The struggle for racial equality in the US has a long and complicated history. In this process, hundreds of men and women risked their lives to fight discrimination and racism. Especially the civil rights movement of the 1960s produced many great leaders such as Martin Luther King and John Lewis. In our article, which we have prepared on the basis of this, we have listed black activists who have fought throughout their lives to achieve racial equality. Here are world famous activists…
1. Ida B. Wells
Born a slave in 1862, Ida B. Wells spent most of her life fighting for civil rights and educational inequality. A dramatic event that happened to him while traveling by train at the age of 22, in fact, radically changed the course of Wells’ life. Ida B. Wells, who had bought a train ticket to the women’s first class section, was asked to be removed from a seat on the train for which she had paid. When he refused, he was forced to get off the train. Although he sued after the incident and won a $500 settlement, the Tennessee Supreme Court will take that win away from him in the future.
Ida B. Wells was a journalist who, for the first time in American history, worked to count, investigate, and report on lynchings in America. He visited places where people were hanged, shot, or beaten, photographed the victims, followed the local news, and sometimes hired a private detective to try to shed light on the facts. It was a very daring task when women couldn’t even vote.
Wells, who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Blacks (NAACP), also fought for women’s suffrage. Wells, who has worked for many years to show that racial and gender discrimination are connected, worked on this issue with Susan B. Anthony.
2. Web Dubois
William Edward Burghardt Dubois, also known as Web Dubois, was a pioneer of the Niagara Movement and also the first black person to receive a doctorate from Harvard University. Calling for greater political representation for all blacks throughout her life, Web Dubois fought tirelessly for black employment and educational equality.
Bois, who also worked in the Pan-Africanist movement, which arose from the idea that people of African descent should work together to achieve independence, was vice-president of the first Pan-Africanist conference held in London in 1900. He was also instrumental in organizing the next four conferences. He is also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Blacks (NAAPC) and chaired the Department of Sociology at Atlanta University in the 1930s.
3. A. Philip Randolph
Born in Florida in 1889, Randolph was initially inspired by Bois in his fight for racial equality. Philip Randolph, who joined the Socialist Party at the age of 21, encouraged blacks to join labor unions formed by white workers, arguing that there should be solidarity between black and white workers in The Messenger magazine, which he began publishing. publish in 1917. Organizing sleeper workers, mostly blacks, Randolph founded and led the Sleeper Workers Union in 1925. As a result of Randolph’s efforts, the railroad company, which did not recognize the union originally formed, was forced to sign a contract that reduced hours and increased wages. This is very important as this is the first contract signed between a white employer and a black union.
By 1941, he declared that the March on Washington should be organized because blacks did not work in the defense industry. However, the march was abandoned after President Roosevelt banned segregation in the defense industry. He also very much wanted to end discrimination in the army, and for this he founded the Union of Peaceful Resistance to Discrimination in the Army. This initiative led the president to pass an executive order banning discrimination in the military.
4. Ella Baker
While Ella Baker’s name isn’t as popular as the others on the list, she played an important role in the civil rights movement. He began working with local NAACP chapters in 1940. Here he first took the position of field secretary, and then branch manager. He was influenced by the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and founded Friendship, which raises funds to fight Jim Crow laws. Two years later, he moved to Atlanta to help Martin Luther King organize the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Baker, who did a number of works to increase the number of African American voters, was also an important source of inspiration for students of African descent to become activists.
5. Dorothy Hight
After 40 years as chairman of the National Council of Black Women (NCNW), Dorothy Hight has become one of the leading advocates for black women. She is also one of the first activists to believe that women’s rights and African American rights should be seen as the same issues, not separate ones. Introduced to activism when she was still young, Hite continued to fight social injustice despite her initial setback. He founded the Center for Racial Justice in 1965 and directed it until 1977. In 1970, she opened the Center for Women’s Education and Career Development, which helps women find jobs. Hite passed away in 2010 at the age of 98. During the funeral, Barack Obama called him “the godmother of the civil rights movement and a hero to many Americans.”
6. James Farmer
James Farmer was born in Texas in 1920 and founded the Chicago Committee on Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942. The mission of this organization was to eliminate discrimination by non-violent means. The agency, which organized a massive sit-in at segregated restaurants, has also put legal pressure on businesses that have imposed quarantines. He was also one of the civil rights activists who traveled to South America on interstate buses after failing to comply with US Supreme Court rulings. One of the organizers of the first Freedom Ride, Farmer is considered one of the “big six” of the civil rights movement.
7. Whitney Young
Whitney Young, a World War II veteran, used her job as a social worker to mediate race relations. For 10 years he worked as the executive director of the National Urban League. During this time, he transformed the organization, which also had white members, into a leading voice in the civil rights movement. He was also a close adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Unafraid of backlash, Whitney Young organized the March on Washington over the objections of large white-owned companies.
8 Malcolm X
Malcolm X, one of the most important human rights activists of the 20th century, fought all his life for black empowerment and independence. Its goal was for blacks to have the same basic rights and freedoms as white citizens. While he fought for this goal, he never came out with racist rhetoric or anti-white actions. Thinking blacks should have their own land, Malcolm X took the name Malik El-Shahbaz after he became a Muslim. Malik al-Shabazz, who over time became an important role model for Muslims, was killed by a gunman who was approached by a gunman while addressing the public, on February 15, 1965.
9. Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King was one of the prominent figures in the American civil rights movement. As a Baptist pastor and activist, he believed in nonviolent protest. King, who led the Montgomery bus rally in 1955, is also the founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also organized the March on Washington. He also gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the march in Washington. Martin Luther King, who devoted his life to the struggle for the basic rights and freedoms of blacks, died on April 4, 1968 as a result of a murder in the motel where he was staying.
10. Claudette Colvin
Exactly nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for the same reason. This event actually sparked the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Colvin later testified in court in the Browder-Gale case, which aims to challenge bus segregation in the city. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision that bus segregation was unconstitutional. Thus, thanks to the strenuous efforts of Claudette Colvin, racial discrimination on buses in Alabama was brought to an end.
11. Julian Bond
While at Morehouse College, Julian Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As director of public relations for SNCC from 1961 to 1966, he traveled throughout the South, planning civil rights protests and editing voter registration. He later founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, which brought legal cases against white supremacists. After serving in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Assembly for a total of 20 years, Bond also served as president of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010.
12. John Lewis
John Lewis, one of the activists known as the Big Six, including Martin Luther King, was introduced to activism as a child during sit-ins for black rights and freedoms. Leading the Freedom Ride and Montgomery marches, Lewis fought against discrimination at the cost of his life and spent most of his life fighting for equal rights and freedoms. Awarded the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011, John died in 2020 from pancreatic cancer.
13. Tarana Burke
Born in New York in 1973, Tarana Burke is the founder of the #MeToo movement, which encourages women to speak up in the face of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Women who have shared their cases of harassment on Twitter with the #MeToo hashtag have made headlines around the world. After some time, this movement was supported by such famous names as Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow. Chosen by Time magazine as Person of the Year in 2017, Burke now serves as Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equality, helping young black women develop personally.
14. Nekima Levi Armstrong
Nekima Armstrong, an American human rights activist and lawyer, has been a nationally prominent figure, especially since the killing of George Floyd. He was President of the Minneapolis NAACP from 2015 to 2016. Since 2014, he has participated in many protests for basic black rights and freedoms. He is also the founder of the Racial Justice Network, an organization dedicated to building bridges across racial, social, and economic boundaries.
15. Abraham X. Own
Ibrahim Kendi is a historian, writer, and activist, author of How to Be an Anti-Racist. He is also director of the Boston University Center for Anti-Racist Research and in 2021 founded The Emancipator, an online racial justice magazine.
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