Gregory Hayes Swanson, a Danville native, was a 26-year-old practicing lawyer when he filed a federal lawsuit to gain admission to UVA to pursue a master’s in law. The law faculty had supported his entry, but the UVA Board of Rectors opposed it. After he won his lawsuit, he was admitted in 1950, setting a precedent for racial integration at the University. Swanson was the first African-American student admitted to the University of Virginia.

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Matilda Sissieretta Jones Photo

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones

Featured Woman

Born in Portsmouth 1869, Matilda Sissieretta Jones  studied music at the Providence School of Music and the New England Conservatory in Boston. She was a trailblazing African American pioneer of the concert and theatrical stages and sang for several U.S. presidents and at the 1803 Chicago world’s fair. Her popularity spanned the globe, and she received medals and lavish gifts from many foreign heads of state.

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Photo of Stan Maclin

Stan Maclin

Featured Man

Stan Maclin (December 27, 1953–January 11, 2021) was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of nonviolence to effect social change. He became a Mennonite minister, advocated diversity and inclusion, and worked with the local chapter of Virginia Organizing to bring immigrant groups together to combat anti-immigration legislation. He promoted criminal justice reform to eliminate lengthy mandatory sentencing, and taught on empowerment and reentry after incarceration. In response to police shootings of unarmed Black men, Maclin co-founded Americans Resisting Minority and Ethnic Discrimination in 2016. The peaceful rallies he organized during the summer of 2020 led to establishment of the People's Equality Commission of the Shenandoah Valley, which provides a collective platform for citizens to combat institutional racism.

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Photo of Max Robinson Jr.

Max Robinson, Jr.

Featured Man

Born in Richmond and a graduate of its segregated Armstrong High, Max Robinson went on to pursue a career of firsts in broadcast media. Robinson's tenure as co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and Frank Reynolds made him the first Black broadcast news network anchor in the United States. Robinson was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.

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