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18 Famous African Americans That Are Also Proud Veterans – See If You Know Who They Are

Source: Shutterstock

There are some African Americans whom we celebrate for their achievements in entertainment, sports, and music, but we know very little about their proud military backgrounds. It’s important to recognize their bravery and strength in serving our country to embrace their diversification.

Below, we have quizzes about 18 famous African Americans who are also proud veterans. Let’s get started and see if you can guess correctly!

Famous African American Veteran 1

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Can you guess this iconic Afro-American actor known for his multifaceted talents as an actor, filmmaker, and narrator? Here’s a clue: he lent his mesmerizing narration and portrayed a pivotal role in the timeless classic, “The Shawshank Redemption.” His voice guided audiences through the poignant journey of Andy Dufresne inside Shawshank State Penitentiary.

You might also recognize him from his stellar performances in blockbuster hits like “Seven,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Invictus.” Can you name this legendary actor?

Answer: Morgan Freeman

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, we were talking about the legend Morgan Freeman, and you probably have guessed it right. Don’t forget to mention that in the comment section.

You might already know Morgan Freeman for his charismatic acting and unparalleled narrations, but did you know that he also served as a soldier in the Air Force? He began his service in 1955 and was honorably discharged in 1959 as a first-class airman. During his time in the Air Force, he worked as a radar technician and received training to become a fighter jet pilot.

Despite his passion for flying, he eventually realized that his love for the performing arts was surpassing his desire to be a fighter pilot. He once mentioned that his military discipline and experience significantly influenced his approach to acting. It surely did, as not everyone has emerged as a revered figure in the film industry like him.

Famous African American Veteran 2

Source: Wikimedia Commons / S. Bollmann

Now, let’s talk about Afro-American musicians who served in the US defense. We are talking about the actor and hip-hop artist who is famous for his Detective Odafin Tutuola role in the T.V. series “Law and Order: SVU.” He served in the U.S. Army before starting a career in Hollywood. As some hints suggest, this guy is famous for rapping songs about life on the streets and violence. Can you guess?

Answer: Ice-T

Source: Wikimedia Commons / S. Bollmann

If you love music and movies, there is no way you have never heard of Ice-T. His actual name is Tracy Marrow. This on-screen detective has some practical experience in law and order enforcement in real life, but in a different manner. He served in the U.S. Army for four years before joining the entertainment industry from 1977 to 1981. Ice-T was a soldier of the 25th Infantry Division posted in Hawaii.

During his time in the Army, you identify him as a disciplined and structured personality, which you can also observe in his social and on-screen lives.

This phenomenal Afro-American media personality admits that he used his military experiences in his music, which you can easily notice in his hip-hop gangsta rap creation.

Famous African American Veteran 3

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Berry Gordy

Here is another phenomenal contributor to the US music industry. He founded Motown Records using $700 from his father and is considered a pioneer in shaping US music by introducing us to many black music talents. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2016 and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Who is he?

He is also the co-writer of some hits like “Reet Petite”, “Lonely Teardrops” and “To Be Loved.” Any ideas?

Answer: Berry Gordy Jr.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Berry Gordy

You will surely find Berry Gordy Jr.’s life full of bumps and criss-crossed turns. He dropped out of school to become a professional boxer. However, he changed his career target and joined the U.S. Army in 1951.

During his service in the military, he fought in the Korean War, showcasing his patriotic mindset. Most amazingly, while serving the country, he became passionate about becoming an entrepreneur, finding an alternative way to perform his duty to the country.

After his release in 1953, he worked for Ford Motor Company in Detroit. People like us might lose all their dreams in this type of life phase. But Berry was exceptional; this job boosted his entrepreneurial mindset.

He borrowed $700 bucks from his father and formed Motown Records which was recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. You must know this music company shaped the American music industry significantly and is considered the birthplace of many phenomenal musicians like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and others.

Famous African American Veteran 4

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Robert D. Ward

Afro-Americans are always motivated to perform in games and sports. Many of them reach maximum heights in terms of popularity and achievements. We are talking about such a sportsman who is an NBA Hall of Famer. He graduated from UA Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a basketball sensation. Have you ever heard his name?

He was also named the Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-star. Who is he?

Answer: David Robinson

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Robert D. Ward

Your fondness for David Robinson will skyrocket after learning that he graduated from the US Naval Academy with a major in mathematics and served in the U.S. Navy as a civil engineer.

Before being “The Admiral” in basketball, David served the country as a Navy Public Works Department professional in Washington, DC. Within his six years of service in the U.S. Navy, he also performed the recruiter and anti-drug campaigner role.

After the end of his service, he joined the Spurs in 1989 and became a basketball sensation overnight using his real-life knowledge from the Navy. He led the team in two NBA championships and received recognitions like MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and many more.

Famous African American Veteran 5

Source: Wikimedia Commons / James Earl Jones

This highly talented Afro-American media personality is renowned for numerous achievements. His works on television, theater, and movies are remarkable. This artist is known for exceptional voices in award-winning animation movies like Darth Vader in “Star Wars” and Mufasa in “The Lion King” and was an active military personnel. Who is this Arfor-American person with a deep resonated voice?

Answer: James Earl Jones

Source: Wikimedia Commons / James Earl Jones

This is a unique addition to this list: a voice artist. Your amaze-feel after listening to the husky voice of James Earl Jones will get a surprise boost by knowing that he graduated from the University of Michigan and served the country during the Korean War.

Jones was recognized as an exceptional and dedicated cadet during his service period. His enriched military life lasted from 1953 to 1955. He served as the Pershing Rifles Drill Team member and the National Society of Scabbard and Blade and second lieutenant in Fort Benine. He also served in Camp Hale, Colorado.

After Jamse’s debut in Hollywood, he successfully transformed his military life experience in his performance and received national and international recognition.

Famous African American Veteran 6

Source: Shutterstock / Everett Collection

Here, we’re talking about an African-American who is not only praised for his talent but also globally recognized for his unique styling. This former U.S. Army Military Corps is famous for his acting in the T.V. series “The A-Team” as B.A. Baracus and in “Rocky III” as Clubber Lang? He was the bodyguard of top-rated celebrities like Michael Jackson and Mohammad Ali. Can you figure out his identity?

Answer: Mr. T

Source: Shutterstock / Everett Collection

You might know Mr. T for his iconic gold chains, mohawks, tough-guy persona, and contribution to the media industry. But there is more to learn. Mr T, whose original name is Laurence Tureaud, served the country from 1975 to 1978.

While serving in the U.S. Army Military Corps with maximum dedication and commitment, Mr T received a letter of recommendation from his drill sergeant. His role as the M.P. was still recognized and praised in the U.S. Army.

However, after finishing the service, his disciplined and shaped life directed him to join the wrestling and film industry. He is counted as successful in this sector as well.

Famous African American Veteran 7

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Manfred Werner – Tsui

Do you know which ex-Navy served the USA in World War II and has enormous popularity for his sense of music? He is also an activist and received a Grammy Award as the first Afro-American singer.

Can not recognize? Here is a hint: his 1957 album “Calypso” received record-breaking over one million sales within just 12 months. So, can you recognize this musician now?

Answer: Harry Belafonte

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Manfred Werner – Tsui

As a music lover, you certainly know Harry Belafonte for his remarkable song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” The Afro-American singer’s life is more than fiction. He was a school dropout and served the country in WWII from 1944 to 1954. He was commissioned at Port Chicago, California, and experienced racial segregation in that time’s U.S. Navy.

Due to receiving several bitter experiences, he joined The New School for Social Research in New York City, becoming a social activist. Belafonte is known as a pioneer civil rights movement member, and a close supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Belafonte’s life became more glorified after joining the music industry. You can get the essence of his lifelong experience as a member of a minority group by listening to his songs.

Famous African American Veteran 8

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s talk about another legendary musician. Which African American guitarist is famous for his phenomenal performance with electronic guitar playing, creating all-time hits like “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary,” and having served in the U.S. Army earlier?

Difficult to identify? Okay, here is more information: he was known as the god of electronic guitar for creating a new style combining fuzz, feedback, and controlled distortion. Now, can you recognize him?

Answer: Jimi Hendrix

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Who isn’t amazed by listening to the awesome performances of Jimi Hendrix with electric guitar? This legendary guitar player also served the country; he was enlisted on May 31, 1961, after receiving two options from the government: prison or Army!

He chose military service and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. However, he couldn’t finish the designated three-year period in the Army due to injury and was released after one year from the service.

His off-duty time of gutter playing became his main passion after his service. He started playing gigs on the chitlin’ circuit in Tennessee with a gradual career growth in the music industry. Soon, his talent became noticed, and he became a legendary guitarist.

Famous African American Veteran 9

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Alan Light

Which famous standup comedian known for his remarkable comedy performances intertwined with deep messages about racial-based segregation in U.S. society and also served in the U.S. Army? Do you know him? He was a pioneer in fighting against racial disparities using vulgar comedy. Still no idea?

Answer: Richard Pryor

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Alan Light

You will be amazed to know that behind Richard Pryor’s dark comedies, there are experiences of institutionalized racial disparities in that time’s U.S. society. Richard served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, raising his voice against racial prejudices in this vital defense institution of the U.S.

After the completion of his duty in the Army, he transformed his experiences related to black vs. white soldiers into some dark comedies. Richardson’s speeches and statements were powerful and influential in importing equality into society.

Famous African American Veteran 10

Source: Wikimedia Commons / David Shankbone

Who is the Afro-American veteran filmmaker and playwright nicknamed the “Godfather of Black Cinema,” recognized for his groundbreaking work in the 1970s, notably with the movie “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song”? Not familiar? Okay, we give some more clues: he is also renowned for “Don’t Play Us Cheap” and “The Shining.” So, who is he?

Answer: Melvin Van Peebles

Source: Wikimedia Commons / David Shankbone

We know Melvin Van Peebles as an author, filmmaker, and screenplay writer. But, he was also a dedicated defense personnel, which you might have known. Peebles joined the US Air Force in 1953, just after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in Literature. We served the country as a flight navigator for three and a half years in various air bases, including France.

During his life in the cultural hub “France,” he became highly passionate about writing and filmmaking. You will be surprised to know that Peebles returned to Paris after finishing his duty in the Air Force and started pursuing his dream career. You can recognize his artistic vision’s level via various forms like books, music, and movies.

Famous African American Veteran 11

Source: Dawn

This section is about a legendary Afro-American actor, famous for playing George Jefferson on the influential TV shows “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” Did you know he spent four years serving in the United States Air Force before gaining fame in American pop culture? Do you have any idea about him? He is a famous African-American figure for the NBC TV series “Amen” and “B.P.” Is there any knock in your memory?

Answer: Sherman Hemsley

Source: Dawn

You will find this section amazing to know some remarkable facts about Sherman Hemsley, a pioneer Afro-American actor. After dropping out of school in 10th grade, Sherman joined the US Air Force by hosting a strong inner call for patriotism. He worked as an Air Force personnel for over four years and was stationed in Japan and Korea.

After finishing his service in the force, he started appearing in various productions of Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company. You will definitely be surprised to know that he worked very closely with Norman Lear during the early 1970s.

Sherman’s achievements as a musician and actor are huge, including winning the NAACP Image Award, receiving nominations for the Grammy and Golden Globe Awards, and many more.

Famous African American Veteran 12

Source: Shutterstock / lev radin

We are going to tell you about an actor, writer, motivational speaker, and ex-Navy Seal. He is famous for appearing in “Transformers: The Last Knight” and writing the book “Transformed”? Any ideas? Let’s get some more hints. He was of West African origin and raised his voice against illegal organ harvesting and human trafficking. So, who is this amazing person?

Answer: Remi Adeleke

Source: Shutterstock / lev radin

We see Remi Adeleke as highly successful as a writer and motivational speaker. His capability to intertwine real-life scenarios into fiction is remarkable. To inform you, Remi tells you about his enriched on-ground life experience when he was serving as a US Navy Seal. He joined the Navy in 2002 and was discharged in 2016.

After finishing his time in the defense sector, Remi started a Master’s in Organization Strategy. He is now a famous actor, motivational speaker, and writer.

Even if you haven’t seen any of his performances on the screen or read a book, we suggest you just read his autobiography. It will amaze you substantially, informing you of the tale of Bronx to Hollywood: struggle to success.

Famous African American Veteran 13

Source: Wikimedia Commons / United States Government

This African-origin political personality has some record-breaking performances in his military and political life. He was an esteemed military leader and statesman, celebrated as the first African American Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and later Secretary of State? We are sure that you know him. Still confused? He was also famous for successful diplomacy with China, the Middle East, and African countries. Now can you recognize this person?

Answer: Colin Powell

Source: Wikimedia Commons / United States Government

There is nearly no US citizen who does not know Colin Powell not only for his service as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of States but also for his remarkable contribution to the country as a military person. This Jamaican-origin attended City College of New York while serving in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Colin served in Vietnam for two terms: 1962 to 1963 and 1968 to 1969. Later, he attended George Washington University. It is known to everyone Colin’s political career in the defense sector was inevitable due to his leadership skills and knowledge of modern warfare.

To inform you about his achievements, the must-mentions are getting promoted to four-star rank general, working in Armed Forces Command, working as the Carlucci in Ronald Regan’s cabinet, working as the staff of the National Security Council, and many more.

Famous African American Veteran 14

Source: Legion

Who is the Emmy Award-winning talk show host famous for “The M***** W******* Show,” a show that captivated audiences for 17 seasons and served in both the Marine Corps and the Navy? Who is this guy? Do you know him? He is also famous for creating awareness of medical marijuana use. So, he is the hot shot?

Answer: Montel Williams

Source: Legion

If you are a fan of the famous TV show “The M***** W******* Show,” be ready to be amazed. The host, Montel Williams, is a good entertainer and a true patriotic person. Montel joined the United States Marine Corps in 1974.

After finishing the one-year course at the Naval Academy Preparatory School, he made history in 1975 by becoming the first black Marine to be admitted into the four-year officer training program at the U.S. Naval Academy.

We see how his 22 years of military life have shaped his understanding of society, the economy, war, and humanity. Knowing Montel’s learning is a real privilege for every human being.

Famous African American Veteran 15

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Chief Master Sgt. Michael Atkinson

If you are a comedy lover, you must have known this African-origin comedian and stage performer. He is also an actor and globally recognized for his performances in “A Different World,” who served in the US Air Force as a boom operator. He is also known for “The Red Fox Show,” “House Guest,” and co-starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Jingle All the Way.”

Answer: Sinbad

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Chief Master Sgt. Michael Atkinson

Before you knew Sinbad for his hilarious humor and memorable movie roles, he spent time serving in the United States Air Force. His actual name is David Atkins.

During his military days, Sinbad worked as a boom operator, where he had to refuel aircraft while they were flying. His life as a comedian started before joining the force. Even in the Air Force, he regularly practiced his comedic performance and competed as a comedian in the Air Force’s Talent Contest in 1981.

After receiving the release from the service, he started pursuing his passion to make people laugh. Gradually, he grabbed the attention of leading producers and directors. Finally, he gave us some all-time comedic media components like the Sinbad Show, A Different World, Jingle All the Way, Crazy as Hell, and many more.

Famous African American Veteran 16

Source: Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

Who is the rapper celebrated for his dynamic style and chart-topping tracks such as “Shake Ya A**” and “Danger (Been So Long),” also served in the US Army? Are you familiar with this hot-shot rapper? His wild-style rap songs with comedic pinches must have amazed you. Any idea?

Answer: Mystikal

Source: Shutterstock / Featureflash Photo Agency

It is not anything new if you are surprised how a rapper can maintain a disciplined and focused lifestyle when we see many rappers lose their tracks just after reaching the top of fame. Indeed, Mystikal, whose original name is Michael Lawrence Tyler, is an exception in this case. Following this, we presume his success’s driving force is his talent and life in military service.

Mystikal joined the US Army in 1988 after graduating from Walter L. Cohen High, New Orleans. He served in the army as a combat engineer within several Gulf regions. However, he couldn’t bear with military life for long due to his passion for music.

Before joining the army, he was a successful musician, and after his military life, he resumed his music career at full pace. As a result, he had breakthrough success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, signing to Master P’s No Limit Records.

Famous African American Veteran 17

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This guy is the most gentle Afro-American musician in Hollywood. He is the Grammy-winning reggae artist and ex-marine corps known for his chart-topping hits such as “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel?” Do you know him? This baby-face musician also created “Boombastic,” “In The Summertime,” and “Oh Carolina.” So, can you identify him?

Answer: Shaggy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We presume you know how talented Shaggy is. Besides his excellent music creations, he is also a proud veteran. Saggy joined the US Marine Corps in 1988. Later, he received the MOS of Field Artillery Cannon Crewman.

He spent more than three years on active duty, including a five-month deployment to Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991. Shaggy actively participated in the famous Operation Desert Storm.

We hope this dancehall sensation will deliver us many awesome musical creations in the future.

Famous African American Veteran 18

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Brian Solis

Who is the ex-Navy rapper renowned for the hit track “U Can’t Touch This” and recognized for his extravagant stage presence and iconic parachute pants? He is also the singer of “2 Legit 2 Quit” and “Pumps and a Bump.” Do you know him?

Answer: MC Hammer

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Brian Solis

Before emerging as a prominent figure in the pop music and hip-hop scenes of the early ’90s, he served in the United States Navy, laying the foundation for his later success in the music industry.

Between 1981 and 1984, his Navy life helped him coincide with responsible behavior and fun. This is the main reason you see MC Hammer has never been displaced from the growth track like many other rappers worldwide.

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James Stafford

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