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Courageous Civil Rights Movement Activists: From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights movement activists, leaders, and history

Join us as we give a brief rundown of the most influential American civil rights movement activists of all time.

The civil rights movement struggled for African American equality and justice that occurred in the United States. It started in the 1950s and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

During slavery, African Americans were not allowed to be citizens, and this was demonstrated in many ways. African Americans were not allowed to vote or serve on juries. They would also have very restricted access to public education. This is also evidenced by the fact that there were no schools for black children during this period of time. Black people would also face discrimination in employment opportunities and their ability to buy or rent property freely.

There was a lot of opposition to the civil rights movement activists. While some African Americans were for it, many more did not, and even violent acts were committed against those who supported the movement. One of these violent acts involved the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi in 1963. Another event that happened before 1965 is known as “Bloody Sunday.” This occurred in Selma in Alabama when peaceful protesters attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery.

Police officers violently attacked them on horseback. This resulted in national outrage and led to bigger demonstrations across the country, which eventually led to legislation being passed for civil rights reform (a good thing). Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played a big role, and his speeches and writings about the movement were highly influential.

Civil rights movement activists were successful in that many laws were passed to protect African Americans from unfair treatment after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although equality has still not been reached for all races and ethnicities, it can be agreed that this period of time was a major step towards establishing this equal right as promised by our constitution. As we continue today, the Civil Rights Movement is over 50 years old, and I think it would be safe to say that if there are students in high school now, they have never grown up under Jim Crow Laws or had their right to vote denied.

In the 19th century, American Civil War had officially terminated slavery.

But, it could not end racial discrimination as the Jim Crow Laws were enacted. The laws endorsed an oppressive racial hierarchy in Southern states and deprived the Blacks of civil rights. They were not allowed to enjoy the same rights, educational, and job opportunities as Whites.

Blacks continued to suffer until the mid-20th century, when they finally decided to square off against the repression. In the 1950s when civil rights activists started an organized campaign named the “Civil Rights movement.” The purpose was to confront racial inequalities and protect African Americans’ rights in the United States.

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Within a short time, the non-violent movement involved the masses across the nation.

People stood up against social, political, and cultural discrimination. They forced the authorities to approve legislation to protect the Blacks from being segregated by race in the Southern States.

When we think of civil rights activists, Dr. Martin Luther King comes to mind. However, he wasn’t alone in striving to end racial oppression in the United States. There were many courageous men and women whose names could never be forgotten.

They stood firm against the Black’s oppression. They helped approving legislation that ended discrimination in public facilities and employment.

civil rights movement activists

The most famous and important civil rights movement activists

1.  Martin Luther King:

Martin Luther King, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was an instrumental figure in the Civil rights movement. As a Baptist minister, he advocated non-violent civil protests and emerged as the Montgomery bus boycott leader and Washington’s March.

During the 1963 march, he delivered his legendary speech “I Have a Dream.” In which he demanded to end racial discrimination against Blacks and granting them civil and economic rights.

He was one of the important figures in the 20th-century American civil rights movement as his movement helped passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act banned discrimination based on race, religion, and color.

2.  Rosa Parks:

 Rosa Parks, “the mother of the civil rights movement,” started the civil rights movement in America. She was the first to deny giving up her seat to a white man on Alabama’s Montgomery bus. Her action instigated other Black leaders, who organized Montgomery Bus Boycott in mid -20th century. 

The boycott gained momentum and involved more than 17,000 Black people after the Perks arrest. Despite facing hardships and receiving death threats, she continued to resist. As s result of her continuous struggle, Supreme Court rulings ordered the city to desegregate its buses in 1956.

3.  Malcolm X:

Malcolm X was one of the most inspiring Civil rights movement activists. Unlike the Kings’ peaceful strategy, X preferred a violent version to incite people against racism and inequality. 

Throughout the movement, he motivated Blacks through his oratory skills to defend themselves “by any means necessary.” As a supporter of black nationalism, he preached the complete separation of Blacks from whites. He believed that Blacks were god’s chosen and returning to Africa is the only solution to escape the White’s oppression.

4.  Bayard Rustin:

Bayard Rustin was a leading activist in early civil rights protests. As a close adviser and companion of MLK, he played an integral role in organizing Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 Washington march. Rustin suggested King about practicing Gandhi’s tactics of peaceful civil obedience to resist racial segregation. 

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He recognized King’s leadership and facilitated organizing the South Christian leadership Conference. As a gay, he openly advocated for LGBT rights in the United States. He also faced two months’ conviction for his active involvement in an alternative lifestyle.

5.  James farmer:

James farmer was one of the prominent non-violent civil rights activists who proved to be a razor’s edge in powering the campaign. Being a leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, Farmer played his role in ratifying the US’s Civil Rights and Voting Rights act. 

In 1961, he organized the Freedom Rides to desegregate the busing. The movement swept across the nation like a bushfire. Farmer’s campaign did not just involve Black; it mobilized Whites, resulting in serious demonstrations. As a result of substantial public pressure, Attorney general Robert Kennedy decided to terminate busing segregation.

6.  Hosea Williams:

Hosea Williams was one of the aggressive but peaceful civil rights movement activists. After being beaten for drinking water from a fountain reserved for whites only, he became a civil rights movement.

He was a legendary figure who used his remarkable ability to organize demonstrations to mobilize people. As a preacher of King people’s Church of Love, Hosea motivated the people and helped King organize the 1965 march. Despite being arrested 125 times, he did not give up his fight for freedom.

7.  Roy Wilkins:

Roy Wilkins is often regarded as the senior statesman of the American Civil Rights movement. He was a Black American activist who led the country as the NAACP executive director during the civil rights movement. He played a pivotal role in major achievements of the campaign, including the passage of the Civil Rights act 1964 and the Voting Act 1965. 

Wilkins struggled to transform the system through legislation. Wilkins forced the US Supreme Court to overturn the concept of “separate but equal” schools for Black Americans and Whites. He paved the path for desegregation in American schools.

8.  Coretta Scott King:

Coretta Scott King was Martin Luther King’s wife, who joined the civil rights movement in 1955. Like the other activist, she was a leading participant in the Montgomery bus boycott and struggled to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Coretta continued to advocate civil rights even after King’s assassination. She traveled throughout the world, supporting women’s rights, lesbian dignity, economic justice, and racial desegregation.

These are just a few examples of the most enigmatic American Civil rights movement activists. They changed the fate of Blacks by leading mass protests for their freedom and rights protection.

Do you have any such influential names in mind? If yes, feel free to share in the comments section.

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