MLK Day Names: Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

MLK Day Names: Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

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.

Girl Names

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 rivil rights movement”.

Claudette Colvin – she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did, although 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 woman 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.

Boy Names

Aaron Henry – a respected Mississippi  activist who joined the Freedom Riders in 1961 and 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.

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 – ensured 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.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.