CLOSE, a division of NBC News, today announced the results of “TheGrio’s 2011 African-American Leadership Survey” in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The web-enabled poll, designed by Princeton University professor Melissa Harris-Perry, was completed by a group of contemporary academics, artists and activists.

As part of the survey, the assembled jury evaluated the impact of 170 African American history-makers, based on measured influence, legacy of change, and continued relevance over time. Based on these and other criteria, the panel named its “25 Most Influential African-American Leaders of All Time:”

  • President Barack Obama is the only living leader among the Top 10
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is not among the Top 25, nor is he among the Top 5 Legal and Business category
  • While Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is among those named, Rev. Al Sharpton was not among the Top 25
  • Four women are among the top 10: Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Ella Baker

“Rather than simply relying on the editorial choices of a few individuals, TheGrio turned to expert scholars and a diverse array of thought leaders to create a list based on a serious assessment of the contributions of these individuals,” Dr. Harris-Perry continued. “The ranking they produced is a compelling articulation of the depth and breadth of African American leadership.”

“TheGrio is devoted to sharing the news, opinions, and contributions of black people in America and around the world,” said Managing Editor David Wilson. “We are specifically interested in understanding what the past teaches us about this moment and, more importantly, how it helps us prepare for the future.”

The Top 5 leaders in each of four categories, as ranked by the panel, were also named. The categories include:

  • Political Leaders
  • Legal and Business Persons
  • Civil Rights Activists and Religious Figures
  • Intellectuals and Artists

Full survey results are available at

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