Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

History

18 Famous African Americans That Are Also Proud Veterans. Can You Identify Them?

Famous African Americans Veterans
Image Credit: United Liberty

This quiz celebrates the remarkable contributions of 18 famous African Americans who not only excelled in their respective fields but also served with distinction as veterans in the military.

While their public personas may be well-known, their service in the armed forces might come as a surprise to many.

Test your knowledge and see if you can identify these distinguished individuals who have proudly worn the uniform, showcasing their dedication to their country alongside their achievements in entertainment, sports, politics, and more.

Famous African American Veteran 1

Morgan Freeman
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which actor, known for his deep, authoritative voice and compelling on-screen presence, played the role of Hoke Colburn, a chauffeur for a Jewish widow in the 1989 film “Driving Miss Daisy,” earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor?

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Morgan Freeman, before achieving widespread acclaim in Hollywood, served in the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1959.

Initially, Freeman joined the Air Force with the ambition of becoming a fighter pilot. He worked as a radar technician and underwent pilot training during his service.

However, Freeman’s tenure in the military led him to a pivotal realization: his passion for acting outweighed his interest in flying. This epiphany prompted him to leave the Air Force to pursue a career in the performing arts.

His military discipline and experience have been influential in shaping his approach to his acting career, where he has emerged as one of the film industry’s most esteemed figures.

Famous African American Veteran 2

Ice T
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which rapper and actor, known for his role as Detective Odafin Tutuola on the TV series “Law & Order: SVU,” began his entertainment career after serving four years in the United States Army?

Ice-T

Ice T 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tracy Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T, served four years in the United States Army before launching a successful career in music and acting.

His time in the Army was a transformative period that provided him with the discipline and structure needed to pursue his goals in the entertainment industry.

After completing his service, Ice-T channeled his experiences and observations from military life into his music, helping to pioneer the gangsta rap genre.

His military background, marked by a commitment to excellence and perseverance, has significantly influenced his approach to both his music and acting careers, making him a respected and multifaceted figure in the entertainment world.

Famous African American Veteran 3

Berry Gordy Jr
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which founder of Motown Records, who was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and later used a loan of $700 from his father to start a record company, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2016?

Berry Gordy Jr.

Berry Gordy Jr. 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Berry Gordy Jr.’s early life was marked by a series of ventures, from dropping out of school to pursue boxing to being drafted into the Army during the Korean War in 1951.

His military service, which lasted until 1953, was a significant chapter in his life, providing him with experiences that would later influence his entrepreneurial spirit.

After completing his service, Gordy returned to Detroit and took a job at the Ford Motor Company, working on an assembly line. It was during this time that he began to explore his passion for music, writing songs in his spare time.

This passion, combined with a $700 loan from his father, led Gordy to found Motown Records, a company that would revolutionize the music industry and become synonymous with the Motown sound, launching the careers of legendary artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, and The Temptations.

Famous African American Veteran 4

David Robinson
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which NBA Hall of Famer, known as “The Admiral,” served as an officer in the United States Navy after graduating from the United States Naval Academy before embarking on a legendary basketball career with the San Antonio Spurs?

David Robinson

David Robinson (1)
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

David Robinson, before becoming one of the most dominant centers in NBA history, graduated from the United States Naval Academy, where he majored in mathematics.

Upon graduation, he served as a civil engineering officer in the United States Navy, earning the nickname “The Admiral.” Robinson’s commitment to his naval service exemplified his dedication and discipline, traits that would define his basketball career.

After completing his service, Robinson joined the San Antonio Spurs and quickly became one of the league’s stars, leading the team to two NBA championships and earning numerous accolades, including MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Famous African American Veteran 5

James Earl Jones
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which acclaimed actor, known for his deep, resonant voice that brought to life characters such as Darth Vader in “Star Wars” and Mufasa in “The Lion King,” served in the United States Army during the Korean War before pursuing a distinguished career in film, television, and theater?

James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

James Earl Jones, a towering figure in American entertainment with one of the most recognizable voices in the world, served in the United States Army during the Korean War.

After his graduation from the University of Michigan, Jones felt a strong sense of duty and enlisted in the Army, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

His service included a stint at Camp Hale, Colorado, in the rugged Rocky Mountains, where he helped establish a cold-weather training command.

Jones’s military experience provided him with a unique perspective and discipline that he later applied to his acting career.

Following his discharge, Jones used the GI Bill to study acting at the American Theatre Wing in New York, which set the stage for his illustrious career.

Famous African American Veteran 6

Mr T
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which iconic actor and wrestler, known for his roles as B.A. Baracus in the television series “The A-Team” and Clubber Lang in “Rocky III,” served in the United States Army Military Police Corps before becoming famous for his mohawk, gold chains, and tough-guy persona?

Mr. T

Mr T 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Laurence Tureaud, better known as Mr. T, carved a niche for himself in popular culture with his distinctive style and roles. But before his rise to fame, he served in the United States Army Military Police Corps.

His time in the military was marked by discipline and excellence; he was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant. Tureaud served in the MP Corps, where his duties included a military police officer role.

This period in the Army helped to shape the tough, disciplined persona that would become his trademark in his acting and wrestling careers. After completing his military service, Mr. T transitioned into the world of entertainment, where his unique look and charisma quickly made him an iconic figure.

Famous African American Veteran 7

Harry Belafonte
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which influential singer, actor, and civil rights activist, known for his hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and as the first African American to win an Emmy Award, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before using his platform to advocate for social justice and equality?

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Harry Belafonte, before becoming a towering figure in entertainment and activism, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

His time in the military was a formative period that occurred early in his life, giving him a unique perspective on the issues of race and equality that he would later address in his career.

After his service, Belafonte’s talents led him to the New York theater scene, and he quickly rose to fame as a singer and actor.

His experiences in the Navy, coupled with his upbringing in Harlem and Jamaica, deeply influenced his commitment to civil rights and humanitarian causes.

Belafonte used his prominence in the arts to challenge and break down racial barriers, becoming a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement and working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others.

His activism was not just limited to the United States; Belafonte also became a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa and has advocated for various social and humanitarian causes throughout his life.

Famous African American Veteran 8

Jimi Hendrix
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which legendary guitarist, known for revolutionizing the electric guitar with his innovative techniques and explosive performances at Woodstock and Monterey, briefly served in the U.S. Army before achieving fame with classics like “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary”?

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Jimi Hendrix, before becoming one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, served in the U.S. Army, enlisting in 1961. Hendrix was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

His military service was cut short, and he was honorably discharged in 1962 after an injury. Despite the brief tenure, Hendrix’s experience in the Army was a pivotal time, during which he continued to focus on his music, honing his guitar skills when off-duty.

After leaving the military, Hendrix moved to Tennessee and began playing gigs on the chitlin’ circuit, gradually building the foundation of his musical career.

His time in the Army is a lesser-known chapter of his life story, overshadowed by his later groundbreaking achievements in music that would immortalize him as a guitar legend.

Famous African American Veteran 9

Richard Pryor
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which groundbreaking comedian and actor, known for his incisive observations on race and contemporary society, served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960 before embarking on a career that would see him become one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time?

Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Richard Pryor, before lighting up the entertainment world with his pioneering comedy, served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960.

Pryor’s time in the military was marked by his outspoken nature and refusal to conform to racial prejudices, which led to tumultuous experiences, including an incident where he and several other black soldiers were imprisoned for beating a white soldier who was racially provoking them.

This period of Pryor’s life was short and challenging but reflective of his later fearless approach to comedy and social commentary.

After his discharge from the Army, Pryor embarked on a career in comedy, using his sharp wit and insights into American life to address issues of race, class, and a variety of social issues, revolutionizing stand-up comedy and influencing countless comedians who followed.

Famous African American Veteran 10

Melvin Van Peebles
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which pioneering filmmaker and playwright, known as the “Godfather of Black Cinema” for his influential work in the 1970s, especially with the film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” served three and a half years in the U.S. Air Force before making significant contributions to the blaxploitation genre and independent filmmaking?

Melvin Van Peebles

Melvin Van Peebles 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Melvin Van Peebles, before becoming a seminal figure in American cinema, served in the U.S. Air Force, enlisting in 1954 and serving until 1957.

During his time in the Air Force, Van Peebles was stationed in Ohio and later in France, where he began to nurture his passion for writing and filmmaking.

His military service provided him with the GI Bill, which he used to finance his education, studying literature at Ohio Wesleyan University.

After completing his service and education, Van Peebles moved to Paris, where he wrote novels and made short films. This period was crucial in developing his artistic voice and vision, which he would later bring back to the United States.

His groundbreaking work, particularly “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” is credited with laying the groundwork for the blaxploitation genre and influencing the direction of African American filmmaking.

Famous African American Veteran 11

Sherman Hemsley
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which actor, best known for his portrayal of George Jefferson on the groundbreaking television shows “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” served four years in the United States Air Force before becoming a beloved figure in American pop culture?

Sherman Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley (1)
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sherman Hemsley, before his rise to fame as one of television’s most memorable characters, George Jefferson, served in the United States Air Force.

Hemsley’s military service lasted four years, during which he was stationed at various bases, including in the Far East.

After completing his service, Hemsley moved to New York to pursue a career in acting, working during the day and attending drama school at night.

His dedication paid off when he was cast as George Jefferson, first appearing on “All in the Family” before starring in the spin-off “The Jeffersons,” which became one of the longest-running sitcoms featuring an African American family..

Famous African American Veteran 12

Remi Adeleke
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Which former Navy SEAL turned actor, writer, and motivational speaker, known for his role in “Transformers: The Last Knight” and for authoring the book “Transformed,” transitioned from a challenging upbringing in the Bronx to serving in the U.S. Navy before making his mark in the entertainment industry and as an inspirational figure?

Remi Adeleke

Remi Adeleke 1
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Remi Adeleke’s journey from the streets of the Bronx to Hollywood and motivational speaking is as remarkable as it is inspirational.

Before he graced the silver screen or wrote his moving autobiography, Adeleke embarked on a life-altering path by joining the United States Navy, where he served as a Navy SEAL. This demanding and prestigious role in the military honed his resilience, discipline, and leadership skills, qualities that would serve him well beyond his military career.

Following his honorable service, Adeleke pursued a career in acting and writing, landing roles in films such as “Transformers: The Last Knight.” His autobiography, “Transformed,” details his incredible life’s journey from adversity to success in various fields, highlighting his dedication to public speaking and youth mentorship.

Famous African American Veteran 13

Colin Powell
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which distinguished military leader and statesman, who rose to become the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later served as Secretary of State, began his career in the U.S. Army, where his service included two tours in Vietnam?

Colin Powell

Colin Powell 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Colin Powell’s illustrious career in public service and the military is marked by a series of groundbreaking achievements.

After joining the ROTC during college, Powell was commissioned as an Army officer upon graduation, setting the stage for a distinguished military career that spanned over 35 years.

His service included two tours in Vietnam, where he was a young advisor and later a battalion commander, showcasing leadership qualities that would define his career.

Powell’s military accolades include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Soldier’s Medal, among others.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and later as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, Powell became a central figure in American foreign policy, playing a key role in numerous international events.

Famous African American Veteran 14

Montel Williams
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which Emmy Award-winning talk show host, known for “The M***** W******* Show” that ran for 17 seasons, began his career in the military, serving in both the Marine Corps and the Navy, where he became the first African American enlisted Marine to complete and graduate both the Academy Prep School and the Naval Academy?

Montel Williams

Montel Williams 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Montel Williams’ path to becoming a celebrated television personality and motivational speaker was shaped by his significant military service.

Before his rise to fame, Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, demonstrating early on the leadership qualities and resilience that would define his career.

His exceptional performance in the Marines led to his selection for the Naval Academy Preparatory School, followed by his admission to the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated with a degree in engineering.

Williams made history as the first African American enlisted Marine to graduate from both the Naval Academy Prep School and the Naval Academy, a testament to his determination and pioneering spirit.

After serving in both the Marine Corps and the Navy, where he reached the rank of lieutenant commander, Williams transitioned to television, where his talk show became a platform for discussing various societal issues, offering advice, and providing support to millions of viewers.

Famous African American Veteran 15

Sinbad
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which comedian and actor, known for his roles in “Jingle All the Way” and “A Different World,” served in the United States Air Force as a boom operator before finding success in Hollywood with his stand-up comedy and family-friendly films?

Sinbad

Sinbad 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Before Sinbad became a household name for his humorous insights and memorable film roles, he served in the United States Air Force.

His military service saw him working as a boom operator, responsible for refueling aircraft mid-flight, a role that demands precision and calm under pressure.

However, Sinbad’s heart was always in entertainment, and he often found ways to express his comedic talents, even while serving.

After his military service, Sinbad pursued a career in comedy, leveraging his charismatic stage presence and everyman appeal to captivate audiences around the world.

His transition from the Air Force to stand-up comedy stages and eventually to television and film underscores the diverse paths to success and the unexpected ways in which military service can prepare individuals for a wide range of careers outside the armed forces.

Famous African American Veteran 16

Mystikal
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Which rapper, known for his energetic style and hits like “Shake Ya A**” and “Danger (Been So Long),” served in the United States Army before achieving fame in the music industry as part of the No Limit Records roster?

Mystikal

Mystikal 1
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Mystikal, born Michael Lawrence Tyler, took a path less traveled to hip-hop stardom by first serving in the United States Army. His military service was a period of discipline and structure, providing him with experiences that would shape his approach to life and his music career.

After completing his service, Mystikal’s unique voice and rapid-fire lyrical delivery caught the attention of the music world, leading to his breakout success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Signed to Master P’s No Limit Records, he became one of the label’s most recognizable figures, known for his high-energy performances and distinctive style.

Famous African American Veteran 17

Shaggy 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which Grammy-winning reggae artist, famous for hits like “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel,” served in the United States Marine Corps and participated in Operation Desert Storm before achieving international fame in the music industry?

Shaggy

Shaggy 2
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Before Shaggy became a global reggae and dancehall sensation, he was Orville Richard Burrell, a young man who served in the United States Marine Corps.

His military service included participation in Operation Desert Storm, where he was deployed to Kuwait as part of the 10th Marine Regiment.

The discipline and resilience Shaggy developed during his time in the Marines played a crucial role in his subsequent music career.

After his service, he pursued music full-time, blending his Jamaican roots with a pop sensibility that led to widespread acclaim and several chart-topping hits.

Famous African American Veteran 18

MC Hammer
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Which rapper, famous for the hit “U Can’t Touch This” and known for his flashy performances and parachute pants, served in the United States Navy before becoming a defining figure in early ’90s pop music and hip-hop culture?

MC Hammer

MC Hammer 1
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

MC Hammer, born Stanley Kirk Burrell, embarked on his journey to music stardom from an unexpected starting point: the United States Navy.

Serving at a naval station in California, Hammer’s time in the Navy was a period of growth and maturity, laying the foundation for his future endeavors.

After completing his service, he channeled his discipline and work ethic into a music career, quickly rising to fame with his high-energy performances, catchy hooks, and distinctive dance moves.

His breakthrough album, “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em,” became one of the best-selling rap albums of all time, cementing his place in music history.

Conor Jameson
Written By

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

News

California’s recent hike in the minimum wage to $20 an hour has sent shockwaves through the fast food industry, particularly affecting McDonald’s franchises. Franchise...

News

In a recent debate over Safe Storage laws, a Democratic State Legislature member from Minnesota, Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL), made a statement that...

Start

Are you up for the challenge that stumps most U.S. citizens? Test your knowledge with these 25 intriguing questions about American history’s Colonial Period....

News

In a recent report by the Market Gains channel, the host shared about the issue of minimum wage in California. Just a month ago,...