Civil Rights Leaders Who Changed History

These 10 men and women changed all of our lives through their commitment and service.

Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, Rep. William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer and John Lewis Library of Congress

6. The most well-known figure of the era, Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader of the civil rights movement. He is best known for using nonviolent civil disobedience, grounded in Christian beliefs, to push for social change.

7. James L. Farmer Jr. led and organized the 1961 Freedom Ride on buses throughout the American South, which helped pave the way for the desegregation of interstate travel in the United States.

8. A. Philip Randolph was a prominent member of both the civil rights movement and the labor organizing movement. Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first majority-black labor union. Randolph led the March on Washington along with Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr.

9. Roy Wilkins became the executive director of the NAACP in 1964. During his tenure, the NAACP played an integral role in many significant civil rights victories, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

10. Whitney M. Young was the president of the National Urban League from 1961 until his death in 1971. He is credited with transforming the National Urban League and bringing it to the forefront of the civil rights movement.