Famous American Human Rights Activists

When the armies of Cyprus the Great conquered Babylon, little did people knew what was to happen next. To their surprise, the conqueror freed the slaves, established racial equality and declared freedom of religion, thus starting the first chapter of the world’s charter of human rights. In the millenniums following, there have been numerous Cyprus’s who have risen above the oppression and fought against the tyranny to give people their rights. It is to these great souls that we dedicate this section. America maybe a super power today and at the topmost position in the global front when it comes to human rights but the scenario wasn’t the same always. The country suffered from numerous problems and its people had little freedom. Slavery, oppression, civil rights were few of the many issues that Americans dealt with. However, there were several American human rights activists who fought for, campaigned and promoted human rights freedom. Some of them worth mentioning are Abraham Lincoln who made the famous Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. who worked as a non-violence civil rights leader, Thomas Jefferson who authored the Declaration of Independence and Jimmy Carter who established the Carter Center. Know in details about the famous American human rights 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 Malcolm X

Malcolm X
Famous As: Major Figure of American Civil Rights Movement
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 Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 10, 1807
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minerva, New York
Died: 1863 AD
Abolitionist Solomon Northup had authored the memoir Twelve Years a Slave, which was later adapted into the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. Northup was abducted and sold as a slave to a planter in Louisiana. He was eventually freed with the help of the governor New York.

 3 Nazanin Boniadi

Nazanin Boniadi
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 22, 1980
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tehran, Iran

Nazanin Boniadi is an Iran-born English actress and activist best known for her portrayal of Nora in the popular American sitcom How I Met Your Mother. She has also played important roles in several other American television series like Homeland and Counterpart. From 2009 to 2015, Nazanin Boniadi served as a spokesperson for the popular non-governmental organization Amnesty International.

 4 Martin Luther King III

Martin Luther King III
Famous As: Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 23, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
The American civil rights activist has continued his legendary father Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for racial equality. Martin Luther King III headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by his father and endorsed Barack Obama’s nomination for American presidency. King fought against police brutality, but he also denounced capital punishment, saying he did not belive in retributional justice.

 5 Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg
Famous As: Poet, Writer
Birthdate: June 3, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 5, 1997
Allen Ginsberg, a Beat Generation poet, is best remembered for his 1956 poem Howl, which criticized U.S. capitalism and described homosexual acts, and was thus banned. He earned the National Book Award for The Fall of America and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992.

 6 Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott
Famous As: Schoolteacher
Birthdate: May 27, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riceville, Iowa, United States

Jane Elliott is an American schoolteacher best known for inventing and popularizing the Blue eyes/Brown eyes exercise. The exercise, which was first conducted on April 5, 1968, with her third-grade class, aims at helping people understand the ill-effects of racial discrimination. The classroom exercise has inspired a couple of documentaries namely The Eye of the Storm and The Angry Eye.  

 7 Melissa Mathison

Melissa Mathison
Famous As: Screenwriter
Birthdate: June 3, 1950
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: November 4, 2015

Melissa Mathison was a screenwriter and an activist for the Tibetan independence movement. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, for a while but quit before graduating. She was acquainted with Francis Ford Coppola who encouraged her to pursue a screenwriting career. She was once married to actor, Harrison Ford, and had two children.

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 8 Yolanda King

Yolanda King
Famous As: Human rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter
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. 

 9 Clara Barton

Clara Barton
Famous As: Nurse, Founded of the American Red Cross
Birthdate: December 25, 1821
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 12, 1912

 10 Jello Biafra

Jello Biafra
Famous As: Singer, Actor, Human rights activist, Politician, Journalist
Birthdate: June 17, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boulder

 11 Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred
Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 3, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 12 Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry
Famous As: Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 12, 1965

Lorraine Hansberry was a writer and playwright best remembered for her play A Raisin in the Sun which emphasizes the plight of African-Americans living under racial segregation. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the youngest playwright and the first African-American dramatist to win the prestigious award.

 13 Andrew Young Jr.

Andrew Young Jr.
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Andrew Young Jr. is an American activist, politician, and diplomat. Young is best known for his role in the civil rights movement; a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young served as the executive director of a civil rights organization called Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Andrew Young is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 14 Zelda Rubinstein

Zelda Rubinstein
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 28, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: January 27, 2010

 15 Andrew Koenig

Andrew Koenig
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 17, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
Died: February 14, 2010

 16 Opal Tometi

Opal Tometi
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 15, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Opal Tometi is an American writer, human rights activist, community organizer, and strategist. She is best known as a co-founder of the popular decentralized social and political movement Black Lives Matter (BLM). In 2017, Opal Tometi was honored with the prestigious Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. In 2020, she was named in the 100 Most Influential People list by Time magazine.

 17 Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark
Famous As: American lawyer
Birthdate: December 18, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, US

Ramsey Clark was an American activist, lawyer, and federal government official. From 1967 to 1969, he served as US Attorney General under the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Ramsey Clark is remembered for heading several progressive activism campaigns and opposing the U.S. War on Terror, labeling it as a war against Islam. In 1992, he won the Gandhi Peace Award.

 18 Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts
Famous As: American disability rights activist
Birthdate: January 23, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Mateo, California, United States
Died: March 14, 1995

Ed Roberts was an American activist best remembered for his contribution to the disability rights movement. Roberts, who became the first student to attend the University of California, Berkeley in a wheelchair, played an important role in inspiring and motivating people with physical disabilities. In 2011, Ed Roberts was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

 19 Kerry Kennedy

Kerry Kennedy
Famous As: Human rights activist
Birthdate: September 8, 1959
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

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.

 20 Ella Baker

Ella Baker
Famous As: American activist
Birthdate: December 13, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Died: December 13, 1986

 21 Lady Miss Kier

Lady Miss Kier
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: August 15, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio, USA

 22 Van Jones

Van Jones
Famous As: Motivational speaker
Birthdate: September 20, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Jackson, Tennessee Jackson, Tennessee, United States U.S.

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.

 23 Iris Chang

Iris Chang
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: March 28, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Princeton, New Jersey, United States
Died: November 9, 2004

 24 Geronimo Pratt

Geronimo Pratt
Famous As: Former military veteran who was accused in 1972 for the 1968 murder of Caroline Olsen
Birthdate: September 13, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morgan City, Louisiana, United States
Died: June 2, 2011

 25 Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: October 7, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 26 Jack Herer

Jack Herer
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Buffalo NY, United States
Died: April 15, 2010

 27 Alan Lomax

Alan Lomax
Famous As: Folklorist
Birthdate: January 31, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Austin
Died: July 19, 2002

 28 Walter Reuther

Walter Reuther
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 1, 1907
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wheeling, USA
Died: May 9, 1970

 29 Shiva Rose

Shiva Rose
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 8, 1969
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA

Shiva Rose is an American actress, blogger, activist, and entrepreneur. Apart from her movies, Shiva Rose is also known for her activism. While she was still studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, she founded a program called Resource to feed the homeless. She also sponsors an organization named Violence Intervention Program (VIP) that helps abused children.

 30 Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean
Famous As: Sister
Birthdate: April 21, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States

A leading advocate for abolition of death penalty, Roman Catholic sister, Helen Prejea,n started her campaign after she became spiritual guide for a death row convict, penning down her experience in her best-selling book, Dead Man Walking. Also the founder of SURVIVE, a group aimed at helping the families of the victims, she has since been giving talks across USA.     

 31 Angelina Grimke

Angelina Grimke
Famous As: Abolitionist, Women's Rights Activist
Birthdate: February 20, 1805
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Died: October 26, 1879

 32 Loung Ung

Loung Ung
Famous As: Memoirist who wrote two books which related her life experiences from 1975 through 2003
Birthdate: November 19, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 33 Ophelia Dahl

Ophelia Dahl
Famous As: Social justice and health care advocate
Birthdate: May 12, 1964
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oxford, England

 34 Kati Marton

Kati Marton
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary

New York Times bestselling Hungarian-American author Kati Marton was born to reporter parents who had survived the Holocaust. She has previously been an award-winning correspondent for NPR and the bureau chief of ABC News in Germany. Her best-known works include True Believer and Enemies of the People.

 35 Diane Nash

Diane Nash
Famous As: Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 15, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 36 Gerda Weissmann Klein

Gerda Weissmann Klein
Famous As: Writer, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 8, 1924
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bielsko, Poland

Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Polish American writer. She survived the Holocaust in which her entire family perished. Later on, she wrote an autobiographical account of the Holocaust, All but My Life, which was adapted into a short film. She and her husband became advocates of Holocaust education. She was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

 37 Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat
Famous As: Human rights activist
Birthdate: January 16, 1980
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Alameda County, California, United States

 38 Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow
Famous As: Actress, Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: February 9, 1945
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Mia Farrow is one of the most decorated actresses of her generation. She is the first American actress to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Apart from being an actress, she is also known for her humanitarian activities, especially in African countries. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Mia was named in Time magazine's most influential people in the world list in 2008.

 39 Jacob M. Appel

Jacob M. Appel
Famous As: Historian, Novelist, Writer, Playwright, Medical writer, Human rights activist, Journalist
Birthdate: February 21, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City

Author and bioethicist Jacob M. Appel gained fame with his award-winning first novel The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up. Also known for his essays and short stories, he has seven masters degrees, in subjects ranging from American history to public health. He is also a practicing psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai Health System.

 40 Lillian Wald

Lillian Wald
Famous As: Nurse, Humanitarian
Birthdate: March 10, 1867
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: September 1, 1940

 41 Shirley Graham Du Bois

Shirley Graham Du Bois
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 11, 1896
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: March 27, 1977

 42 Frances Lear

Frances Lear
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: July 14, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hudson, New York, United States
Died: September 30, 1996

 43 Charles W. Chesnutt

Charles W. Chesnutt
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 20, 1858
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died: November 17, 1932

 44 Shields Green

Shields Green
Famous As: Activist, Sailor
Birthdate: 1836 AD
Birthplace: South Carolina, United States
Died: December 16, 1859

 45 Yuri Orlov

Yuri Orlov
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 13, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: September 27, 2020

 46 Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy
Famous As: Engineer, Blogger
Birthdate: September 12, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bangladesh
Died: February 26, 2015

 47 Levi Coffin

Levi Coffin
Famous As: Abolitionist
Birthdate: October 28, 1798
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Guilford County, North Carolina
Died: September 16, 1877

 48 Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan

Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan
Famous As: Princess
Birthdate: August 1, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

 49 Manning Marable

Manning Marable
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: May 13, 1950
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died: April 1, 2011

 50 Maggie Kuhn

Maggie Kuhn
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 3, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
Died: April 22, 1995