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.
12
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Minister
Birthdate: January 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
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 Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke
10
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. 

 3 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
18
Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States
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 Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran
6
Famous As: Lawyer
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.

 5 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton
10
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 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.

 7 Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King
7
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Author
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.

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 8 Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
5
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.

 9 Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson
11
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: August 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
Died: July 6, 1992

 10 Lena Horne

Lena Horne
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Famous As: Singer, Dancer, Actress
Birthdate: June 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, United States
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.

 11 Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Carmichael
3
Famous As: Political activist
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.

 12 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.

 13 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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Famous As: Writer
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.

 14 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

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.

 15 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.

 16 Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist & The Founder of the National Action Network
Birthdate: October 3, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

 17 Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker
3
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.

 18 Tarana Burke

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

 19 James Meredith

James Meredith
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Famous As: Writer
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.

 20 Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer
5
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 14, 1977

 21 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

 22 Barbara Jordan

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

 23 C. L. Franklin

C. L. Franklin
3
Famous As: Baptist minister
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.

 24 A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph
3
Famous As: Leader of the African-American civil-rights movement,
Birthdate: April 15, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Crescent City
Died: May 16, 1979

 25 Vernon Jordan

Vernon Jordan
3
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: August 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

 26 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

 27 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.

 28 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

 29 Isra Hirsi

Isra Hirsi
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Famous As: Co-founder and served as the co-executive director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike
Birthdate: February 22, 2003
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

 30 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

 31 Michael X

Michael X
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Famous As: Civil rights activist, Revolutionary
Birthdate: August 17, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died: May 16, 1975

 32 Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine
2
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: July 8, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: East Liberty, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 8, 1993

 33 Amelia Boynton Robinson

Amelia Boynton Robinson
2
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 18, 1911
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died: August 26, 2015

 34 Kenneth Bancroft Clark

Kenneth Bancroft Clark
2
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: July 14, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Panama Canal Zone, United States
Died: May 1, 2005

 35 Raymond St. Jacques

Raymond St. Jacques
2
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: August 27, 1990

 36 Whitney Young

Whitney Young
2
Famous As: Civil rights activist
Birthdate: July 31, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, United States
Died: March 11, 1971

 37 Roy Wilkins

Roy Wilkins
2
Famous As: Civil rights activist who was the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1964 to 1977
Birthdate: August 30, 1901
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: September 8, 1981

 38 Joseph Lowery

Joseph Lowery
2
Famous As: Former American minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the civil rights movement, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.
Birthdate: October 6, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Huntsville, Alabama, United States
Died: March 27, 2020

 39 Derrick Bell

Derrick Bell
2
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: November 6, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 5, 2011

 40 A. D. King

A. D. King
0
Famous As: Minister
Birthdate: July 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: July 21, 1969

 41 Roy Innis

Roy Innis
2
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: June 6, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saint Croix, United States Virgin Islands
Died: January 8, 2017

 42 Anna Julia Cooper

Anna Julia Cooper
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Famous As: Author, Educator
Birthdate: August 10, 1858
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Died: February 27, 1964

 43 Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell
2
Famous As: One of the first African-American women to earn a college degree
Birthdate: September 23, 1863
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: July 24, 1954

 44 C. Delores Tucker

C. Delores Tucker
2
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: October 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 12, 2005

 45 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.

 46 Robert Parris Moses

Robert Parris Moses
4
Famous As: Former Civil rights activist known for Freedom Summer, Algebra Project
Birthdate: January 23, 1935
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York City, United States
Died: July 25, 2021

 47 Florynce Kennedy

Florynce Kennedy
2
Famous As: Former activist for feminism and civil rights
Birthdate: February 11, 1916
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died: December 21, 2000

 48 Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima Poinsette Clark
2
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: May 3, 1898
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina
Died: December 15, 1987

 49 Autherine Lucy

Autherine Lucy
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Educator
Birthdate: October 5, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shiloh, Alabama, United States

 50 Minnijean Brown-Trickey

Minnijean Brown-Trickey
2
Famous As: Political leader, Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: September 11, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States