Top 25 Black Leaders: Obama Second Only to MLK On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he gets top honors By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Jan 17, 2011 11:30 AM CST 39 comments Comments September 1964: American clergyman and civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968). (Getty Images) (Newser) – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s fitting to announce that the civil rights leader himself was voted the most influential black American leader. TheGrio asked 25 academics, artists, and activists to rank a list of 170 black leaders, and the website calculated the top 25: Martin Luther King, Jr.: The clear top choice, the website notes. Barack Obama: The only living leader to make the top 10. WEB Du Bois: One of the nation’s most well-known black intellectuals. Thurgood Marshall: His Brown v. Board Supreme Court victory overturned the “separate but equal” policy. Malcolm X: He relayed a message of empowerment, liberation, and self-sufficiency. Frederick Douglass: An abolitionist and gifted speaker, this runaway slave railed against slavery. Harriet Tubman: Also a runaway slave, she helped others to freedom for more than a decade. Rosa Parks: She’ll always be remembered for refusing to give up her bus seat in 1955. Ida B. Wells-Barnett: She held an anti-lynching crusade in the late 1800s, and also fought for black women’s rights. Ella Baker: She started fighting for civil rights in the 1930s. Click for the complete list, or read another story about King and the inspiring summer he spent in Connecticut.