Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond


This Glossary contains many terms mentioned in the interviews as well as names, places, or events referred to in the accompanying book, Black Leaders on Leadership:  Conversations with Julian Bond. If one of the interviewees refers to something that is unfamiliar, you can check this Glossary for a brief description.  This web version of the Glossary also can be used easily as a companion to the book.


16th Street Baptist Church

The church was founded in 1873 as the first black church in Birmingham, Alabama, and became a social center, hosting such notable black figures as W. E. B. Du Bois and Mary McLeod Bethune. It was an organizational center for many of the meetings and rallies of the civil rights era and was bombed by racially motivated terrorists in 1963, killing four young girls.

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Abernathy, Ralph (1926–1990)

Abernathy was key in organizing the Montgomery bus boycotts alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He was also a cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was later president of the organization. Abernathy assumed direction of the SCLC Poor Peoples’ Campaign after the assassination of Dr. King, his very close friend.

Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York

The church was founded in 1808 and has been a center for African American culture and worship. It advocates for civil rights and equality. Located in Harlem, the church's leadership had included such famous preachers as Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. and then his son, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. From the Harlem Renaissance to today, the church has been a major site for black gospel music.

Adorno, Theodor (1903–1969)

Adorno was a highly influential German philosopher, sociologist, and musicologist in the post–World War II era. He is known for his thorough examination of Western philosophical tradition, particularly from Kant onward. He was a leading member of the Frankfurt School.

Almond, J. Lindsay (1898–1986)

During his time as governor, Almond is best known for closing public schools across Virginia to prevent integration in 1958. His name has become synonymous with the Massive Resistance movement.

AME Church

Reverend Richard Allen founded the church out of the antislavery movement in 1816. It is a predominately African American Methodist denomination and was the first major religious denomination of its kind in the Western World. The church was born in protest of racial discrimination and slavery and has maintained a strong commitment to serve the needy and to speak out against injustice. 

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group designed to strengthen ties between the United States and Israel. It is a grassroots, domestic lobby described by the New York Times as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” Its policy is to support the views of the Israeli government within the United States.

American Negro Historical Society

Robert Adger, W. M. Dorsey, and Jacob C. White, Jr., among others, founded the Society in Philadelphia in1897. They collected and preserved materials that reflect the black experience in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These records are held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 

Angelou, Maya (1928–2014)

Dr. Angelou was an acclaimed American poet, novelist, memoirist, dramatist, actress, and civil rights activist. One of her best known works is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). She spoke at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and has received numerous awards and recognitions. She was professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

Aptheker, Herbert (1915–2003)

A political activist, ardent civil rights supporter, and Marxist, Aptheker wrote more than 50 books. He is best known for his three-volume Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States. He was a major voice for the American left in the 1950s and 1960s.

Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)

Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the association in 1915 in order to foster the study and appreciation of African American history. The association has been credited with founding Black History Month and publishing The Journal of African American History.

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Baker, Ella (1903–1986)

Baker worked with such organizations as NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC helping organize grass roots activism during the civil rights movement. For over 50 years, she worked behind the scenes with such leaders as W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr.

Baldwin, James (1924–1987)

Baldwin was a writer and social activist whose works focused on race, sexuality, and class. His most well-known works are Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) and Giovanni’s Room (1956). Notes of a Native Son (1955) is a well-known collection of essays. He called attention to the difficult obstacles faced by black, gay, and bisexual men in American society. 

Bender, Rita (Schwerner)

Bender is an attorney who focuses her interests on family law, assisted reproduction, and mental health issues. Bender’s first husband, Michael Schwerner, was one of three civil rights workers killed by a Klansman in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Ray Killen was finally convicted of manslaughter in 2005.

Bennett, William (1943–)

Bennett was secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 under the Republican administration of President Ronald Reagan. He later served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush, among other titles. During the Reagan administration, he recommended major cuts to education and he has been an outspoken critic of affirmative action, and a conservative voice for school vouchers, curriculum reform, and religion in education. In 2000 he created an online, publically traded education corporation called K12.

Berrigan brothers (Phillip 1923–2002; Daniel 1921–)

Brothers Phillip and Daniel Berrigan were peace, civil rights, and antipoverty activists during the Vietnam War, even serving prison terms for their activism. 

Bethune, Mary McLeod (1875–1955)

Bethune was an African American educator and activist who founded a school for black students in Daytona Beach, Florida, which later became the Bethune-Cookman School. She was president of the college for a total of 20 years, making her one of the only black or female college presidents at the time. She was a national leader on civil rights and education and a close personal friend and associate of Eleanor Roosevelt. Bethune was president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and founded the National Council of Negro Women.

Bevel, James (1936–2008)

Bevel was a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. He strongly influenced King’s vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1963, Bevel was critical in convincing King to engage children in the movement. The “children’s crusade” in Birmingham, Alabama helped turn the tide of public opinion against segregationists. In later years, his reputation became marred by the fringe associations he supported and by an incest charge that led to imprisonment.

Big Bethel AME Church

Founded in 1847 by Richard Allen, Henry M. Turner, and Joseph Flipper, the church is now the oldest African American congregation in its section of Atlanta. The church has attracted speakers such as Nelson Mandela and President Taft, making it a historic landmark.

Birmingham Children’s March

In May 1963, hundreds of children left school to be arrested, set free, and then arrested again for attempting to march nonviolently to see the mayor of Birmingham and talk about city-wide segregation. Also known as the Children’s Crusade, the march was organized by James Bevel and had the blessing of Martin Luther King Jr. Birmingham police chief Bull Connor unleashed fire hoses and police dogs on the children, bringing a world spotlight and national outrage at Birmingham officials and at the conditions in the American South. Many claim that President John F. Kennedy’s endorsement of racial equality and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a direct result of the reaction.

Black Enterprise Magazine

The magazine, published monthly, provides 3.7 million African American professionals with essential business information, advice, investing, and wealth-building counseling. It was founded by Earl Graves Sr. in 1970 and was the first of its kind.

Black Leadership Forum

Joseph Lowery founded the organization in 1977 to coordinate black leadership efforts and empower African Americans politically and socially. Today, the forum works to promote the legislative and policy interests of African Americans and to make sure the needs of the black community are met through public policy and legislation.

Black Panthers

The Black Panthers were founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale to protect blacks from police brutality in 1966. Over time, the organization became more radical, supporting black nationalism. It was called “the greatest threat to internal security in the country” by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. 

Black Power

Black Power was a slogan associated with a movement primarily in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the height of the civil rights movement, Black Power adherents promoted black interests and values, inspired racial pride, and created black political and cultural institutions. Black Power advocates strongly endorsed black self-determination.

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

Bond was an academic, earning a doctorate from the University of Chicago at a time when few African Americans were able to go to college. He then served as president of Fort Valley State College and Lincoln University, his alma mater, becoming Lincoln’s first African American university president. He eventually returned to the South and became dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University. He participated in research for the NAACP that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Bright Hope Baptist Church

Founded in 1911 from the expansion of a small prayer group, Bright Hope has become a beacon in the North Philadelphia community. Its fourth pastor, Reverend William H. Gray III, became a congressman and ultimately the majority whip in 1989. 

Brooke, Edward (1919–)

Brooke was the first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote in 1967 and served until 1979 as a Republican. He was also attorney general of Massachusetts from 1962 until 1967, with the distinction of being the first elected African American attorney general of any state. He is the only African American to have served multiple terms in the U.S. Senate. Brooke was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008 for service to the United States.

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917–2000)

Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her book of poetry, Annie Allen. She was also the poet laureate of Illinois, poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, and taught at some of the top universities in America. As she matured, her work became more political and critical of American society.

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

In 1925, it became the first black labor organization to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Its leaders included A. Philip Randolph, C. L. Dellums, and E. D. Nixon, all of whom played significant roles in the civil rights movement. See also Randolph, A. Philip. 

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

The Warren Court ruled in 1954 that separate but equal schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. It overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, which ruled in favor of separate but equal schooling and was a huge step forward for integration and for the civil rights movement. 

Brown, Robert J. (Bob) (1935–)

Chairman and CEO of B&C Associates, the oldest public relations firm in NC and the oldest African American owned public relations firm in the US. Brown is a strong supporter of community and education programs and founded the International BookSmart Foundation, distributing millions of books to disadvantaged parts of Africa. He is the only U.S. businessman who met with Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment at Pollsmoor prison in South Africa. 

Brown, Sterling (1901–1989)

Brown was born in Washington, D.C., and educated at Dunbar High School, Williams College, and Harvard. He was a distinguished academic and writer whose poetry was influenced by black music such as jazz, spirituals, and the blues. He taught at Howard University, Lincoln University, and Fisk University. He is also known for his literary and poetic works, which include Southern Road (1932) and No Hiding Place (1980). In 1984, The District of Columbia named him its first poet laureate. 

Brown, William Wells (1814–1884)

Brown was a well-known abolitionist and writer, who is said to have written the first novel by a black man, titled Clotel (1853). He is also considered to be the first black playwright and gave antislavery lectures in New York and Massachusetts. 

Bryant, C. C. (1917–2007)

An active civil-rights worker, Bryant became president of the Mississippi Pike County branch of the NAACP in 1954; eventually he served as vice-president of the Mississippi State branch under Medgar Evers. With Bob Moses, he organized a voter registration drive in 1961 in McComb, MS. He endured bombings of his barbershop and home and became well-known for his tireless grassroots work for equality. 

Burnham, Margaret (1944–)

A civil rights attorney, Burnham worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for two years before moving on to various law firms. She was part of the team of lawyers that defended her childhood friend, Angela Davis. In 1977, she was appointed Associate Justice of Boston Municipal Court, and was the first African American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary. In 1993, President Nelson Mandela appointed her to an international human rights commission—a precursor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She primarily works on civil rights and employment cases. In 2002, she joined the faculty of the Northeastern University School of Law, where she founded and directs the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. 

Byrd, Harry F. (1887–1966)

Byrd was the 50th governor of Virginia beginning in 1925, dominated Virginia politics for much of the first part of the twentieth century with his political machine, and is known for modernizing Virginia’s government. He is also known for his opposition to integration of Virginia’s public schools, advocating for the massive resistance movement, and his pay-as-you-go fiscal policy.

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Carmichael, Stokely (1941–1998)

Carmichael is best known for being a prominent leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and for rising to power through the Black Power movement. He also was an active participant in the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1966, he became chairman of SNCC and in 1967, honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party. In 1969, he moved to West Africa, adopting the name of Kwame Ture.

Carnegie Foundation

The foundation was begun by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 to report on the state of education in the United States. It has produced the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, the Educational Testing Service, and worked to provide federal aid for higher education. The organization also provided major support for improving the state of southern education in the early twentieth century. 

Carter, Robert (Bob) (1912–2012)

Carter worked closely with Thurgood Marshall and came to succeed him within the NAACP as general counsel. Throughout his career with the NAACP he argued 22 cases before the Supreme Court, 21 of which he won. His research and study of the law often encouraged him to push legal and constitutional positions to their limits, which resulted in the overturning of Plesy v. Ferguson in the Brown decision. In later years, he became a federal judge in New York and helped to open the police force to larger number of minorities. 

Chaney, James (1943–1964)

Chaney was one of three civil rights activists who were murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen in 1964, following his work registering black voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi. 

Chenault, Kenneth (1951– )

Chenault became the CEO and chairman of American Express in 2001, making him the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

Chisholm, Shirley (1924–2005)

Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress, serving as congresswoman of New York’s 12th district for seven terms between 1969 to 1983. She promoted such issues as childcare, education, the repeal of the draft, and improvement of the quality of life for inner city residents. In 1972 she became the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clark, Kenneth (1914–2005)

Clark was a black psychologist whose research on race relations and the attitudes of children toward race were highly influential. He worked alongside his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark. The “doll test” influenced the justices of the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board decision. In the 1940s, he established a center for child development in Harlem to offer psychological services to poor, black children. He was the first black professor to get tenure at City College of New York. He later became the first black president of the American Psychological Association.

Clark, Septima (1898–1987)

Known as the “Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement,” she was the vice president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP and a strong civic activist. Barred from teaching in Charleston, she developed the Citizenship Schools, teaching basic literacy skills so that people would be able to register to vote. She worked closely with W. E. B. Du Bois and the SCLC that adopted the program in 1961. Clark was active within the YWCA and taught in public schools for most of her life. 

Cleaver, Eldridge (1953–1998)

Cleaver joined the Black Panthers in 1966, after two stints in prison during which he wrote his influential memoir Soul on Ice. In 1968, he was involved in a shoot out between several Black Panthers and Oakland police, which resulted in Cleaver fleeing the country to Cuba and Argentina until 1975. After he returned to the United States, he became involved in various disparate movements.

Cleaver, Kathleen (1945–)

Cleaver was a notable female member of the Black Panther Party, even running for state office in California. She married Eldridge Cleaver in 1967 and worked as communications secretary for the Black Panther Party. After Eldridge Cleaver’s escape, she joined him in Algeria. She returned to the United States to create a defense fund for her husband, whose case was not fully resolved until 1980. They divorced in 1987. In 1989, she received a J.D. degree from Yale, and joined Emory University’s law faculty in 1992.

Clinton, Hillary (1947–)

Clinton served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, and first lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Aside from her career in politics, she has been named one of the top 100 most influential lawyers in America twice and has always been an advocate for children’s issues.

Committee on Government Contracts Compliance

In 1951, President Truman created the committee to oversee compliance with legislation passed by Roosevelt in 1941. Roosevelt’s legislation made discrimination with the federal government or defense industries based on race, color, creed, or origin illegal. 

Communist Manifesto

Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848, the Communist Manifesto lays out the basic principles of the communist philosophy based on theories on the nature of society and politics. The Manifesto describes the inevitable class struggle that ensues from capitalism, eventually leading to the rise of the working classes.

Congress of Racial Equality

CORE was founded in 1942 by a group of civil rights activists, only two of whom were black (James Farmer and George Houser). Very active in the Freedom Rides of 1961, the desegregation of Chicago schools, the organization of the Freedom Summer campaign, and the 1963 March on Washington, CORE members were strongly committed to the principles of nonviolence. By 1951, there were 53 chapters. In June 1964, three CORE activists were murdered by the Klan in Mississippi. Since 1968, CORE has been led by Roy Innis, and the organization has become more conservative with time. During the civil rights movement, it was considered one of the “Big Four” leadership organizations (along with SCLC, SNCC, and NAACP). 

Connor, Eugene (Bull) (1897–1973)

Connor was the Birmingham commissioner of public safety for 22 years, during which time he was known for his brutality toward civil rights protesters and activists. He was an ardent segregationist. The Birmingham Children’s March was a protest against his segregationist policies.

Cowan, Polly (1913–1976)

Cowan was a Jewish American woman who worked with Dorothy Height to empower African American women fighting for civil rights. Together, they founded Wednesdays in Mississippi and worked to assist impoverished women of the South. 

Crummell, Alexander (1819–1898)

Crummell was a black priest who developed ideals of Pan Africanism, spending nearly 20 years in Africa doing missions work and attempting to persuade American blacks to colonize Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he and his congregation founded the first independent black Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., of which he was rector for nearly 20 years. 

Current, Gloster (1913–1997)

Current was the NAACP director of Branch and Field Services and deputy executive director for more than 30 years. He played a strong role in growing the NAACP from 500 to 1,700 branches during his tenure. An ordained Methodist minister, he was also an accomplished jazz musician. 

Curry, Constance (Connie) (1933–)

Curry is a fellow at the Institute for Women’s Studies at Emory University. She is a writer and activist who is best known for her award winning book Silver Rights (1995), which discusses the plight of a black family trying to obtain the best education possible for their children in newly integrated schools. She is a veteran of the civil rights movement, and became the first white female on the executive committee of SNCC. A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, she is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and the Woodrow Wilson College of Law.

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Daley Machine

Richard J. Daley served as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee from 1953 and as mayor of Chicago from 1955. Until his death in 1976, he dominated party and civic affairs. The Democratic political machine was often perceived as corrupt, and while many of Daley’s subordinates went to jail, Daley was never accused of wrongdoing. Richard Michael Daley, Daley’s son, became mayor in 1989 and served 22 years. Thus the family influence on Chicago continued. 

Dellums, Ronald (Ron) (1935–)

Dellums was elected to the House of Representatives in 1970, serving for nearly 30 years. He was the first African American elected to Congress from northern California. He embraced socialism, strongly opposed the Vietnam War, fought against Reagan’s missile and stealth bomber programs, and was deeply involved in antiapartheid activities relating to South Africa. In 2006, he won a contested election for mayor of Oakland, California.

Delta Sigma Theta

Delta Sigma Theta is a sorority of black women founded in 1913 at Howard University. The sisterhood has more than 200,000 members and over 900 chapters throughout the world. The service sorority focuses on economic and educational development, political and international awareness and involvement, and physical and mental health of its members. It is an important networking organization for black women. 

Dixon, Marcus (1984–)

Dixon was accused of raping an underage classmate in Georgia in 2004. Some believed the charges were racially motivated, and the case raised questions of “legal lynchings.” The jury found him guilty of statutory rape and aggravated child molestation and sentenced him to ten years in prison. On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction of aggravated child molestation, and he was released the same year. 

Double V

In 1941, James G. Thompson, a cafeteria worker in Kansas, wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier (the most widely read black newspaper in America at the time), urging a double victory campaign—victory over fascism abroad and discrimination at home. Much of the effort was directed toward jobs at home. The goals of the campaign were never fully realized, leading to further efforts at equal rights once the war ended. 

Douglass, Fredrick (1818–1895)

An incredible orator and former slave, Douglass became a leading abolitionist, writer, and statesman. He wrote several autobiographies, which became very influential; and he later was the first African American to run for the vice presidency, running on the small Equal Rights Party ticket.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1868–1963)

Born in Massachusetts, Du Bois was an educator, civil rights activist, and journalist. After graduating from Fisk University, he became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard in 1895 and went on to teach at Atlanta University. The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903, offered an alternative perspective to Booker T. Washington. He demanded the same opportunities for blacks as whites had in America, also arguing that African Americans had a responsibility to uplift those with fewer opportunities. As a political activist, Du Bois was a cofounder of the NAACP and Niagara Movement and helped organize several Pan-African conferences, His magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, was published in 1935. He became a communist in 1961 and moved to Ghana. See also Niagara Movement. 

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Edward Waters College

Edward Waters College is a historically black college in Jacksonville, Florida. It was founded in 1866 by the AME pastor William G. Steward with a mission to educate freed slaves. 

Einstein, Albert (1879–1955)

Einstein was a German-born physicist, best known for his theory of relativity, which is one of the two pillars of modern physics. After completing his education in Switzerland, he produced much of his work while at the Patent Office. Returning to Germany in 1914, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. In 1933, he renounced his German citizenship (after Hitler came to power) and emigrated to the United States. He was appointed professor of theoretical physics at Princeton, retiring in 1945. He has been called one of the greatest physicists of all time. 

Ellington, Duke (1899–1974)

Ellington was an African American musician who led his orchestra for over 50 years. He composed over 1,000 works, helping to develop modern jazz and big band music. He is considered one of the greatest composers in American history.

Eyes on the Prize

This 14-part documentary television series chronicles various aspects of the civil rights movement, from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It went on to win six Emmys, among other awards. It is a major account of America’s most significant social justice movement. 

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Farmer, James (1920–1999)

Farmer is best known for conceiving and organizing the 1961 Freedom Ride that called attention to the inequities of segregation in the South. He cofounded the organization that later became CORE. At the age of 21, Farmer was invited to meet President Roosevelt and was later considered to be one of the Big Four leaders of the civil rights movement. In 1966, he left the movement, disillusioned with its acceptance of race separation and black nationalism as a strategy. Ultimately, he served in the Nixon administration. In 1998, Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. See also Congress of Racial Equality.

Farr, Sam (1941–)

Sam Farr served for 12 years in the California State Assembly and six years as Monterey County Supervisor; he has been the representative for California’s 17th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. 

Faubus, Orval (1910–1994)

In 1955 he became the 36th governor of Arkansas, serving six consecutive terms until 1967. He ran as a progressive candidate and was a relatively liberal figure who did not use race as an issue until school desegregation forced him to take a position. In 1957, he tried to block the federally mandated desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School, bringing in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent African American students from entering. The nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, had to endure enraged mobs. President Eisenhower called in National Guard and Army troops to restore order. Ultimately schools were opened, but Faubus became a hero to white supremacists, ensuring his continued reelection.

Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)

The fellowship was founded in 1915 by a large group of pacifists. The American Civil Liberties Union came out of FOR in 1920 and FOR worked very closely with CORE to sponsor the first Freedom Ride in 1947. 

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Founded in 1871 to raise funds for the college, Fisk Jubilee Singers are an all black a cappella group at Fisk University. The group is credited with bringing slave songs to the world stage and has been honored by the Library of Congress for their 1909 recording of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Fisk University

Founded in 1866 in Nashville, TN, Fisk has had a major role in shaping black learning and culture in America. Among its distinguished alumni, faculty and board members are W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Sterling Brown, James Weldon Johnson, John Lewis, and Nikki Giovanni. 

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894–1962)

Frazier was an African American teacher and sociologist who specialized in analyzing black family structures and race relations in the United States. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. His most famous book, The Negro Family in the United States (1939) was an early effort to explore the historical forces affecting the black family. Frazier taught at Morehouse, Fisk, and Howard and influenced generations of black students. Before his death, he published 8 books and myriad articles. He has been criticized by some for claiming that black families were dysfunctional because of absent fathers, a fact that he tied to the heritage of slavery. 

Free African Societies

Free blacks Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Societies during the Revolutionary War as the first black mutual aid society in Philadelphia. 

Freedom Rides

The Freedom Rides, sponsored by CORE, began in 1961 when seven blacks and six whites set out on public buses to test the ruling in Boynton v. Virginia declaring segregation of public transportation illegal. The riders were met with extreme violence, which brought attention to the deep racial hatreds and fear of integration. The people on the rides adopted nonviolence, but understood the possibility that they would be met with violence. The goal was to directly challenge segregation policies. President Kennedy was forced to take action against the violence across the South. 

Freedom’s Journal

Founded by free blacks in New York City, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish ran what was the first newspaper in American to be owned and operated by African Americans. It denounced those who attacked African Americans and those who supported slavery. The paper closed in 1829, replaced by The Rights of All. 

Friedan, Betty (1921–2006)

Author of the 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, Friedan was a key feminist activist for most of her life. She organized the Women’s Strike for Equality and the National Organization for Women and was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972.

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Garnet, Henry Highland (1815–1882)

Garnet was an abolitionist, educator, minister, and brilliant orator. He supported a more militant approach, calling for emigration of American blacks to Mexico, West Indies, or Liberia. He founded the African Civilization Society. Once the Civil War ended, he became president of Avery College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1868. In 1881, he became the US minister to Liberia and died there two months later. 

Garvey, Marcus (1887–1940)

Garvey’s intense support of black nationalism and the Pan-Africanism movement sparked a philosophy known as Garveyism. This philosophy promotes the repatriation of American blacks to Africa and the redemption of African nations from colonial powers. Garvey founded UNIAACL (Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League), and the Black Star Line, a shipping line that would facilitate his goals.

Gavin, James Raphael III (1945–)

Dr. Gavin is a black physician, known for his work with diabetes, and is a former president of the American Diabetes Association. In addition, he has served as the CEO and chief medical officer of Healing Our Village, specializing in advocacy and training for health care professionals and minority communities. He has received numerous awards, and taught at many esteemed universities, including Indiana and Emory University. 

Goodlett, Carlton (1915–1997)

An African American family physician, Goodlett turned a San Francisco weekly tabloid, the Sun-Reporter, into an influential chain of eight newspapers. He was a tireless advocate for civil rights, and was the first African American since Reconstruction to mount a serious candidate for the governorship of California in 1966. He fought strongly about such issues as improving public housing and desegregating San Francisco’s labor unions. 

Goodman, Andrew (1943–1964)

Goodman was a young white college student who worked with other activists during Freedom Summer to register blacks to vote. After being arrested for speeding and being told to leave the county, he and his associates were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Gore, Albert (Al) (1948–)

Gore is a former vice president, Democratic presidential candidate, US senator, and US congressman. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize (2007) for his work in making the public aware of the effects of climate change with his documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Gray, Fred (1930–)

Gray is a prominent black civil rights attorney from Alabama. His clients included Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphillis study. He became a legal advisor to the Montgomery Improvement Association and in 1956 was the lead counsel in Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court case that upheld lower court decisions prohibiting segregation on city buses. He also represented the students attempting to desegregate K-12 and higher education institutions. He was president of the National Bar Association in 1985 and the first African American president of the Alabama State Bar.

Gray, Garland (1902–1977)

Gray was a Virginia senator from Waverly who worked with the Massive Resistance movement to prevent integration of Virginia public schools. He helped found Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, which formed 28 chapters with 12,000 members by 1955. Governor Stanley created the Gray commission, named for Garland Gray, to create a plan to keep Virginia segregated as long as possible.

Greenberg, Jack (1924–)

Greenberg was the only white director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, handpicked by Thurgood Marshall. He was involved with such influential cases as Brown v. Board of Education, Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, Griggs v. Duke Power Company, and Furman v. Georgia, all of which deal with racial equality. He argued over 40 cases before the Supreme Court and participated in human rights missions around the world. He has been on the law faculty at Columbia, Yale, and Harvard and was dean of Columbia College from 1989 to 1993. He teaches at Columbia Law School. 

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Habermas, Jurgen (1929–)

Habermas is a German philosopher who focuses on the political domain and on issues of knowledge, communication, and rational behavior. He has influenced contemporary philosophy as well as political-legal thought, developmental psychology, theology, communication studies, and sociology. Habermas is viewed as one of the most influential philosophers in the world.

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917–1977)

A civil rights activist from Montgomery County, Mississippi, Hamer became famous for saying she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The daughter of sharecroppers, her family struggled to survive. In the 1950s, she attended a protest meeting and subsequently became very active in registering people to vote. She was a key organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. 

Hamilton, Grace (1907–1992)

In 1965, Hamilton became the first African American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly, one of eight African Americans to go to the state legislature in the 1965 special election. She held office for 18 years. During the 1940s, she was the executive director of the Atlanta Urban League. She focused her greatest attention on schooling, voting rights, health care, and housing. 

Harlem Youth Council, Inc.

Founded in 1987, the Harlem Youth Council is a nonprofit organization that provides social services to the youth of Harlem. The main focus is on job training, workshops, and employment assistance. 

Hastie, William H. (1904–1976)

Hastie attended Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., Amherst College, and Harvard Law School where he was on the editorial board of Harvard Law Review. In the 1930s, he became a race relations advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1937, he became the first African American federal judge when he was appointed to US District Court of the Virgin Islands. During World War II, he served as civilian aide to Secretary of War Stimson until he stepped down to protest the unequal treatment of blacks, a cause he fought for throughout the war. He worked with Houston and Marshall on cases leading up to the 1954 Brown v. Board decision. In 1949, he was appointed to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and served for 21 years, including several as chief judge. 

Hedgeman, Anna (1899–1990)

A mid-westerner, Hedgeman was inspired to become an educator after hearing W. E. B. Du Bois speak at Hamline University, where she was a student. Following college, she taught English and History at Rust College in Mississippi. Experiencing discrimination in the South, she became more actively engaged in the civil rights movement. In the 1920s, she began a career with the YWCA, and served as executive director of numerous branches in Ohio and the northeast. Between 1954 and 1958, Hedgeman served in the cabinet of New York City mayor Robert Wagner, Jr.—the first black woman to hold that position. She helped plan the 1963 March on Washington. In the 1960s and 1970s, she authored two books.

Herskovits, Melville J. (1895–1963)

An American anthropologist, Herskovits studied at the University of Chicago and Columbia where he was influenced by Franz Boas. He taught at Columbia and Howard, before moving to Northwestern University and creating the first substantial program of African studies at an American university in 1948. He published several works regarding black culture, such as The Myth of the Negro Past and Man and His Works. He had an interest in economics, African folk art and music, and incorporated these into his anthropological studies. 

Higginbotham, A. Leon (1928–1998)

Educated at Purdue, Antioch, and Yale University Law School, Higginbotham held legal positions in public and private practice in Philadelphia. Between 1964 and 1993, he was a federal judge. In 1990, he became Chief Judge of the Federal appeals court in Philadelphia. Subsequently, he became a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient in 1995, Higginbotham was committed to social justice and is said to have been one of a handful of black jurists considered by President Lyndon Johnson for a Supreme Court appointment. He authored several books, and was a strong and outspoken advocate for racial justice.

Hope, John (1868–1936)

Hope was an educator who taught at and was the first black president in 1906 of Morehouse College. In 1929, he became the first black president of Atlanta University. He is also known for his political activism, as a founding member of the Niagara Movement, the first president of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and an active member of the NAACP. He strongly supported opportunities for blacks in Atlanta in the areas of public education, recreational facilities, housing, health care, and jobs.

Houston, Charles Hamilton (1895–1950)

Known as the “man who killed Jim Crow,” Houston participated in nearly every civil rights case that went before the Supreme Court between 1930 and Brown v. Board of Education. A brilliant lawyer, he served as dean of Howard University Law School, NAACP litigation director, and is known for training Justice Thurgood Marshall. 

Howard University

Founded in 1866, Howard is one of the predominant historically-black universities in America. Within two years of its founding, Howard quickly expanded from a theological seminary with the addition of a college of Liberal Arts and Medicine. Early support came from the Freedmen’s Bureau, and from the US Congress. Howard’s first black president, Mordecai Johnson, served from 1926–1960 and expanded the university to 10 fully accredited schools and 6,000 students. Located in Washington, DC, Howard University faculty and students have played a major role in the civil rights movement. Howard also boasts among its alumni and faculty some of the leading black intellectuals, scholars, activists, and artists in America. Its Law School became a major center for prosecuting civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education.

Hughes, Langston (1902–1967)

American poet, novelist, and playwright, Hughes was one of the first people to incorporate jazz rhythms and dialect to depict the life of urban blacks. He a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance and associated with all of the prominent figures of Harlem’s golden era. He had a prolific literary career, beginning with his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926). He used his poetry and his reputation to depict African American culture and work for civil rights through an Afro-centric message. 

Hurley, Ruby (1909–1980)

Born in Virginia, Hurley became active in civil rights in the 1930s. In 1943, she became the national Youth Secretary for the NAACP and established the first permanent NAACP office in the Deep South. She served in several leadership positions within the NAACP and worked alongside Amzie Moore and Medgar Evers on civil rights issues in the Mississippi Delta, investigating the murder of Emmett Till, working on the case of Autherine Lucy, and engaging with Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall. In the 1960s, she became nationally prominent on local and national television. She was one of the first women of color to be seen as a black feminist activist. 

Hurston, Zora Neale (1891–1960)

Hurston is an acclaimed writer and anthropologist who rose to popularity during the Harlem Renaissance. Her most popular work is Their Eyes Were Watching God and she collaborated with such writers as Langston Hughes. She wrote four novels and more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. 

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Jackson, George (1941–1971)

Jackson was a prominent Black Panther, a Marxist, and a cofounder of the Black Guerrilla Family. He is best known for being one of the Soledad Brothers, a group of inmates at the California’s Soledad Prison who were charged with the murder of a white prison guard. Angela Davis’s involvement with him and his brother brought greater prominence to his case.

Jackson, James (1914–2007)

Jackson, a Virginian who helped start the Southern Negro Youth Congress, became a black official in the Communist Party in the 1940s and 1950s, leading to his indictment at the height of McCarthyism in 1951 for teaching about violent revolution. Afterward, he roamed the country in hiding for five years, until he surrendered and was convicted of conspiracy under the Smith Act, which was then overturned following Yates v. United States in 1957. 

Jackson, Jesse (1941–)

Jackson is an active civil rights figure and Baptist minister who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. He worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. in SCLC during the 1960s, heading its economic program Operation Breadbasket in Chicago. His organizational involvements ultimately merged to form Rainbow/PUSH. He is a frequent voice of racial activism on major television and news networks and has travelled extensively internationally as America’s envoy for specific causes. 

Jackson, Juanita (1913–1992)

Admitted to the bar in 1950, Jackson was the first black woman to practice law in Maryland. After Brown v. Board of Education, she filed the suits that made Maryland the first southern state to integrate its public schools. She also advocated cases that forced Baltimore city agencies to hire black public employees and that desegregated both state and municipal public facilities and parks. She worked on the White House Conference on Children in 1940 and the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights in 1966. In 1987 she was inducted to the Maryland Woman’s Hall of Fame.

Jeanes Fund, Anna T.

Quaker and philanthropist Anna Jeanes established the Jeanes Foundation with $1,000,000 inherited from her father in 1907. The purpose of the foundation was to train and employ African American teachers and supervisors dedicated to upgrading vocational training programs. 

Johns, Vernon (1892–1965)

An early activist in the civil rights movement, Johns was a farmer, a pastor, and a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. Educated at the Virginia Theological Seminary and Oberlin College, he was known for his bold activism, controversial sermons, and challenging his congregations to do more. He preceded Martin Luther King Jr. as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church from 1947 to 1952, and his ideas paved the way for MLK’s socially active ministerial teachings.

Johnson, James Weldon (1871–1938)

Johnson was a poet, teacher, diplomat, and civil rights activist known for his work as general secretary for the NAACP from 1920 to 1930 and as a literary mover of the Harlem Renaissance in New York. He published three important anthologies of black poetry, volumes of original work including Fifty Years and Other Poems, and three books on race issues in America. From 1930 until his death in 1938, he taught literature at Fisk and New York Universities. 

Jones, J. Raymond (1900–1991)

Known as the Harlem Fox, Jones was the first black leader of Tammany Hall and a force in New York City politics. He founded the Carver Democratic Club in the 1920s, ran Democratic political strategy during the civil rights era, and served on city council in the 1960s. His important political leadership and mentorship influenced the lives and careers of leaders from Mayors William O’Dwyer and Robert Wagner and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton to Reps. Adam Clayton Powell and Charles Rangel and Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry S. Truman. 

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King, Coretta Scott (1927–2006)

The wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King was herself a leading figure of the civil rights movement. In college she joined the NAACP, and eventually conceived, organized, and performed a series of Freedom Concerts that raised funds for the SCLC. She became the first woman to give the Class Day address at Harvard, served as a liaison for peace and justice organizations in the Vietnam War, and founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change after her husband’s assassination. 

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Lafayette, Bernard (1940–)

Rev. Dr. Lafayette started his long career in civil rights activism as a part of the Freedom Riders campaign in 1959 for which he was jailed in Birmingham. Subsequently, he helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960. He worked through SNCC to direct the Alabama Voter Registration Project (1962). He also was appointed by Martin Luther King Jr. as the the national program administrator for SCLC and coordinated the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. In 2009, he accepted an appointment as Distinguished Senior Scholar in Residence at Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

Lawson, James (1928–)

Rev. Lawson met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Oberlin, after which he left school to become a field secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation and an organizer for the Nashville student movement’s 1960 sit-in campaign. His time in jail as a conscientious objector to the Korean War and as a Methodist missionary in India led to his famous work teaching nonviolent resistance workshops for the Freedom Riders movement. He chaired a sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis in 1968 before serving in Los Angeles as pastor of the Holman United Methodist Church. In 2009 he returned to teach at Vanderbilt University, from which he had been expelled in the 1960s as a result of his sit-in work. 

Lawyer’s Club of Atlanta

Founded in 1922 by 12 white men, the club originally convened to discuss unethical practices by bar members and flaws in the member standards of existing bar organizations. Incorporated in 1939, it grew into a strong collection of concerned lawyers that provided a place for discourse on ethical standards in the profession. Current membership is around 1700 lawyers. 

Levison, Stanley (1912–1979)

Levison was an attorney, supporter, and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. A Jewish lawyer from New York City, he met Dr. King while raising funds for the Montgomery bus boycott, and in 1956 helped conceive the organization that became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked closely with Dr. King, drafting speeches, managing papers, and editing Stride Toward Freedom. Eventually, the FBI used Levison’s suspected communism to justify surveillance on Dr. King himself.

Locke, Alain (1885–1954)

From an early age as a Harvard grad and the first African American Rhodes scholar, Locke was an important author, teacher, and philosopher of pluralism, culture, and race. He chaired the Department of Philosophy at Howard University from 1918 to 1953, where he developed a notion of “ethnic race,” emphasizing the social and cultural dimensions of race over the biological ones. He is ultimately known as the “Father” and philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance, particularly after publishing The New Negro anthology in 1925. See also New Negro. 

Long, Carlton

A graduate of Columbia University, Long received a Rhodes Scholarship in 1984 and inspired many students to achieve the distinction as well. Among those he inspired was Benjamin Jealous, of whom Long was one of the first black male teachers, who later headed the NAACP. Long taught in the political science department at Columbia University from 1990 to 1996. He is the cofounder of an international education consulting firm, Lawrence-Long & Co. 

Louis, Joe (1914–1981)

The worldwide heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, Louis became an idol and hero in American culture, one of the first African Americans to achieve such a celebrity status. Known as the Brown Bomber, he won 26 championship fights. He immortalized himself by winning against Benito Mussolini’s emissary, Primo Carnera, in 1935, and German boxer Max Schmeling in 1938, who Hitler claimed represented Ayran superiority. Louis served his country by enlisting in the US Army during World War II.

Lucy, Autherine (1929–)

Lucy grew up in Alabama and earned a B.A. in English from Miles College, a black institution, in 1952. That year, Lucy was the first African American accepted to the University of Alabama. After discovering her race, the university moved to block her enrollment. Thurgood Marshall and other lawyers sued the university, winning in the US Supreme Court in 1955. In Feb. 1956, violent mobs that protested her presence gave university officials cause to expel her, which her attorneys unsuccessfully challenged. She received her degree in 1992. 

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Macmurray, John (1891–1976)

Macmurray was a Scottish scholar and philosopher who focused mostly on religion and the self as an agent. He earned a degree in classics from the University of Glasglow and an M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford in 1919. He was head of the Department of Philosophy at University College, London, as the Grote Professor of Mind and Logic and served as professor and chair in moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. His publications include Freedom in the Modern World (1932), The Self as Agent (1957), and Search for Reality in Religion (1965). 

Malcolm X (1925–1965)

A prominent leader of the Black Power movement and civil rights activist, Malcolm X, nee Little, grew up in the foster system after his father’s likely murder by white supremacists for his open support of Marcus Garvey. While serving a jail sentence for burglary, he began to study the Nation of Islam and its leader, Elijah Muhammad. After his parole, he changed last name to X to signify his lost tribal name and became a minister and national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam. He oversaw a membership increase from 500 to 30,000 members from 1952 to 1963 and is known for his strong Black Power philosophy. Malcolm X broke from the NOI in 1964 to found his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque Inc. He was assassinated in 1965 and over 1,500 people attended his funeral. 

Marcuse, Herbert (1898–1979)

Renowned as one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century and heavily influenced by his teacher, Martin Heidegger, Marcuse joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research with Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, which relocated to New York from Germany during World War II. Marcuse focused on modern social theory, especially Marxism, earning him notoriety as the “Father of the New Left.” His works include The One-Dimensional Man (1964), Soviet Marxism (1958), and An Essay on Liberation (1969). 

Marshall, Thurgood (1908–1993)

Marshall was the first black Supreme Court Justice in the United States, serving from 1967 until 1991. He attended Howard University Law School under Charles Hamilton Houston’s tutelage, and became chief counsel for the NAACP. He amassed a highly successful record of winning civil rights cases, including, most notably Brown v. Board of Education (1954). President John F. Kennedy named him to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, after which he served as US solicitor general, winning 14 cases at the Supreme Court. In 1967, America’s most successful Supreme Court lawyer became an Associate Justice of the Court, where he served until retirement. 

Martin, Martin A.

Along with Spottswood Robinson, Martin was a law partner to Oliver Hill. During the 1940s, he worked with astute attention to the law to get Virginia to address educational inequalities under segregation. As Hill expanded his efforts, he called upon fellow Howard law school graduate Martin to operate an office in Danville. Martin died in the 1960s.

Mays, Benjamin (1894–1984)

Mays influenced a generation of African American leaders and was himself an important scholar, educator, and civil rights activist. Educated at Bates College, he started as a pastor before joining Morehouse University as faculty. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he became dean of the School of Religion at Howard University. In 1940, he was elected president of Morehouse College. Throughout, he remained a scholar of African American Christianity, publishing nine books, including Seeking to Be Christian in Race Relations, and nearly 2,000 articles. See also Morehouse College.

McCarthy, Joseph (1908–1957)

Born in Wisconsin, McCarthy graduated from Marquette University with a law degree but was largely unsuccessful in law. He ran a dirty but successful campaign for a circuit court judgeship, before quitting to serve in the Marines in World War II. After the war, he beat Senator Robert La Follete of Wisconsin to become a Republican senator. Sensing that he might not win reelection, McCarthy seized upon the American public’s fear of communism by announcing a list of 205 State Department members who were ostensibly American Communist Party members. Appointed chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, he investigated public workers and private citizens for communist alignment for three years. The military and President Eisenhower began uncovering and revealing McCarthy’s dishonesty and corruption to the press, which turned the tide against him. He was censured by the Senate in 1954 and stripped of his power. 

McDew, Charles (1938–)

McDew helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and served as its chairman from 1961 to 1964. He started his activism in 8th grade protesting for the religious freedom of Amish students in Ohio, and in 1960 became involved in the Orangeburg, South Carolina lunch counter sit-ins. Joining SNCC, he organized for the Freedom Rides and the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. He continued his activism after John Lewis took over in 1964, managing antipoverty programs in D.C., Boston, and San Francisco. He taught civil rights and African American history at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis until his retirement. 

Melish, Rev. W. Howard (1910–1986)

Rev. Melish was famously ousted from his Brooklyn parish in 1957 for his chairmanship of the National Council of American–Soviet Friendship. He believed in peace between the Soviet Union and the United States, and firmly supported civil rights, spending 10 years raising money for the civil rights movement with the Southern Conference Education Fund. A graduate of Harvard and the Episcopal Theological School, Rev. Melish became a target of Joseph McCarthy. In 1982, he rejoined his Brooklyn church as an assisting priest, where he stayed until his death. 

Meredith, James (1933–)

Meredith was the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. He applied to the segregated University of Mississippi in 1961 and was admitted, but the registrar denied him enrollment after discovering his race. He sued and won at the US Supreme Court. His arrival at Ole Miss sparked riots, quelled only by the National Guard presence. After graduating in 1963, he went on to receive economics and law degrees in Nigeria and New York. In 1966, he organized the March Against Fear from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, and was shot by a sniper early on. He continued to be active in politics for the remainder of his career, joining the ranks of the Republican Party. 

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP)

Founded during the Freedom Summer of 1964, the MFDP challenged the Mississippi Democratic Party’s denial of voting rights to African Americans by attempting to displace them as the Mississippi Delegation at the Democratic National Convention. The NAACP, CORE, SCLC, and SNCC aided their cause at the convention, and MFDP delegate Fannie Lou Hamer spoke on national television about the violence and intimidation experienced by Mississippi blacks registering to vote. They did not succeed in gaining seats, but they advocated strongly and helped pave the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Mitchell, Charlene (1930–)

Mitchell joined the American Youth for Democracy at 13 in 1943, beginning a lifelong career of socialist activism. She led the effort to free Angela Davis, rejuvenated the Communist Party USA in the 1960s and ran as its candidate for president in 1968, the first black woman to do so. She advocated with the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, supported African liberation movements, and worked globally for civil rights. She ran unsuccessfully for Senate against Daniel Moynihan in 1988, and served as an official international observer in the 1994 postapartheid South African elections.

Mitchell, Clarence Jr. (1911–1984)

Mitchell directed the NAACP Washington Bureau and served as its chief lobbyist from 1950 to 1979. Often called the “101st US Senator” in recognition of his importance and determination, he tirelessly worked to secure passage of key civil rights laws: the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. His family’s papers, housed at the Library of Congress, are one of the nation’s most important civil rights archives. In 1980 Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Baltimore City courthouse is named in his honor. 

Moore, Amzie (1911–1982)

An ardent civil-rights worker in the Mississippi Delta, Moore conceived of the voter registration campaign that became the central focus of Freedom Summer in 1964. He was employed by the U.S. Post Office from 1935 before serving in the U.S. Army in World War II. Following the war, he opened small businesses in Cleveland, MS that also became meeting places for civil rights efforts. From the 1950s, he helped build the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). His house was often used by civil-rights workers in the area as a “safe house.” 

Morehouse College

Founded in 1867 by Rev. William Jefferson White as the Augusta Theological Institute, historically black Morehouse College has educated generations of African American men who include Martin Luther King Jr., Sanford D. Bishop, Julian Bond, Bakari Sellers, the actor Samuel L. Jackson, and myriad other successful men. Morehouse also boasts three Rhodes Scholars. Renamed in 1913, President John Hope expanded the Atlanta-based college’s strengths in preparing African Americans for teaching and ministry to include all areas. Dr. Benjamin Mays, who took over in 1940, built Morehouse’s international reputation for scholarship, grew the faculty and mentored a generation of leaders. Morehouse College houses the Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, and is an important source of scholarship in African American history and culture. 

Moron, Alonzo (1909–1971)

Born in the Virgin Islands, Moron enrolled at the Hampton Institute Trade School in Virginia at 14, working odd jobs to support himself. From 1928 to 1932, he studied sociology at Brown University, graduating cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa before receiving a Masters from the University of Pittsburgh in 1933. He served as commissioner of public welfare for the Virgin Islands, before returning to the United States and getting a law degree as a Rosenwald Fellow at Harvard in 1947. He returned to the historically black Hampton Institute as a general business manager, ultimately becoming the first black president of Hampton in 1949, taking it from a trade school to university during his tenure. 

Muhammad, Elijah (1897–1975)

Muhammad grew up Elijah Poole in Georgia and quit school after 4th grade to feed his family. Seeking economic opportunities, he moved his family to Detroit, Michigan, where in 1931 he met W. D. Fard, founder of the Nation of Islam. He changed his name and adopted Fard’s ideas, leading the NOI to Chicago after Fard’s disappearance. With his controversial preaching of racial separation over integration, and focus on economic support, Muhammad built the NOI into a national organization with the help of apostle Malcolm X. See also Nation of Islam.

Murphy, Tom (1952–2012)

Murphy served as spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education for nearly two decades. He discussed the challenging requirements of No Child Left Behind and watched Education Commissioner Ted Sergi build one of the nation’s top-scoring school systems. He additionally observed the challenges of landmark civil rights education case Sheff v. ONeill, in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state had an active obligation to provide an equal educational opportunity for every school child, and that school districting caused inequities due to racial and ethnic isolation. 

Murray, Pauli (1910–1985)

Murray was a civil rights activist and feminist who defied and broke racial and gender boundaries throughout her career. Arrested in 1940 for refusing to sit in the back of a bus, she joined CORE while attending Howard University and in 1943 published essays including Negroes Are Fed Up in Common Sense and her famous poem Dark Testament. Awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship at Harvard Law, she was denied admission because of her gender, and instead attained a J.D. from the University of California Berkeley in 1945. She developed legal techniques in States’ Laws on Race and Color (1950) that guided the NAACP’s 1954 Brown arguments. She cofounded the National Organization for Women in 1966 after receiving the first J.S.D. Yale Law gave to an African American. In 2012, she became an Episcopal Saint, 27 years after her death. 

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NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)

After the 1908 race riot in Springfield, Illinois, several white liberals called for a meeting on racial justice, which occurred in New York. An invitation to more than 60 people included Ida B. Wells-Barnett and W. E. B. Du Bois, and from that the organization was born in February 1909. The NAACP grew into the largest and oldest civil rights organization in America, building a national network of local offices to advocate for racial justice on economic, political, moral, and legal issues. During the Great Depression, the NAACP worked through ally Eleanor Roosevelt and the Congress of Industrial Organizations to secure jobs for African Americans, leading to the desegregation of the Armed Forces. The NAACP helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, advocated against lynching for 30 years, and created the Legal Defense Fund. It is renowned as a force for economic advancement, equal health care and education, voter empowerment, and criminal justice. See also Niagara Movement. 

NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF)

Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, the Legal Defense Fund served as the legal force behind the civil rights movement and a constant advocate of human rights. After winning Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the LDF filed hundreds of cases against school districts throughout the period of “Massive Resistance.” In 1957 the LDF became independent of the NAACP. Besides success in desegregation of schools, the LDF won voting rights in Smith v. Allwright (1943), ended antimiscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia (1967), eradicated employment discrimination in Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971), and challenged the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia (1972). Their ranks include figures such as Jack Greenberg, Julius Chambers, and Elaine Jones. 

Nabrit, James (Jim) Jr. (1900–1997)

Nabrit was a prominent civil rights attorney who argued several cases for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, including Bolling v. Sharpe, a Brown companion case. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1923 and Northwestern University Law School in 1927. He became dean of Howard University School of Law in 1958 and served as the University’s second black president from 1960 to 1969. He also served as deputy ambassador to the United Nations. He is known as a leading civil rights advocate and scholar in constitutional law. 

Nation of Islam (NOI)

Founded in the 1930s by Wallace D. Fard, eventually Fard Muhammad, the Nation of Islam started as a collection of beliefs founded in Islam and black nationalism and grew into one of the most powerful organizations in African American history. Elijah Muhammad joined W. D. Fard, a direct representative of Allah, in developing the central philosophies of the organization, including the inherent superiority and originality of blacks over whites, leading to support for strict racial separation. Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali increased its notoriety and grew membership from 400 to 100,000–300,000 from 1952 to 1964. Often controversial, the NOI was isolated from other civil rights groups by its rejection of nonviolence. Louis Farrakhan took over after Malcolm X split with NOI, and eventually led the organization himself.

National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)

Founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935, the organization worked to represent African American women throughout the civil rights movement. Dr. Bethune built a national network of African American women’s organizations and published a magazine African Woman’s Journal that encouraged political activism and community organizing. Joining with other civil rights organizations, the NCNW worked to address New Deal discrimination, establish the Fair Employment Practices Committee, and attain a national voice for women and family concerns. Dr. Bethune helped draft the UN Charter as a delegate to the conference, and by 1960 under Dr. Dorothy Height, the NCNW worked for equal housing, voter registration, education, and economic services and opportunities. 

National Science Foundation

Created by Congress in 1950, the National Science Foundation provides funding to support largely nonmedical but fundamental research and education in science and engineering. The organization funds approximately 20 percent of federally supported research, making more than 10,000 awards each year, and focuses on fields such as mathematics, computer science, physics, and social sciences. 

National Urban League (NUL)

Formed from the merger of several committees focused on improving the urban and industrial conditions of male and female African Americans in New York in 1911, the NUL became a crucial advocate for the economic, political, and social rights of African Americans. Ruth Standish Baldwin and Dr. George Edmund Hayes were early figures, the latter serving as the first executive secretary. The NUL focused on breaking down barriers to economic opportunity for blacks, advocating and supporting the civil rights movement, and continuing the fight for equal economic and political rights.

New Negro

Famously found in Howard University philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke’s 1925 essay “The New Negro,” the term described the African American prepared to undo the racial, social, political, legal, and economic barriers that had constrained black opportunities and advancement for generations. Locke advocated for a new generation of African Americans who would oppose Jim Crow and advocate for civil rights. 

New York African Free School

Founded by the New York Manumission Society in 1787, the school started as a single-room schoolhouse with 40 students. Their goal was to educate black children, many of whom were the children of slaves. When it became a part of the New York City public school system in 1935, the school had taught thousands of children. 

Newark Eagles

Part of the Negro National Baseball League, the Newark Eagles formed from the Brooklyn Eagles and Newark Dodgers under Abe and Effa Manley in 1936. Under their leadership, the team fostered the Negro League’s biggest talents, including Willie Wells, Leon Day, and Monte Irvin. The team won the Negro World Series in 1946, but disbanded in 1948 after Jackie Robinson broke racial barriers and entered the Major League. 

Newton, Huey (1942–1989)

In 1966, Newton cofounded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense with Bobby Seale and helped lead the Black Power movement of the 1960s. The Panthers were known for militancy and believed that violence had to be met with force for change to occur. Newton had run-ins with the law throughout his life, the most serious of which was his conviction of voluntary manslaughter in a 1967 killing of a police officer in Oakland. Newton’s case was dismissed after a “Free Huey” campaign brought public support to his cause. He went on to receive a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz in 1980. He died in 1989 after he was shot in Oakland. 

Niagara Movement

Started by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1905, the Niagara Movement challenged the more accomodationist views of Booker T. Washington, seen by many as too conciliatory. The group wrote a manifesto that demanded the right to vote, elimination of segregation on public transit, and the guarantee of basic rights to African Americans. Several members of the movement, importantly including Du Bois, founded the NAACP in 1909, and disbanded the Niagara group in 1910. See also NAACP. 

Niebuhr, Reinhold (1892–1971)

Niebuhr was an influential American Protestant theologian and scholar, best known for his “Christian Realism.” He focused on the persistent roots of evil in human life, calling attention to man’s egotism, class interests, and nationalism. He was a radical critic of capitalism, and ran for office several times on a socialist ticket. He spoke out forcefully against the Ku Klux Klan during his years in Detroit. Among his best known works are the two-volume The Nature and Destiny of Man (1943) and The Irony of American History (1952). He served as a pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit from 1915 to 1928 and then taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York City from 1928 to 1960, winning the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His writings influenced Martin Luther King Jr’s posture on nonviolence. 

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Panetta, Leon (1938–)

Secretary Panetta is most well known for his service in Obama’s cabinet, first as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and then as secretary of defense, from which he retired in 2013. Long before his career in national security, Panetta served as the director for the US Office of Civil Rights under Nixon. During his tenure, he managed the integration of 500+ southern public school districts. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from California in 1976, and subsequently directed President Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget in 1993. He advocated for civil rights right until his retirement, and during his tenure, dismantled barriers to women in combat in the US Armed Forces. 

Parks, Rosa (1913–2005)

Rosa Parks is known for her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, public bus to a white passenger. She joined the NAACP in 1943 after marrying Raymond Parks and served as secretary to NAACP president E. D. Nixon until 1957. She was arrested in 1955 after refusing to give up her seat, inciting a boycott that crippled the Montgomery public transit system. After a year of fighting, the city ended the law that segregated buses. She moved to Detroit, served on Planned Parenthood’s board, and founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.

Patterson, Frederick D. (1901–1988)

Named after Frederick Douglass, Patterson was raised by his sister in Texas and received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Iowa State College in 1923. He started teaching at Tuskegee University in 1928. Over 25 years, he rose to head of the veterinary division, director of the School of Agriculture, and finally, the third president of the university. He founded the School of Veterinary Medicine during his tenure. In 1944, he founded the United Negro College Fund, a source of funds and support for historically black colleges and universities, as well as their students. President Ronald Reagan recognized him in 1985 for starting the College Endowment Funding Plan, and gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom two years later.

Peabody Education Fund

The fund was created by George Peabody following the Civil War in 1867 to educate impoverished whites in the most destitute areas of the Deep South. Because there were no schools established for freedmen, it could not benefit them. In 1910, the Peabody College for Teachers was created in Nashville, Tennesse. 

Phelps-Stokes Fund

The fund was established in 1911 to connect leaders in Africa and the Americas to improve quality of life. Endowed by Caroline Phelps Stokes in her will, it particularly focused on education of the underprivileged, including African Americans, Native Americans, and Africans. The fund’s successes in Liberia are particularly well known, where it founded the Booker Washington Institute. It seeded a number of educational organizations, including the South African Institute of Race Relations and the United Negro College Fund, and supported US research on African American educational issues. 

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Ramses Club

Established by Dorothy Height and several fellow black students at New York University during the Harlem Renaissance, club members aimed to learn more and engage in African American culture. They attended events such as lectures and readings given by such figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson. 

Randolph, A. Philip (1889–1979)

Starting from the National Negro Congress in 1936, Randolph became a leader within the American labor party, socialist, and civil rights movements. He organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, which became the first predominantly black labor union and motivated President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end discrimination in defense jobs. He organized the prayer pilgrimage in 1957 for the civil rights bill, the March on Washington in 1963, and advocated the Freedom Budget in 1966 that would fight poverty. 

Redding, Louis (1901–1998)

The first black lawyer in Delaware, he was part of the NAACP legal team that brought Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court. A graduate of Brown (1923) and Harvard Law School (1928), he compiled the 1950 case that desegregated the University of Delaware, which became the first institution with federal funds to integrate. He was a prominent civil rights lawyer in his career spanning 57 years, also arguing Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority (1961) case, which outlawed segregation of public accommodations. 

Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York

Rheedlen was founded in Harlem in 1970 with the intention of reducing truancy. Geoffrey Canada became president in 1990 and used the annual $3 million budget to build and provide teen programs to reduce violence and provide safe after-school activities. The organization eventually became Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, which initially focused on a 24-block area to study and reduce the negative impacts of poverty on the safety and well-being of children. The HCZ continues to grow and constantly take on new issues of concern. 

Richardson, Judy (1944–)

Richardson worked with the SNCC for three years in the 1960s in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Richardson joined the Swarthmore Political Action Committee in college, and in 1963 spent her weekends assisting the Cambridge, MD community in desegregating public accommodations. Later in life, she produced documentaries and books about the civil rights movement, including Eyes on the Prize, Malcolm X: Make It Plain, and Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, which includes 52 memoirs of women bravely working for civil rights in the 1960s.

Ricks, Willie (a.k.a. Mukassa Dada) (1943–)

Ricks was a community organizer and prominent civil rights activist who first gained recognition for his work as a field secretary for SNCC with John Lewis. He planned sit-ins, demonstrations, and marches throughout the South. Eventually, he split ideologically from the SNCC and joined the Black Panther Party with Stokely Carmichael, where he instigated and spread the term “Black Power.”

Robeson, Paul (1898–1976)

Born in New Jersey, Robeson attended Rutgers University on scholarship, the third African American to do so. He won 15 varsity sports letters and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a law degree from Columbia University, while also playing in the National Football League, but quit law in 1923 after facing discrimination, and turned to theater, film, and music. He became a famous and influential actor and an internationally known singer whose credits include the lead in The Emperor Jones by Eugene O’Neill, and films Jericho, Show Boat (1936) and Tales of Manhattan (1942). He vocally supported racial equality and Pan-Africanism, for which the government accused him of communism during the McCarthy-led Red Scare, and inhibited his work. He published his autobiography in 1958.

Robinson, Jackie (1972–1919)

Born in Georgia, Robinson played football, basketball, track, and baseball throughout his childhood and won his region’s baseball MVP award in 1938. He studied at UCLA, becoming the first student to win letters in four sports. He served in the US Army until 1944 when he was court-martialed for refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus and honorably discharged. He started playing in the Negro Leagues of baseball until the Brooklyn Dodgers hired him to play, making him the first African American player in Major League baseball. He faced harassment and threats, but became a national hero as Rookie of the Year and the National League’s MVP in 1949. 

Robinson, James (1907–1972)

A clergyman and founder of Operation Crossroads Africa, Robinson is known for his humanitarian work. A 1938 graduate of Union Theological Seminary and previously of Lincoln University, he pastored Harlem’s Morningside Presbyterian Church, engaging in social justice projects. His travels in Africa in 1954 led him to found Operation Crossroads Africa, which coordinated volunteers to build infrastructure and improve education in African communities. The OCA preceded the Peace Corps, and was recognized by President Kennedy for its importance in the latter’s conception. 

Robinson, Spottswood III (1916–1998)

A 1939 graduate of Howard Law School, Robinson was a prominent civil rights attorney in Virginia most known for arguing one of the five Brown v. Board of Education 1954 cases. Out of college he joined the Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Virginia and developed expertise in constitutional law and 14th amendment law. He was dean of Howard Law school from 1960 to 1963, when he was named a judge of the US District Court in D.C. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson named him to the US Court of Appeals in D.C., of which he became chief judge in 1981, the first African American to hold the post.

Roosevelt, Eleanor (1884–1962)

After marrying Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, Eleanor involved herself in her husband’s career. While he was president, she transformed the role of the First Lady by writing opinion columns, traveling across the country, and giving press conferences on important issues. Her tireless advocacy of human rights, including many minority and socioeconomic issues, made her an important humanitarian leader and a key ally of the civil rights movement. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and later served on the Kennedy administration’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. 

Rosenberg Foundation

Established in 1935 by California businessman Max L. Rosenberg, the organization has provided thousands of grants. Grounded in the belief that every Californian should have equitable opportunities, the foundation works to help underprivileged children, involve immigrants and racial minorities into civic institutions, reform the criminal justice system, and strengthen the economic health of families. 

Rosenwald, Julius (1862–1932)

Known for his humility and hard work, Rosenwald owned Sears, Roebuck and Company and built its merchandise shipping business. A successful businessman and multimillionaire, Rosenwald focused on philanthropy and built a friendship with Booker T. Washington after reading his autobiography. On his 50th birthday in 1912, he gave $700,000 (currently $16 million), including $25,000 to the Tuskegee Institute, which Washington used in part to fund education for black children in the Deep South. Almost 5,000 Rosenwald-backed schools were built, which educated 35 percent of black children in the South. 

Russell, Judith

Russell is a lecturer in political science at Columbia. Her area of specialty is American politics. She was vice president for research and policy at The New York City Partnership before returning to a teaching position. 

Rustin, Bayard (1912–1987)

An important organizer of the civil rights movement, he worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr., promoting a philosophy of nonviolence informed by the Quaker religion, Mahatma Gandhi, and A. Philip Randolph. An incredibly effective organizer, he started working for King in 1955, assisting with the Montgomery boycott in 1956, and coordinating the March on Washington in 1963. He cofounded the A. Philip Randolph Institute for African American trade union members. His work in civil rights and LGBT advocacy gained him much renown, recorded in his writings in Down the Line (1971) and Strategies for Freedom (1976).

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Schwerner, Michael (Mickey) (1939–1964)

A field organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality, he was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Philadelphia, Mississippi, while promoting voter registration for African Americans. He graduated from Columbia’s School of Social Work, and moved from New York to Mississippi to work for CORE with his wife, Rita. He saw Mississippi as a decisive battleground for racial equality in America, and persisted in his work despite death threats. After being arrested for a traffic violation, he and two fellow workers James Chaney and Andy Goodman were murdered by Ku Klux Klan members. See also Bender, Rita.

Scottsboro Nine

The Scottsboro Nine refers to nine African American boys who were accused of assault and the rape of two white women. They were arrested and charged in March 1931, and eight were sentenced to death. The NAACP and International Labor Defense battled to appeal their cases, reaching the US Supreme Court in November 1932. The Court reviewed the seven convictions upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court and reversed them on due process. Litigation continued for years, but ultimately Alabama released the four youngest defendants, and paroled all but one, who escaped. The widely publicized case revealed the discrimination and violence faced by blacks in the Jim Crow South. 

Seale, Robert (Bobby) (1936–)

Seale is an African American political activist who advocated militant black empowerment over the nonviolent rhetoric of the civil rights movement. He grew up in California and joined the US Air Force in 1955. He met Huey Newton while protesting the Cuba blockade and they quickly became friends. Seale and Newton formed the Black Panthers in 1966, which became the Black Panther Party. Focusing on community outreach, the Panthers spread across the nation. Seale spent four years in prison following charges that he conspired to start riots at the DNC in Chicago, and afterward began writing, publishing A Lonely Rage in 1978 and a cookbook in 1987. 

Sellers, Cleveland (1944–)

Sellers was a civil rights activist from the age of 15 onward, starting in North Carolina and moving south, becoming a founding member and program director of SNCC. He was injured and arrested during the Orangeburg Massacre, a protest that turned violent on South Carolina State University’s campus. The only person imprisoned (unfairly), he spent his seven-month sentence writing his autobiography, The River of No Return. Once released, he completed his education and received degrees from Shaw University, Harvard, and UNC-Greensboro. He received a full pardon 25 years after his conviction. Ultimately, Sellers became president of Voorhees College. 

Shaw University

Founded in 1865 and located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Shaw University is the oldest historically black university in the South. In 1873, it became the first US collegiate institution to build a female dormitory, and in 1881 Shaw founded Leonard Medical School, the first southern four-year program to train black doctors and pharmacists. By 1900, Shaw had educated more than 30,000 black teachers. In 1960, Ella Baker organized a conference at Shaw, her alma mater, that initiated the SNCC. 

Shirek, Maudelle (1911–2013)

Shirek grew up on a farm in Arkansas, before moving to Berkeley in the 1940s. She served on City Council in Berkeley, California from 1984 to 2004, becoming known as the “Conscience of the Council.” She championed needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS, extended domestic benefits to same-sex partners, and divested Berkeley from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. Berkeley’s City Hall is named in her honor.

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922–2011)

Born in Alabama, Shuttlesworth became pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in 1953. He led the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, which was the most important civil rights organization in Birmingham in the 1950s and 19560s, formed to continue the court-halted work of the NAACP in Alabama. A founding minister of the SCLC in 1957 with Dr. King, he organized two weeks of demonstrations in Birmingham in 1963 against segregation, which in part led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Through personal injury, arrest, and tumult, he fought for the civil rights movement and became one of its most dedicated leaders.

Sinquefield, Richard Anderson (1825–1910)

Rev. Richard Sinquefield published a record of his 42 years of work as an itinerant preacher in the AME Church of West Arkansas in 1909. He acquired his education while a slave, and served the abolition movement after his escape. He and his peers challenged societal notions that African Americans could not learn, working toward emancipation and education for all. 

Slater Fund, John F.

The fund was established in 1882 to support the industrial and vocational higher education of newly freed African Americans in the South, with an early emphasis on training teachers. John F. Slater, a Connecticut textiles manufacturer, initiated the fund with a $1 million gift, and by 1931 it had contributed over $2.2 million to expand higher education for blacks in the South. In 1932, it merged with the Peabody Fund, the Jeanes Fund, and the Virginia Randolph Fund to form the Southern Education Foundation, Inc. 

Smith, Bessie (1894–1937)

Smith started singing professionally in 1912 and performed to success in vaudeville and black theatre throughout the 1920s. Clarence Williams brought her to New York to record her first album, Down-Hearted Blues, which was immensely popular and made her one of the most successful black artists of her time. She recorded blues with such jazz musicians as James P. Johnson and Louis Armstrong. In 1929, she made her film debut in St. Louis Blues. She continued to perform and record into the Great Depression after leaving Columbia Records, but struggled with alcoholism and died in a tragic car accident in 1937. 

Smith, Kelly Miller (1920–1984)

Born in Mississippi, Smith attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he joined the campus chapter of the NAACP, beginning a long career of nonviolent civil rights advocacy. After receiving his divinity degree from Howard University, he moved to Nashville in 1951. There, he founded a group called the Nashville Christian Leadership Council in 1958, which helped organize lunch-counter student sit-ins. He pastored the First Baptist Church in Nashville, and eventually became president of the NAACP. He also served as assistant dean of Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. 

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

The SCLC was founded in 1957 to coordinate the actions of civil rights protest groups in the South. Under Martin Luther King Jr., the organization coordinated black churches to achieve rights for African Americans via nonviolent methods. Following the Montgomery bus boycott, which incited the SCLC’s formation, Bayard Rustin wrote working papers to expand the tactics to other cities. The SCLC coordinated the actions of local committees throughout the South, and is known for the Crusade for Citizenship, its work in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, and the March on Washington. 

Southern Negro Youth Congress

Formed in 1937 by young leaders who met at the 1936 National Negro Congress in Chicago, the organization advocated civil rights issues in employment and voter discrimination, and made great progress educating African Americans in the rural South about their rights and strategies for protests. It met for the first time in Richmond, Virginia, in 1937, attended by 534 delegates. With a peak membership of 11,000 and the support of Mary McLeod Bethune, A. Philip Randolph and W. E. B. Du Bois, the organization helped build the civil rights movement in the 1950s in spite of intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan and opposition from the FBI.

Southern Poverty Law Center

Known for its successful legal victories against hate groups and focus on promoting tolerance, the SPLC began its work in 1971 under Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. Julian Bond served as its first president from 1971 to 1979, at which time the organization brought its first cases against the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. A notable publication, Teaching Tolerance, influences generations of teachers and calls attention to ongoing problems of race in American society.

Southern Regional Council (SRC)

The SRC formed as the Commission on Interracial Cooperation in 1919 to advocate and work against racial injustice in the South. It has conducted research on racial and economic conditions in the South and published background reports in its journal New South (now Southern Changes), compiling an invaluable record. Howard Odum, its civil rights era leader, focused on reform of economic, social, and political issues to achieve racial equality. The council’s projects include the Voter Education Project (which became independent in 1971) and the Lillian Smith Book Award (est. 1968), which recognizes authors who advance racial and social equality in the American South. See also Voter Education Project. 

Stanley, Thomas B. (1890–1970)

Stanley was governor of Virginia in the years directly after Brown v. Board of Education. Originally moderate in his stance, Stanley caved to pressure from the Byrd Organization and others that strongly opposed desegregation, creating the committee that would draft Virginia’s response to Brown. The Legislature approved the Stanley Plan in 1956, which allowed the governor to shut down any school that might desegregate. These massive resistance plans severely disrupted state-supported education. Stanley subsequently beame an executive of First National Bank. 

Steinem, Gloria (1934–)

Steinem grew to prominence as an outspoken social advocate in the 1960s, championing women’s rights. She graduated from Smith College in 1956 and studied in India. In 1963 she published her famous expos é of New York’s Playboy Club. She wrote political columns for New York magazine and joined prominent feminists to start the National Women’s Caucus in 1971. She founded Ms magazine, a feminist publication that discussed crucial women’s issues, including domestic violence. She published an essay collection in 1983 and wrote throughout the 1980s and 1990s as she defeated breast cancer, married, and continued to advocate for equality. 

Steptoe, E. (Eldridge) W. (1936–2009)

A black landowner and businessman in Amite County, Mississippi, Steptoe protected and guided the young civil-rights activists in SNCC and CORE. He was an important participant in the Mississippi Freedom Movement. 

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Founded in April 1960 at Shaw University, the committee led the sit-in student protest movements that occurred across the South during the civil rights movement. Ella Baker organized the conference, attendees of which conceived a community based student-run group to coordinate protests. Nonviolence was strongly stated in its guiding documents, and Marion Barry was the first elected chairman. SNCC students and leaders worked on the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the 1963 March on Washington. Notable members include Julian Bond, James Lawson, John Lewis, Bob Moses, Diane Nash, and Stokely Carmichael. 

Sutton, Percy (1920–2009)

Sutton began his long political career in the 1950s as a Democrat in Harlem, joining the ranks of the “Gang of Four” prominent black politicians in New York. He served in World War II as an intelligence officer for the Tuskegee Airmen and supported his law degree through the GI Bill. After serving in the Korean War, he started a law practice in 1953. His most well-known client was Malcolm X, who Sutton represented both before and after his death. In the 1960s he was arrested as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi and Alabama, and he served as Manhattan’s borough president for more than 10 years, after which he invested in radio and theater and remained a leader until his death. 

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Tawney, Richard (R.H.) (1880–1962)

Tawney grew up in Calcutta, India, and studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford University. In 1917, he became a lecturer at the London School of Economics. He became a professor of economic history in 1931. His work in sociology heavily influenced education, including Secondary Education for All (1922) and Education: the Socialist Policy (1924). He was a strong proponent of adult education. He also published economic and political works, mostly on the flaws of capitalism, including The Acquisitive Society (1920) and Equality (1931). Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) calls attention to the societal problems that accrue from a focus on the acquisition of wealth.

Terrell, Mary Church (1863–1954)

Terrell was one of the first black women to earn a college degree, graduating in Classics from Oberlin College in 1884. She worked in education, rising from teacher to the D.C. Board of Education, the first black woman in the United States to do so. She was a founder of the NAACP and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women. She worked ardently for women’s suffrage and the segregation of public facilities in DC ended in 1953 when she was 90 years old. 

Thurman, Howard (1899–1981)

Thurman became a Baptist minister in 1925 and pastored in Oberlin, Ohio. He joined the faculty of Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta as a religion professor, and in 1929 studied with Rufus Jones, a known Quaker pacifist, at Haverford. Thurman then began to focus and write about peaceful activism rooted in faith, in an essay called “Peace Tactics and a Racial Minority.” He served as the dean of Howard University (1932–1944), leaving to help found the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States. In 1958, Thurman became the first black dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, making him the first tenured black dean of a majority white university. 

Thurmond, Strom (1902–2003)

Serving 48 years as a senator from South Carolina, Thurmond was a powerful and controversial politician throughout the twentieth century. He is known for conducting the longest filibuster on record against the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He switched parties in 1964 to the Republicans in opposition to civil rights legislation. He wrote the Southern Manifesto after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that described southern resistance to desegregation. In his later years, he supported legislation to establish MLK Day, and served as president pro tempore of the Senate. 

Tillich, Paul (1886–1965)

Tillich was a renowned German philosopher and theologian, who moved to the United States after Hitler came to power in 1933. He taught at Union Theological Seminary and was considered one of the most prominent Protestant thinkers, and his work became a foundation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy. King wrote his dissertation on Tillich’s work in 1953 and grappled with Tillich’s Christian existentialism. Tillich ended his career at the University of Chicago, to which he had moved in 1962. His most famous works are The Courage to Be (1952), Dynamics of Faith (1957), and Systemic Theology Vols. 1–3 (1951–1963). 

Tisdale, Charles (1927–2007)

Tisdale bought The Advocate, a weekly newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1978. After the civil rights era, Tisdale realized that much remained to be done. He changed The Advocate to be a hard-hitting journalistic paper that exposed corruption in the Mississippi government and reported on the injustices and civil rights violations African Americans and impoverished whites experienced in the Deep South. Tisdale received death threats throughout the 1980s and 1990s for his work, and the paper’s offices were frequently threatened by shootings and fire bombings. 

Truth, Sojourner (1797–1883)

Truth was born Isabella Baumfree into a slave family owned by Colonel Hardenbergh in New York and was subsequently sold to John Dumont. She had several children, and after New York emancipated all slaves in 1827, her son was illegally sold to a man in Alabama. She fought and won a case to free him, becoming the first black woman to win a challenge against a white man in a US court. In 1843 she changed her name and became a powerful abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights. She met William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, and famously gave her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. She worked throughout the Civil War to secure freedom and rights for slaves and women in the South. 

Tubman, Harriet (1820–1913)

The most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, Tubman took 19 trips to the South to rescue over 300 slaves and lead them to freedom in the North. In 1856, her capture was valued at $40,000. In New England, she attended antislavery meetings and during the Civil War, she served as a cook, nurse, and spy for the Union. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, an expedition that freed 700 slaves. She lived in Auburn, New York, where she suffered increasing symptoms of a head injury from early in life. She is one of the most famous civilian figures of American antebellum history. See also Underground Railroad. 

Tucker, Samuel W. (1913–1990)

Tucker started his civil rights career in 1939, conducting the first nonviolent sit-in of the civil rights movement at a library in Alexandria. He attended Howard University as an undergraduate, and qualified for the Virginia Bar in 1933 on the basis of his independent study and work in a law office. A partner of Hill, Tucker and Marsh, he led NAACP’s legal challenge of many post– Brown v. Board of Education cases, famously arguing Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (1968) before the Supreme Court, which ruled that schools had an “affirmative duty” to desegregate. He worked to end racial discrimination in jury selection and challenged racial bias in death penalty convictions, taking on 150 cases in 1967 alone.

Tuskegee Institute

The Tuskegee Institute, which became a university in 1985, is a historically black, private university founded in 1881. After Lewis Adams, a former slave, secured authorization for a black normal school in Tuskegee from the Alabama senate, former slaveowner George Campbell helped find its first principal, Booker T. Washington. Washington took the school to prominence, gaining the institution’s independence. Robert Moton took over after his death, in 1915, and founded the first hospital, the Tuskegee V.A. Hospital in 1923, the first staffed by black professionals. Dr. Frederick Patterson took over in 1935, founded a veterinary school, and built the Tuskegee Airman flight-training program, famous for its World War II contributions. Several presidents have visited the university, George Washington Carver taught there, and it has been declared a National Historic Landmark. See also Washington, Booker T. 

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Underground Railroad

From 1810 to 1850, the Underground Railroad brought 100,000 slaves from southern plantations to freedom in the North. It consisted of a network of homes and safe locations (“stations”) that sheltered runaway slaves as they travelled north. Along the way, many provided money and goods (“stockholders”) and “conductors,” including Harriet Tubman, led runaways from station to station. 

United Christian Youth Movement of North America

Started in 1934, the movement represented 42 Protestant youth agencies. By 1945, over 10,000,000 people were served. Conferences were held beginning in 1936 to engage Christian youth in meaningful action. Dorothy Height was involved during her college years and the organization helped develop her leadership skills and devotion to civil rights. 

United Youth Committee Against Lynching

Organized by Dorothy Height and Juanita Jackson, the committee worked to increase awareness of lynchings. They organized marches in New York City, networked over 100 New York-area youth groups, and fought for congressional antilynching legislation. The group organized an Anti-Lynching Day across the country that coordinated demonstrations from Houston to Harlem. 

Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)

Marcus Garvey founded UNIA with Amy Ashwood on July 20, 1914, after he read Booker T.Washington’s autobiography, Up from Slavery. He envisioned providing education and support for blacks, and by 1920 the organization had thousands of chapters from the United States to Africa. Garvey advocated black political and economic nationalism, developing philosophies that informed the Nation of Islam, and he supported the “Back to Africa” movement. 

Upward Bound

Established in 1965 by the Higher Education Act, the program works to help underrepresented and low-income high school students to prepare for college. It provides instruction in key academic areas like math and composition through tutoring, work-study, and other, often specifically targeted programs. Notable alumni of the program include Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, and Angela Bassett. 

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Voter Education Project (VEP)

The Kennedy administration started the VEP in 1962 to coordinate civil rights organizations under the Southern Regional Council on their voter registration and education initiatives. The nonpartisan project organized SCLC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and NUL in their voter registration efforts and brought it direct funding through private, tax-free contributions. The VEP was motivated in part by the goal of reducing confrontational action by civil rights groups, but the latter viewed the funding as important and helpful in doing their work. The VEP continued to work after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, until it closed in 1992. See also Southern Regional Council. 

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Walden, Austin Thomas (A. T.) (1885–1965)

Walden was a prominent black lawyer in Georgia during the civil rights era. He received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1911, and began practicing law in Macon, Georgia, in 1912. He worked for the Atlanta Urban League and was president of the NAACP Atlanta branch. He worked to equalize pay for black teachers and won a lawsuit that ultimately called for the desegregation of Georgia schools, including the University of Georgia. In 1964, he was appointed judge of the Atlanta Municipal court, the first black judge in Georgia since Reconstruction. 

Wallace, George (1919–1998)

Wallace served four terms as governor of Alabama, first elected in 1962. Stating that he would defend segregation and “stand in the school house door,” he became known for his staunch opposition to the civil rights movement. This won him several primaries and he ran for president four times, on platforms that strongly opposed “forced busing” for integration, and an American Independent Party run that denounced blacks, students, and Vietnam pacifists. His 1972 campaign was cut short by an assassination attempt that left him in a wheelchair. In his 1982 campaign for governor, he changed his views and built a coalition of blacks, organized labor, and others to advance public education in the “New South.” 

Warren, Earl (1891–1974)

President Eisenhower appointed Warren Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1953. Warren attended UC Berkeley, earning both his B.A. and J.D. degrees. He practiced briefly in San Francisco and became Alameda County district attorney in 1925, winning three subsequent elections. He served three terms as governor of California before becoming a justice. Among the most important rulings of the Warren Court were Brown v. Board of Education, the upholding of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Miranda v. Arizona, and Gideon v. Wainwright. He retired in 1969. 

Washington, Booker T. (1856–1915)

Born a slave on a plantation in Virginia, Washington became a leading civil rights activist, creator of the Atlanta Compromise, founding member of the NAACP, and advisor to several presidents of the United States. His determination to educate himself took him to the Hampton Institute, after which he founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now Tuskegee University. He focused on economic empowerment, rather than political and social rights. He was not only an influential leader of early civil rights, but also the most well-known African American leader of his generation. 


The Watergate scandal began in 1972 when five burglars were caught attempting to bug the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel in D.C. The FBI established within months that the incident was part of a larger effort by President Nixon’s campaign to spy on and sabotage his opponents. After many senior-level resignations and Senate hearings, President Nixon himself resigned in 1974 and was pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford. 

Watts Riots

The riots began on August 11, 1965, when a California patrolman arrested Marquette Frye, an African American man, for DUI. Tension between the officer and a crowd watching Frye’s arrest turned violent, and incited a large-scale riot in the Watts neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. Predominantly African American and very poor, Watts saw fires, looting, and gun fights over six days, resulting in 34 deaths, over 1,000 injuries, and $50–150 million in property damage. About 14,000 National Guard troops responded to restore order. A later investigation revealed that longstanding tensions, unemployment rates, dilapidated housing, and poor schools precipitated the events.

Watts, Robert B. (1922–1998)

After service with the armed forces from 1943 to 1945, Watts got his J.D. from the University of Maryland and became a prominent civil rights attorney, working with the Baltimore NAACP to release civil rights activists from jail. He served as cocounsel for the NAACP with Thurgood Marshall and was the first African American appointed to the Municipal Court of Baltimore City in 1960. He won awards for outstanding legal service to the poor and for promoting racial equality. 

Wednesdays in Mississippi

Dorothy Height and National Council of Negro women members travelled to Selma, Alabama in 1963 to witness the discrimination and abuse faced by African American women and children in the South, particularly by law enforcement. This led to Wednesdays in Mississippi in March of 1964, when Height and others held a conference in Atlanta to address the safety of female civil rights workers. With Polly Cowan, Height then worked to organize two teams of northern women to travel South to make and maintain relationships with women in southern civil rights activism. The program lasted two years, creating interracial networks of white and black church women to support SNCC workers in voter registration projects. See also Cowan, Polly. 

Wells-Barnett, Ida B. (1862–1931)

Wells-Barnett was a journalist, activist, and cofounder of the NAACP, who focused especially on lynching in the United States. She fought for civil rights her whole life, starting when she sued a railroad company (before Plessy v. Ferguson) after she was forcibly removed from the seat she refused to cede to a white passenger. She started writing, and in 1889 became a partner in the newspaper Free Speech and Headlight . She helped develop women’s and reform organizations in Chicago, working tirelessly for women’s suffrage. In 1906, she joined W. E. B. Du Bois’s Niagara Movement. She published two influential pamphlets in the early 1890s titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record, examining lynching and racism in the southern United States. 

West, Cornel (1953– )

A provocative philosopher and public intellectual, West has taught at Yale, Harvard, University of Paris, Union Theological Seminary, and Princeton. West’s influential thinking about race, gender, and socialism has shaped modern philosophy. He has written 20 books and is the recipient of the American Book Award. He served as an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. His most influential works include Race Matters (1994) and Democracy Matters (2004). 

White, Walter (1893–1955)

White was the head of the NAACP for nearly twenty-five years from 1931 to 1955. Born in Atlanta, he graduated from Atlanta University in 1916. When the Atlanta Board of Education decided to stop 7th grade for black students to fund a new high school for white students, he organized a protest, starting his long career in civil rights advocacy. He founded the Atlanta NAACP branch and started working nationally in 1918. As executive secretary of the NAACP from 1931 to 1955, he started the Legal Defense Fund, which made Brown v. Board of Education possible, convinced FDR to start the Fair Employment Practices Commission and end defense hiring discrimination, got Truman to desegregate the armed forces, and fought for antilynching legislation. 

Wilberforce University

Founded in 1856, Wilberforce is the oldest private, historically black university, named after abolitionist William Wilberforce. Its location a historical stop on the Ohio Underground Railroad, Wilberforce early became a force in black education. During the Civil War, the university struggled with falling enrollment, until AME Bishop Daniel Payne purchased the property in 1862. He became its first president. The university educated generations of African American scholars, doctors, teachers, and politicians, and includes among its professors and students W. E. B. Du Bois, WilliamnS. Scarborough, and Floyd Flake. 

Wilkins, Roy (1901–1981)

Wilkins started his lifelong work in civil rights as a journalist from Missouri. He took over the NAACP Crisis magazine from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s, and helped bring Brown to the Court. He joined A. Philip Randolph and Arnold Aronson in forming the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in 1950 and became executive secretary of the NAACP in 1955. He worked on the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma-Montgomery marches in 1965, and advised Presidents from Kennedy to Carter on civil rights issues. He helped pass the Civil Rights Acts of the 1950s and 1960s and increased membership from 25,000 in 1930 to 400,000 when he stepped down in 1977.

Women’s Political Council

Mary Fair Burks established the WPC in 1946 to improve the status of African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama. Its members, mostly middle class professionals, worked to civically engage and lobby on behalf of the black community. They helped initiate the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, a precipitating event of the national civil rights movement, at which time they had over 200 members. Many members taught with Burks at Alabama State College, which investigated them for participating in the boycotts and eventually caused their resignation and the dispersal of the group. 

Woodson, Carter G. (1875–1950)

Born in Virginia, Woodson was one of the first African Americans to receive his Ph.D. from Harvard, which he did in 1912. He previously studied at Berea College and the University of Chicago, and worked as an education superintendent in the Philippines. In 1915, he cofounded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, and established the Journal of Negro History. This work earned him recognition as one of the first scholars of black history. Woodson was one of the first academics to study black history, and wrote books including A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The Negro in Our History (1922), and Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). He lobbied to establish Negro History Week in February 1926, which evolved into Black History Month. 

World Congress of Organizations of the Teaching Profession

Founded in 1951 from a merger of several international organizations of teachers, the WCOTP worked to advocate for teachers worldwide, merging in 1993 with its previous rival, the International Federation of Free Teachers’ Unions, to form Education International. The organization advocates for fair teacher practices and equal pay, working to eliminate discrimination in educational professions. 

Wright, Richard (1908–1960)

Wright rose to fame as an African American poet and author who wrote about race relations throughout the United States. He grew up in Mississippi and only received a 9th grade education. He read American literature voraciously, ultimately joining the Federal Writers’ Project. After moving to New York, he published Uncle Tom’s Children, four stories that earned him a 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship. Native Son (1940) topped best-seller lists, and in 1945 published his most famous novel, Black Boy , an autobiographical work that detailed racial violence in the South. He moved to Paris in 1946 and continued to publish works on race and violence, including nonfiction Black Power (1954) and The Long Dream (1958).

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Young, Whitney Jr. (1921–1971)

Young started out as a teacher after attending Kentucky State Industrial College and then served in World War II. Earning his Masters in social work from the University of Minnesota, he joined the Urban League of St. Paul, which was working to find jobs for African Americans. He became the executive director of the National Urban League in 1961. He made the League a cosponsor of the March on Washington, prevented the League from going bankrupt and expanded its staff and mission. Young advised Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson, to whom he presented the Domestic Marshall Plan, which shaped Johnson’s policies and won Young the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1968. 

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Zellner, Bob (1939–)

Zellner grew up in southern Alabama amidst a family and culture of Ku Klux Klan members. While in college, his interest in the civil rights movement grew, and for his senior thesis he interviewed key leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Graduating in 1961, he became the first white field secretary of SNCC, coordinating grassroots campaigns in Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia. He was jailed for his work over 18 times and was represented in court by black lawyers after white ones would refuse. He became a lecturer on social justice, race, and activism, and his own advocacy and civil disobedience continued. In 2000, he helped negotiate a land dispute for which he was arrested, and in 2013 he was arrested for protesting North Carolina’s voter restrictions.

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