Martin Luther King Jr. and 49 Other Most Important Civil Rights Leaders of the 20th Century

Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons

The 20th century witnessed great changes around the world — socially, politically, and economically. While many of the seismic shifts worldwide involved people throwing off the yoke of colonialism, in the United States change centered on the fight for civil rights.

The civil rights movement of the 20th century mainly fought for equality for African Americans.

Tragedy would accompany progress, as the struggle claimed the life of Martin Luther King Jr. — these are the 37 most famous assassinations in American history

The cause for American civil rights was not the only movement. Other causes included the equal rights for workers and the gay community as well as the feminist movement — here are 25 women who shaped the feminist movement.

20th-century activism had its antecedents in the late 19th century, when reformers were referred to as muckrakers, progressives, anti-monopolists, labor advocates, social reformers, and women’s rights supporters. Movements such as labor, women’s suffrage, and social reform  gained momentum in the 20th century and prompted large rallies and marches that raised awareness of the various causes.

To acknowledge the accomplishments and courage of inspiring figures, 24/7 Lifestyle listed 50 of the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.

While Americans tend to see the struggle for civil rights through an American prism, with hate groups across the nation seeking to suppress minorities, important movements around the world in which oppressed people gained their freedom and liberty had their champions, too. Leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi in India and Nelson Mandela in South Africa are also included on this list.

24/7 Lifestyle reviewed biographies and news stories from resource material, websites of  organizations such as the NAACP, Nobelprize.org, the Nobel Prize website, and media sources for stories pertaining to notable civil rights figures to determine the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.