Our list of influential Black communications professionals and professors is as diverse as the field of study. These leaders in the field of communications include journalists, writers, editors, broadcasters, educators, and more. These leaders in the field are paving the way for the next generation of communications professionals.
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Top 10 Black Communications Professors & Professionals from the Last 30 Years
Scholars with a doctoral degree in communications are social scientists researching, publishing, and teaching the exchange of information and the distribution of messages. Areas of study within comminications can include health communication, information studies, instructional communication, media and mass communication, risk, and organizational communication.
Influence in the discipline is often represented by communications graduates who move forward in a related professional field such as journalism, media, politics, or ministry, among others. There are a number of academic scholars on our list as well. These academic influencers may not be household names, but their influence derives from the impact of their writings and teaching, as well as involvement in various organizations and public affairs.
Communications degrees are highly popular with Black students. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, communications degrees comprise roughly 5% of bachelor’s degrees conferred on all graduates with the percentage being almost identical when looking only at data for Black graduates. Interestingly, Black students obtained 12% of the communications degrees granted in the most recent data, while making up just under 10% of graduates across all programs. Black scholars’ level of representation in the field makes it no surprise that there are many influential individuals who were considered for this list.
We limited our list of influential people in communications to those with college and/or graduate degrees in communications. We do this with the knowledge that there are certainly many influential communications professionals, such as those in the field of journalism, that have been excluded from this list simply because of that limiting criteria. Every communications professional on this list must have a degree in communications, or at least a degree in a related subdiscipline. Our list of influential Black communications graduates is longer than usual and is far from exhaustive. We capped the list at 57 influencers because the numeric scores of professors and professionals’ influence become statistically insignificant thereafter.
Prominent African American scholars in the field are studying topics such as, black media and popular culture, audience studies, media activism campaigns (Coleman), the intersection of race, digital media, and racial justice activism (Mcilwain), how the use of social media by African Americans is changing the entertainment industry, and how marginalized people, especially black women, are represented in the media (Williams).
50 Influential Black Communications Professionals From the Last 30 Years
The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.
Influence is dynamic, therefore some of the people listed are contemporary scholars and professionals while others may be more historical figures. In either case, according to our AI, these are the most cited and searched Black scholars in communications over the past 30 years.
Molefi Kete Asante is an American professor and philosopher. He is a leading figure in the fields of African-American studies, African studies, and communication studies. He is currently a professor in the Department of Africology at Temple University, where he founded the PhD program in African-American Studies. He is president of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies.
Melba Joy Patillo Beals is an American journalist and educator who was a member of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who were the first to racially integrate Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Leon Bibb is an American news anchor and commentator for WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a member of the BGSU Board of Trustees. Leon Bibb was the first African American primetime news anchor in Ohio.
Valerie Boyd was an American writer and academic. She was best known for her biography of Zora Neale Hurston entitled Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. She was an associate professor and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, where she taught narrative nonfiction writing, as well as arts and literary journalism.
A’Lelia Perry Bundles is an American journalist, news producer and author, known for her 2001 biography of her great-great-grandmother Madam C. J. Walker. Family and early life A’Lelia Bundles grew up in Indianapolis in a family of civic minded business executives. She was named after her great-grandmother A’Lelia Walker , a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance and daughter of entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker. Bundles’ mother, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles , vice president of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company and active in local and state Democratic politics, also served as a member...
Farai Chideya is an American novelist, multimedia journalist, and radio host. She produced and hosted Pop and Politics with Farai Chideya, a series of radio specials on politics for 15 years. She is the creator and host of the podcast Our Body Politic, which launched in September 2020.
Melvin L. Claxton is an American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. He has written about crime, corruption, and the abuse of political power. He is best known for his 1995 series of investigative reports on corruption in the criminal justice system in the U.S. Virgin Islands and its links to the region’s crime rate. His series earned the Virgin Islands Daily News the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1995. Another series by Claxton, this time on the criminal justice system in Detroit, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003. Claxton has won a number of national r...
Dr. Robin Means Coleman is Northwestern’s vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer, and the Ida B. Wells and Ferdinand Barnett Professor in the Department of Communication Studies. She holds courtesy appointments in the Department of Radio/Television/Film and in the Department of African American Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to Joining Northwestern, Dr. Coleman served as vice president & associate provost for diversity and professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University.
There she implemented the University Diversity Plan, thereby leading efforts in accountability, climate, and equity. She also provided strategic and scholarly leadership on practices and measures that advance diversity and inclusion progress in diversifying the faculty, staff, and student body, with an emphasis on recruitment, retention, and progression. She worked collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students across Texas A&M’s 16 colleges and schools, two branch campuses, Health Science Center, and University Libraries. Before coming to Texas A&M University, Dr. Coleman was on the faculty at the University of Michigan, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. At the University of Michigan, she served as Associate Dean of Social Sciences in the Rackham Graduate School, as well as Chair of the Department of Communication Studies. An internationally prominent and award-winning Professor of Communication and Africana studies, Dr. Coleman’s scholarship focuses on African Americans, media, and effective intercultural communication .
Audie N. Cornish is an American journalist and a former co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered. She was previously the host of Profile by Buzzfeed News, a web-only interview show that lasted one season, as well as NPR Presents, a long-form conversation series with creatives about their projects, processes, and shaping culture in America.
Melbourne S. Cummings Melbourne S. Cummings is Associate Professor, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, Howard University, Washington, D.C. She has written on issues of rhetoric and honoring the voices of ordained black women ministers, and Afrocentricity as it is manifested in rap music. She retired in 2014.
Jack L. Daniel is Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. He conducts research and teaches courses related to African American Rhetoric and African Americans and the Mass Media.
Dr. Daniel began at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and then earned his BS degree in psychology at the Pittsburgh campus in 1963 and the MA and PhD degrees in communication at the Pittsburgh campus in 1965 and 1968, respectively. He was an American Council on Education Fellow at Stanford University in 1973-74 and is a 1986 alumnus of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management. Daniel served as Pitt vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean of students from September 2002 to December 2005. In his administrative role, Daniel served as chair of the Enrollment Management Steering Committee, coordinating several campus wide activities related to student recruitment, retention, satisfaction, graduation, and placement.
Rehema Ellis is an Americann television journalist, working for NBC News. A correspondent based in New York City, New York, she is also the lead education correspondent for NBC News. Early life and education Ellis was born in North Carolina, and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.
Oscar H. Gandy Jr., retired since 2006, is a scholar of the political economy of information who was the Herbert Schiller Professor of Communication studies at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. His work spans many subjects, including privacy, race, information technology, media framing, media development, and educational subsidy.
Gina Gaston is a television journalist and currently the lead anchor for KTRK-TV in Houston, Texas. Career She joined channel 13 in 1992 to anchor the morning newscast with Tom Koch. She then left in 1999 to co-anchor HomePage, an afternoon show on MSNBC, with Ashleigh Banfield and Mika Brzezinski. Entertainment Weekly described the trio as “the Powerpuff Girls of journalism”. Gaston left MSNBC in 2000. In 2001, she returned to channel 13 to anchor and report the 6 and 10pm newscast, replacing long-time anchor Shara Fryer. Prior to joining KTRK-TV, she worked at WTSP in Tampa, Florida, WHTM-T...
Roxane Gay is an American writer, professor, editor, and social commentator. Gay is the author of The New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist , as well as the short story collection Ayiti , the novel An Untamed State , the short story collection Difficult Women , and the memoir Hunger .
Robin Givhan is an American fashion editor and Pulitzer Prize winning writer. Givhan was a fashion editor for The Washington Post. She joined the Post in 1995, and left in 2010 to become the fashion critic and fashion correspondent for The Daily Beast and Newsweek. She returned to the “Post” in 2014.
Leon Harris is an American journalist and newscaster. Harris was born to Leon Sr. and Lorrene Harris in Akron, Ohio. He has three brothers: Marcus, Jerry, and J.J., who still reside in Akron; and a sister, Kimberly, who lives in Houston.
Tony Harris is an American journalist, news anchor and television producer. He was notable for his time as an anchor on Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America, and CNN. Early life and education Harris is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and graduated from Franklin High School in nearby Reisterstown in 1985. He went on to earn a BA degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Robert Herbert is an American journalist and former op-ed columnist for The New York Times. His column was syndicated to other newspapers around the country. Herbert frequently writes on poverty, the Iraq War, racism and American political apathy towards racism. He is now a fellow at Demos and was elected to serve on the Common Cause National Governing Board in 2015.
Jemele Juanita Hill is an American sports journalist. She worked for the Raleigh News & Observer, the Detroit Free Press and the Orlando Sentinel. She joined ESPN in 2006 and worked in various roles until 2013, when she succeeded Jalen Rose as host of ESPN2′s Numbers Never Lie. The show was rebranded to His & Hers which she co-hosted with Michael Smith. Hill and Michael Smith co-hosted SC6, the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter from 2017 to 2018.
Alberta Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an Americann civil rights activist, journalist and former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, CNN, and the Public Broadcasting Service. Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African-American students to attend the University of Georgia.
Ronald L. Jackson II is an American academic and author. He is Past President of the National Communication Association and a professor of communication, culture, and media, and a former dean of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
Margo Lillian Jefferson is an American writer and academic. Biography Jefferson received her B.A. from Brandeis University, where she graduated cum laude, and her M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She became an associate editor at Newsweek in 1973 and stayed at the magazine until 1978. She then served as an assistant professor at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at New York University from 1979 to 1983 and from 1989 to 1991. Since then she has taught at the Columbia University School of the Arts, where she is now professor of professional prac...
Trymaine D. Lee is an American journalist. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of Hurricane Katrina as part of a team at The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. From 2006 to 2010, Lee wrote for The New York Times and from early 2011 to November 2012 he was a senior reporter at The Huffington Post. Since then Lee has been a national reporter for MSNBC, where he writes for the network’s digital arm, and hosts the podcast Into America.
Clinton Bernard LeSueur is an American journalist and political aide. He has worked in Mississippi and Washington, D.C., and was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district in 2002 and 2004.
Mark Lloyd is a former associate general counsel and Chief Diversity Officer at the Federal Communications Commission of the United States from 2009-2012. He was previously the vice president for strategic initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Lloyd was also an affiliate professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, and in the years from 2002-2004 Lloyd was a visiting lecturer at MIT where he conducted research and taught about communications policy.
Nathan McCall is an American author and journalist. He has written in the genres of novel, memoir, biography, and social commentary, often focusing on the African-American experience. Biography As the stepson of a Navy man, McCall grew up in various locations, such as Morocco, Norfolk, Virginia and the Cavalier Manor section of Portsmouth, Virginia. After serving three years in prison, he studied journalism at Norfolk State University. He reported for The Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before moving to The Washington Post In 1989.
Charlton Deron McIlwain is an American academic and author whose expertise includes the role of race and media in politics and social life. McIlwain is Professor of media, culture, and communication and is the Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development at New York University.
Byron Miranda is an American television journalist. The five-time Regional Emmy Award-winner, currently morning meteorologist on WPIX in New York City. Personal background A California native, Miranda served in the United States Air Force and worked as an air traffic controller in Korea. After the Air Force, Miranda attended California State University, East Bay, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. To support his family, Miranda joined the Oakland Police Department. Miranda is the father of one daughter, Briana, a merchandise display expert, who lives in San Franci...
Russell Edward Mitchell is an American journalist best known for his career at CBS where he was anchor of The Early Show on Saturday, news anchor for The Early Show during the week, and weekend anchor of the CBS Evening News.
DeMarco Morgan is an American broadcast journalist currently anchoring at ABC News. Background In 1997, Morgan graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during which he earned an internship working at KOTV. In 2001, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Jackson State University, Mississippi, and in 2002, earned his Master’s Degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. While working on his Master’s at Columbia, he helped found the J-School’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists , interned with CBS Evening News and 4...
Janet Mock is an American writer, television host, director, producer and transgender rights activist. Her debut book, the memoir Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. She is a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a former staff editor of People magazine’s website.
Vashti Murphy McKenzie is the interim president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. She’s also a retired bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and author of six books. In 2000, McKenzie became the first woman to be elected as bishop in the denomination’s history. She later served as President of the Council of Bishops, becoming the first woman to serve as Titular head of the AME Church.
Jill Nelson is a prominent African-American journalist and novelist. She has written several books, including the autobiographical Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience, which won an American Book Award. She was Professor of Journalism at the City College of New York from 1998 to 2003.
Michele L. Norris is an American journalist. Since 2019, Norris has worked as an opinion columnist with The Washington Post. She’s best known for co-hosting NPR’s evening news program All Things Considered from 2002-2011. She was the first African-American female host for NPR. Before that Norris was a correspondent for ABC News, as well as the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. Norris is also a member of the Peabody Awards board of directors, which is presented by the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Clarence Page is an American journalist, syndicated columnist, and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Early years Page was born in Dayton, Ohio, and attended Middletown High School in Middletown where he worked on the school’s bi-weekly newspaper. After graduating in 1965, he worked freelance as a writer and photographer for The Middletown Journal and The Cincinnati Enquirer, while he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Ohio University.
Dr Dorthy Pennington Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Kansas. Dorthy Pennington’s teaching and research areas are intercultural and interracial communication/critical race theory, cultural rhetoric, African American communication and culture, the discourse of terror and trauma, and African American regional church history. Dorthy Pennington earned a B.A. from Rust College, with high honors in 1968 with a major in English and a minor in French. She earned her M.A. at the University of Kansas in 1970 in Speech Communication and Human Relations; her Ph. D. from the University of Kansas in 1974 studying Speech Communication and Human Relations. Her dissertation topic: “Temporality Among Black Americans: Implications for Intercultural Communication.”
Lurma M. Rackley is an American author, journalist and publicist. The daughter of a civil rights activist, she participated in civil rights demonstrations and was arrested 16 times before she was 13 years old. After college, she became a journalist and later, a publicist with the Washington, D.C. city government. In 1981, Petey Greene asked her to collaborate with him on his autobiography, recording audiotaped interviews with her shortly before his death. Rackley published her book about Greene in 2004.
William Raspberry was an American syndicated public affairs columnist. He was also the Knight Professor of the Practice of Communications and Journalism at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University. An African American, he frequently wrote on racial issues.
Keith Richburg is an American journalist and former foreign correspondent who spent more than 30 years working for The Washington Post. He is currently director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Since February 2021, he has been President of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Dennis Richmond is an American retired news anchor who spent 40 years with Oakland, California-based KTVU. Biography Early life Richmond grew up in Rossford, Ohio and graduated from Rossford High School in 1961. He served in the United States Army from 1961 to 1964 with the 82nd Airborne Division. He attended Wayne State University in Detroit from 1965 to 1967. He then attended Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1969 on a scholarship which he was offered while working at KTVU.
Sara Sidner is an American journalist. She is a correspondent for CNN and CNN International based at CNN’s Los Angeles bureau. She also anchored Big Picture with Sara Sidner on CNN+, the network’s shortlived subscription service.
Carole Simpson is an American broadcast journalist, news anchor, and author. She is the first African-American woman to anchor a major United States network newscast. Education and career Simpson, a graduate of the University of Michigan, began her career on radio at WCFL in Chicago, Illinois, and was later hired at WBBM. She moved to television at Chicago’s WMAQ and onto NBC News in 1975, becoming the first African-American woman to anchor a major network newscast. She joined ABC News in 1982, and was an anchor for the weekend edition of World News Tonight from 1988 until October 2003.
Danyel Smith Wilson is an American magazine editor, journalist, and novelist . Smith is the former and first African-American editor of Billboard and Vibe magazine, respectively. She is author of two novels and a history of African-American women in pop music.
Marsha Houston Stanback Dr. Marsha Huston is Associate Professor and Chair of Communication at Georgia State University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Emory College of Emory University and taught at Clark College in Atlanta Georgia from 1972 until 1976. She earned a Masters in Dramatic Art with a concentration on theater history and literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then she began teaching at Western New England College in Springfield Massachusetts from 1977 until 1980. She became an Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1982. In 1985 she became an Associate Professor of English and Sociology Director of the Communication Studies Program at Spelman College. In 1986 she was made a member of the Educational Policies Board of the National Communications Association and she remained a board member until 1989. In 1987 Marsha Huston was made chair of the Department of Communications at Georgia State University; in 2004 she received Delta Sigma Rho Tau Kappa Epsilon National Honorary Society’s Outstanding Alumni Award.
Susan L. Taylor is an American editor, writer, and journalist. She served as editor-in-chief of Essence from 1981 through 2000. In 1994, American Libraries referred to Taylor as “the most influential black woman in journalism today”.
Cynthia Tucker, born March 13, 1955, is an American journalist whose weekly column is syndicated by Universal Uclick. She received a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007 for her work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she served as editorial page editor. She was also a Pulitzer finalist in 2004 and 2006.
Omar Rashad Tyree is an African-American novelist. He is known for his best-selling book For the Love of Money and Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. he co-authored with Marion Barry.
Michael Wilbon is an American commentator for ESPN and former sportswriter and columnist for The Washington Post. He is an analyst for ESPN and has co-hosted Pardon the Interruption on ESPN since 2001.
Dr Sherri Williams Assistant Professor School of Communication American University. Williams earned a Ph.D. mass communication and an M.A. in magazine, newspaper, and online journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She also earned a B.A. English with a concentration in journalism at Jackson State University.
At the intersection of social media, social justice, reality television, mass media and how people of color use and are represented by these mediums is where you’ll find Dr. Sherri Williams. Williams has a particular interest in how black people’s use of social media is changing social justice and the entertainment industry, especially television. She is also interested in and studies how marginalized people, especially black women, are represented in the media . TWITTER @SherriWrites
Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and media proprietor. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, broadcast from Chicago, which ran in national syndication for 25 years, from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, she was the richest African-American of the 20th century and was once the world’s only black billionaire. By 2007, she was often ranked as the most influential woman in the world.