10 Inspiring Black Motivational Speakers to Feature at Your Next Event

Events featuring motivational speakers are becoming increasingly popular, providing inspiration and introducing new perspectives to audiences. The stories of Black motivational speakers are some of the most inspiring, often sharing themes of bias and overcoming adversity. But it’s also important to recognize that these aren’t the only themes to be found in Black American stories. There are also countless stories of triumph, perseverance, and a deep celebration of culture and identity.

Black motivational speakers share a perspective that is not only powerful and inspiring, but that is crucial for any organization committed to fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity. Each speech given by an African American motivational speaker is an opportunity to celebrate tenacity and determination as cornerstones of success. An opportunity to deepen our understanding of the impacts of discrimination and injustice. An opportunity to reflect on our own roles in creating change.

At Sports Speakers 360, we couldn’t be more proud of the Black speakers on our roster. Each individual brings their own one-of-a-kind outlook and unique story to the stage, and has captivated audiences across the country. If you’re interested in partnering with a Black motivational speaker to deliver an unforgettable address at your next event, this blog is for you. Keep scrolling for a list of the top African American motivational speakers today.

10 Exceptional Black Motivational Speakers

1.   Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson was born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1962. One of ten children, he witnessed his single mother struggle to care for her family while working as a housekeeper. He was known for getting into trouble as a young boy, and his brother’s often referred to him as a “wild boar”— a nickname that was later shortened to “Bo.”

As a teen, Jackson decided to channel his energy into athletics, both as a means to change the financial trajectory of his family’s life, and as a way to keep himself out of trouble (which his mother had said would eventually lead to him being sent to reform school).

While attending high school at McAdory High School in McCalla, Alabama, Jackson averaged 10.9 yards per carry as a running back in football, and smacked 20 home runs in a 25-game baseball season. Soon after, he accepted a football scholarship to Auburn University.

From there, the sky seemed to be the limit for Jackson. He received the Heisman Trophy in 1985 and the title of college football’s most outstanding player. He then returned to his first love, baseball, and was chosen to play with the Kansas City Royals in the 1986 major-league draft.

The rest of Jackson’s career is a laundry list of accomplishments, from being named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1987, to receiving the 1989 All-Star Game MVP award, and running a 40-yard dash in a record-breaking 4.12 seconds.

Jackson is a sports legend who touches on topics like bullying, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership, making him an excellent choice for any organization seeking Black male motivational speakers.

2.   Jerry Rice

Few names are more synonymous with the game of football than Jerry Rice. The NFL star and former wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers is a three-time Super Bowl champion, and has earned a reputation as the best wide receiver in history.

Before he rose to fame as an athlete, he was one of eight children growing up in Starkville, Mississippi. He and his siblings often assisted his father, who was a bricklayer, working long hours in the sweltering summer heat— a job he often credits for his work ethic.

Since retiring from Football in 2006, Rice has dedicated much of his time to his charitable work, providing underprivileged youth with the opportunity to pursue careers in technology, esports, gaming, and media.

On the stage, he’s known to speak about the critical role of discipline, why it’s necessary to let go of ego, and the importance of education.

3.   Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson (birth name Earvin Johnson) is known around the world as a five-time NBA championship winner and as the sizable, 6 foot 9 point guard who played twelve years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

For years, Johnson brought his amazing passing skills and exceptional basketball IQ to the court, wowing fans from around the globe. Off the court, he is a business mogul, owning a range of franchise locations that include Starbucks, Burger King, and 24 Hour Fitness.

Before becoming a basketball star and venture capitalist, however, Johnson was just a kid growing up in Lansing, Michigan, with his nine brothers and sisters. His parents were working class citizens, his father working at the local General Motors plant and his mother employed as a school custodian.

As one of the most famous Black motivational speakers in the world, Magic frequently speaks about navigating life’s ups and downs, the importance of HIV education, and why a positive attitude is one of the greatest determinants of success.

4.   Deion Sanders

If you’re looking for a Black inspirational speaker who brings charisma and charm to every speech, Deion Sanders is a fantastic choice. This NFL Hall of Famer is widely regarded as the best man-on-man cornerback in the league’s history, with a career that spanned 14 years, two Super Bowl titles, and 22 touchdowns.

Sanders grew up in Fort Myers, Florida. His parents divorced when he was two, and he credits his stepfather for being an influential person in his life. He began playing sports at a young age after seeing many of his friends resort to selling drugs and other criminal activities. His determination paid off upon graduating high school when he earned a scholarship to Florida State University.

Sanders is known to speak about the importance of believing in yourself, how to overcome failure, and the benefits of making a career transition.

5.   Emmitt Smith

An all-time leading rusher with three Super Bowl championship rings and an NFL career spanning 15 seasons, Emmitt Smith is undoubtedly one of the most talented football players in NFL history.. But it’s his captivating personality and commitment to giving back to communities across America that make him one of the best Black motivational speakers.

Smith grew up in Pensacola, Florida, where he often worked odd jobs as a child to help his parents cover the costs of school clothes, food, and other necessities. This didn’t stop him from dreaming big, however, as he longed to play for the Dallas Cowboys from the time he was just a boy.

In college, during his freshman year at the University of Florida, Smith broke the school’s single game rushing record with 224 yards. By the end of his college career, he would break another 57 school records— a feat that led to his dream team, the Dallas Cowboys, drafting him in 1990.

Today, Smith shares the lessons he’s learned in his speeches, touching on topics like goal setting, finding your purpose, and how to handle a loss.

6.   Jerome Bettis

Jerome Bettis, also known as “The Bus,” is a Super Bowl champion who played in the NFL for 13 seasons. Other than a brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams/St. Louis Rams, he spent the majority of his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he scored a total of 91 rushing touchdowns and retired as the fifth all-time rushing record holder with 13,662 yards on 3,479 career carries.

Bettis recalls his childhood in Detroit as a happy one. His mother was a bowling instructor and enrolled her children in kids’ leagues. In his junior high years, Bettis gained a significant amount of weight and strength which allowed him to beat neighborhood boys who were much older than him at street football games. By the time high school rolled around, he was a force to be reckoned with and he decided to join his school team. The rest is history!

If you’re looking for famous Black public speakers who can shed light on topics like the role of sacrifice in success, empowering inner-city youth, and the pursuit of personal excellence, Jerome Bettis is a great choice for you.

7.   Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis played as a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens for an incredible 17 years. Throughout his time with the team, which spanned from 1996-2013, he won two Super Bowl championships and led his team in tackles for 12 of his 14 seasons.

Lewis is one of the top Black motivational speakers not only because of his noteworthy career, but because of the challenges he has overcome in his personal life as well.

He was born in Bartow, Florida when his mother was just 16 years old. His father was not present during much of his childhood and his mother later had four more children. He witnessed his mother experience domestic violence. Lewis credits this experience, combined with his father’s abandonment, as being his greatest motivations. He wanted to be a better man than the examples he had been given.

Clearly, he succeeded. Lewis has won countless awards, including becoming the Super Bowl MVP and being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year multiple times. Lewis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was also named to the NFL’s All-Time Team. 

When speaking in public, Lewis often discusses themes like the role of pain in greatness, leading by example, and uniting teams towards a common goal.

8.   Terrell Davis

Whenever the Denver Broncos are mentioned, Terrell Davis’ name is sure to follow. The two-time championship winning running back is known around the globe as a powerful and agile runner who could spot an opportunity on the field from yards away.

Originally from San Diego, California, Davis was the sixth of eight children. He experienced a lot of hardship at an early age due to gang activity in his neighborhood and abuse from his father.

Despite the adversity he faced, Davis managed to channel his energy into sports. Running track, wrestling, and football were his core activities but as he neared the end of his high school years, football rose to the top of his priority list.

He received a scholarship to Long Beach State, and then later moved to the University of Georgia, where he helped the Bulldogs win 10 out of 12 games in the 1992 NCAA championship season..

His career would only go up from there. He retired in 2002 holding 46 Broncos team records and remains a celebrated Hall of Famer to this day. Davis speaks about mental health, how great leadership can change your life, and the dangers of fearing failure.

9.   Allyson Felix

As both an athlete and a Black female motivational speaker, Allyson Felix is a force to be reckoned with. She has seven Olympic gold medals to her name  along with three silver and one bronze for her performances as a track and field star.

The beginnings of her career date back to grade 9 when she first tried out for track and realized she had a knack for the sport when she finished seventh in the 200-meter category at the CIF California State meet. By the time she graduated high school, Felix had broken a world record for running 200 meters in just 22.11 seconds.

Off the track, Felix is a proud and avid advocate for girls and women in sports. She has personally launched a child care initiative for athlete moms and is an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Bringing an often overlooked narrative to light – the woman’s experience in professional sports – Felix brings unique and important stories to the stage. Topics Felix speaks on include sexism in sports, maternity rights, women’s empowerment and the importance of taking challenges one step at a time.

10. Jackie Joyner-Kersee  

Rounding out our list of Black motivational speakers is Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a three time gold medal Olympian and globally recognized track and field athlete. She holds a world record in heptathlon and was named one of the top female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated.

Find a Motivational Speaker For Your Next Event

At Sports Speakers 360, we have been connecting businesses and organizations with incredible and captivating sports motivational speakers for close to 25 years. We’re an industry-leader in booking athletes and sports speakers. What’s our secret to success? We love getting to know our clients and partners and making it easy to help them find the perfect speaker for their event.

We also work with you to provide personalized recommendations based on the purpose of your event, your overall budget and the types of topics that would be most appealing to your audience. Need to host a virtual event instead of a live one? We also have access to a large selection of virtual guest speakers!

If you’re ready to make your next conference, fundraiser or gathering a memorable experience for all in attendance, reach out today. We’ll help you find the perfect speaker to inspire your audience and motivate them to strive for excellence.

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