By Kaleena Fraga | Checked By Leah Silverman
Published November 3, 2021
Despite their immense contributions to the civil rights movement, these activists were largely ignored by the history books
Who are the leaders of the civil rights movement? Certainly, names like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks come to mind. But it took more than one brave stand to make the movement succeed. It took millions.
These are the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. They may not have given grand speeches or led marches, but their efforts informed, inspired, and enabled the movement in other ways.
Legal theorists like Pauli Murray helped dismantle discrimination through legislation, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who spoke without notes on live television for 13 minutes to draw attention to the poison of racism.
Many of the civil rights heroes on this list were unknown for reasons that spoke to the cultural and societal flaws of their time. In the male-led civil rights movement, leaders like Dorothy Height were pushed to the side. Others, like Bayard Rustin, were kept out of the spotlight because of their sexuality and political beliefs.
In the end, though, it took people from all backgrounds to move the civil rights movement forward. These heroes may have stood on the sidelines, but their efforts contributed to the movement’s success nonetheless.