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4 of the Most Influential Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement

Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
A glimpse of the lives of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders. Without the active initiation and contribution by these great leaders, the achievements of this movement would have been unattainable.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2017
Ajman Martin Luther King postage stamp
The African-American Civil Rights Movement was a series of reform movements, aimed to protest the growing racial discrimination against people of African-American origin, in the United States from 1955 to 1968. This movement was started and led by some African-American leaders who were disturbed by the racist and discriminatory social practices and behavior being meted out to them. As a result, they organized themselves to conduct protest rallies and demonstrations, thus becoming the voice of the African-American community.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Born on January 15, 1929, he attended a segregated public school in Georgia. In 1948, he earned a BA degree from the Morehouse College in Atlanta. A strong advocate of the civil rights of African-Americans, Martin Luther was appointed to the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1954. The following year, he agreed to lead the first non-violent demonstration by Negros in contemporary United states. This boycott lasted for 382 days. Their efforts gained success in 1956, when the Supreme Court declared that the laws requiring segregation in the public transport system were unlawful, and negros and whites started to travel in the public transport buses together. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. directed a peace march to Washington D.C. It was here that he delivered his celebrated speech, 'I have a dream'. During this period, he faced arrest and assault a number of times. In 1963, he was named the Man of the Year by the 'Time' magazine. At the age of 35, he became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshal was an eminent American jurist, best remembered for his legal policies in the fields of criminal procedures and civil rights. Born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland, Marshall earned a degree in law from the Howard University School of Law. In 1940, he was appointed the Chief Counsel of NAACP. His most important contribution to the Movement came in 1954, when he argued and won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed that the laws which supported separate public schools for black and white students, indirectly denied the black children of their right to equal educational opportunities. In June 1967, Marshall was chosen to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, thus becoming the first African-American to achieve this distinction. Thurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993, in Maryland. His contributions in the field of law and civil rights are hailed even today.
Rosa Parks
Recognized as the 'Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement' for her contribution to the Movement, Rosa Parks was an African-American civil rights activist. She was born on February 4, 1913, in Alabama. In 1955, during her tenure as the secretary of the NAACP Montgomery chapter, she refused to obey the bus driver who ordered her to vacate the seat for a white passenger. This stance by Parks triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, aimed to oppose the policy of racial segregation in the public transit system of the United States. Her act of defiance made her an international icon of the modern Movement. She played a vital role in the movement by helping other civil rights leaders in their fight against racial segregation. She spent the last days of her life in Detroit, where she died on October 24, 2005.
Roy Wilkins
Roy Wilkins was a noted civil rights activist, who strongly opposed militancy in Civil Rights Movement. He was born on August 30, 1901 in Missouri. An active leader of the NAACP, he was appointed its executive secretary in 1955, and eventually, the executive director in 1964. Prior to this, he also served as the editor of the NAACP's official magazine, 'The Crisis'. Wilkins was a strong opponent of the communists within the Movement. He was one of the founders of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), one of the first civil rights coalitions. Throughout the movement, he actively participated in various protest marches, like the March on Washington in 1963 and the March Against Fear in 1966.
Sincere efforts and sheer determination of these leaders made the Civil Rights Movement a catalyst of change. Their success was marked by the passing of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which helped to bring about a considerable change in the social and political scenario of the United States.