Tony Sewell will later be named as the chair of a government commission looking into race disparity in the UK, the BBC understands.
The formation of the new body was announced in June by Boris Johnson in wake of anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd.
The PM said it would look at all aspects of inequality, including health outcomes, employment and education.
Mr Sewell is the boss of education charity Generating Genius.
The commission is expected to report back to the government by Christmas with its findings.
But it will face high levels of scrutiny after accusations another government review into race is a distraction from the issue.
BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo says a number of prominent figures in the black community – who did not want to be identified publicly – had sought to distance themselves from the process, regarding the commission as “toxic” and a way for ministers to “play for time” or “pay lip service” to the idea of race equality.
But a No 10 spokesman dismissed the suggestion a number of individuals had rejected the opportunity to be part of the commission, saying: “A number of prominent Black individuals come forward to express interest in being involved”.
The Coalition of Race Equality Organisations (CORE) – which brings together a number of groups working in the field – also warned the chair and commissioners “must be representative and secure widespread support from BAME communities and involve people who are prepared to analyse and challenge systemic racism”.