As one of the earlier civil rights leaders Mary McLeod Bethune served under several Presidents as a member of the unofficial African American "brain trust." In 1936, she was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the director of the National Youth Administration's Division of Negro Affairs. Bethune is a native from Mayesville, South Carolina.
Virginia Foster Durr was one of the founding members of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW), an interracial group aimed at lessening segregation in the Southern United States. Working together with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she lobbied for legislation to abolish the poll tax.
Bernice Robinson worked closely with Septima Clark and Esau Jenkins to develop and sustain the Citizenship Schools that initially began in the Lowcountry and spread throughout the country.
Modjeska Simkins helped organize the state branch of the NAACP in South Carolina, served as state secretary, and worked on civil rights litigation. Her home was used as an office, meeting room and lodging for other civil rights leaders, including Thurgood Marshall who frequently stayed there as he was developing the ground work for the Briggs v. Elliot case.
In June 1954, Sarah Mae Fleming, a 20-year-old African-American boarded a local bus, owned and operated by South Carolina Electric and Gas Company. According to Fleming the bus driver told her to move to the back of the bus. She reported trying to leave by way of the front (the bus was crowded) and he hit her in the stomach while forcing her off of the bus.
Montgomery Alabama NAACP member Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger.
Jo Ann Robinson was verbally attacked by a bus driver and she decided that something had to change. She succeeded Mary Fair Burks as president of the Women’s Political Council (WPC) and helped focus the group's efforts on bus abuses. The night Rosa Parks was arrested, Mrs. Robinson stayed up all night mimeographing 35,000 handbills calling for a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The boycott lasted over a year because the bus company would not give into any of their demands for rights.
Septima Poinsette Clark is considered to be one of the mothers of the civil rights movement. She later became an active member of the NAACP as the organization fought to obtain equal pay for Black teachers who were paid substantially less than White teachers. As a teacher and state employee, she was prohibited from being a member of the NAACP and was fired, in 1956 for refusing to relinquish her NAACP membership. The development of the citizenship schools was one of her greatest contributions to the civil rights movement.
Daisy Bates guided and advised the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, when they attempted to enroll at Little Rock Central High School. This provoked a confrontation with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who called out the National Guard to prevent the students from enrolling.
Yuri Kochiyama became acquainted with Malcolm X and became a member of his Organization for Afro-American Unity, which worked for racial justice and human rights.
Vivian Malone Jones was one of the first two African Americans to enroll at the University of Alabama. Alabama Governor George Wallace tried to block the two students from entering, triggering a showdown with federal troops. Vivian became the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama.
Gloria Richardson was the leader of the Cambridge Movement (Maryland). Under her leadership, the social injustices of inadequate wages, housing, and health care received attention. This movement spurred the beginning of the Black Power phase of the modern civil rights movement.
Dorothy M. Zellner was a staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1962 to 1967. In 1964, she spent Freedom Summer in Greenwood, Mississippi. Freedom Summer was a campaign launched in June 1964 to register as many black voters as possible in Mississippi, which up to that time excluded black voters.
Dorothy has appeared in many books and television programs and was featured in TNT’s “Century of Women.”
Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting rights activist and civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi's "Freedom Summer" for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker and constant champion of civil rights.
Constance Baker Motley was an NAACP attorney who fought in the South Carolina federal courtroom with Clemson College officials who sought to prevent Harvey Gantt from gaining admission.
Motley was later appointed a federal judge in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on March 20, 1969, Coretta Scott King marched with black workers from Local 1199-B, the Nursing Home Employees Union. The hospital workers had been fired after striking for higher wages and more humane working conditions. They sought higher wages than the $1.30 an hour offered to them by the state.
Mrs. King's presence made clear for the first time since the death of her husband that she was resolved to play an active role in his unfinished work.