Famous Black Civil 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 Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr
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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.  

 2 James Baldwin

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

 3 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington
Died: August 27, 1963

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.

 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 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton
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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.

 6 Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall
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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.

 7 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.

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 8 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
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Famous As: Poet
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.

 9 Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers
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Birthdate: July 2, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Decatur, Mississippi U.S.
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. 

 10 Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
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Famous As: Journalist
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.

 11 Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Carmichael
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Birthdate: June 29, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Port of Spain
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.

 12 Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: August 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
Died: July 6, 1992

 13 Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Author
Birthdate: April 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Heiberger
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.

 14 Yolanda King

Yolanda King
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
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. 

 15 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York City
Died: November 17, 1992

 16 Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 4, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba was a South African singer, actress, songwriter, civil rights activist, and United Nations goodwill ambassador. One of the first African musicians to make an impact on the international stage, Makeba is credited with popularizing Afropop genres. She also advocated against apartheid through music and played a major role in the civil rights movement.

 17 Oscar Cicero Brown, Jr.

Oscar Cicero Brown, Jr.
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 10, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 29, 2005

 18 Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith
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Famous As: Leader
Birthdate: January 23, 1837
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Long Green, Maryland, United States
Died: February 24, 1915

 19 Willie Barrow

Willie Barrow
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Famous As: Clergywoman
Birthdate: December 7, 1924
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Burton, Texas, United States
Died: March 12, 2015

 20 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.

 21 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.

 22 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. 

 23 Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges
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Famous As: Philanthropist
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.

 24 Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 8, 1941
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Greenville
Civil rights activist and politician Jesse Jackson, father of former U.S. representative Jesse Jackson Jr., is also a Baptist minister. He has been a shadow U.S. senator from the District of Columbia and established organizations that merged into the non-profit Rainbow/PUSH. He also hosted CNN’s Both Sides with Jesse Jackson.

 25 Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker
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Famous As: Entertainer, Actress, Singer
Birthdate: June 3, 1906
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: April 12, 1975
Nicknamed Black Pearl and Creole Goddess, Josephine Baker was the first Black woman to appear in a motion picture. She was a revue dancer, famous for her signature banana costume. A civil rights activist, she helped the French military during World War II. She adopted 12 children of different ethnicities.

 26 Lena Horne

Lena Horne
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bedford-Stuyvesant
Died: May 9, 2010

Lena Horne was an American singer, actress, dancer, and civil rights activist. Horne's 70-year acting career was embellished with several prestigious awards, such as Grammy Awards. Her life and career were depicted in many stage shows, where she was portrayed by actresses like Leslie Uggams, Nikki Crawford, and Ryan Jillian.

 27 Betty Shabazz

Betty Shabazz
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Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: May 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pinehurst, Georgia, United States
Died: June 23, 1997

 28 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
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Famous As: Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bizana, Eastern Cape
Died: April 2, 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had first met legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at a bus stop when she was barely 22. They ended up getting married the following year. Winnie’s journey was marred by bans and harassment by the South African government, but the determined social worker revolutionized South African politics.

 29 Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson
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Famous As: Singer, Actor & Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: April 9, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Princeton, New Jersey, U.S
Died: January 23, 1976

Singer and actor, Paul Robeson, was as much known for his music and films as he was for his political activism. As a black man who had to endure great difficulties to establish himself, he was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice campaigns. As a performer, he was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

 30 Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: September 12, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, U.S.

 31 Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: September 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Alabama, U.S.

 32 C. L. Franklin

C. L. Franklin
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Famous As: Baptist minister
Birthdate: January 22, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sunflower County, Mississippi, United States
Died: July 27, 1984

 33 Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: March 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: August 24, 1987

 34 Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker
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Famous As: Compiler of Almanacs
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.

 35 Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 14, 1977

 36 James Meredith

James Meredith
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 25, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kosciusko, Mississippi, United States

 37 Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune
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Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayesville, South Carolina, United States
Died: May 18, 1955

 38 Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: February 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Houston
Died: January 17, 1996

 39 Alveda King

Alveda King
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 22, 1951
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia, U.S.

 40 A. Philip Randolph

A. Phillip Randolph
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Famous As: Leader of the African-American civil-rights movement,
Birthdate: April 15, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Crescent City
Died: May 16, 1979

 41 Vernon Jordan

Vernon Jordan
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: August 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

 42 James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 17, 1871
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida
Died: June 26, 1938

 43 Hosea Williams

Hosea Williams
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Famous As: Civil Rights Leader
Birthdate: January 5, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Attapulgus
Died: November 16, 2000

 44 Max Roach

Max Roach
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pasquotank County, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: August 16, 2007

 45 Ella Baker

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

 46 Amelia Boynton Robinson

Amelia Boynton
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 18, 1911
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died: August 26, 2015

 47 Kenneth Bancroft Clark

Kenneth Bancroft Clark
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: July 14, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Panama Canal Zone, United States
Died: May 1, 2005

 48 Raymond St. Jacques

Raymond St. Jacques
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: August 27, 1990

 49 Whitney Young

Whitney Young Jr.
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Famous As: Civil rights activist
Birthdate: July 31, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, United States
Died: March 11, 1971

 50 Gabriel Prosser

Gabriel Prosser
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Famous As: Blacksmith
Birthdate: 1776 AD
Birthplace: Henrico County, Virginia, United States
Died: October 10, 1800

One of the rare literate slaves of the colonial era, Gabriel Prosser was born into slavery at a tobacco plantation in Virginia. He led one of the first great slave revolutions of the U.S., aspiring to create an all-Black state, with himself as the king. He was eventually hanged.