Civil Rights Activists

A civil rights activist is one who is actively or non-actively involved or participates in various rights of civil movements in a nation in order to facilitate equal opportunity to all the members in the society. A civil rights activist will campaign and work towards the protection and implementation of various civil rights like personal rights, entitlements, freedoms, civil liberties that a person is entitled to receive naturally by being a citizen of a particular nation. Some of the important civil rights include, right to equality, right to physical and mental integrity, protection from any kind of discrimination, rights to privacy among many other civil rights and liberties. A civil rights activist may be involved in various cases where there have been a breach of civil rights and , he /she may be involved in various kinds of campaigns, protests or demonstrations. Civil rights movement came into existence in the 1960’s, after the world witnessed a series of political movements. In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognized the concept of civil rights on a global level. Read on, for more information on the world’s famous civil rights activists, with their biographies that include trivia, interesting facts, timeline and life history.

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
Nationality: American
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
Nationality: American
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
Nationality: Ghanaian
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 Pauley Perrette

Pauley Perrette
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Famous As: Television Actress, Activist, Singer
Birthdate: March 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

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 Malcolm X

Malcolm X
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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.

 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
Nationality: American
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 Angela Davis

Angela Davis
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Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: January 26, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

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.

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 8 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
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Birthdate: January 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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.

 9 Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
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Famous As: American orator
Birthdate: February 1, 1818
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: February 20, 1895

Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.

 10 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 11 Coretta Scott King

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

 12 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
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.

 13 Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers
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Birthdate: July 2, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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

Marsha P. Johnson
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: August 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: July 6, 1992

 15 Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Carmichael
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Birthdate: June 29, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Guinean, Trinidadian, American
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.

 16 Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk
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Birthdate: May 22, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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.

 17 Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 16, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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.

 18 Lena Horne

Lena Horne
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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.

 19 Walter White

Walter White
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Famous As: American civil rights activist
Birthdate: July 1, 1893
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: 1955 AD

 20 Shaun King

Shaun King
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 17, 1979
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

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.

 21 Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott
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Famous As: Schoolteacher
Birthdate: May 27, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 22 Yolanda King

Yolanda King
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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. 

 23 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
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Famous As: Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: South African
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.

 24 Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson
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Famous As: Singer, Actor & Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: April 9, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 25 Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: September 12, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 26 Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 4, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: South African
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.

 27 Hines Ward

Hines Ward
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Famous As: American footballer
Birthdate: March 8, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American, South Korean

 28 Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: January 4, 1981
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 29 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
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Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist
Birthdate: November 12, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: October 26, 1902

 30 Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 27, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: June 11, 2014

 31 Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: September 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 32 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: November 17, 1992

 33 Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: September 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 34 Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 21, 1965
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Indian

 35 Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond
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Famous As: Businesswoman
Birthdate: July 6, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Canadian, American
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.

 36 William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison
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Famous As: Abolitionist
Birthdate: December 12, 1805
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: May 24, 1879

 37 Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: March 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: August 24, 1987

 38 Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker
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Famous As: Compiler of Almanacs
Birthdate: November 9, 1731
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: October 9, 1806

 39 Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: March 14, 1977

 40 Denise Nicholas

Denise Nicholas
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 41 James Meredith

James Meredith
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 25, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 42 Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
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Famous As: Politician & Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: November 29, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 4, 1972

 43 Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta
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Famous As: Trade unionist
Birthdate: April 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 44 Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune
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Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 18, 1955

 45 Barbara Jordan

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

 46 C. L. Franklin

C. L. Franklin
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Famous As: Baptist minister
Birthdate: January 22, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: July 27, 1984

 47 Wendell Willkie

Wendell Willkie
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: February 18, 1892
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: October 8, 1944

 48 Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: July 2, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: February 19, 2002

 49 William Kunstler

William Kunstler
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: July 7, 1919
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: September 4, 1995

 50 Alveda King

Alveda King
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 22, 1951
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
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