These 22 People From Time’s ‘Most Influential People’ List Fight Racism With Their Work

By Sameer Rao Apr 20, 2017

As Time Magazine’s managing editor Nancy Gibbs explains in an introduction to this year’s cover story on "The 100 Most Influential People in the World," the annual list’s 2017 edition is as divisive as the international political climate.

"Some years the list has the feel of a loose, lively dinner party, people who mostly don’t know one another but would get along if they did," she writes in the accompanying article published with the list today (April 20). "This year is a bit more complicated. These past 12 months have sharpened our edges as political debates in the U.S. and Europe, the Middle East and Asia, turned jagged and primal and seem almost perfectly designed to divide us more deeply." To drive that point home, this year’s list features a Black politician and Civil Rights Movement leader and a White supremacist, alt-right-affiliated presidential advisor.

Time highlights several prominent people of color whose advocacy and accomplishments stand in the face of racist policies and cultural narratives, including three honorees—Viola Davis, John Legend and Riz Ahmed—who were recognized with their own covers. Here are those 22 figures, with links to their profiles:

  • Rapper and philanthropist Chance the Rapper, written by rapper and actor Common
  • Actress Constance Wu ("Fresh off the Boat"), written by "Girls" creator Lena Dunham 
  • Comedian and "Get Out" director Jordan Peele, written by director and writer Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight")
  • Actor and rapper Riz Ahmed ("The Night Of"), written by "Hamilton" creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda 
  • "Women’s March on Washington" organizers Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez (featured with fellow organizer Bob Bland), written by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
  • "The Underground Railroad" author Colson Whitehead, written by entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey
  • Rapper and "Atlanta" auteur Donald Glover, written by "30 Rock" creator and star Tina Fey
  • Actress and comedian Leslie Jones ("Saturday Night Live"), written by actor Russell Crowe ("The Nice Guys")
  • Film director and distributor Ava DuVernay ("13th"), written by tennis player Venus Williams
  • "Moonlight" director and writer Barry Jenkins, written by director and writer Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty")
  • Musician and philanthropist John Legend, written by musician and activist Harry Belafonte
  • Visual artist Kerry James Marshall, written by basketball veteran Grant Hill 
  • Civil rights lawyer and Democratic National Committee chairperson Tom Perez, written by Senator Tim Kaine
  • Basketball player and philanthropist LeBron James, written by poet Rita Dove
  • Gymnast and Olympian Simone Biles, written by comedian and actress Leslie Jones
  • U.S. Representative and Civil Rights Movement organizer John Lewis, written by Senator Cory Booker
  • Football player and activist Colin Kaepernick, written by coach Jim Harbaugh
  • Union organizer and immigration reform activist Jeanette Vizguerra, written by actress America Ferrera ("Superstore") 
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture architect David Adjaye, written by curator Thelma Golden
  • Actress Viola Davis ("Fences"), written by actress Meryl Streep ("Doubt")

Read the full list here