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9 Civil Rights Leaders You Need to Know

9 Civil Rights Leaders You Need to Know

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Throughout American history, many have had to fight to advance the ideals of liberty and equality. Learn about 9 lesser known civil rights leaders who were crucial to their causes, in this episode of History Countdown.

Black Leaders You Should Know

In the past, Diversity Best Practices has published a list of Black CEOs you should know, updated each year. This year, we have expanded that list to include influential Black leaders not just from the corporate space, but from higher education, healthcare, social justice/community activism, and government as well.

In addition, our new list is more diverse than it has been in the past including the addition of more women, representing multiple generations, and includes military veterans and members of the LGBTQ community. They are physicists, activists, politicians, social scientists, business people and physicians.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, so we will commit to updating it each year with new faces to ensure we continue to uplift incredible leaders from the African-American community.

The issue of health care is one of the most important aspects of an election campaign of any political party, which certainly reflects the extent to what the society depends on a good healthcare service. A well-organized, efficient health care system is not that easy to provide and one of the key problems on the…

At present we often find ourselves in flight or fight situations where our lives are under threat. No wonder, there are people who support the idea of owning a gun as a means to protect themselves and their possessions. But does gun ownership really make the world a safer place to live in?


This Black History Month NOW highlights activists and advocates of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, who tirelessly worked to make the world a more equal place. They formed important organizations for people of color and women that are still present today, questioned the dominant white and male order, and spoke on the intersectionality of their race and gender. NOW recognizes and celebrates the important work of these black feminists, and will continue to stand in solidarity with and follow the lead of other African Americans to overcome the barriers to justice and equality that have been imposed by racism.

“If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”

Born a slave, Truth escaped to freedom in 1826 and spent her life advocating for equal rights for all. Her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech addressed the lack of recognition towards black women in the promotion of equal rights.

“We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritism, whether of sex, race, country, or condition.”

Cooper was the fourth African American woman to receive a doctoral degree, and was a strong advocate for the voice of black women. She founded the Colored Women’s League of Washington in 1892, and assisted in opening the first YWCA chapter for black women. Her book, A Voice from the South is a foundational text of black feminism.

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Wells was a famous investigative journalist and Civil Rights leader. A founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Wells spent her life uncovering injustices and fighting prejudice. As a civil rights activist, she documented the horrific lynchings in the United States and frequently spoke about the intersection of race and gender.

“So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move ahead without woman’s sharing in the movement.”

Watkins Harper was a poet, writer, abolitionist, and activist. Born free, she helped slaves with the Underground Railroad and wrote anti-slavery pieces for newspapers. She later was a co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and served as director of the American Association of Colored Youth.

“A white woman has only one handicap to overcome – that of sex. I have two – both sex and race… Colored men have only one – that of race. Colored women are the only group in this country who have two heavy handicaps to overcome, that of race as well as that of sex.”

Terrell was the first African American woman to earn a college degree, a founder of the NAACP, and the first president of the NACW. She also co-founded the National Association of University Women. An activist all her life, Terrell spoke about the difficulties of being a woman and being black, and how those issues intersected.

I want history to remember me… as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.”

Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress and the first African American woman to seek a major party’s nomination for president. As a congresswoman, Chisholm co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and introduced over 50 pieces of legislation. After leaving Congress, she founded the National Political Congress of Black Women.

“True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”

Murray was a civil rights and women’s rights activist, and the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Murray was also a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and sat on President Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

“A [black] woman has the same kind of problems as other women, but she can’t take the same things for granted.”

Height was a civil rights and women’s right activist who served as President of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years. She frequently offered advice to Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”

Parks, “the first lady of civil rights,” was an activist famous for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Later in life, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development for Detroit Youth.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Lorde was a civil rights and women’s rights activist, as well as a writer and poet. Her poems mainly pertain to feminism, her identity as a black lesbian woman, and intersectionality.

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Bold, black and brilliant: Unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

History books don’t often value the stories of people of color, favoring a whitewashed version of the past over the harsh honesty of historical racism. This spin makes history more comfortable, especially for those who don’t want to confront their role in the oppression of people of color.

A direct challenge to this sanitized version of the past is Black History Month — a time to explicitly honor the struggles, triumphs and excellence of the black community.

But discussions around Black History Month are often dominated by a handful of names, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. Though these activists deserve recognition and appreciation, they were not the only change-makers who inspired action around racial justice.

There are countless heroes of the racial justice movement who are often denied the platform to be celebrated. Though the impact of their work is still felt, their names and contributions aren’t widely known.

It’s time for that to change.

Join us in celebrating these unsung heroes of civil rights and racial justice, each of whom deserve a salute this Black History Month — and beyond.

Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia, to John and Jennie Burroughs, both former slaves. Her father died when she was 5 years old, and her mother brought her and her sisters to Washington, D.C., for quality education. Not much else is known about Burroughs' early years, other than the fact that she was an "above average" student. Though Burroughs was not college-educated, she pursued work as a teacher, albeit without much luck — which she attributed to her dark skin.

She eventually found work as an editor for The Christian Banner in Pennsylvania, and later as a secretary to the Baptist Church in Louisville. In 1907, Burroughs, with support of the National Baptist Convention, began creating a trade school for black high school- and junior college-aged girls. The school was called the National Training School for Women and Girls, with the motto "We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible" — a testament to Burrough’s belief in educating those whom others thought were unworthy. The students were trained industrially, also learning about the liberal arts and Christianity.

Burroughs was well-known for speaking publicly about harsh truths of racial inequality. In 1900, she gave an especially notable speech called "How the Sisters Are Being Hindered From Helping," which addressed the limitations society put on women. She also penned "12 Things White People Must Stop Doing to The Negro."

Burroughs died in 1961, though the National Training School for Women and Girls continued her mission until its closure in 1971. Her desire to preach the value of hard work and the absolute necessity of education, however, inspired thousands who attended the school throughout its history.

Though Ella Baker's work wasn't as visible as others', many activists agree there would not have been a Civil Rights Movement without her. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1903, she was inspired by her grandmother, a former slave who was ordered to be whipped for refusing to marry the man her slaveowner picked for her. Her grandmother’s legacy led Baker to develop an interest in social justice and equality early in life.

Baker graduated as valedictorian from Shaw University, quickly moving to New York City after graduation to join social activist groups. In 1930, she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League, an organization dedicated to black economic growth and power. Her activism continued when she joined the NAACP in 1940, where she worked as a field secretary. She eventually served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946 — one of the highest-ranked women on staff. Even after stepping down as a leader in the organization, Baker still actively supported her local New York branch of the NAACP.

After the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Baker cofounded the organization In Friendship to raise money to combat the anti-voting Jim Crow Laws in the Deep South. Later, in 1957, she moved to Atlanta to become the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Martin Luther King Jr. Though Baker admired King, she had an extremely different approach to civil rights than the noted leader, causing tension in the movement. Baker didn't believe there should be a sole leader of civil rights. Instead, she believed in grassroots political action and collective activism. This pushed her to fringes of the movement, as activists were so eager to champion leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X as representatives.

Seeing young people take up interest in racial justice throughout her time as an activist, Baker realized the new generation of young activists were going to be assets to the movement because of their new ideas and eagerness for change. This led her to focus her attention on students for the later part of her activist career, creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized the Freedom Rides. Baker continued to be an activist and adviser to younger generations until she died in 1986.

Pauli Murray, born Anna Pauline Murray, was a fierce leader of the Civil Rights Movement, but she's often overlooked. Born in Baltimore in 1910, Murray's early life was marked by tragedy, with both of her parents dying before her teen years. She spent her young life living with extended family, eventually moving to New York City to attend Hunter College.

Murray’s passion for civil rights blossomed in 1938, when she campaigned for entrance into UNC Chapel Hill, which was an all-white university at the time. She approached the NAACP for support, but the organization didn’t take up Murray’s case, citing her New York residence as the reason. However, many scholars believe the true reason was Murray's intimate relationships with women, and her tendency to dress in men’s clothing. In 1940, Murray desegregated a bus, which led to her arrest and imprisonment. Again, the NAACP didn't take up her case, though they would support a bus boycott with Rosa Parks 15 years later.

Among her many acts of defiance, Murray wrote. A prolific poet and author, she penned influential works like Dark Testament and Negroes Are Fed Up. She went back to school in the 1940s to earn her law degree, when she cofounded the Congress of Racial Equality. After graduation, Murray wrote States’ Laws on Race and Color, a work Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall described as a bible for civil rights lawyers. Her dedication to racial justice law and activism was recognized in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy appointed her to the President's Commission on the Status of Women Committee on Civil and Political Rights. In 1977, she became the first black woman to be ordained as a priest within the Episcopal Church.

Though deeply passionate about racial justice, Murray was critical of the Civil Rights Movement. She often challenged dominant male leaders, coining the phrase "Jane Crow" to hint at the overlooked intersection of gender and race. Throughout her life, however, Murray struggled to find a label that honored her gender and sexuality. Her name switch — from Anna Pauline to Pauli — was a nod to this complexity. Many scholars argue Murray would have identified as a transman or genderqueer, if that terminology had existed. Involved in activism until her death, Murray died in 1985 at age 74.

If Martin Luther King Jr. was the star of the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin was the director. Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1912, Rustin was raised by his Quaker grandparents. Quaker beliefs state that all people are part of a single human family — a way of thinking that compelled Rustin to promote racial justice from an early age.

One of the early manifestations of Rustin’s activism was an impromptu sit-in when a restaurant wouldn’t serve him along with the white members of his high school football team. In 1937, Rustin moved to New York City, where his affiliation with the Communist Party and civil rights activism placed him on the radar of the FBI. Involved in several racial justice organizations, Rustin organized the first Freedom Ride.

Most notable of his activist work was the organization of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Organizing the march was an uphill battle for Rustin, though, as many objected his leadership because Rustin was a gay man. King, however, stood firm in his belief that Rustin was the right man for the job. Rustin had been one of his early mentors and continued to work with him as a "proofreader, ghostwriter, philosophy teacher and non-violence strategist." His role in the March on Washington was immortalized in a LIFE magazine cover alongside his own mentor in socialism, the activist A. Philip Randolph.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed, Rustin continued to work in activism. He was involved in human rights locally and internationally, including advocacy for black labor unions, economic justice, the protest of the Vietnam War and support of Palestine. He also became more outspoken on the rights of gay and lesbian individuals starting in the early 1980s. Rustin died in 1987, and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Fannie Lou Hamer spent her early life working with her family, who were sharecroppers in Montgomery County, Mississippi. Before becoming an activist, Hamer worked on a plantation picking cotton, and later became the plantation's bookkeeper when the owner discovered she could read and write. In 1962, she started attending protest meetings, where she met many civil rights activists who were helping black people register to vote.

Hamer began to work tirelessly for the Civil Rights Movement, not only helping other black individuals vote in elections, but also working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which participated in acts of civil disobedience in protest of segregation and racial injustice.

In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was the only opposition to her state's all-white Democratic delegates at the time. She also ran for Congress the next year, but was unsuccessful. Along with her own career, Hamer was an associate to Martin Luther King Jr., and had a signature trait of singing to protest groups to help bolster their morale. She often chose Christian hymns, like "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "This Little Light O' Mine," which would become historically tied to the Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Hamer remained dedicated to her activism by helping set up organizations for black people to find more business opportunities, quality health care and family services. She also helped set up the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. She died of cancer in 1977.

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin. Born Sept. 5, 1939, Colvin made a name for herself at just 15 years old when she took a stand against bus segregation in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. In 1955, she boarded a crowded bus with her school friends in Montgomery, and when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman who boarded after her, Colvin was removed from the bus and arrested.

Despite being a pioneer for bus protests, the NAACP didn't publicize Colvin's resistance because she was dark-skinned and became pregnant by a married man soon after. Many people called her "feisty" and "emotional," which gave leaders the impression that she wouldn't be a good spokesperson for the movement. Instead, the NAACP chose Rosa Parks to take a bus ride in protest of segregation, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955.

But Colvin continued to be an activist, and testified in the federal court case Browder v. Gayle in 1956, which determined bus segregation laws to be unconstitutional. In 2005, she told the Montgomery Advertiser, "I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on . Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation."

Colvin, who later worked as a nurse's aide, is now retired and living in New York City.

Fred Hampton, born in 1948 in Illinois, had a modest upbringing. After graduating from high school with honors, Hampton began studying pre-law. His involvement in activism began around the same time, when he started serving as a youth leader in his local branch of the NAACP. In 1968, when he was just 19 years old, he was recruited by racial justice activist Bobby Rush to join the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, a radical black political group.

Hampton’s extensive knowledge, leadership and oratory skills accelerated his rise within the BPP — he was chairman of the Illinois chapter and deputy chairman of the national chapter by 1969. In his time with the BPP, he helped facilitate creation of a number of free initiatives, including a children's breakfast program, health clinics, political education classes, transportation to jails and day care centers. He encouraged the pursuit of education for all black people, especially Black Panthers. To become a member of his chapter, prospects had to go through six weeks of education so they knew what they were fighting for. While leading the Chicago chapter of the BPP, Hampton created the Rainbow Coalition, a multi-ethnic revolutionary group composed of organizations and street gangs.

In June 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panther Party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." As the deputy chairman of the national chapter, Hampton was one of the FBI’s major targets in efforts to "neutralize" the BPP, and he was put under high surveillance. On Dec. 4, 1969, the FBI conducted a raid in the home where Hampton, his pregnant girlfriend, and other members were sleeping. Hampton along with fellow Panther, Mark Clark, were killed in the raid. Hampton was only 21 years old.

Although the FBI, Cook County and Chicago attempted to cover up the murder, evidence pointed at the raid being a targeted assassination. In 1971, an activist group released documents detailing aims to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black nationalists." The documents also outlined FBI plans to assassinate Fred Hampton. The government settled out of court in 1983 for $1.8 million.

Despite his early death, Hampton's legacy of service, black power and revolution remains.

Angela Davis is a major force in the fight for racial justice, using her radical — and sometimes controversial — activism to build upon the solid framework of the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1944, Davis grew up in the middle of the movement, which led to Davis’ own activism in her youth. When she was in high school, in New York, she organized an interracial study group that was deemed so threatening, the police broke it up.

Her activist work first caught mass attention in 1969 when she was removed from a philosophy teaching position at UCLA for her affiliation with the Communist Party and the Black Panther Party. A year later, she was placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List after being accused of aiding in a deadly prison escape attempt. The manhunt forced her underground, where she was eventually caught by officials, tried and found guilty. She served 16 months in prison, until an activist fought back with the Free Angela Davis campaign, which successfully led to her acquittal in 1972.

Though passionate about prison reform before her own incarceration, Davis’ experience with law enforcement propelled her to become a central, critical voice toward police, prisons and law. She became a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to radical prison reform. She is also notable for popularizing the idea of the prison industrial complex, coining the phrase to critique prisons as inherently corrupt, advocating for their abolition.

Davis brought her activism to paper, authoring nine books, including Women, Race and Class, Are Prisons Obsolete? and several works on historical black leaders. She was a professor of feminism and the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, until her retirement in 2008. Her current work and advocacy focus on gender equality, prison reform and the realities of systemic racism.

12 Facts About Cesar Chavez

Born to migrant worker parents of Mexican descent in Yuma, Ariz., Cesar Chavez went on to advocate for farm workers of all backgrounds—Hispanic, Black, White, Filipino. He drew national attention to the poor working conditions farm workers lived in and the dangerous pesticides and toxic chemicals they were exposed to on the job. Chavez raised awareness about farm workers by embracing the philosophy of nonviolence. He even went on repeated hunger strikes to focus the public on his cause. He died in 1993.

Basic Literacy About the Negro

In conceiving of this series, a tribute to the black journalist Joel A. Rogers, a witness to the civil rights movement who died in 1966 at age 85, I had no intention of covering the most outdated of his 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, curious “facts” such as these:

No. 1: “The white population of New York is a third more illiterate than the Negro one.”

No. 19: “The peoples of Southern Europe, including Italy, and most of those of Eastern Europe, including Russia, are more illiterate than the Negroes of the United States. In seventy years Negro illiteracy has fallen off about 80 percent. In 1870 it was 82 per cent in 1930, 16.3.”

No. 20: Though “Aframerican illiteracy [sic] is three times higher than the white one,” New York, Minnesota, Oregon and South Dakota “Negroes are less illiterate than Mississippi Whites.” And when you throw in California, Nevada and Washington they’re “less illiterate by 100 to 400 per cent than the foreign-born Whites of all the States, save one.” And —

No. 21: “In the United States Army Intelligence tests during World War I, the Negroes of [Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Ohio] led the Whites of [Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Georgia] by from one to seven per cent.”

I understood Rogers’ pre-Brown v. Board of Ed. reasons, of course, to prove with facts that African Americans were worthy of equal citizenship rights, but to me they no longer seemed relevant to readers in our time, especially when we now have an African-American former Constitution law professor sitting in the White House with degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. But now I know there is a different burden to shoulder, a relevancy to convey with no less urgency: basic literacy for all Americans about a trulyAmerican history, reflecting its various intellectual complexions.

I know — math and science education is critical if we are going to compete with other advancing nations. But, remember, America isn’t exceptional only because of its capacity to lead the free world, but because it was conceived as an experiment meant to prove that ordinary people could govern themselves. At least that’s what I learned in school, and a similar spirit animated the broader civil rights movement itself five decades ago, as ordinary black and white citizens of goodwill struggled together to extend the founders’ aspiration to the descendants of their slaves — and, through them, to all people, “through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” as President Obama summed it up in his second inaugural address.

Just ask anyone fighting for marriage equality today and, chances are, he or she will know something of the significance of Brown v. Board of Education. While I applaud California for becoming the first state to mandate the teaching of LGBT history in its schools, I also hope it and the 34 other states that received F’s in the SPLC study will redouble their efforts to narrow the gap between the suggestions they make and the requirements they implement for teaching the civil rights movement that has inspired so many others.

In this 50th anniversary season of the assassination of Medgar Evers, the March on Washington and the Birmingham Four, I will try to contribute to this basic literacy in my next two columns: the first on the march’s organizing genius, Bayard Rustin, a man who straddles both black and LGBT history, and the second on the “Dream” speech itself and its historical setting, the Lincoln Memorial.

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11 Facts About Civil Rights Movement That No One Should Miss

Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important events in the history of United States of America. Let us rewind in history to know some Civil Rights Movements Facts.

Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important events in the history of United States of America. Let us rewind in history to know some Civil Rights Movements Facts.

The Civil Rights movement in America was one of the most important events in America’s history. It was a movement against discrimination, inequality, injustice, and against segregation of society on the basis of race and ethnicity. Although it is generally agreed that the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1960s, it is not clear on what date the movement actually first started. There is a consensus among historians that after the World War II was over, the struggle for racial equality gained prominence.

Some incidents that incited the movement were the Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. The Board of Education in 1954 and the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat to a white man while traveling in a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. After the World War II was over, African-American leaders felt that their condition in America was similar to those of Jews in Germany. They had fought the war for America and felt that they deserved equal rights. This was one of the major factors that led to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in America. Mentioned below are some facts about the Civil Rights Movement in America.

  • In 1942, James Farmer and George Houser founded Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). CORE started its agitation by protesting against restaurants that refused to serve Black Americans.
  • Nine Black students were not allowed to enroll in a school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. Later, with the help of federal troops and National Guard, these nine students got admission in the school and despite being constantly threatened, they managed to graduate from the Central High. These nine students were later known as “Little Rock Nine”.
  • James Meredith, the first Black student in the University of Mississippi was denied admission in the University, but later, on the orders of Supreme Court, he was permitted to enroll in the University. His first day at the University attracted a mob and two people were killed and hundreds injured in the race riot.
  • Martin Luther King, one of the prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movements attracted a crowd of more than 250,000 people in his call to March to Washington. It was during this march that he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was attacked which resulted in the death of four young girls who were attending Sunday school.
  • Three activists, James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, working for voting rights of Blacks were murdered by Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacy group.
  • The State troopers attacked people protesting peacefully when they tried to pass Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. In another attack, police used tear gas, whips and clubs to disperse the mob.
  • The Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 is now the location of National Civil Rights Museum.
  • In August, 1965, a race riot in Watts, a Los Angeles suburb, caused the death of 34 people and resulted in losses of millions of dollars.
  • Emmett Till, a 14-year old Black student was murdered by two white men, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, and his body was dumped into Tallahatchie River. These two men were tried but were later evicted. The two men had no remorse in killing a minor and boasted of their act in an interview to ‘Look’ magazine.
  • Lamar Smith, a civil rights activist was murdered in broad daylight in Mississippi. All the witnesses to this crime were white, including the Sheriff and because of this reason nobody was convicted.

The movement played an important part in ensuring that Blacks got their due place in America and paved the way for their prosperity and growth. Perhaps the biggest contribution of the Civil Rights Movement is that a country which once did not even grant African-Americans the right to vote, now has an African-American President in Barack Hussein Obama. We would like to conclude this article by quoting two great men in the history of America.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America.

3. Martin Luther King Jr. – Celebrated Civil Rights Activist That Forever Changed America

&ldquoI have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.&rdquo – Martin Luther King Jr

Very few Americans are as celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr., the Baptist minister and social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States until his tragic death in 1968.

As an African-American born in the rural south in 1929, MLK faced an uphill battle all his life. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, the young Martin was considered a precocious student who paid little attention to his studies and found great discomfort in religion.

That all began to change in his junior year, when he took a Bible class and renewed his faith. By 1948, he had earned a degree from Morehouse College before moving on to the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. It was at Morehouse College that MLK opened his eyes to racial inequality.

Following years of successful civil rights activism, MLK and 61 other activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

Two years later, MLK visited Mahatma Gandhi&rsquos birthplace in India, which emboldened him to continue down the path of peaceful activism.

On August 28, 1963, MLK would leave his mark on American history by delivery the famous &ldquoI Have a Dream&rdquo speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

King had such a profound impact on American race relations that his efforts resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorized the federal government to desegregate public accommodations. The same year, MLK received the Nobel Peace Prize.

MLK would continue his activism until his assassination on April 4, 1968. His killer, James Earl Ray, was eventually apprehended after a two-month manhunt.

King&rsquos assassination was a tragic end to a remarkable life that had a seismic impact on an entire nation.

He proved, just like Gandhi, that non-violent protests can influence tremendous change. MLK gave his life to the civil rights movement.

Nearly 50 years after his death, his legacy is stronger than ever. The third Monday of every January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an observed federal holiday in the United States.


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