Special Report

The Most Important Civil Rights Leaders of the 20th Century

The 20th century witnessed great changes around the world — socially, politically, and economically. While many of the seismic shifts worldwide involved people throwing off the yoke of colonialism, in the United States change centered on the fight for civil rights. Americans were reminded of that struggle on April 27, when Netflix began streaming a four-hour film on the life of Robert F. Kennedy, who made civil rights a major part of his campaign for president in 1968 until he was assassinated.

The battle to gain equality for African Americans was the dominant theme of the civil rights movement of the 20th century, but it was not the only one. Other movements included women’s suffrage, and equal rights for workers and the gay community. 20th-century activism had its antecedents in the late 19th-century when reformers were referred to as muckrakers, progressives, anti-monopolists, labor advocates, social reformers, and women’s rights supporters.

24/7 Wall St. is taking this opportunity to acknowledge the accomplishments and courage of inspiring figures by listing the 50 most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century. While Americans tend to see the struggle for civil rights through an American prism, important movements around the world in which oppressed people gained their freedom and liberty had their champions, too. Leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi in India and Nelson Mandela in South Africa are also included on this list.

Click here to see the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.
Click here for detailed findings and methodology.

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