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.

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 1 Carole Baskin

Carole Baskin.
17
Famous As: Big-Cat Rights Activist
Birthdate: June 6, 1961
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bexar County, Texas, United States

Carole Baskin gained recognition after being featured in a documentary series titled Tiger King, which follows her feuds with private zoo operator Joe Exotic. As the CEO of a non-profit animal sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue, Carole condemns private zoos. She has also been the subject of conspiracy theories pertaining to the disappearance of her second husband Don Lewis.

 2 Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden.
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Famous As: Computer Professional, Former CIA Employee
Birthdate: June 21, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Elizabeth City, North Carolina, United States

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who came into the limelight after leaking confidential information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Edward Snowden has been variously called a “hero", “whistle-blower", and “traitor". A controversial figure in USA, he was granted asylum in Russia, where he now lives with his wife.

 3 Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr .
4
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: January 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
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.  

 4 Malcolm X

Malcolm X.
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States
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.

 5 Candace Owens

Candace Owens.
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Famous As: Political Activist, Commentator
Birthdate: April 29, 1989
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stamford, Connecticut, United States

A political activist of color, Candace Owens first gained visibility as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Having changed her political stance since then, she is now known for her increasingly pro-Trump activism. Her support for Trump and criticism of Black Lives Matter have made her a controversial figure.

 6 Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley.
12
Famous As: Actress, Activist
Birthdate: November 15, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Bernardino County, California, United States

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

 7 Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin.
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Famous As: Singer & Activist
Birthdate: March 25, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 16, 2018

Widely regarded as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a singer-songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aretha was ranked number one on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list in 2010. Having sold over 75 million records, she is also one of the best-selling musicians ever.

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 8 Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky.
2
Famous As: American Television Personality
Birthdate: July 23, 1973
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States

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.

 9 Helen Keller

Helen Keller.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 27, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States
Died: June 1, 1968

A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.

 10 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman.
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Famous As: Abolitionist
Birthdate: February 29, 1822
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester County, Maryland, United States
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.

 11 Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson.
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Famous As: Musician, Activist
Birthdate: April 29, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Abbott, Texas, United States

An accomplished musician and one of the most popular names of the late 20th century American country music, Willie Nelson garnered fame with his albums Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and Always on My Mind. The multiple Grammy award winning musician, who continues to record even today, has also appeared in numerous films and authored a number of books.

 12 Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks.
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: February 4, 1913
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tuskegee, Alabama, United States
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.

 13 Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning.
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Famous As: Whistleblower
Birthdate: December 17, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Crescent, Oklahoma
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. 

 14 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky.
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Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

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.

 15 Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States

 16 Hunter Schafer

Hunter Schafer.
4
Famous As: Model
Birthdate: 1999 AD
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina

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.

 17 Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur.
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Famous As: Actress, Activist
Birthdate: May 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
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.

 18 Geena Davis

Geena Davis.
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Famous As: Actress, Producer, Model
Birthdate: January 21, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Wareham

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.

 19 Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke.
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 22, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Died: December 11, 1964
The King of Soul Sam Cooke is best remembered for his hits A Change is Gonna Come, You Send Me, and Wonderful World. He began singing gospel as a child and later joined The Soul Stirrers. He was shot and killed by a motel manager in Los Angeles. 

 20 Common

Common
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Famous As: Rapper
Birthdate: March 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Side, Chicago, Illinois, United States

 21 Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: July 9, 1955
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Central, South Carolina, United States

 22 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
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Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.

 23 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo Dicaprio.
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Famous As: Actor, Film Producer
Birthdate: November 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hollywood, California, U.S.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a name every movie lover reveres. An Oscar, a BAFTA, and 3 Golden Globes does not do justice to DiCaprio’s immensely skilful performances and his top-notch portrayals of addicts, historical figures and business tycoons. From epic dramas and romances to crime and political thrillers, DiCaprio has constantly left a mark in each of his films.

 24 Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams.
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Famous As: Model, Actor, Activist
Birthdate: August 5, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
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.

 25 Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr..
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Famous As: Environment Activist & Attorney
Birthdate: January 17, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

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. 

 26 James Baldwin

James Baldwin.
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
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.

 27 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali.
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Famous As: Boxer
Birthdate: January 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
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.

 28 Pauley Perrette

Pauley Perrette.
10
Famous As: Television Actress, Activist, Singer
Birthdate: March 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

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.

 29 Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono .
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Famous As: Actor, LGBT Rights Activist
Birthdate: March 4, 1969
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Los Angeles

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.

 30 Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders.
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 8, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

The current junior US Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving nonpartisan politician in the history of the United States Congress. Sanders is an ardent advocate of progressive policies and is well-known for his opposition to neoliberalism and economic inequality. He also supports paid parental leave, universal and single-payer healthcare, and labor rights.

 31 Walton Goggins

Walton Goggins
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, USA

 32 Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie.
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Famous As: Actress, Filmmaker, Activist
Birthdate: June 4, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S

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.

 33 Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall.
0
Famous As: Former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
Birthdate: July 2, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
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.

 34 Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Shawnee, Oklahoma, United States

Counted among the most influential and powerful people in the American entertainment industry, Brad Pitt is an actor and film producer who has appeared in many big-budget productions. He was cited as the world’s most attractive man for several years. He is also involved in various philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.

 35 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kew Gardens, New York, United States

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.

 36 Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich.
2
Famous As: Environmental Activist
Birthdate: June 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lawrence, Kansas

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.

 37 Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford.
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Famous As: American actor
Birthdate: July 13, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S

With an extensive career spanning six decades, veteran actor Harrison Ford is a major figure in Hollywood. The recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award, he is one of the highest-grossing domestic box office stars of all time. Besides acting, he is a licensed pilot of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

 38 Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh.
2
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States
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.

 39 Betty White

betty white.
9
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 17, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States

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

 40 Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: December 9, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

 41 Bradley Whitford

Bradley Whitford
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 10, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

 42 Patti Smith

Patti Smith.
0
Famous As: Singer & Musician
Birthdate: December 30, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the punk poet laureate, Smith became an influential figure of the punk rock movement with the release of her album Horses. Many world-renowned musicians, such as Madonna and Michael Stipe, have cited Smith as their inspiration. Even actresses like Ellen Page and Maria Doyle Kennedy have called Smith a major influence.

 43 Terry Crews

Terry Crews.
4
Famous As: Actor, American Football Player
Birthdate: July 30, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Flint

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.

 44 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton.
2
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Summit, Illinois, United States
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.

 45 Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro.
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Famous As: Political Commentator, Public Speaker
Birthdate: January 15, 1984
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

A strong conservative political commentator, author, media host and lawyer, Ben Shapiro became the youngest nationally syndicated columnist in the US at the age of seventeen and at twenty published his first book. The host of a daily political podcast ,The Ben Shapiro Show, he has frequently invited criticism for his views on various issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

 46 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: North, South Carolina, United States
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.

 47 Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart.
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 3, 1987
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

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.

 48 Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 12, 1981
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maoputasi County, American Samoa Leloaloa, American Samoa, U.S.

 49 Angela Davis

Angela Davis .
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Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: January 26, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Birmingham

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.

 50 Torrey DeVitto

Torrey DeVitto.
2
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 8, 1984
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Huntington, New York
Torrey DeVitto is best known as Melissa Hastings from Pretty Little Liars, Dr. Natalie Manning in Chicago Med, and Carrie in One Tree Hill. Fans also loved her in The Vampire Diaries and Army Wives. She is a Hospice ambassador and has supported campaigns for mental-health awareness and animal rights.