Throughout the years, there have been many people who challenged the established rules and norms of the time. These people were often vilified and labeled as “troublemakers” during this period. As years have gone by, the narrative has often flipped, as they and their actions have become to be widely known as heroic rather than troublesome. Obviously, it is impossible to highlight every trailblazer throughout the years; the figures below are a small sample of the people within the ever continuing struggle
Born in Troy, Alabama, former Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis was one of the original freedom riders and a part of the “Big Six”. Lewis played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, including organizing the March on Washington and many grassroots struggles. John Lewis now represents Georgia’s 5th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Born in Mississippi and raised in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges was the first African-American student to integrate a Southern school. The integration caused significant outrage and as a result, the Bridges family endured hardships brought on by the angered community. Nonetheless, Ruby Bridges continued attending the school, which contributed to its eventual desegregation. In 1999, Bridges created The Ruby Bridges Foundation in an effort to promote social change via education.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Ella Baker, a prominent civil rights and human rights activist, largely worked behind-the-scenes as an organizer for over five decades. She worked alongside and mentored many prominent activists and was the primary strategist and advisor for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker has been regarded as “One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement.”
Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, W.E.B DuBois, sociologist, historian, author, civil rights activist, pan-africanist, was mightily involved in black movements. He was one of the founders of the NAACP and a significant contributor to the Harlem Renaissance and Pan-Africanism. Also the first African-American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University, DuBois was one of the most important and groundbreaking intellectual contributors to contemporary race theory. His work, including The Souls of Black Folk, transformed how black people saw themselves personally and societally.
In Atlanta, Georgia, 1960, the Atlanta Student Movement, helped desegregate Atlanta stores and restaurants. Lonnie King J.r, one of the group’s leaders, helped lead the fight for desegregation by orchestrating marches and sit-ins in downtown Atlanta, starting from March 15 until the end of the year. Additionally, the group created the plea for desegregation in “An Appeal for Human Rights”, regarded as one of the most important documents during the Civil Rights Movement.
Born Stokely Carmichael, Trinidadian-American activist, Kwame Ture, was a very prominent organizer, speaker and activist in the Civil Rights and Pan-African movements. Participant in grassroots demonstrations such as the freedom rides and leader of SNCC, the Black Power Movement, and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, Ture was one of the most important global black activists of his generation.
A prominent socialist, critical theorist, author, and philosopher, Angela Davis was very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement in the late 1960s and early 70s. While wrongly facing serious charges and declared a “terrorist” by the US government during the Nixon era, Davis famously defended herself in court,, regaining her freedom and exonerated of all charges. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University of Berlin and has worked at UCLA, Rutgers, and UC Santa Cruz. She has published many phenomenal works throughout her time and has greatly contributed to global theory in feminism and black theory.