Social Activists

Social activists play a vital role in bringing about positive change in the society. Here is a list of famous social activists from all over the world. This list of famous social activists includes names like Ben Shapiro, Jeffrey Wright, Torrey DeVito, Mena Suvari, Bryan Stevenson and many more.

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 Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai
4
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: July 12, 1997
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mingora, Pakistan

Named to Time 100 thrice, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai exhibits phenomenal grit and inspires young girls everywhere. An assassination attempt by Islamic fundamentalists could not dampen her spirit, and she fought back with a bestselling memoir and won the Nobel Peace Prize as its youngest recipient, at 17.

 2 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
6
Famous As: Abolitionist and Political activist
Birthdate: February 29, 1822
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester County, Maryland, United States
Died: March 10, 1913

Born to parents who were bonded slaves, Harriet Tubman life was a difficult one from the very beginning. Yet with her remarkable courage and determination, she not only escaped slavery herself, but also led other enslaved people to freedom. The prominent political activist and abolitionist was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the American Civil War.

 3 Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony
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Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist
Birthdate: February 15, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Adams, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 13, 1906

Susan B. Anthony's vital role in the women's suffrage movement changed the course of history. She led one of the two national suffrage organizations, which later became the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Susan as its leading force. She also played an instrumental role in publishing The Revolution, a women's rights newspaper.

 4 Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu
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Famous As: Anti-Apartheid Activist, Theologian
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Died: December 26, 2021
Desmond Tutu is known for his anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa. The first black Archbishop of Cape Town, he has also been the Bishop of Johannesburg. His efforts to eradicate AIDS, poverty, anti-LGBT sentiments, and human rights violations earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 5 Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi
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Famous As: Child Rights Activist
Birthdate: January 11, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vidisha, India

Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian social reformer who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Satyarthi is best known for his campaign against child labor in India. Kailash Satyarthi is credited with founding several social activist organizations like Global March Against Child Labour, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, and Global Campaign for Education.

 6 Princess Diana

Princess Diana
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Famous As: Member of the British Royal Family
Birthdate: July 1, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sandringham, Norfolk, England
Died: August 31, 1997

The first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Diana was a member of the British royal family. As a princess, she became known for her unconventional approach to charity work. She was celebrated as a style icon and fashionista as well. She divorced Charles in 1996 and died in a tragic car accident the following year.

 7 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
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Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.

A dynamic talk and lifestyle television host, Karamo Brown is also a reality television personality, actor, author, and an award-winning activist. Beginning his career with a small role in The Princess Diaries, he later switched to television, making his mark with the MTV reality series The Real World: Philadelphia.  Also a published author, he has three titles to his credit.

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 8 Anna Hazare

Anna Hazare
3
Famous As: Social Activist
Birthdate: June 15, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India

Anna Hazare is an Indian social activist known for his efforts to improve rural places in India. His contribution to the development of Ralegan Siddhi earned him the Padma Bhushan in 1992. He is also known for his fight against corruption; he went on a hunger strike in 2011 to exert pressure on the government to enact an anti-corruption law.

 9 Marlo Thomas

Marlo Thomas
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 21, 1937
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, USA

 10 Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman
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Famous As: Anti-War Activist, Social activist
Birthdate: November 30, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 12, 1989

The co-founder of the Youth International Party, Abbie Hoffman was an American social and political activist. A popular exponent of the Flower Power movement, Abbie Hoffman played a major role in the events leading up to the violent confrontations with the cops during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He remains an iconic figure of the counterculture era.

 11 Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: May 5, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein is known for her criticism of corporate globalization and capitalism. She became internationally known following the release of her alter-globalization book No Logo. She often appears on global and national lists of top influential thinkers and is the recipient of the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize. She is a prominent environmentalist as well.

 12 Carroll O’Connor

Carroll O’Connor
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States
Died: June 21, 2001

Carroll O'Connor was an American actor, director, and producer. In a TV career that spanned 40 years, O'Connor popularized several fictional characters, including Archie Bunker from the sitcom All in the Family, for which he received four Emmy Awards. In 1996, he was ranked 38th on the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list published by TV Guide.

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 13 Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc
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Famous As: Former Vietnamese monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963
Birthdate: 1897 AD
Birthplace: Hội Khánh, Vietnam
Died: June 11, 1963

 14 Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: November 14, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Milton, Delaware, United States

Lawyer and social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson, is known for challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system. He advocates for the poor, fights for children’s rights, and condemns the death penalty. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He was honored with the Benjamin Franklin Award from the American Philosophical Society.

 15 Brene Brown

Brene Brown
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Famous As: Researcher
Birthdate: November 18, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

Apart from being a University of Houston research professor, Brene Brown has also been a successful author of New York Times bestsellers such as Braving the Wilderness, and a podcast host. She also has a lecture featured on Netflix, while her Ted Talk is one of the world’s top-five most-viewed. 

 16 Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 2, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Managua, Nicaragua

Bianca Jagger is a Nicaraguan social rights advocate. She is credited with founding the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, where she is currently serving as the chairperson. For her work as a humanitarian, Jagger has received several awards, including the Champion of Justice Award. A former actress, Jagger appeared in many movies and TV shows throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

 17 Bell Hooks

Bell Hooks
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Birthdate: September 25, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hopkinsville, Kentucky, United States
Died: December 15, 2021

 18 Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger was an American social activist and folk singer. Seeger believed that the power of music could bring about a social change, an ideology that reflected on his works. Through his music, Seeger expressed his support towards counterculture, civil rights, environmental rights, international disarmament, and workers rights.

 19 Betty Ford

Betty Ford
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Famous As: Former First Lady of the United States
Birthdate: April 8, 1918
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: July 8, 2011

Betty Ford served as the First Lady of the US from 1974 to 1977. One of the most popular First Ladies in history, Ford was a passionate supporter of abortion rights and worked towards raising breast cancer awareness. She commented on topics like sex, drugs, abortion, and equal pay. In 1991, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 20 Melissa Mathison

Melissa Mathison
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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.

 21 Arlyn Phoenix

Arlyn Phoenix
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Famous As: Social activist
Birthdate: December 31, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Arlyn Phoenix, or Heart Phoenix, is the mother of actor Joaquin Phoenix. Her other son, River Phoenix, died of a drug overdose. Her three other children are also actors. She and her first husband were members of the cult The Children of God. She is now a renowned peace activist.

 22 Columba Bush

Columba Bush
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Famous As: Philanthropist
Birthdate: August 17, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: León

Columba Bush is a Mexican-American philanthropist who started hogging the limelight after marrying American politician Jeb Bush. From 1999 to 2007, she served as First Lady of Florida and used her platform to deal with issues, such as substance abuse and domestic violence. She has also been active in advocating the artworks of artists like Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo.

 23 Chirlane McCray

Chirlane McCray
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Famous As: Writer, Social Activist
Birthdate: November 29, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

 24 David Bale

David Bale
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Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: September 2, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: December 30, 2003

David Bale was an English entrepreneur and animal rights activist. He worked closely with The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which aims at protecting endangered mountain gorillas, and served as one of its board members. Apart from his work as an activist for animal rights and environmental causes, David Bale is also known as the father of actor Christian Bale.

 25 Abigail Disney

Abigail Disney
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: January 24, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 26 Denise Nicholas

Denise Nicholas
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 27 Betty DeGeneres

Betty DeGeneres
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Famous As: Speech Therapist
Birthdate: May 20, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

 28 Sheryl Lee Ralph

Sheryl Lee Ralph
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Waterbury, Connecticut, USA

 29 Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai
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Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: April 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ihithe, Kenya
Died: September 25, 2011

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental, social, and political activist. She achieved popularity after becoming the first African woman to be honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She is credited with founding a non-governmental organization called The Green Belt Movement (GBM), which focuses on women's rights and environmental conservation.

 30 Daniel Franzese

Daniel Franzese
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 9, 1978
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, USA

 31 Billy Barty

Billy Barty
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 25, 1924
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Millsboro, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: December 23, 2000

 32 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

 33 Anjem Choudary

Anjem Choudary
3
Famous As: Islamist, Political Activist
Birthdate: January 18, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England

 34 Carter Woodson

Carter Woodson
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 19, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Canton, Virginia, United States
Died: April 3, 1950

Historian Carter Woodson was is remembered for pioneering Black studies in schools and colleges. He began the Negro History Week, which is now celebrated as the Black History Month. Poverty had pushed him to work in the coal mines initially, and he couldn’t join high school before 20.

 35 Robin Cavendish

Robin Cavendish
3
Famous As: Advocate
Birthdate: March 12, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Derbyshire, England, UK
Died: August 8, 1994

Robin Cavendish was an English medical aid developer and advocate for disabled people. He is credited with aiding the development of medical devices aimed at providing independence to paralyzed people. One of Britain's longest-lived responauts, Cavendish was given three months to live at the age of 28. He lived for 64 years and his story inspired the 2017 film Breathe.

 36 Roger Casement

Roger Casement
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Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: September 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sandycove, Ireland
Died: August 3, 1916

Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist and diplomat. Also a well-known humanitarian activist, Casement is remembered for the Casement Report, a 1904 document in which he wrote about the abuses in the Congo Free State. His investigations of human rights abuses earned him a knighthood in 1911. However, Casement was stripped of his knighthood after being charged with high treason.

 37 Mary Williams

Mary Williams
3
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: October 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra

 38 Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen
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Famous As: Co-founder of the Gulen movement, popular particularly in Turkey
Birthdate: April 27, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pasinler, Erzurum, Turkey

 39 Manisha Koirala

Manisha Koirala
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 16, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kathmandu, Nepal

Manisha Koirala is a Nepalese actress known for her work in Indian films. One of the most critically acclaimed actresses of the 1990s, Koirala has won several prestigious awards. She is also known for her social activism and is credited with promoting women's rights. Her achievements in films and off-screen work have made her one of the most recognized Nepalis.

 40 Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: October 9, 1823
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Died: June 5, 1893

The first North American Black woman to publish a newspaper, USA-born Mary Ann Shadd was the founder of the Canadian newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. Concurrently serving as its anonymous editor and contributor, she also became one of the first women to pursue journalism in Canada. She was also one of the first Black women to earn a degree in law.

 41 Boots Riley

Boots Riley
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 1, 1971
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

 42 Lauren Parsekian

Lauren Parsekian
3
Famous As: Director, Activist, Actress
Birthdate: December 8, 1986
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Orange County, California

 43 Amala Akkineni

Amala Akkineni
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 12, 1967
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Apart from being a fine actor, Amala Akkineni is also a talented Bharatnatyam dancer. A true animal lover, she has also co-established the NGO Blue Cross of Hyderabad. She gained recognition with her debut in Mythili Ennai Kaathali. She is now married to legendary actor Nagarjuna.

 44 Julian Bond

Julian Bond
3
Famous As: Social Activist
Birthdate: January 14, 1940
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 15, 2015

 45 K'naan

K'naan
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 30, 1978
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mogadishu, Banaadir, Somalia

K'naan is the stage name of Keinan Abdi Warsame, a Somali Canadian rapper, singer-songwriter, and instrumentalist. He rose to fame when his single Wavin' Flag was chosen as Coca-Cola's promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He is committed to his Somali roots and is considered a spokesperson for the Toronto Somali community. 

 46 Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie
3
Famous As: Model
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Galkayo, Somalia

Somali model, writer, and women’s rights activist Waris Dirie is best known for her advocacy against female genital mutilation through the Desert Flower Foundation. Born into a poor nomadic family, she ran away at 13 to avoid marriage and then worked as a maid in London, before gaining a modeling contract.

 47 Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 10, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Olympia, Washington, United States
Died: March 16, 2003

Crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli armored bulldozer, peace activist Rachel Corrie was also a member of pro-Palestine International Solidarity Movement. Born and raised in USA, she had gone there as part of her college assignment and met her death while trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses by Israeli forces, causing international furore.

 48 Gautami

Gautami
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 2, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nidadavole, Andhra Pradesh, India

A prominent actor of Tamil and Telugu films, Gautami also found success as a TV host and a costume designer. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, she later recovered and launched Life Again Foundation, geared toward helping cancer patients. She was in a 13-year live-in relationship with actor Kamal Haasan.

 49 Henry Dunant

Henry Dunant
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Famous As: Co-Founder of the Red Cross
Birthdate: May 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: October 30, 1910

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.

 50 Sadako Sasaki

Sadako Sasaki
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Birthdate: January 7, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kusunoki, Yamaguchi, Japan
Died: October 25, 1955

At age 2, Sadako Sasaki survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, being just 2km away from the bombing site. However, years later, she developed leukemia, as an aftermath of the bombing. While in hospital, battling the terminal disease, she folded over 1,000 origami cranes, in the hope of getting better.