Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #100

A city’s people make the city what it is. And, often, the people’s city makes the people what they are. Whether a person is lucky enough to be born in New York or smart enough to move here and lay down roots, his or her life is almost always changed forever by the experience of the city. An influential few have been gracious enough to return the favor, changing the city and making it a different place than it was before or would have been without them.

This list is about influence and diversity. The people on it have been pulled from many fields: literature, politics, business, sports, art, science, etc. Some are world famous, while some are known only within the little patch of Big Apple culture that they affected. Some are great heroes, some are great villains, and some are greatly controversial and provoke much debate. Indeed, this list itself will provoke much debate. No doubt, there will be many opinions, perspectives, tastes, and priorities that would alter the list if it were to come from someone else. Some of you might be tempted to form a list with three times as many poets and no politicians, while others might emphasize architects and forget the athletes. There were definitely some difficult decisions and painful omissions even in the creation of a list this large. Sometimes, it was just a matter of picking the most representative person in a given field and then making room for an entirely different category.

Honorable mention is due to the following great New Yorkers who did not make the final list:

Bella Abzug, Diane Arbus, James Baldwin, Ethel Barrymore, George Bellows, Robert Benchley, Yogi Berra, Margaret Wise Brown, Maria Callas, e. e. cummings, Philippe De Montebello, Norah Ephron, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Fosse, Joe Gould, Lorrain Hansberry, Billie Holiday, Billie Jean King, Mickey Mantle, Marianne Moore, Audrey Munson, Isamu Noguchi, Frank O’Hara, Georgia O’Keefe, Joey Ramone, Nelson Rockefeller, Bobby Short, Alfred Stieglitz, Carl Van Vechten, and Weegee.

Any one of you could easily make a list including the 30 people above, and many more besides, and we wouldn’t put up much of an argument. However, for our purposes, we hereby begin our grandest list to date. As always, we start at the end and work our way up to number one, revealing one selection per day.
#100 — W.E.B. DuBois (1868 – 1963)

100 W.E.B. DuBoisW.E.B. DuBois embraced the spirit of New York wholeheartedly, when he settled here in 1910. As co-founder of the NAACP, he was an organizer. As author of The Souls of Black Folk, he was a writer. As editor of The Crisis, he was a journalist. As organizer of the Silent Parade down Fifth Avenue, he was an activist and a protester. As promoter of the Harlem Renaissance, he was a culturalist. DuBois’ legacy remains felt by millions of black activists all over the world, more than half a century after his death. Countless New Yorkers wish they could say the same.


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