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Political and business leaders: CEOs to beauty empires

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(CNN) -- African Americans have been -- and are -- a force in the political and business worlds, influencing the products we buy and the laws that govern society. The following is just a sampling of African Americans who have forged government and industry with their work and ideas.

Ann Fudge
Ann Fudge is the chairman and CEO of advertising giant Young & Rubicam and also the former president of Kraft's Maxwell House and Post divisions. Her business acumen and forward thinking helped propel her businesses to success, as well as earned her accolades such as being named one of Fortune magazine's "50 Most Powerful Women in American Business."

Earl Graves
Earl G. Graves is the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, a leading business publication targeting black professionals. Graves, a former Green Beret, once was named by the White House as one of the country's 10 most outstanding minority businessmen. He is a vocal advocate for higher education and has been actively involved in a variety of civic and social causes.

Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson is a leading American social and political figure in the movement for justice and democracy. An author and activist, orator, politician and spiritual leader, he campaigned for the 1984 and 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In 1986, Jackson founded and became president of the National Rainbow Coalition, a national social organization devoted to empowerment, education and mobilization of young people. Jackson began his activism as a student leader in the civil rights sit-in movement and continued as a young organizer in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as an assistant to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Harry H. Pace
In the 1920s, businessman Harry Pace founded the first black-owned music company, Black Swan Records. Five years later, he formed the Northeastern Life Insurance Company, which became one of the largest black-owned businesses during the 1930s. In addition to these, Pace invested in numerous business ventures, such as opening a law firm in Chicago, Illinois, after he received his law degree.

Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice has achieved several firsts in her life. Born in the segregated South, she became the first female national security adviser in U.S. history in January 2001. Later, in 2005, she was named the first African American woman secretary of state. Rice began her academic career in 1981 at Stanford University, where she became the youngest provost in the institution's history and the first woman and the first African American to hold the position.

Madam C.J. Walker
Businesswoman and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker was one of the nation's first black female millionaires, beginning her hair care empire in the early 1900s. An advocate of women's economic independence, her hair products manufacturing company employed thousands of women as sales agents and beauty consultants.

Maxine Waters
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, is certainly not afraid of controversy. Among other things, she has been the leading congressional proponent of the claim that the CIA helped fuel the crack cocaine epidemic. But while she is a controversial figure on the national stage, Waters remains beloved in her Southern California district; in 2006, she won election to a ninth term with 83 percent of the vote.

Others who paved the way: Notable scientists | Cultural pioneers | Arts innovators


Maxine Waters has represented her California district in the U.S. House for nine terms.


• Explainer: By the numbers
• I-Report: Black in America
• Timeline: Civil rights struggle


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