A. P. Randolph
Labor Union Leader & civil rights activist. He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful Black led labor union. His work was a major influence on the passage of the Fair Employment Act. A major strategist in the Civil Rights Movement and was one of the leaders of the march on Washington in 1963. Awarded the presidential medal of freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Andrew Young, Jr.
Politician, diplomat, and activist. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960 working in Birmingham and later became its executive director in 1964. As a politician, he served as the representative from Georgia’s 5th district then as the nation’s 14th ambassador to the United Nations. He also served as the 55th Mayor of Atlanta. His work has earned him a Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as France’s Légion d’honneur.
Activist, civil rights leader & politician. While a student at Morehouse he helped cofound the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and led student protests across the south. He also co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), served as its president until 1979 and remained on the board until his death. After a notorious fight to take his seat, he was a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives & Senate for a total of 20 years. Later he became a professor and then served as chairman of the NAACP.
Vernon Jordan, Jr.
Business executive and Civil Rights activist. Started his civil rights career as a lawyer and filed a suit with Constance Baker Motley against the University of Georgia for racial discrimination in admissions. He went on to become the Field Director of the Georgia NAACP before moving to the Southern Regional Council and the Voter Education Project. He was the Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund as well as the President of the National Urban League. He was also a close advisor to President Bill Clinton.
Marian Wright Edelman
Civil and children’s rights activist. She was the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and began practicing with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She also contributed to the organizing of the Poor People’s Campaign. As the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, she advocated for changes to the US foster care system & for adoption support, improvements to childcare and protections for children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected.
Key Civil Right strategist. Worked with A. Philip Randolph to plan the March on Washington. Organized Freedom Rides as well as a group called “In Friendship”. In Friendship provided material and legal help to those being evicted from tenant farms. He also went on numerous global humanitarian missions. He advocated for many causes, ranging from civil rights to anti-war pacifism, labor rights, and later in the 1980s, gay rights.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Civil Rights leader and activist. She led voting drives and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. As field secretary for SNCC she spearheaded voter registration drives and relief efforts, but her efforts often left her in harm's way; during her career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten and shot at. She also coined the phrase “Mississippi appendectomy” for the routine practice by the state of forced hysterectomies on poor black women. Of which she was a victim. Even as her health failed, she never retired from her activism work.
Politician and educator. Starting in local Brooklyn politics and later New York State legislature, she became the first Black woman elected to congress, representing New York’s 12th district. During her time in congress, she was critical in the creation of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). She was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1972 she ran for president, making her the first Black person to ever do so and the first woman to seek the office as a Democrat.
Civil and women’s rights activist. one of the most influential women in the modern civil rights movement. In the 1930s she was an anti-lynching and criminal justice reform activist. Served as President of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. While a notable speaker herself, she was not called upon to speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She served as one of the chief organizers, becoming a key part in the demonstration's success. Height also acted as an ambassador for the lone women's organization during the event.
Educator and activist, widow of Malcolm X. She became a college professor at Medgar Evers College. She also lectured occasionally, addressing such topics as civil rights and racial tolerance. She worked as a university administrator and fundraiser until her death
Civil Rights Activist. Considered one of the “Big Six”. As co-founder and leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) he helped shape the civil rights movement. Organizing the first Freedom Rides, which broadened popular support for passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. He later served as Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) under President Richard M. Nixon.
Journalist and Civil Rights activist. Replaced W.E.B Du Bois as editor of The Crisis and served as executive director of the NAACP for 22 years. He co-founded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). LCCR has become the premier civil rights coalition and has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957. Later in life Wilkins was frequently referred to as the 'Senior Statesman' of the Civil Rights Movement.
Civil Rights Activist. Served for 10 years as head of the National Urban League. Under his direction the organization grew from 60 to 98 chapters and shifted its focus from middle-class concerns to the needs of the urban poor. He was particularly credited with almost singlehandedly persuading corporate America and major foundations to aid the civil rights movement through financial contributions.
Theologian and civil rights leader. After studying the Quaker tradition to cultivate one’s interior life and relationship with God, he met Mohandas Gandhi in 1934 and learned from him as well. These influences led Thurman to wed nonviolent civil resistance and a deeply religious sense of protest. In his sermons and in his classes, he inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., and other students committed to social justice who would participate in the civil rights movement.
Community leader and academic. He served initially as superintendent of Flint-Goodridge Hospital and used his position to address the community needs of Black New Orleanians such as maternal health disparities, tuberculosis and syphilis which were endemic at the time. He also introduced a “penny a day” hospital insurance plan that became a prototype for low-cost health insurance. Later, as president of Dillard University he worked to expand the university and saw enrollment grow from 300 in 1941 to over 1,100 in 1969. He also leveraged his reputation for fundraising into being part of the committee that formed the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
Prolific playwright, essayist, and novelist. Never wanting to be a spokesperson or a leader, Baldwin saw his personal mission as bearing "witness to the truth." He accomplished this mission through his extensive literary legacy. His works covered race, class, sexuality, and spirituality receiving acclaim across America as well as Western Europe.
Heavyweight boxer. Two of Louis’s most famous fights were those with the German boxer Max Schmeling as they carried nationalist and racial implications. Schmeling was seen as the embodiment of Aryanism and the Nazi party. Louis lost to Schmeling in 1936 but defeated him in one round in 1938, causing much jubilation among Americans, and especially Black Americans.
Heavyweight boxer and activist. Universally regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. He was stripped of his world title and boxing license for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War Draft before his conviction was overturned. Throughout his career Ali was known for his aggressive charm, invincible attitude, and colorful boasts.
Arthur Ashe Jr.
Athlete and activist. The first Black American to win the men's singles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and to be ranked No. 1 in the world. With his unique position in the tennis world, he pushed to create inner-city tennis programs for youth and helped found the Association of Men's Tennis Professionals and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. Later in life after contracting AIDS via a blood transfusion, he poured himself into the work of raising awareness about the disease, delivering a speech at the United Nations, and raising millions for the cause.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige
Athlete. A trailblazing pitcher in the Negro Leagues, he became the oldest rookie in Major League history. After a 5-decade career as a player, advisor and coach, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
Olympic athlete. The first American woman of any race to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics in 1960. She retired from competition not long after, because she wanted to leave the sport while still at her best. She then went on to coach and served as a goodwill ambassador to West Africa. Rudolph was one of the first role models for black and female athletes. Her Olympic success "gave a tremendous boost to women's track in the United States." Rudolph's celebrity also caused gender barriers to be broken at previously all- male track and field events.
Henry “Hank” Aaron
Widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players in history, during 23 seasons in the major leagues (1954–76), he surpassed numerous batting records. After retiring from playing, he rejoined the Atlanta Braves as an executive making him one of the first minorities in Major League Baseball upper-level management. He was induced into the Baseball Hall of fame in 1982.
Artist and activist. While known largely as a sculptor, much of her career was spent teaching, as her original intention was to be an art teacher. For a time she was chair of the art department at Dillard University. Her work eventually took her to Mexico where she worked with Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP), a famous workshop in Mexico City dedicated to graphic arts promoting leftist political causes, social issues, and education. She was a feminist and an activist before these movements took shape, pursuing a career in art despite segregation and the lack of female role models.
Artist and art historian. Widely exhibited and collected as an artist herself, Lewis is better known as a historian, critic, and collector of art. She is the first Black female to earn a doctorate in fine art and art history and is the founder of the International Review of African American Art. Mentored at Dillard under Elizabeth Catlett, she has become known as the Godmother of African American Art.