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Who defined black America over the last year? Who is redefining their field, from the arts to the academy? Who are the most influential African Americans 45 and under? As we have since 2009, The Rootlooked back at the most significant moments in black news and culture and asked, “Who made this happen?” For more than 800 nominees, we measured their reach in the world and rated the substance of their contributions. The result: The Root 100 annual ranking of the most influential African-American leaders in 2013.

Our 100 honorees pushed the limits of their chosen fields, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. From breathtaking performers to scrappy activists, these leaders and achievers shaped the black experience in America this year, and we’re certain they’ll shape the future.

Our top-ranked honoree for 2013 will come as no surprise to anyone tuned in to the year’s most urgent civil rights causes. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, the youngest person ever to lead the organization, is credited with bringing an energetic and progressive focus to issues like stop and frisk, voter suppression, marriage equality and criminal justice.

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Discussion: 2013′s Top Black Influencers  was originally published on

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