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Civic Leaders Spotlight

Dred Scott (1795-1858)

Scott was a slave who in 1848 sued for his freedom based on his residence in a territory where slavery had been banned by the Missouri Compromise. The case, also known as Dred Scott v. Sandford, went to the Supreme Court, which decided in 1857 that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that blacks had no rights under American law.
Source: MSN 

Nat Turner (1800-1831)

Enslaved African American Nat Turner led a rebellion with fellow slaves in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831. The rebels gathered guns and horses and went to each plantation to free other slaves. After the rebellion, Turner hid for almost two months, but he was discovered in Virginia and was hung with 16 of his followers.
Source: MSN 

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist and author who published several autobiographies, including Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881). Along with his work toward equality for African Americans, he was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage. Douglass was born into slavery, but escaped to freedom. He founded and edited the abolitionist newspaper The North Star
Source: MSN 

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)

In the 1850s, Harriet Tubman became a conductor of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used as an escape route by African American slaves during the early-to-mid-19th century. Despite having a bounty as high as forty thousand dollars on her head, Tubman helped many families and slaves to escape through the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she served as a spy, scout, and a nurse for almost three years.
Source: MSN 

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

Marshall was the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, from 1967 to 1991. The civil rights advocate was also the legal counsel for the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and fought against Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial isolation in the Southern parts of the U.S. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court, in 1961, he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy and four years later in 1965, he was appointed as the solicitor general by President Lyndon B. Johnson, becoming the first African American to hold the office. 
Source: MSN 2/17/18

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)

Bayard Rustin was involved in pacifist groups and early civil rights protests. Combining non-violent resistance with organizational skills, he was a key adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. Though he was arrested several times for his own civil disobedience and open homosexuality, he continued to fight for equality. Rustin supported the formation of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and was an architect of the March on Washington (1963). 
Source: “Biography” 

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Also known as "the mother of the freedom movement," Parks is the civil rights activist who famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama—spurring the Montgomery boycott and other efforts that led to the modern Civil Rights Movement. During her lifetime, she received many accolades, including the NAACP's 1979 Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 
Source: MSN 2/17/18

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972). Her motto and the title of her autobiography—Unbossed and Unbought—illustrated her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  
Source: National Women’s History Museum by Debra Michals, PhD, 2015

Malcolm X (1925-1965)

A human rights activist who advocated for the rights of blacks, he became a member of the Nation of Islam in prison while serving a sentence for robbery. After his release from prison, he soon became one of the most influential leaders of the Nation of Islam. However, due to continuous differences in opinion, Malcolm left the Nation in March 1964 and soon founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. In February 1965, he was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam.  
Source: MSN  

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. She was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Following her husband’s assassination in 1968, King took the fight for racial equality forward, founded the King Center, and worked to make her husband’s birthday a national holiday.  
Source: MSN 2/17/18

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

A civil rights leader and activist, King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and served as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington that became famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1964 and a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Source: MSN 

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

Barbara Jordan was a black lesbian American lawyer and politician who won a seat in the Texas Senate in 1966. On June 10, 1972, although through a technicality, she became the first black woman governor of a U.S. state, serving as the acting governor because of her position as president pro tempore of the Texas Senate. In 1972, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.  
Source: Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the American Dream, Blair Imani, Ten Speed Press, 2020. 

John Lewis (1940- )

This politician and civil rights activist was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the mid-1960s and was one of the “Big Six” leaders of the group that organized the 1963 March on Washington, demanding civil and economic rights for African Americans. In 1986, he was elected as U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district; he continues to hold the office. Lewis has received many awards for his work in the field of civil rights, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Jesse Jackson (1941- )

Jesse Jackson is a civil rights activist and two-time Democratic presidential candidate (1984, 1988). His activism began as part of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. In 1971, he founded the non-profit organization Rainbow/PUSH, which focuses on social justice, civil rights, and political activism. From 1991 to 1997, he served as a shadow U.S. Senator for the District of Columbia and also hosted CNN’s Both Sides with Jesse Jackson from 1992 to 2000. 
Source: MSN 2/17/18

Barack Obama (1961- )

As the 44th President of the United States, he was the first African American to hold the office. From 2009 to 2017, the former Illinois senator and Harvard Law graduate signed landmark legislation, including the Affordable Care Act; the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010; and stimulus packages after the 2008 recession. He supported same-sex marriage, which was legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court in 2015, and brokered the Iran nuclear deal. For his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. 
Source: MSN 2/17/18

John Lewis photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Barack Obama photo credit: Evan El-Amin /