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List of African American activists

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Martin Luther King was an especially prominent African American activist who received numerous honors and is now commemorated by a national holiday.

This is a list of African American activists[1] covering various areas of activism, but primarily focus on those African Americans who historically and currently have been fighting racism against African Americans. The United States of America has a long history of racism against its Black citizens. [2]The names detailed below contains only notable African Americans who are known to be activist (sorted by surname).


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Ralph Abernathy Civil rights activist Ralph David Abernathy, b. March 11, 1926, d. April 17, 1990, was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and close friend and mentor of Martin Luther King Jr.[3]
Naomi Anderson Gender (mainly women) and racial equality Born: Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson (March 1, 1843 – ?). Black suffragist and poet.[4]
Theresa El-Amin Civil rights activist Union organizer and former member of the Green Party of the United States Steering Committee.[5]


Name Area of activism Notes and references
James Baldwin Race and LGBT equality. Born James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987). Also novelist and playwright. Baldwin was an inclusionist, not a separatist during the Civil Rights Movement.[6]
Lillie Mae Bradford Civil rights Four years prior to Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat to a white man, Bradford was charged the wrong bus fare and racially insulted by a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama to which she protested by sitting at the front of the bus reserved only for white people in accordance with racist American laws against its Black citizens. She was arrested and charged for disorderly conduct.
Aurelia Browder Civil rights Also known as Aurelia Shines Browder Coleman (January 29, 1919 – February 4, 1971). Almost eight months prior to the Rosa Sparks incident, Browder was arrested in Montgomery, Alabam for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.[7]
Nannie Helen Burroughs Civil rights and feminist Burroughs (May 2, 1879 – May 20, 1961) was also an educator, orator, religious leader and businesswoman.[8]


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Archibald J. Carey, Jr Civil Rights Movement Archibald James Carey Jr. (February 29, 1908 – April 20, 1981) was a lawyer, judge, politician, diplomat and clergyman. Confidante of Martin Luther King Jr., Carey was also active in the national Civil Rights Movement and worked to end employment discrimination in the U.S. government against Black Americans.[9]
Claudette Colvin Civil Rights Movement Claudette Colvin (September 5, 1939)[10] is an American nurse and one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. Colvin was arrested on March 2, 1955, at the age of 15 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded racially segregated bus.[11] Colvin was also an NAACP Youth Council member in her student days.[12]
Anna Julia Cooper Black feminist and civil rights Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964) was an author, educator, sociologist, prominent African-American scholar, and "sometimes called the mother of Black Feminism."[13]
Patrisse Cullors Black Lives Matter and LGBT Born in 1984, Cullors is an artist and activist, and an advocate for prison abolition in Los Angeles. She is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.[14][15][16]


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Angela Davis Communism and feminism Briefly involved in the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights Movement.[17]
William L. Dawson Civil Rights Movement William Levi Dawson (April 26, 1886 – November 9, 1970) was a politician; an active participant during the civil rights movement; and a sponsor of registration drives.
Charles Diggs Civil Rights Movement Charles Coles Diggs Jr. (December 2, 1922 – August 24, 1998[18]) was an early member of the civil rights movement.
Frederick Douglass Abolitionist Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818[19] – February 20, 1895[20] was a social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Ruth Ellis (activist)
Keith Ellison
Elizabeth Piper Ensley
Charles Evers
Medgar Evers
Myrlie Evers-Williams



Name Area of activism Notes and references
Erica Garner Black Lives Matter.[21] Daughter of Eric Garner – the African American man who was choked to death by a New York City Police Officer. She was the founder of the Garner Way Foundation, a foundation named in honour of her father. The objective of the foundation is to "engage communities all over the world in social justice issues through political awareness, music, arts and activism."[22][23]
Alicia Garza
Ernest Green


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fred Hampton
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Aaron Henry
Theodore Roosevelt Mason "T. R. M." Howard
Langston Hughes



Name Area of activism Notes and references
Jesse Jackson
Alberta Odell Jones


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Sarah Louise Keys
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Sr.


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Audre Lorde


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Irene Morgan
Amzie Moore


Name Area of activism Notes and references
Bree Newsome
Huey P. Newton













Others articles of the Topic African American : Hip hop, Oprah Winfrey, Julius Patrick, Hip hop music, Rapper, Rapping

Others articles of the Topic Discrimination : Anasuya Sengupta, Antisemitism in the International Brigades, Persecution of Christians in the modern era
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  1. Chicago Sun-Times, In honor of Black History Month, here’s a list of Chicagoans you should know, by By Evan F. Moore - 02/01/2019 [1] (Retrieved 9th March 2019)
  2. Kleinig, John, Handled with Discretion: Ethical Issues in Police Decision Making, Rowman & Littlefield (1996), p. 157, ISBN 9780847681778 [2] (Retrieved 7 March 2019)
  3. Bio of "Ralph David Abernathy", Frye Gaillard, University of South Alabama, March 14, 2007, (archive)
  4. Smith, Jessie Carney; Phelps, Shirelle, Notable Black American Women, Book 2, VNR AG (1996), p. 11, ISBN 9780810391772 [3]
  5. "SNCC passes the torch | The CLog". Creative Loafing Charlotte. February 29, 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2019. [
  6. Henneberg, Susan. James Baldwin: Groundbreaking Author and Civil Rights Activist, The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc (2014), p. 6-8, 66, ISBN 9781477778975
  7. Schwartz, Barry (June 2009). "Collective Forgetting and the Symbolic Power of Oneness: The Strange Apotheosis of Rosa Parks". Social Psychology Quarterly. 72 (2): 123–142. doi:10.1177/019027250907200204. JSTOR 25593914.
  8. "Nannie Helen Burroughs papers, 1900-1963 (Library of Congress), Biographical Note (Woman's Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America)". Hdl.loc.gov. 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  9. Dickerson, Dennis C.; Lawson Jr., James M.; Vanderbilt University; & Historiographer, African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Wesleyan Witness in the US Civil Rights Movement: The Allen Legacy against 20th Century American Apartheid [4] (Retrieved 7 Mach 2019)
  10. Claudette Colvin Biography, Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Medical Professional (1939–) [in] Biography.com Editors, A&E Television Networks, April 1, 2014 (Retrieved March 7, 2019)
  11. Gray, Eliza (2009-03-02). A Forgotten Contribution: Before Rosa Parks, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the bus. Newsweek. [5]
  12. Adler, Margot. Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin. NPR. March 15, 2009 [6]
  13. Foundations of African-American Sociology. Hampton University Department of Sociology. Hampton University. Retrieved 7 March 2017. From Melvin Barber; Leslie Innis; Emmit Hunt, African American Contributions to Sociology. [7]
  14. Goldhill, Olivia (November 15, 2016). We can feel sad, hurt, demoralized. But we can't give up : A Black Lives Matter founder on Trump's presidency. Quartz [8]
  15. Garza, Alicia, Herstory. Black Lives Matter[9] (Retrieved 7 March 2019)
  16. Queerness on the front lines of #BlackLivesMatter. MSNBC. February 19, 2015.[10] (video)
  17. "Angela Davis". CCCB. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  18. Haskins, James, Distinguished African American Political and Governmental Leaders. Oryx Press (1999), p.67. ISBN 9781573561266
  19. Frederick Douglass Biography : Journalist, Civil Rights Activist, Author, Government Official (c. 1818–1895) [11]
  20. Frederick Douglass Heritage, Later Years and Death, [12] (Retrieved 9th March 2019)
  21. Wang, Vivian (December 30, 2017), "Erica Garner, Activist and Daughter of Eric Garner, Dies at 27", New York Times
  22. Erica Garner, activist daughter of Eric Garner, dies at 27. NBC News by Erik Ortiz, Dec. 30, 2017 (Retrieved March 11, 2019) [13]
  23. EXCLUSIVE: Erica Garner Slams "Fraudulent Claims" In O'Keefe Video, Announces Foundation. News One, by Sheryl Huggins Salomon, February 24, 2015. (Retrieved March 11, 2019) [14]

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