MLK Day Names: Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

January 14, 2015 Linda Rosenkrantz

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Since we’re a few days away from Martin Luther King Day, and have recently been reminded of the Civil Rights leader’s achievements and struggles in the movie Selma, we’re looking back today to our blog honoring some of the most worthy namesakes among Dr. King’s fellow barrier-breaking heroes and heroines of the movement.


AMELIA Boynton Robinson – she brought Dr. King to Selma in 1953

ANGELA Davis  – a radical Black activist and advocate of racial justice

CARLOTTA Walls – the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine students who desegregated Central High School in 1957

CHARLAYNE Hunter-Gault –one of the first two African-American students to enter the University of Georgia in 1961

CLARA Luper – the activist known as the ‘Mother of the civil rights movement’

CLAUDETTE Colvin – she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did–though she’s less well known

CORETTA Scott King – Dr. King’s full partner in the civil rights movement

DAISY Bates — a key figure in the integration of Central High School in Little Rock

DOROTHY Cotton – the highest-ranking female in Dr King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT — a civil rights activist during and after her husband’s tenure as President.

ELLA  Baker – an influential activist as a key figure in the NAACP, SCLC and in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

FANNIE Lou Hamer – an outspoken activist, a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

LOLA Hendricks —active in the 1963 Birmingham campaign

MAMIE Till-Mobley – the mother of slain teenager Emmett Till who became a tireless worker for racial justice

MARIAN Anderson – the singer best remembered for her 1939 performance, arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, after being banned from singing in Constitution Hall

MARVEL Cooke – first African-American journalist to work for a white-owned newspaper; active in the civil rights movement

MAYA Angelou – at the request of Dr. King, she became a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

MELBA Beals –a member of the Little Rock Nine, who faced daily hostility, persecution and death threats

MINNIJEAN Brown—another member of the Little Rock Nine

MODJESKA Monteith Simkins –a leader of public health and social reform and the civil rights movement in South Carolina

ODETTA — the iconic folk singer was a leading voice for civil rights, joining Dr King in the march on Selma and singing at the 1963 March on Washington

PRATHIA Hall —  an important activist leader of SNCC

ROSA Parks – considered “the mother of the modern civil rights movement,” whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger, and consequent arrest, were instrumental in inciting a social revolution

RUBY Dee – with her husband Ossie Davis, she formed the Association of Artists for Freedom, urging donations to civil rights causes, and was involved in several demonstrations

SEPTIMA Poinsette Clark – SCLC’s director of education

UNITA Blackwell — a project director for SNCC, organizer of voter registration drives across Alabama, and one of the first female black mayors

VIOLA Liuzzo — a martyred civil rights leader who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan

VIVIAN Malone—one of two black students to desegregate the University of Alabama


AARON Henry – a respected Mississippi  activist who joined the Freedom Riders in 1961and led a large-scale voter registration drive

ADAM Clayton Powell , Jr –an outspoken Congressman who aggressively pursued anti-discrimination legislation

AMZIE Moore – he worked with Medgar Evers to build the Regional Council of Negro Leadership; his home was used as a “safe house” for Dr. King, Jesse Jackson and others

ANDREW Young –a trusted aide to Dr. King, eventually becoming executive director of the SCLC; he was with Dr. King when he was assassinated

BAYARD Rustin —an organizer of the Great March on Washington in 1963, he was a vital force in the civil rights movement from the 1940s on

CLAUDE Black – the Baptist minister who organized and led marches throughout Texas

CLYDE Kennard –a civil rights activist unjustly imprisoned In Mississippi

EMMETT Till – the 14-year-old Chicago boy whose brutal murder mobilized the civil rights movement

HARRY Belafonte –the popular singer was an early supporter of the movement and a confidant of Dr. King (shown in illustration)

HOSEA Williams – one of Dr. King’s most trusted lieutenants, he protested racial discrimination in some of the most violent confrontations of the civil rights movement

JESSE Jackson — a civil rights activist, the founder of the Rainbow Coalition, and a Presidential candidate

JULIAN (born Horace) Bond  – he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), served in the Georgia Legislature, and was chairman of the NAACP.

LYNDON Johnson  –  insured the passage of President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Bill and the 1964 Voting Rights Act, giving African-Americans more political and economic opportunities (though not represented as such in Selma).

MEDGAR Evers – the slain field secretary of the NAACP, and one of the movement’s first martyrs

MYLES Horton –called “The Father of the Civil Rights Movement,” he taught and influenced many of the era’s leaders, including Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy

OSSIE (born Raiford) Davis – the socially conscious actor who delivered the eulogies for both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

RALPH Abernathy —the closest friend and assistant of Dr. King, he followed him as president of the SCLC.

W. SLOANE Coffin  — the Yale chaplain who became one of the “Freedom Riders” and was arrested several times for direct actions against segregation laws.

WHITNEY Young – the Executive Director of the National Urban League, he influenced the policies of Lyndon Johnson

WYATT Tee Walker—Dr King’s Chief of Staff, and one of the founders or CORE


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