CultureMost Famous African American Civil Rights Activists

Most Famous African American Civil Rights Activists


The fight for equality is not over. In fact, there are many examples of how the battle for equal rights continues to rage on in 2018. While much progress has been made with regard to ending discrimination against African Americans and other minorities, there are still people working tirelessly to ensure their voices are heard, and their rights are protected. We all know about Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman, but what about so many others who have risked everything to change the world and make it a better place? Although there are many notable figures who have paved the way for today’s activists, most people don’t know much about them or their contributions. These brave men and women fought tirelessly to end discrimination against blacks and other minorities, combat injustice and inequality, advance education, support the rights of organized labor, and promote societal transformation. Their work continues to inspire us all today.

What are Civil Rights?

Civil rights are the basic rights to which all humans are entitled. The term refers to both the society-wide expectations of how people should be treated and the actual rights granted to individuals by society’s laws. The concept of civil rights is interrelated with the concept of equality. However, there is a difference between the two terms. Equality is the state or condition of being equal, while rights are the freedoms that an individual should possess as a member of a society. The rights that people in a given society are entitled to, and the manner in which they are treated by the government, varies from one society to another. The rights and the manner in which people are treated depend on the type of government in the society and the nature of the society itself. The rights that are guaranteed in one society may not be applicable in another. The rights and the manner in which people are treated also evolve over time as the society changes and develops.

John Henrik Clarke

Born in 1931 in Harlem, New York City, John Henrik Clarke was a prolific writer and historian who authored dozens of books (many of which are listed below). He taught at various universities, including Cornell, Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers, and Yale, and was the first African to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Copenhagen. Clarke was the founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York City, and he also served as director of the West African/Caribbean Working People’s Institute. He fought against racism and poverty, and dedicated his work to preserving the history of African and Caribbean people, as well as the history of labor and the working class. He died in February 2002 at the age of 71.

Rosa Parks

Most Famous African American Civil Rights Activists

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who was born in February 1913. She was the first black woman to be arrested for challenging racial segregation on public transportation. Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a year-long protest that led to the desegregation of the bus system. Parks worked as an activist throughout her life, becoming a member of the NAACP at the age of 15 and serving as the organization’s vice president from 1957 to 1965. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1996 and died in 2005 at the age of 92.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis was a scholar, educator, and activist, who was born in 1944 in Florida. She devoted her life to fighting against racism and the oppression of black people. She worked with the Black Panther Party, where she assisted in the free breakfast program for children. Davis was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy in the death of a judge in California. She was tried and acquitted after eight months in court. Davis became the first black woman to be hired by the University of California at Los Angeles, and she served there as a professor of philosophy. She was also awarded the Medal of Liberation by the Cuban Council of Artists and Writers. Davis is the author of several books and articles.

Julian Bond

Julian Bond was a writer, historian, professor, and active political figure, who devoted his life to the fight against racism and segregation. He co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s and became its communications director. Bond served as president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and was appointed to the NAACP board of directors in 1999. He was the chairman emeritus of the NAACP. Bond authored several books and articles, and he was the editor of the Oxford Companion to African American Literature. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 75.

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an activist and journalist who was born in 1862. She was a speaker and writer in the African American community, and she was one of the first women to fight against racism in the U.S. Held in the Jim Crow South, Wells confronted the lynchings of African Americans and the oppressive system of segregation. She was a strong advocate of black women’s rights, and she founded the National Association of Colored Women. She was the editor of the newspaper Free Speech and was instrumental in the passing of the 1891 Civil Rights Act. She was also the founder of the Anti-Lynching League, a human rights activist, and a teacher. Wells passed away in 1931 at the age of 69.

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey was an activist, writer, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), which promoted the social, economic and political empowerment of people of African descent. Garvey advocated the return of African Americans to their ancestral lands. He also promoted Black pride and self-worth, as well as political and economic independence. Garvey was an influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic and literary movement which started around the 1920s. He was imprisoned in the United States between November 1925 and August 1927 for misappropriation of union funds. He died in London in June 1940 at the age of 52.

Huey P. Newton

Huey P. Newton was a political activist who was born in February 1942. He co-founded the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1966. The BPP used militant methods to protest against police brutality, racial discrimination, and poverty in the African American community. Garvey was charged with murder in 1968 but was cleared of all charges in 1979. He was shot and killed in 1989 at the age of 47.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who was born in January 1929. He led the non-violent civil rights movement, which involved peaceful protests and demonstrations. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination. He is remembered as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, and his birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday in the U.S. King was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39 by James Earl Ray while he was standing on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur was a human rights activist and writer, who was born in July 1947. She co-founded the Black Liberation Army (BLA). The BLA was a militant organization that fought against racism, police brutality, and economic inequality. Shakur was charged with the murder of two police officers in the 1970s but was acquitted in two separate trials. She escaped from prison in 1979 and went into hiding. Shakur was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list in 2005 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is offering a reward of $1 million for information leading to her arrest. Shakur is listed as one of the New York Times’ “100 Most Influential Women of the 20th Century.”


The civil rights movement was a broad effort by African Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights as citizens, including the right to vote. The movement began in the mid-19th century and continued to gain strength in the 20th century, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, African Americans protested racial discrimination by Southern states. They challenged segregation in public schools, voting rights discrimination and job discrimination. They also worked to end racial discrimination in housing and the criminal justice system. The movement was successful in some areas, but there is still more progress that

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Kim is an 80s wild child. She loves to write on all things culture related. Kim enjoys watching TV shows such as The A Team. Kim started her writing career with a Bachelor of Journalism and Communication from Rowan University in New Jersey. Over the years, Kim has written for a variety of publications on world-topics. She’s married and shares 2 kids with her husband. They make their home in Irvine, California, where they enjoy camping trips along the coast.


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