Special Report

Most Important Civil Rights Leaders of the 20th Century

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

31. Malcolm X (1925-1965)
> Occupations: Minister, writer
> Cause: African-American empowerment

Malcolm X was an American speaker, activist and leader of the Nation of Islam movement who believed all white people were devils. He changed those views after his pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Malcolm X was assassinated by followers of Nation of Islam in 1965.

Source: Davd from Washington, DC / Wikimedia Commons

32. Frank Kameny (1925-2011)
> Occupations: Astronomer, politician
> Cause: Gay rights pioneer

After he was fired from his job in the military in 1957 because he was gay, Kameny founded the American gay rights movement. He lived long enough to see Congress pass legislation in 2009 that criminalizes acts of violence against those in the gay community.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

33. Ralph Abernathy (1926-1990)
> Occupation: Minister
> Cause: Discrimination against minorities

Abernathy, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also advised Martin Luther King Jr. and helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott.

Source: Civil Rights Digital Library / Wikimedia Commons

34. Hosea Williams (1926-2000)
> Occupations: Scientist, businessman, bail bondsman, minister
> Cause: African-American voter registration

Williams, a World War II Purple Heart recipient, was a civil rights activist and one of the leaders of the historic voting rights march on Selma.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

35. Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)
> Occupations: Farm worker, trade unionist
> Cause: Workers’ rights

Chavez campaigned to improve Latino farm workers’ working conditions and raise their wages. He was a strong advocate for non-violent strategy in organizing boycotts and hunger strikes in the U.S.