List of civil rights leaders

Civil rights leaders are influential figures in the promotion and implementation of political freedom and the expansion of personal civil liberties and rights. They work to protect individuals and groups from political repression and discrimination by governments and private organizations, and seek to ensure the ability of all members of society to participate in the civil and political life of the state.


People who motivated themselves and then led others to gain and protect these rights and liberties include:

Name Born Died Country Notes
George Mason 1725 1792   United States wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights and influenced the United States Bill of Rights
Thomas Paine 1737 1809   United States English-American activist, author, theorist, wrote Rights of Man
Elizabeth Freeman 1744 1829   United States also known as Mum Bett – first former slave to win a freedom suit in Massachusetts
Olaudah Equiano 1745 1797   United Kingdom  Nigeria purchased his freedom, helped found the Sons of Africa, and wrote the influential The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano depicting the horrors of the slave trade
Jeremy Bentham 1748 1832   United Kingdom British philosopher, writer, and teacher on civil rights, inspiration
Olympe de Gouges 1748 1793   France women's rights pioneer, writer, beheaded during French Revolution
Ottobah Cugoano 1757 1791   United Kingdom  Ghana captured from West Africa, he became a member of the Sons of Africa and argued against slavery on Christian and philosophical grounds
William Wilberforce 1759 1833   United Kingdom leader of the British abolition movement
Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 1797   United Kingdom British author of A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Thaddeus Stevens 1792 1868   United States representative from Pennsylvania, anti-slavery leader, originator of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Lucretia Mott 1793 1880   United States women's rights activist, abolitionist
John Neal 1793 1876   United States feminist essayist and lecturer active 1823–1876; first American women's rights lecturer[1][2]
William Lloyd Garrison 1805 1879   United States abolitionist, writer, organizer, feminist, initiator
John Brown 1800 1859   United States abolitionist, orator, martyr
Lysander Spooner 1808 1887   United States abolitionist, writer, anarchist, proponent of Jury nullification
Charles Sumner 1811 1874   United States Senator from Massachusetts, anti-slavery leader
Abby Kelley 1811 1887   United States abolitionist and suffragette
Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815 1902   United States women's suffrage/women's rights leader
Lucy Stone 1818 1893   United States women's suffrage/voting rights leader
Frederick Douglass 1818 1895   United States abolitionist, women's rights and suffrage advocate, writer, organizer, black rights activist, inspiration
Julia Ward Howe 1818 1910   United States writer, organizer, suffragette
Susan B. Anthony 1820 1906   United States Women's suffrage leader, speaker, inspiration
Harriet Tubman 1822 1913   United States African-American abolitionist and humanitarian
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs 1825 1895   Germany writer, organizer, and the pioneer of the modern LGBT rights movement
Antoinette Brown Blackwell 1825 1921   United States founded American Woman Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone in 1869
Victoria Woodhull 1838 1927   United States suffragette organizer, women's rights leader
Frances Willard 1839 1898   United States women's rights activist, woman suffrage leader
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin 1842 1924   United States suffragist, editor, co-founder of the first chapter of the NAACP
Kate Sheppard 1848 1934   New Zealand suffragist in first country to have universal suffrage
Eugene Debs 1855 1926   United States organizer, campaigner for the poor, women, dissenters, prisoners
Booker T. Washington 1856 1915   United States educator, founder of Tuskegee University, and adviser to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft
Emmeline Pankhurst 1858 1928   United Kingdom founder and leader of the British Suffragette Movement
Charles Grafton 1869 1948   United States Reverend Charles Grafton Archdioceses of Wisconsin Fond Du Lac. Responsible for Rescue helping the Slaves. Under Ground Railroad Initiator Wisconsin Boston, New York, and the Southern States civil rights, known abolitionist. Brought the Convent of the Holy Nativity Nuns to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin activist, movement leader, writer, philosopher, and teacher Responsible for helping to establish townships all over Wisconsin, and other parts of the United States
Carrie Chapman Catt 1859 1947   United States suffrage leader, president National American Woman Suffrage Association, founder League of Women Voters and International Alliance of Women
Jane Addams 1860 1935   United States reformer, co-founder of the Hull House and American Civil Liberties Union, 1931 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Ida B. Wells 1862 1931   United States journalist, early activist in 20th-Century civil rights movement, women's suffrage/voting rights activist
W.E.B. Du Bois 1868 1963   United States writer, scholar, founder of NAACP
Kasturba Gandhi 1869 1944   India wife of Mohandas Gandhi, activist in South Africa and India, often led her husband's movements in India when he was imprisoned
Mahatma Gandhi 1869 1948   India The Father of India, greatest unifier of Indians pre-Independence and peaceful activist, Pan-Indian Freedom movement Leader, writer, philosopher, social awakening reg Dalits and teacher/inspiration to many like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel 1875 1950   India activist, movement leader, followed and trusted Mahatma Gandhi's Ideology and peaceful movement.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1876 1948   Pakistan lawyer, politician, and the founder of Pakistan; lead Pakistan Movement for the rights of Muslims in the subcontinent
Lucy Burns 1879 1966   United States women's suffrage/voting rights leader
Getúlio Vargas 1882 1954   Brazil civil leader, President of Brazil, first as dictator, from 1930 to 1945
Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 1962   United States women's rights and human rights activist both in the United States and in the United Nations
Alice Paul 1885 1977   United States Women's Voting Rights Movement leader, strategist, and organizer
Marcus Garvey 1887 1940   Jamaica political activist, publisher, journalist
Sonia Schlesin 1888 1956   Russia worked with Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa and led his movements there when he was absent
Toyohiko Kagawa 1888 1960   Japan labor activist, Christian reformer, author
Bernard J. Quinn 1888 1940   United States Roman Catholic priest
Jawaharlal Nehru 1889 1964   India first Prime Minister of India, central figure in Indian politics before and after independence, advocate for freedom of the press
A. Philip Randolph 1889 1979   United States labor and civil rights movement leader
B. R. Ambedkar 1891 1956   India social reformer, civil rights activist, and scholar and who drafted Constitution of India, campaigned for Indian independence, fought for the women's rights, fought discrimination and inequality among the people.
Walter Francis White 1895 1955   United States NAACP executive secretary
Maria L. de Hernández 1896 1986   United States Mexican-American rights activist
Thich Quang Duc 1897 1963   South Vietnam monk, freedom of religion self-martyr
Albert Lutuli 1898 1967   South Africa President of the African National Congress,[3] against apartheid in South Africa,[4] 1960 Nobel Peace Prize laureate[4]
Edgar Nixon 1899 1987   United States Montgomery bus boycott organizer, civil rights activist
Roy Wilkins 1901 1981   United States NAACP executive secretary/executive director
Harriette Moore 1902 1951   United States Civil rights activist, and part of the only married couple to be assassinated during the Civil Rights Movement
Ella Baker 1903 1986   United States SCLC activist, initiated the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
Marvel Cooke 1903 2000   United States civil rights leader
Myles Horton 1905 1990   United States teacher of nonviolence, pioneer activist, founded and led the Highlander Folk School
John Peters Humphrey 1905 1995   Canada author of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Jack Patten 1905 1957   Australia Aboriginal Australian civil rights activist, journalist, founder of first Aboriginal newspaper, led the Cummeragunja Walk-Off in 1939, protested the persecution of Jewish people, President and co-founder of Aborigines Progressive Association, led the first Aboriginal delegation to meet with a sitting Prime Minister.
Nellie Stone Johnson 1905 2002   United States labor and civil rights activist
Harry T. Moore 1905 1951   United States Civil rights activist, leader, and the first martyr of the Civil Rights Movement
Willa Brown 1906 1992   United States civil rights activist, first African-American lieutenant in the US Civil Air Patrol, first African-American woman to run for Congress
Walter P. Reuther 1907 1970   United States labor leader and civil rights activist
T.R.M. Howard 1908 1976   United States founder of Mississippi's Regional Council of Negro Leadership
Winifred C. Stanley 1909 1996   United States First member of Congress to introduce legislation prohibiting discrimination in pay on the basis of sex
Elizabeth Peratrovich 1911 1958   United States Alaskan activist for native people
Amelia Boynton Robinson 1911 2015   United States Selma Voting Rights Movement activist and early leader
Dorothy Height 1912 2010   United States activist and advocate for African-American women
Bayard Rustin 1912 1987   United States civil rights activist
Jo Ann Robinson 1912 1992   United States Montgomery bus boycott activist
Harry Hay 1912 2002   United States early leader in American LGBT rights movement, founder Mattachine Society
Rosa Parks 1913 2005   United States NAACP official, activist, Montgomery bus boycott inspiration
Daisy Bates 1914 1999   United States organizer of the Little Rock Nine school desegregation events
George Raymond 1914 1999   United States civil rights activist, head of the Chester, Pennsylvania branch of the NAACP
Claude Black 1916 2009   United States civil rights activist
Frankie Muse Freeman 1916 2018   United States civil rights attorney, first woman appointee to United States Commission on Civil Rights
Fannie Lou Hamer 1917 1977   United States leader in the American Civil Rights Movement; co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and Freedom Democratic Party
Marie Foster 1917 2003   United States voting rights activist, a local leader in the Selma Voting Rights Movement
Humberto "Bert" Corona 1918 2001   United States labor and civil rights leader
Gordon Hirabayashi 1918 2012   United States Japanese-American civil rights hero
Nelson Mandela 1918 2013   South Africa statesman, leading figure in Anti-Apartheid Movement
Fred Korematsu 1919 2005   United States Japanese internment resister during World War II
James Farmer 1920 1999   United States Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leader and activist
Golden Frinks 1920 2004   United States civil rights organizer in North Carolina, field secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
Betty Friedan 1921 2006   United States writer, women's rights activist, feminist
Joseph Lowery 1921 2020   United States SCLC leader and co-founder, activist
Del Martin 1921 2008   United States co-founder of Daughters of Bilitis, first social and political organization for lesbians in the US
Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley 1921 2003   United States held an open casket funeral for her son, Emmett Till; speaker, activist
Whitney M. Young, Jr. 1921 1971   United States Executive director of National Urban League, adviser to U.S. presidents
Charles Evers 1922 2020   United States civil rights activist
Fred Shuttlesworth 1922 2011   United States clergyman, activist, SCLC co-founder, initiated the Birmingham Movement
Clara Luper 1923 2011   United States sit-in movement leader in Oklahoma, activist
James Baldwin 1924 1987   United States essayist, novelist, public speaker, SNCC activist
Phyllis Lyon 1924 2020   United States co-founder of Daughters of Bilitis, first social and political organization for lesbians in the U.S.
C.T. Vivian 1924 2020   United States student civil rights leader, SNCC and SCLC activist
Lenny Bruce 1925 1966   United States free speech advocate, comedian, political satirist
Medgar Evers 1925 1963   United States NAACP official in the Mississippi Movement
Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga 1925 2018   United States activist in Japanese-American redress movement
Frank Kameny 1925 2011   United States gay rights activist
Malcolm X 1925 1965   United States author, speaker, activist, inspiration
Ralph Abernathy 1926 1990   United States activist, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) official
Reies Tijerina 1926 2015   United States Hispano activist
Jackie Forster 1926 1998   United Kingdom English lesbian rights activist
Hosea Williams 1926 2000   United States civil rights activist, SCLC organizer and strategist
Cesar Chavez 1927 1993   United States Chicano activist, organizer, trade unionist
Coretta Scott King 1927 2006   United States SCLC leader, activist
James Forman 1928 2005   United States SNCC official and civil rights activist
James Lawson 1928   United States American minister and activist, SCLC's teacher of nonviolence in civil rights movement
Elie Wiesel 1928 2016   United States writer, Holocaust survivor, Jewish rights leader
Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 1968   United States SCLC co-founder/president/chairman, activist, author, speaker
Edison Uno 1929 1976   United States leader for Japanese-American civil rights and redress after World War II
Wyatt Tee Walker 1928 2018   United States activist and organizer with NAACP, CORE, and SCLC
Dorothy Cotton 1930 2018   United States SCLC official, activist, organizer, and leader
Dolores Huerta 1930   United States labor and civil rights activist, initiator, organizer
Harvey Milk 1930 1978   United States politician, gay rights activist, and leader for the LGBT community
Charles Morgan, Jr. 1930 2009   United States attorney, established principle of "one man, one vote"
Desmond Tutu 1931   South Africa anti-apartheid organizer, advocate, first black archbishop of Cape Town
Barbara Gittings 1932 2007   United States lesbian rights activist
Dick Gregory 1932 2017   United States free speech advocate, civil rights activist, comedian
Lola Hendricks 1932 2013   United States activist, local leader in Birmingham Movement
Miriam Makeba 1932 2008   South Africa singer, anti-apartheid activist
Andrew Young 1932   United States civil rights activist, SCLC executive director
Stanley Branche 1933 1992   United States civil rights activitst, founder of the Committee For Freedom Now
James Meredith 1933   United States independent student leader and self–starting Mississippi activist
Violeta Zúñiga 1933 2019   Chile human rights activist
Roy Innis 1934 2017   United States activist, longtime leader of CORE
Jane Goodall 1934   United States scientist, activist, ecologist
Gloria Steinem 1934   United States writer, activist, feminist
Bob Moses 1935 2021   United States leader, activist, and organizer in '60s Mississippi Movement
James Bevel 1936 2008   United States organizer and Direct Action leader, SCLC's main strategist, movement initiator, and movement director
Barbara Jordan 1936 1996   United States legislator, educator, civil rights advocate
Charles Sherrod 1937   United States civil rights activist, SNCC leader
Fela Kuti 1938 1997   Nigeria multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick
Diane Nash 1938   United States SNCC and SCLC activist and official, strategist, organizer
Claudette Colvin 1939   United States Montgomery bus boycott pioneer, independent activist
Jack Herer 1939 2010   United States pro-hemp activist, speaker, organizer, author
Julian Bond 1940 2015   United States activist, politician, scholar, NAACP chairman
Prathia Hall 1940 2002   United States SNCC activist, a leading speaker in the civil rights movement
Bernard Lafayette 1940   United States SCLC and SNCC activist, organizer, and leader
John Lewis 1940 2020   United States Nashville Student Movement and SNCC activist, organizer, speaker, congressman
Stokely Carmichael 1941 1998   United States SNCC and Black Panther activist, organizer, speaker
Jesse Jackson 1941   United States civil rights activist, politician
James Orange 1942 2008   United States SCLC activist and organizer, a voting rights movement leader, trade unionist
Gerd Fleischer 1942   Norway human rights activist
Peter Tosh 1944 1987   Jamaica Marijuana legalization activist, promoter of the rights of Africans within Africa as well as Black people across the diaspora, reggae musician.
Marsha P. Johnson 1945 1992   United States Gay liberation activist, STAR co-founder, AIDS activist with ACT UP
Heather Booth 1945   United States SNCC activist, women's movement organizer, and founder of the Midwest Academy
Angelina Atyam 1946   Uganda human rights activist for the Aboke abductions
Dana Beal 1947   United States pro-hemp activist, organizer, speaker, initiator
Ashok Row Kavi 1947   India LGBT rights activist, gay rights pioneer, founder of Humsafar Trust
Benjamin Chavis 1948   United States activist, chemist, minister, author, leader of Wilmington Ten, led Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ, campaigned against environmental racism, executive director of NAACP, national director of Million Man March
Fred Hampton 1948 1969   United States NAACP youth leader and Black Panther activist, organizer, speaker
Sylvia Rivera 1951 2002   United States Gay liberation and transgender rights activist, STAR house co-founder
Judy Shepard 1952   United States gay rights activist, public speaker
Barbara May Cameron 1954 2002   United States advocate for the rights of Native Americans, lesbians, and women
Bobby Sands 1954 1981   United Kingdom hunger striker for better conditions for Irish prisoners in British prisons
Al Sharpton 1954   United States clergyman, activist, media
Will Roscoe 1955   United States gay rights activist
Rigoberta Menchú 1959   Guatemala indigenous rights leader, co-founder of Nobel Women's Initiative
Eulalie Nibizi 1960   Burundi Human rights activist, trade unionist
Steven Goldstein 1962   United States gay rights advocate, political activist
Chee Soon Juan 1962   Singapore politician, former political prisoner, democracy and human rights activist
Manasi Pradhan 1962   India women's rights activist, founder of Honour for Women National Campaign
Deborah Parker 1970   United States Indigenous rights and women's rights activist who was critical in ensuring the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013[5][6]
Harish Iyer 1979   India gender and sexuality rights activist, campaigner against child sexual abuse and for animal rights
Edvin Kanka Ćudić 1988   Bosnia and Herzegovina human rights activist, founder and coordinator of UDIK in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Malala Yousafzai 1997   Pakistan advocate for education for girls, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Angelina Grimké 1805 1879   United States advocate for abolition, woman's rights

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Daggett, Windsor (1920). A Down-East Yankee From the District of Maine. Portland, Maine: A.J. Huston. p. 30.
  2. ^ Sears, Donald A. (1978). John Neal. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers. p. 98. ISBN 080-5-7723-08.
  3. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 1960". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
  4. ^ a b Lundestad, Geir (2001-03-15). "The Nobel Peace Prize, 1901–2000". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
  5. ^ Lane, Temryss MacLean (January 15, 2018). "The frontline of refusal: indigenous women warriors of standing rock". International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. Routledge. 31 (3): 209. doi:10.1080/09518398.2017.1401151. eISSN 1366-5898. ISSN 0951-8398. Her courage in sharing her personal story of sexual violence with congress was vital in the passing of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). [...] Her dignified poise and presence was pivotal and necessary to pass the tribal provisions that protect Native women and their communities in the VAWA.
  6. ^ Nichols, John (May 24, 2016). "The Democratic Platform Committee Now Has a Progressive Majority. Thanks, Bernie Sanders". Democrats. The Nation. Katrina vanden Heuvel. ISSN 0027-8378. Archived from the original on June 3, 2018. Retrieved June 3, 2018. The Sanders selections are all noted progressives: [...] Native American activist and former Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker (a key advocate for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act) [...].

See each individual for their references.

External linksEdit