10 Black Leaders Who Paved The Way For Racial Equality


H. Seymour Squyer / National Portrait Gallery, via Wikimedia Commons

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman repeatedly put her life and freedom in danger to save the lives of enslaved blacks and deliver them to free soil. Born into slavery around 1820 in Maryland, the young Tubman suffered a severe head injury at the hands of her master, as explained on BiographyOnline.com. After escaping the chains of slavery, Tubman returned to the south numerous times to guide other slaves to the Northern states.


By Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report Magazine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer began her work as a civil rights activist in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, according to History.com. The daughter of a sharecropper, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. At the televised national convention, she eloquently spoke about her challenges in the segregated south.


By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Asa Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph was a pioneer for the rights of working blacks. With aspirations of acting, he moved to New York City and worked as a railroad porter to support himself, according to Biography.com. In 1925, Randolph founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Though initial efforts to have the organization included in the American Federation of Labor were unsuccessful, he persevered in his endeavors and served as president of the organization for almost 40 years.


By Photograph by George K. Warren (d. 1884). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frederick Douglass

This former slave is known as one of the most influential African American leaders of the 19th Century, according to GreatBlackHeroes.com. Known for his powerful oration skills, Douglass became an outspoken abolitionist and wrote about his experiences as a slave in an autobiography. He also toured the Northeast and Midwest speaking out against slavery.


York College ISLGP, via Flickr

Maya Angelou

Always the picture of strength and faith, Maya Angelou used her gift of prose to create a change in people’s hearts. As a child, a period of abuse and molestation took her voice, but she overcame her adversity to become one of the most famous and influential voices of all time. She also worked with other activists on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, participating in demonstrations and marches.


Beth Rankin, via Flickr

Barack Obama

With a message of hope, Barack Obama became the first African-American president of the United States in 2008. Born to a single mother, President Obama focused on his goals and education to graduate from Harvard Law School and represent the state of Illinois as a U.S. Senator. In 2004, he gained worldwide recognition after delivering the keynote speech for the Democratic National Convention.

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