Civil Rights Figures in the United States

Who were the important civil rights leaders in America and how did they impact the United States of America?


For our project on social justice, we decided to talk about the leaders of the civil rights movement for their intellect, bravery, and ingenuity. We chose to honor the more widely known people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and those whom everybody might not know about such as Nina Simone, Dorothy Height, and the Freedom Riders. We researched their impact on our society and how they changed the United States of America’s path for the better.

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Rosa Parks (Amelie):

Most famous action: In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the whites-only section of a bus. She later wrote a book about it aimed at younger readers about her life leading up to her decision to keep her seat on the bus. She later writes many other books.

Other Notes:

Rosa Parks didn’t recognize her bus driver James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943

“The mother of the modern day civil rights movement”

Quick summary of her life:

Born Feb 04, 1913

Married Raymond Parks a caucasian man, and a barber from Montgomery in 1932.

Parks died of natural causes on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92, in her apartment on the eastside of Detroit.

Started the bus boycott which was supported by MLK

Impact on society: Rosa Parks showed African Americans all over the country that they have the choice to resist. Started movements to help people get their rights.

Ways they people tried to suppressed her:

Sent to jail

Booking Photo of Parks –

MLK (Amelie):

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file no. 04301u)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arguably one of the most famous civil rights activists in America. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Martin and Alberta King in 1929. His Christian upbringing is what prompted him to become a Baptist minister. In 1953 the pastor married Coretta Scott, whom he had met while attending graduate school in Boston. Dr. King was renowned for his non-violent beliefs and his Christian views. He was inspired by many others like Mahatma Gandhi to advance civil rights through peaceful activism and civil disobedience. His life was unfortunately cut short on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis by James Earl Ray as he was leading a sanitation strike. Many colored civilians pushed for violence during his lifetime, but Dr. King would not allow it. Their level of restraint changed after the pastor’s untimely death. Angry and hurt responses to MLK’s death spread throughout the United States as many saw his death as the end of all hope for a peaceful amelioration of life for African Americans. In the few days after the activist’s death, more than 100 cities experienced an outbreak of looting, arson, rioting, and violence. In total, police arrested some 27,000 people, 3,500 people were injured, and more than 40 civilians lost their lives. The violence only subsided after police forces around the country received reinforcements from some 58,000 U.S National Guard and Army troops. There were not just hostile and outraged responses to the death but respectful ones too. For instance, the 1968 presidential campaign was postponed as well as the Academy Awards. Schools, businesses and other buildings closed. President Johnson declared April 7 a national day of morning and the next day, Coretta Scott King led a march in Memphis in remembrance of her husband and supporting the striking sanitation workers as Dr. King’s death did in no way mean that they would stop fighting for others.

Speeches: ‘I have a dream speech’ it was delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States of america. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech was an important moment of the civil rights movement.

Ways he was suppressed: In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and sent to jail because he and others were protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham

Alabama. A court had ordered that King could not hold protests in Birmingham Alabama.

Impact on modern day society: Martin Luther King Jr. has inspired much change through nonviolence, helping everyone build each other up instead of them fighting each other. Reminded everyone that they they all care about their children and their future and that everyone has dreams

MLK’s Mugshot- (not the one from Alabama)

Mlk’s mugshot- (Alabama),1,2,6

Freedom Riders (Ely):

A series of political protests against segregation in 1961 performed by blacks and whites throughout southern America

In 1946, the Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel

In 1947, a year later, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) tested this. A group of interracial activists rode a bus through the upper South of the USA

It was a group of seven African Americans and six whites.

The blacks would use the facilities specifically designated for the whites, and the whites would use the facilities specifically designated for the blacks

They left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, on a Freedom Ride in two buses headed to New Orleans

They were certain that segregationists in the Southern United States would violently protest against it, they hoped that this would make the government to enforce the Boynton decision

The Boynton decision was a decision made by the Supreme Court to ban racial discrimination and segregation in public transportation.

It was illegal because it violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation. It also said that bus transportation was related to interstate commerce to allow the United States federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry.

The case was put in court because of a judgment convicting an African American student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was “”whites only””.

The Freedom Riders encountered much violence during protests

Violence in South Carolina

In Alabama, May 14th, when they stopped outside Anniston to change a slashed tire, one of their buses was firebombed and all the Freedom Riders were beaten

In Birmingham, the second bus was also firebombed and the Freedom Riders were again beaten

In both situations, the government did not respond until significantly later, and it was suspected that there was illegal cooperation in their responses

The original Freedom Riders could not find anyone to take them any farther, but another group of Freedom Riders from Nashville, partly organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

They were arrested in Birmingham and were shipped back to Tennessee

Undeterred by this, the Freedom Riders returned to Birmingham

At the command of US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the Freedom Riders secured a bus and protection from the State Highway Patrol

They traveled to Montgomery, where the local police failed to protect them, and they were beaten

After this, the National Guard support was provided for 27 Freedom Riders who were traveling to Jackson, Mississippi. Unfortunately, they were arrested and jailed

On May 29th, Kennedy ordered the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce strict guidelines banning discrimination and segregation in interstate travel

The Freedom Riders still continued to travel by public transportation until this law took effect in September

Impact on society:

The Freedom Riders, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement.

They called national attention to the violent disregard for law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States.

They committed to a nonviolent way of resistance, knowing that they might face mob violence and worse

Malcolm X (Ely)

Malcolm X was an American Muslim leader

He was born May 19 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska

He died February 21, 1965 in New York, New York

Malcolm X (originally Malcolm Little)’s father, a baptist minister, was an activist but he was killed when Malcolm was young, making the family poor.

His mother went mad and was placed in an asylum,

Siblings and him sent to foster homes

Quits formal education when told he should be a carpenter and not a lawyer in 8th grade

Malcolm X was a standout amongst the most huge figures inside the American dark patriot development. A significant number of the thoughts he explained, similar to race pride and self-protection, ended up ideological pillars of the Black Power development that rose during the 1960s and ’70s

Nina Simone:

Quick summary of what they did: Nina Simone was a African American jazz singer who was a activist for the civil rights movement. She wrote two songs for the cause: Strange Fruit and Mississippi Goddam. Mississippi Goddam was written after the bombing of a church in Alabama that Killed 4 young African – American Girls. The song was banned from many Southern states.

Most famous action: Singing Mississippi Goddamn during a strike in Montgomery, Alabama

She wrote song to empower African American movements and try to keep the movement going. In her song Mississippi Goddam she calls out society because the change was too slow and it brought tragedy.

Quick summary of their life: Eunice Kathleen Waymon a.k.a Nina Simone was born in Tyrone, NC the 21 of February and died in France the 21 of April. In The 70s, she got annoyed at racial segregation in the US, and left for Barbados, Africa and Europe.

Songs: Strange Fruit, Ne Me Quitte Pas, My Baby Just Cares For Me, Feeling Good, Mississippi Goddam, I Put A Spell On You, Lilac Wine

Dorothy Height (Guillaume)

Dorothy Height was part of the civil rights and women’s rights. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years. She organised voter registration in the south, so African American voices could be heard and raised funds funds for scholarship programs to help African American men and women. In the 70s, she won a grant to provide training and support women opening businesses.

She helped African American communities of the Deep South to have basic human right like votes and stop voting purge.

She was born March 24, 1912, Richmond, Va., U.S. and died in Washington, D.C. on the 20th of April. She was awarded in 1994 the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2004 the Congressional Gold Medal.’


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