Name at birth: Alfred Charles Sharpton, Jr.
Reverend Al Sharpton is a fiery orator and activist from New York City who became famous in the 1980s for his protests against police brutality and racial injustice. As a child, Sharpton was ordained as a minister and was known as the "boy wonder" preacher of the Washington Temple Church of God. Part activist and part entertainer, he founded the National Youth Movement right out of high school, worked as a tour manager for singer James Brown and toured with gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. In the 1970s and "80s he worked with boxing promoter Don King before becoming well-known to New Yorkers as a guy who always seemed to be in the middle of hot-button racial issues. His reputation took a blow in 1987 when he was the spokesman for Tawana Bradley, an African-American teenager who accused a group of white men of rape -- a charge a grand jury deemed a hoax. In later years Sharpton has refashioned himself as a more mature spokesman for the downtrodden. He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 2004.