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.
Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist who displayed extraordinary dedication and courage to save the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler's act is viewed by many as the kind of act that restores faith in humanity. His inspirational and heart-warming story was adapted into an Oscar-winning film titled Schindler's List.
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.
Nicholas Winton was a British humanitarian and banker best remembered for founding an organization to save children at risk from Czechoslovakia. He is credited with overseeing the rescue of 669 children from Czechoslovakia just before the commencement of the Second World War. This rescue mission came to be known as the Czech Kindertransport.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was a Pakistani ascetic, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is credited with founding the Edhi Foundation, which operates a volunteer ambulance network as well as several animal shelters, orphanages, homeless shelters, and rehabilitation centres across Pakistan. He was often nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize during his lifetime.
Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese activist, literary critic, and philosopher. He is best remembered for organizing campaigns that aimed at ending the one-party rule in China. He was honored with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be honored with a Nobel Prize while residing in China.
Andrei Sakharov was a Russian dissident and nuclear physicist best remembered for designing RDS-37, Soviet Union's first two-stage hydrogen bomb. Also an activist for peace and human rights, Andrei Sakharov was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded by the European Parliament, is named in his honor.
Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman, social activist, and humanitarian. He is credited with co-founding and promoting the Red Cross. In 1901, he became the first Swiss Nobel laureate when he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Dunant is also credited with founding the Swiss branch of YMCA. His life inspired the 1948 historical drama film, Man to Men.
As a young boy, Maajid Nawaz had frequent clashes with the skinheads of Essex. Born in England, the SOAS and LSE alumnus had a 4-year stint in an Egyptian jail for his association with the Islamic extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. He now promotes secular Islam and has also advised David Cameron.
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.
At age 12, Craig Kielburger and his brother read about a child laborer of his age who was murdered in Pakistan for protesting against child labor in his country, and the duo immediately stepped into action. Their organization Free the Children led to the formation of the WE Movement.
Vinoba Bhave was an Indian social reformer and advocate of human rights and nonviolence. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave played an important role in the Indian freedom movement. In 1958, he became the first person to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, Vinoba Bhave was posthumously honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.
Reza Pahlavi is the oldest son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, and his wife Farah Diba. He was the crown prince before the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979. He is the founder of the self-styled National Council of Iran and a prominent critic of Iran's Islamic Republic government.
Vladimir Bukovsky was a Russian-born British writer and human rights activist. An important member of the Soviet dissident movement, Bukovsky spent 12 years in prisons, psychiatric prison-hospitals, and labor camps of the Soviet Union. A neurophysiologist, Bukovsky is celebrated for his efforts to expose Soviet Union's political abuse of psychiatry. In 2001, he was awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
A well-known human rights activist, Natan Sharansky not just campaigned for the rights of the Jews and spent 9 years in a prison in Siberia, but was also a chess prodigy, who was a champion at age 14. He has also penned books and won multiple awards.
Granville Sharp was an activist who became one of the first English campaigners to support abolitionism in the UK. Sharp devised a plan to settle people in slavery and black people in Sierra Leone. He also established the St George's Bay Company and is thus considered a founding father of Sierra Leone. Sharp also worked towards correcting other social injustices.
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.
Serge Klarsfeld is a Romanian-born French Nazi hunter and activist. He is best known for recording the Holocaust in order to enable the trial and prosecution of war criminals. Klarsfeld is also renowned for his efforts to commemorate the victims of German-occupied France.
Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari is also a human rights activist and an Emmy-winning filmmaker. He has won honors such as the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award. His book Then They Came for Me was a bestseller, while he has made films such as And Along Came a Spider, mirroring Iran’s society.
Peter Benenson was a British human rights activist and lawyer. He is credited with establishing the popular human rights group and an international non-governmental organization Amnesty International (AI). In 2001, Peter Benenson agreed to receive the prestigious Pride of Britain Award after refusing to accept all honors throughout his career.
Apart from teaching law at McGill University, Irwin Cotler has also been a Canadian MP for Mount Royal, the Minister of Justice, and the Attorney General of Canada. He has gained fame as a global human rights lawyer, too, serving as a counsel to prominent political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela.
Ruhollah Zam was an Iranian journalist and activist remembered for founding and operating Amadnews, a popular Telegram channel. During the 2017–2018 Iranian protests, he played an important role by running an anti-government forum which the officials claimed incited the protests. Charged with "corruption on earth," Ruhollah Zam was sentenced to death and executed in 2020 at the age of 42.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is an Argentine activist, community organizer, writer, painter, and sculptor. He actively opposed Argentina's last civil-military dictatorship in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which he was subjected to much torture. He was awarded the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for his bravery. He is also a recipient of the Pope John XXIII Peace Memorial.
Chinese-born American human rights activist Harry Wu spent almost 2 decades in Chinese labor camps. His criticism of the Soviet invasion of Hungary led him to be imprisoned. He later conducted research at the Hoover Institution, established the Laogai Research Foundation, and also penned a couple of books.
Hussein-Ali Montazeri was an Iranian Shia Islamic democracy advocate, theologian, human rights activist, and writer. An influential leader of the Iranian Revolution, Montazeri was expected to succeed the revolution's Supreme Leader Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini before having a fall out with the latter which cost him the position of the supreme leader. Hussein-Ali Montazeri is still revered in Iran.
Chinese astrophysicist and activist Fang Lizhi inspired the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The dissident was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for his activities, but that didn’t stop his research, which took him to institutes in the US and Great Britain. He also taught at the University of Arizona.