Famous American Activists

Martin Luther King, Jr. would probably be one of the first names that come to mind when we talk of American activists. The leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement, he played a pivotal role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. Malcolm X was another significant figure in human rights activism who has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Frederick Douglass, a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, or Native American, was a former slave who rose to become a prominent social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman after making good his escape from his owners. America has also had several feminists including Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Emma Goldman who fought determinedly for equal rights for women. Of late social justice movements like LGBT activism and Animal Rights activism are also gaining momentum in the American society. LGBT activist Gilbert Baker designed the Rainbow Flag that is often used as a symbol of pride in LGBT rights marches while philosopher Tom Regan is a prominent proponent of animal rights movement. This section provides you information about the life and works of famous American Activists.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Activists

 1 Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr
2
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: January 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: April 4, 1968

A leader in the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century, Martin Luther King Jr. is best remembered for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. A man of Christian faith who was inspired by Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent activism, he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality.  

 2 Malcolm X

Malcolm X
12
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: February 21, 1965

An African-American leader of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X was a vocal spokesman of the Nation of Islam and called upon the blacks to protect themselves from the white, even if it meant adopting violence. His radical views and preaching later evolved and he accepted the possibility of peaceful resolution of racial issues in America.

 3 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
0
Famous As: Abolitionist
Birthdate: February 29, 1822
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: March 10, 1913

Born to parents who were bonded slaves, Harriet Tubman life was a difficult one from the very beginning. Yet with her remarkable courage and determination, she not only escaped slavery herself, but also led other enslaved people to freedom. The prominent political activist and abolitionist was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the American Civil War.

 4 Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley
6
Famous As: Actress, Activist
Birthdate: November 15, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

A child model at four and a television actor at eight, Shailene Woodley began working early and found fame with The Descendants, The Spectacular Now and the Divergent film series. She later gained tremendous appreciation for her work in the movie The Fault in Our Stars and HBO series Big Little Lies. The award winning actress is also an environmentalist and activist

 5 Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks
12
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: February 4, 1913
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, “the first lady of civil rights,” was a pioneer in the American revolution against color segregation and racism. Her refusal to leave her bus seat to a white passenger gave rise to the iconic Montgomery Bus Boycott, which also led her to work with Martin Luther King Jr.

 6 Hunter Schafer

Hunter Schafer
4
Famous As: Model
Birthdate: 1999 AD
Nationality: American

A promising young actress, model and LGBT rights activist, Hunter Schafer found fame with her debut role - Jules - in the HBO series Euphoria. Before this, she made a name for herself in the modelling industry working for famous designers and brands. A proud transgender woman, she has been fighting for the rights of LGBTQ since a long time.

 7 James Baldwin

James Baldwin
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: December 1, 1987

Amongst the greatest writers of the 20th century and a leading literary voice in the civil rights movement, James Baldwin extensively explored issues like race, sexuality and humanity in his work. His best known work include his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and his books of essays Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name.

You May Like

 8 Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
6
Famous As: Environment Activist & Attorney
Birthdate: January 17, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

A well-known environmental attorney and an activist, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has tirelessly worked for prosecuting governments and companies responsible for polluting environment and waterbodies like the Long Island Sound and Hudson River. Moreover, he has written books and articles on issues affecting the environment. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s work have won him prestigious awards and inspired numerous films and documentaries. 

 9 Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky
2
Famous As: American Television Personality
Birthdate: July 23, 1973
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

Activist and TV personality, Monica Lewinsky, is a former White House intern who was involved in an affair with Bill Clinton, an incident that later became known as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The scandal brought her international publicity and she eventually became a successful businesswoman. She is also a social activist who speaks against cyberbullying.

 10 Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams
19
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: December 9, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 11 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky
0
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

 12 Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox
2
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 13 Geena Davis

Geena Davis
0
Famous As: Actress, Producer, Model
Birthdate: January 21, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

An Academy Award-winning actress, Geena Davis is also known for her work to fight gender bias, for which she was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. An ardent archer, who vied for a semifinals spot in the U.S. Olympic archery team for the 2000 Summer Olympics, Geena supports the Women's Sports Foundation among other initiatives that support women.

 14 Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich
0
Famous As: Environmental Activist
Birthdate: June 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

Legal consultant, environmental activist, and consumer activist Erin Brockovich is known for suing California-based Pacific Gas & Electric Company, alleging them of contamination of water with hexavelent chromium, in 1993. Her story inspired the Julia Roberts-starrer 2000 movie Erin Brockovich. She has written two books and hosted TV shows, too.

 15 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
34
Birthdate: January 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: June 3, 2016

Widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali was a major figure of the 20th century. He was an inspirational figure for African-Americans during the civil rights movement. Because of his opposition to Vietnam War and his refusal to be drafted into military, Muhammad Ali became an icon for the larger counterculture generation.

 16 Angela Davis

Angela Davis
8
Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: January 26, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

Activist, philosopher, academic and author, Angela Davis is a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). She has worked in the areas of feminism, class, race and the US prison system. She has also received criticism for supporting the erstwhile Soviet Union and has been accused of supporting political violence.

 17 Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie
11
Famous As: Actress, Filmmaker, Activist
Birthdate: June 4, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

A fashion icon, acclaimed actress, influential humanitarian and Special Envoy for the UNHCR, Angelina Jolie is a highly noted celebrity in Hollywood. She has been hailed for her philanthropic efforts around the globe and praised for her power packed performances. Mother of six, of whom three are adopted, Angelina Jolie is a role model for the women of this generation.

 18 Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh
2
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Kate Walsh is best known as Dr. Addison Montgomery from Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. Fans also loved her as Mrs. Baker from the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Kate is also known for her political activism. She has also launched a beauty and lifestyle brand named Boyfriend LLC.

 19 Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart
5
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 3, 1987
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

Elizabeth Smart is a child safety activist who gained national attention when she was kidnapped from her home at the age of 14. She was held captive for nine months before she was rescued by the cops. Smart went on to become an activist and works against human trafficking and abduction. In 2011, she became the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

 20 Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony
0
Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist
Birthdate: February 15, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 13, 1906

Susan B. Anthony's vital role in the women's suffrage movement changed the course of history. She led one of the two national suffrage organizations, which later became the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Susan as its leading force. She also played an instrumental role in publishing The Revolution, a women's rights newspaper.

 21 Betty White

betty white
9
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 17, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

Betty White, American actress and comedian, is considered as the pioneer of television and has had the longest television career of any entertainer, straddling more than 80 years. She’s known for her award-winning performances in shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland

 22 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton
2
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: December 4, 1969

Fred Hampton was considered an activist and a revolutionary socialist working for social change. He was the deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party. He founded the Rainbow Coalition, aiming to help the Chicago street gangs to end infighting. The FBI considered him as a major threat and he was shot and killed in December 1969 during a raid.

 23 Pauley Perrette

Pauley Perrette
8
Famous As: Television Actress, Activist, Singer
Birthdate: March 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

Pauley Perrette is a former actress, singer, and writer. Perrette is best known for portraying Abby Sciuto from 2003 to 2018 on the popular police procedural TV series NCIS. Also an activist, Pauley Perrette supports several animal rescue organizations, LGBT rights organizations, and civil rights organizations. Over the years, she has been an ardent supporter of the American Red Cross.

 24 Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson
0
Famous As: Actor, Activist
Birthdate: July 23, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

Actor Woody Harrelson has been active in the entertainment world for over 40 years now. The son of a convicted hit-man, he had a difficult childhood and grew up in poverty. However, he was determined to build a good life for himself and earned a BFA in theater before venturing into acting. He is a vegan and an environmental activist.

 25 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt
0
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt was an American actress, comedian, dancer, and singer-songwriter. Renowned for her distinctive singing style, Kitt recorded several chartbusting songs during the 1950s. Also a well-known activist, Eartha Kitt established a non-profit organization called the Kittsville Youth Foundation, which helped underprivileged youths in Los Angeles. She was also an ardent advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

 26 Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo
0
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 22, 1967
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

An actor best known for playing Bruce Banner / Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films, Mark Ruffalo has been active in Hollywood for over three decades. Even though he began acting in the late 1980s, he started getting noticed for his skills only in the 2000s. He has been nominated for numerous awards, including an Academy Award.

 27 Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall
0
Famous As: Former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
Birthdate: July 2, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: January 24, 1993

The first African-American member of the US Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was an associate justice from 1967 to 1991. Earlier as an attorney, he fought for the abolishment of racial segregation in American public schools. He was also a strong proponent of individual rights. A symbol of black icon, there are numerous memorials in America to honour his legacy.

 28 Terry Crews

Terry Crews
0
Famous As: Actor, American Football Player
Birthdate: July 30, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

Terrence Crews is an actor, comedian, activist and a body-builder. He’s also a former professional football player. He has starred in sitcoms like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Plus, he has acted in many movies including the Expendables series. In 2017, Crews talked about a sexual assault on him by a Hollywood executive. He fiercely advocates for women's rights.

 29 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

Fran Drescher is an American actress and comedian. Characterized by her thick New York accent and nasal voice, Fran Drescher serves as an inspiration to many cancer patients as she successfully fought off the disease after suffering from uterine cancer. She is also an outspoken LGBT rights activist and healthcare advocate.

 30 Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges
4
Famous As: Philanthropist
Birthdate: September 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
American civil rights activist Ruby Bridges became the first African-American child to attend an all-white educational institute when she joined the Louisiana-based William Frantz Elementary School in November 1960. She was the subject of Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With and the TV movie Ruby Bridges.

 31 Kerry Kennedy

Kerry Kennedy
2
Famous As: Human rights activist
Birthdate: September 8, 1959
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

The daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy serves as a human rights activist. She is the president of a non-profit organization called Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which advocates human rights. Over the years, Kerry Kennedy has worked in over 60 countries on various human rights issues like child labor, ethnic violence, indigenous land rights, and freedom of expression.

 32 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: May 28, 2014
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was a champion for black feminism and is best remembered for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and over 50 honorary degrees was also a child sex abuse survivor.

 33 Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
2
Famous As: American orator
Birthdate: February 1, 1818
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: February 20, 1895

Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.

 34 Anita Hill

Anita Hill
0
Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 35 Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard
22
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 12, 1981
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 36 Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning
0
Famous As: Whistleblower
Birthdate: December 17, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning is a former U.S. Army soldier who was jailed from 2010 to 2017, for revealing sensitive military information to WikiLeaks and thus violating the Espionage Act. She was born a male, Bradley Manning, and later went through a gender reassignment surgery to become a woman. 

 37 Zack de la Rocha

Zack de la Rocha
4
Birthdate: January 12, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

Rapper Zack de la Rocha, the vocalist for the rock band Rage Against the Machine, also formed the duo One Day as a Lion with drummer Jon Theodore. He supports vegetarianism and the Zapatista (EZLN) movement of Mexico. He also testified against the U.S.’s treatment of Abu-Jamal, at the U.N. 

 38 Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: April 25, 2009

American actress Bea Arthur worked extensively in television and was hailed for her comic timing. All in the Family, Maude and The Golden Girls are some of her acclaimed series. In her long career, she also worked in films like Lovers and Other Strangers, History of the World 1 and For Better or Worse. She won many accolades, including two Emmy awards.

 39 Alfre Woodard

Alfre Woodard
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 8, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

Alfre Woodard is an American actress. Considered one of the most accomplished and versatile actresses of her generation, Woodard was named in The New York Times' The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century list in 2020. Also a political activist, Woodard is credited with founding Artists for a New South Africa, which aims at advancing equality in South Africa.

 40 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
2
Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 41 Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: April 17, 2016

Five-time Emmy Award-winning actor Doris Roberts is best remembered as Marie Barone from the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and as Mildred Krebs from Remington Steele. She also appeared on various talk/game shows and in films such as The Honeymoon Killers. She was a prominent animal rights activist, too.

 42 Michael Bolton

Michael Bolton
2
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter
Birthdate: February 26, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

Michael Bolton is an American singer-songwriter who has sold over 75 million records so far. Apart from recording several top 10 albums on the Billboard charts, Bolton also has several prestigious awards under his belt, such as Grammy Awards. Also known for his charity work, Bolton set up the Michael Bolton Foundation in order to aid children and women.

 43 Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams
0
Famous As: Model, Actor, Activist
Birthdate: August 5, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Jesse Williams is best known as Dr. Jackson Avery from Grey's Anatomy. He has also been part of films such as The Cabin in the Woods and The Butler, and has done voice-work for video games such as Markus in Detroit: Become Human. Williams is also associated with Black activism.

 44 Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson
13
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 9, 1979
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

A popular actress, producer, and activist, Rosario Dawson is known as much for her involvement in politics and philanthropy as for her work in films and television. A strong supporter of various charitable organizations, such as One Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Rosario came out as member of the LGBT community in 2020.

 45 Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw
5
Famous As: Baseball Pitcher
Birthdate: March 19, 1988
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

An eight-time MLB All-Star, Clayton Kershaw is an American professional baseball player, often described as the best pitcher in the history of baseball. Also known for his humanitarian work, Clayton Kershaw has been honored with the Branch Rickey Award and Roberto Clemente Award. A prolific donator, Kershaw donated $260,000 to build an orphanage called Hope's Home.

 46 Cybill Lynne Shepherd

Cybill Lynne Shepherd
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Cybill Shepherd is best known for her roles in films such as The Heartbreak Kid, Taxi Driver, and Alice. Fans also loved her for her Golden Globe-winning portrayals of Madelyn 'Maddie' Hayes in the series Moonlighting and Cybill Sheridan in the sitcom Cybill. She is a follower of goddess-worshipping Paganism.

 47 Van Jones

Van Jones
4
Famous As: Motivational speaker
Birthdate: September 20, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 48 Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman
15
Famous As: Anti-War Activist
Birthdate: November 30, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 12, 1989

The co-founder of the Youth International Party, Abbie Hoffman was an American social and political activist. A popular exponent of the Flower Power movement, Abbie Hoffman played a major role in the events leading up to the violent confrontations with the cops during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He remains an iconic figure of the counterculture era.

 49 Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale
5
Famous As: Political activist
Birthdate: October 22, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 50 Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono
0
Famous As: Actor, LGBT Rights Activist
Birthdate: March 4, 1969
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

Born to famous entertainers, Sonny and Cher Bono, actor Chaz Bono made his first television appearance in his parents’ show. Later, he pursued a musical career with a band named Ceremony. A lesbian, he underwent a female-to-male gender transition and created a documentary Becoming Chaz about his experience. He has also authored books and featured in films and television projects.