Icons of the Voting Rights Movement
Voting rights icons have been instrumental in laying the foundation for securing and maintaining the right to vote for African Americans in the United States. Their struggles against many challenges and hardships led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, among other gains. Throughout U.S. history, various activists have continued to promote and model the ideals of the Voting Rights Act and of the people who secured its passage. These people involved in the fight for voting rights, both past and present, have ensured that the freedom to vote is a fundamental right for everyone.
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Notable Voting Rights Icons
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was a journalist and activist who campaigned against lynching and racial violence and fought for women’s suffrage as a way to empower black women politically. She challenged the racism of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, two of the leading organizations of the US suffragette movement. In 1913 she co-founded the Alpha Suffrage Club, and marched defiantly in the women's suffrage parade in Washington, DC.
Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell was a well-known African American activist, educator, and author who championed racial equality and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th century. She was a leader in the African American women’s club movement and was the co-founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women.
Ella Baker was a civil rights activist and grassroots organizer who co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She was active in the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC, and helped coordinate SNCC’s Freedom Rides campaign in 1961. She was an important mentor to SNCC activists and believed that empowering ordinary people was more important than charismatic leadership within the civil rights movement.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was an American civil rights, voting rights, and women's rights activist. She was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. She also founded the Freedom Farm Collective and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights activist, Baptist pastor, and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He led the fight for civil rights and voting rights for Black Americans and campaigned for economic equality. He is known for his advocacy of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to injustice.
Bob Moses is a civil rights activist and educator who was a leader in SNCC and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) during the 1960s and who directed the Freedom Summer Project voter registration campaign in Mississippi. Along with Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, he co-founded the the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. Later he founded the Algebra Project, which focused on helping students of color to excel in mathematics.
Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer for African American women in politics. She was the first Black woman to run for President of the United States as a Democrat in 1972. Chisholm was also the first African American Congresswoman, serving seven consecutive terms representing the 12th district of New York from 1969-1983. She also co-founded the National Congress of Black Women in 1984 and was the author of two memoirs.
Barack Obama is an American lawyer, community organizer, and was the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African American President of the United States. Earlier in his career he directed voter registration campaigns in Illinois. He was also elected to the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate.
National Museum of African American History & Culture: Five You Should Know - African American Suffragists
The Civil Rights History Project
SNCC Digital: People
Smithsonian Channel: Fannie Lou Hamer Risked Her Life for the Right to Vote