Famous American Civil Rights Activists

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What is the first thing that pops up in your mind when you listen to names like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mikhail Gorbachev, William Wiilberforce, Desmond Tutu and Rosa Parks? That is right! These were the champions of civil right movement; the propagators who helped transform the social fabric and change the course of history through their activism. Their contribution to the cause of ending slavery and racial discrimination and equality in society had been gargantuan. America has seen many such champions who brought about an overwhelming social transformation. There were many extraordinary leaders who inspired a generation of men and women to stand up, voice their opinion against, and fight the discrimination. From Montgomery Bus Boycott and Albany Movement to Selma March and Freedom Riders, America has witnessed a volley of activists waiting to end all disparity and establish equality. Without any further delay, let us explore the timeline, trivia, and facts in the biographies below.
Vote for Your Favourite American Civil Rights Activists
 1 
Malcolm X
(Major Figure of American Civil Rights Movement)
Malcolm X
14
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.

 2 
Rosa Parks
(The First Lady of Civil Rights)
Rosa Parks
20
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.

 3 
Sam Cooke
(Singer-songwriter)
Sam Cooke
10
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. 
 4 
Pauley Perrette
(Television Actress, Activist, Singer)
Pauley Perrette
28
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.

 5 
Johnnie Cochran
(American Lawyer and Civil Activist Best Known for Defending and Acquitting 'O. J. Simpson')
Johnnie Cochran
8
Birthdate: October 2, 1937
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
Died: March 29, 2005
Johnnie Cochran was an American civil activist and lawyer. Cochran played an important role in the acquittal of former football player O. J. Simpson in connection with the murder of the latter's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. Cochran had also represented other celebrities like Michael Jackson, Sean Combs, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Riddick Bowe, and Jim Brown to name a few.
 6 
Fred Hampton
(American Activist and Deputy Chairman of the National Black Panther Party)
Fred Hampton
12
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shreveport, Louisiana, 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.

 7 
Cesar Chavez
(American Labour Leader, Civil Rights Activist and Co-Founder of the ‘National Farm Workers Association’)
Cesar Chavez
10
Birthdate: March 31, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Yuma, Arizona, United States
Died: April 23, 1993
Cesar Chavez became a Latin American civil rights icon owing to his efforts to secure rights for farmworkers. He co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers union. He was inspired by Gandhian non-violent protests and organized the Delano grape strike, among other protests.
 8 
Angela Davis
(Political Activist)
Angela Davis
14
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.

 9 
Ruby Bridges
(Philanthropist)
Ruby Bridges
8
Birthdate: September 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tylertown
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.
 10 
Harvey Milk
(American Politician and First Openly Gay Man to be Elected to a Public Office in California)
Harvey Milk
8
Birthdate: May 22, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Woodmere, New York, United States
Died: November 27, 1978
LGBT rights activist Harvey Milk became California’s first openly gay elected official when he became a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978. Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were later assassinated by politician Dan White. Milk's story later inspired the 2008 biopic Milk.
 11 
Maya Angelou
4
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
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.
 12 
Coretta Scott King
(Civil-Rights Activist and the Wife of Martin Luther King Jr)
Coretta Scott King
11
Birthdate: April 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Heiberger, Alabama, United States
Died: January 30, 2006

The American civil rights activist was an ideal foil for her famous husband Martin Luther King Jr. in promoting racial equality. The author and singer led the Women's Movement and fought for the rights of the LGBT community. She was also known for mobilising African-Americans during the 1960 US presidential election. She founded the King Centre, a not-for-profit organization.

 13 
Medgar Evers
(Civil rights activist)
Medgar Evers
5
Birthdate: July 2, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Decatur, Mississippi, United States
Died: June 12, 1963
American civil rights activist Medgar Evers was the NAACP field secretary of Mississippi state. He has also served the U.S. Army during World War II. He worked toward securing voting rights for all and to end racial segregation. He was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith in 1963. 
 14 
Marsha P. Johnson
(Civil Rights Activist)
Marsha P. Johnson
11
Birthdate: August 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
Died: July 6, 1992
 15 
Walter White
(American civil rights activist)
Walter White
5
Birthdate: July 1, 1893
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: 1955 AD
 16 
Ida B. Wells
(Women's Rights Activist and Civil Rights Leader)
Ida B. Wells
5
Birthdate: July 16, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Holly Springs, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 25, 1931
Civil rights and women's rights activist Ida B. Wells is remembered for speaking up against the lynching of Blacks in the U.S. She was born a slave and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. She later co-founded the NAACP. She also co-owned and wrote for Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.
 17 
Assata Shakur
(American Political Activist and Member of the Black Liberation Army Who Was Convicted in the First-Degree Murder)
Assata Shakur
3
Birthdate: July 14, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Assata Shakur is a former member of the revolutionary organization 'Black Liberation Army'. Sentenced to life for murder, Shakur escaped from the 'Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women' and was eventually granted political asylum in Cuba. She is the first woman to be added to FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list. Her life inspired the documentary film Eyes of the Rainbow.

 18 
Colin Kaepernick
(American Football Quarterback)
Colin Kaepernick
12
Birthdate: November 3, 1987
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

An American professional football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick began playing for 49ers’ as a backup quarterback and later played a pivotal role in them reaching the 2013 NFL championship. Also a civil rights activist, he attracted a lot praise and criticism when in 2016, he refused to stand for the US national anthem as a form of protest against racial injustice.

 19 
Stokely Carmichael
(Key Leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States)
Stokely Carmichael
3
Birthdate: January 29, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died: November 15, 1998

Stokely Carmichael was a significant part of the American civil rights movement and the worldwide Pan-African movement. He was associated with the Black Panther Party and the All-African People's Revolutionary Party. The Black Power movement leader later adopted the name Kwame Ture and traveled extensively through Africa.

 20 
Yolanda King
(Civil Rights Activist and Daughter of Civil Rights Leader 'Martin Luther King Jr.')
Yolanda King
5
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: May 15, 2007

African American activist, Yolanda King, was the first-born child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Exposed to social justice activism at a young age, she grew up to be an outspoken supporter of civil rights and LGBTQA+ rights. She was also known for her artistic endeavors. She died of heart disease at 51. 

 21 
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
(Critic of Islam and Advocate of Women Rights)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
3
Birthdate: November 13, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mogadishu, Somalia

Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, and scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of an organization for the defense of women's rights, the AHA Foundation. She actively opposes forced marriage, honor violence, and child marriage. A former Muslim, she now identifies as an atheist and is a vocal critic of Islam. She is a recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

 22 
Betty Shabazz
(Educator and Activist Best Known as the Wife of African-American Activist Malcolm X)
Betty Shabazz
9
Birthdate: May 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pinehurst, Georgia, United States
Died: June 23, 1997

Civil rights activist and educator Betty Shabazz, or Betty X, was the wife of Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. Raised by her adoptive parents in Detroit, she met Malcolm X at a Nation of Islam event in Harlem. She died when her apartment was set on fire set by her grandson.

 23 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(American Women's Rights Activist and Key Figure Behind 'Seneca Falls Convention', First Women's Rights Convention)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
5
Birthdate: November 12, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Johnstown
Died: October 26, 1902
 24 
Audre Lorde
(Writer)
Audre Lorde
7
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: November 17, 1992

Author and poet Audre Lorde is remembered as a firebrand feminist and a champion for the LGBT community. Openly lesbian, she penned iconic volumes such as Cables to Rage and The Black Unicorn. She also recorded her 14-year struggle with cancer in The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light.

 25 
Ruby Dee
(Actress and Civil Rights Activist Known for Her Pioneering Work in African American Theatre and Films)
Ruby Dee
5
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died: June 11, 2014

Ruby Dee was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, poet, civil rights activist, and journalist. She is best remembered for playing Mahalee Lucas in the 2007 film American Gangster, which earned her the Screen Actors Guild Award for Supporting Role. Dee also won a Grammy and Emmy during her career. She was also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.

 26 
Alicia Garza
(Activist)
Alicia Garza
5
Birthdate: January 4, 1981
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
 27 
Leonard Peltier
(Activist)
Leonard Peltier
3
Birthdate: September 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Anishinabe (Chippewa) Turtle Mountain Reservation, North Dakota, USA
 28 
Claudette Colvin
(Civil Rights Activist)
Claudette Colvin
3
Birthdate: September 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
 29 
Al Sharpton
(Civil Rights Activist & The Founder of the National Action Network)
Al Sharpton
8
Birthdate: October 3, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
 30 
Viola Desmond
(Businesswoman)
Viola Desmond
3
Birthdate: July 6, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Died: February 7, 1965

Though born bi-racial, Viola Desmond became a Black icon for her business acumen. After not being allowed to train as a beautician in Halifax, she moved to Montreal. Her beauty products, salon, and training institute, all catering specifically to Black women, filled a major void in the beauty industry.

 31 
Van Jones
(CNN News and Political Commentator Best Known for His New York Times Bestselling Book 'The Green Collar Economy')
Van Jones
6
Birthdate: September 20, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Jackson, Tennessee, United States

Especially known for his honest and poignant commentaries, Van Jones is an award-winning political contributor, commentator, and the host of popular CNN programs like Van Jones Show and The Redemption Project. Also a leader in the fight for criminal justice reform for more than twenty-five years, he has founded number of non-profit organizations and authored several best-selling books.

 32 
Sacheen Littlefeather
3
Birthdate: November 14, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Salinas, California, United States
 33 
Benjamin Banneker
(Compiler of Almanacs)
Benjamin Banneker
3
Birthdate: November 9, 1731
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Baltimore County
Died: October 9, 1806

Benjamin Banneker was born to a free African-American mother and a former slave father, and was largely self-educated. While he showed immense talent in both mathematics and astronomy, having predicted a solar eclipse with precision, he also wrote essays on civil rights and rallied against slavery.

 34 
Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
(Politician & Civil Rights Activist)
Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 4, 1972
 35 
James Meredith
(Civil Rights Activist and the First African American Student Admitted to the 'University of Mississippi')
James Meredith
3
Birthdate: June 25, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kosciusko, Mississippi, United States

James Meredith created history by becoming the first Black student at the University of Mississippi. A civil rights activist and an author, he had also been part of the U.S. Air Force. He was shot at while on his March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, but survived.

 36 
Mary McLeod Bethune
(American Civil Rights Activist and Founder of the 'National Council of Negro Women')
Mary McLeod Bethune
3
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayesville, South Carolina, United States
Died: May 18, 1955

Mary McLeod Bethune was an American civil rights activist, educator, womanist, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She is credited with founding the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune also played a key role in the creation of the Black Cabinet while serving as an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. In 1973, Bethune was made an indutee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 37 
David Dellinger
(American Pacifist and an Activist for Nonviolent Social Change)
David Dellinger
3
Birthdate: August 22, 1915
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wakefield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 25, 2004

David Dellinger was a pacifist and an activist who campaigned for nonviolent social change. Born into a wealthy family, he studied at Yale University and Oxford University. However, he ditched his privileged life and chose to live with poverty-stricken workers during the Great Depression. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and was imprisoned for his activities. 

 38 
Shaun King
(Writer, Civil Rights Activist and Co-Founder of Real Justice PAC)
Shaun King
11
Birthdate: May 29, 1977
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Florida, United States

Writer and civil rights activist, Shaun King, is the co-founder of Real Justice PAC. He is known for making extensive use of social media to promote causes like Black Lives Matter. He has worked as a teacher and pastor and is the founder of the Courageous Church. He launched the campaign Justice Together in 2015 to fight against police brutality.

 39 
Fannie Lou Hamer
(American Community Organizer and Women's Rights Activist)
Fannie Lou Hamer
5
Birthdate: October 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 14, 1977

Fannie Lou Hamer was an American community organizer and women's rights activist. She also played an important role in the civil rights movement. Hamer is credited with co-founding the Freedom Democratic Party as well as the National Women's Political Caucus. In 1993, Fannie Lou Hamer was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 40 
Tarana Burke
(Activist)
Tarana Burke
5
Birthdate: September 12, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, U.S.
 41 
Bayard Rustin
(Activist)
Bayard Rustin
3
Birthdate: March 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: August 24, 1987
 42 
Hines Ward
(American footballer)
Hines Ward
5
Birthdate: March 8, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea
 43 
C. L. Franklin
(Baptist minister)
C. L. Franklin
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sunflower County, Mississippi, United States
Died: July 27, 1984

C. L. Franklin was an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. Dubbed the man with the million-dollar voice, Franklin was renowned for preaching his sermons throughout the country. During the 1950s and 1960s, Franklin worked towards ending prejudicial practices against the black people in Detroit. He is also credited with encouraging his daughter Aretha Franklin to pursue music.

 44 
Dolores Huerta
(Trade unionist)
Dolores Huerta
3
Birthdate: April 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dawson
 45 
Barbara Jordan
7
Birthdate: February 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Houston
Died: January 17, 1996
 46 
A. Philip Randolph
(Leader of the African-American civil-rights movement,)
A. Philip Randolph
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Crescent City
Died: May 16, 1979
 47 
Sylvia Rivera
(Activist)
Sylvia Rivera
5
Birthdate: July 2, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 19, 2002
 48 
Vernon Jordan
3
Birthdate: August 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
 49 
Viola Liuzzo
(Civil Rights Activist)
Viola Liuzzo
5
Birthdate: April 11, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: California, Pennsylvania
Died: March 25, 1965
 50 
Rachel Corrie
(American Activist and Diarist)
Rachel Corrie
3
Birthdate: April 10, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Olympia, Washington, United States
Died: March 16, 2003

Crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli armored bulldozer, peace activist Rachel Corrie was also a member of pro-Palestine International Solidarity Movement. Born and raised in USA, she had gone there as part of her college assignment and met her death while trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses by Israeli forces, causing international furore.