8 influential black activists that helped shape history

8 influential black activists that helped shape history

Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912-August 24, 1987)
Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912-August 24, 1987)

Whenever we think about the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” we think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech”. But we never know how the event was set up. Enter Bayard Rustin, an activist for black rights, and nonviolence. Not only that but he was a gay man who fought for queer liberation. Rustin played a huge part in setting up the protest including mapping out Dr. King’s layout, and thinking of the topics he should address.   

Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945-July 6, 1992)
Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945-July 6, 1992)

A prominent figure we fail to give any attention to or mention in our history books is Marsha P. Johnson. She was a gay liberation activist who played a prominent role in the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. With a big smile on her face Johnson would fight for trans women and help with supporting housing and more.

 

Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915-July 17, 1959)
Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915-July 17, 1959)

This jazz singer is one we forget a lot when it comes to what she’s done for human rights. Billie Holiday was a jazz singer in the 1930s. Holiday would sing and you use her voice to sing and bring awareness to all the racial injustices that were happening around the world. Her most notable song was “Strange Fruit” a song that opened the topic of “black bodies swinging” because of all the lynchings happening in America.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson (October 8, 1941-)
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson (October 8, 1941-)

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is an Civil Rights activist who also happens to be an ordained Baptist minister. While he was still a student at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College, he led a protest in 1963 to desegregate theaters and restaurants in Greensboro. Jackson also was a presidential candidate and international hostage negotiator.     

 

Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906- April 12, 1975)
Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906- April 12, 1975)

American born French singer, dancer, and actress Josephine Baker was put in the history books after being the first African-American woman star in a motion picture. Baker was an entertainer and she stayed in France but that didn’t stop her from being outspoken for the Civil Rights movement. Baker would often refuse to perform in segregated venues. She would also visit many demonstrations that would take place.

Shirley Chisholm (November 30, 1924-January 1, 2005)
Shirley Chisholm (November 30, 1924-January 1, 2005)

Shirley Chisholm one of the most powerful female activists of that time. Chisholm was a big advocate on behalf of women and underserved minorities. She also became the first black woman to be elected into the United States Congress. She represented the 12th congressional district in New York.

Eartha Kitt (January 17, 1927-December 25, 2000)
Eartha Kitt (January 17, 1927-December 25, 2000)

One of the most famous actresses who graced the Broadway stage and appeared in many movies, and was mostly notable for her very distinct singing voice and style, Eartha Kitt was a very outspoken when it came to feminism and showed a lot of activism for the civil rights era. She also became a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and supported same-sex marriages and considered that a part of civil rights.

Tina Turner (November 26, 1939-May 24, 2023)
Tina Turner (November 26, 1939-May 24, 2023)

The Queen of Rock N Roll Tina Turner who started as the lead singer in the band “Ike and Tina Turner”. Turner would create smash hits such as “Proud Mary,” “The Best” and “Private Dancer”. Turner was an activist when it comes to abuse since was a survivor of the abuse she suffered from her husband Ike. She became one of the first high profile singers to open up about domestic abuse.

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Justice Campbell, Staff Writer
Hello! I'm Justice, a senior who is passionate about Theatre. In addition to being a theatre geek, I also have a strong love for writing and storytelling. I'm thrilled to join the Newspaper team this year, surrounded by fellow journalists who share my interests. After graduation, I intend to pursue my passion for theatre, whether it's in college or on a larger platform. Catch me on the stage or the big screen!

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