Black activists have and still do play a significant part in determining American history. They have
been at the forefront of the fight for social justice and equality, from the civil rights movement of the
1960s to the current Black Lives Matter campaign. Black activism has evolved in today’s society and
has emerged as a key player in the struggle against institutionalized racism and injustice.
Black activists from the early 20th century, such as Mary Church Terrell and Fannie Lou Hamer, who
fought for voting and civil rights, left a lasting impact. Modern black activists, however, are blazing a
new trail in the struggle for social justice. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement has
become a potent force for change, drawing attention to the systematic prejudice and violence
experienced by black communities throughout the United States.
In this article, we will examine the legacy of historical black activists, such as Mary Church Terrell and
Fannie Lou Hamer, and highlight the work of contemporary black activists who are shaping the
conversation on racial justice in America.
Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 23, 1863. Her parents, Louisa
Ayres Church and Robert Reed Church, were well-known figures in the black community who also
ran many prosperous enterprises. Because they valued education, Terrell’s parents ensured their
kids had a good education. One of the first African American women to enroll in college was Terrell,
who graduated from Ohio’s Antioch College in 1884 with a Bachelor’s degree.
The National Association Of Colored Women’s Founding Member
Terrell relocated to Washington, D.C., after graduating from college and was active in political and
social activities there. She was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women in
1892. The NACW was established to support social and political equality while addressing the needs
and issues of black women. From 1896 through 1901, Terrell presided over the company as its first
Leading Advocate For Women’s Suffrage
Terrell was a prominent supporter of women’s suffrage as well. She joined the National American
Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1896, and in 1904, she attended the organization’s
conference as the sole black woman. Terrell persisted in advocating for women’s suffrage and
underlined the need for black women’s engagement in the movement despite encountering racism
and prejudice from some white suffragists.
Supporter Of Civil Rights
Terrell also stood out for civil rights. She battled against lynching and other acts of violence against
black people while promoting an end to segregation and prejudice in public spaces. She became a
founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in
1909, and from that time until 1950, she served on the organization’s executive board.
The scope of Terrell’s support for civil rights went beyond American borders. She flew to Geneva,
Switzerland, to attend the World Conference on Women’s Rights in 1935. She urged for international
action there to alleviate the racism and inequality experienced by black women in America and
spoke out against it.
Impact And Legacy
Mary Church Terrell’s activity and advocacy significantly impacted the struggle for women’s suffrage
and civil rights in America. She contributed to creating a group that fought to better the lives of black
women and the communities in which they lived as one of the NACW’s founding members and its first president. Her role in the women’s suffrage movement underlined the need for inclusivity and
diversity while advancing the cause of women’s voting rights.
Equally influential was Terrell’s work as a civil rights activist. Her efforts to eradicate prejudice and segregation in public spaces helped the Civil Rights Act of 1964 become law. Her work with the NAACP aided in advancing social justice and civil rights in America, and her worldwide campaigning raised awareness of the problems black women confront worldwide.
Black activists working now to advance social justice, women’s rights, and civil rights are carrying on
Mary Church Terrell’s legacy. Her commitment to activism and her desire to stand out for equality
and justice will serve as an inspiration for future generations.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was raised
in a sharecropping household as the eldest of 20 children. Hamer only went to school through the
third grade but maintained her education by reading and picking up knowledge from others.
Activism And Advocacy
Civil Rights Leader Hamer rose to prominence as a civil rights activist in the 1960s and was renowned
for her relentless activity and strong voice. As a result of her work with the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee, she developed an interest in the civil rights movement. (SNCC). Hamer
gave a moving address about the challenges and injustices experienced by black people in the South
as a speaker at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
A Voting Rights Activist, Hamer was a fierce advocate for voting rights and worked tirelessly to ensure that black people in Mississippi had the right to vote. In 1964, she participated in planning the Mississippi Freedom Summer, a drive to register black voters in the state. White nationalists threatened and physically attacked Hamer and other activists, but their efforts finally passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Co-founder Of The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
In addition, Hamer was a founder member of the 1964-founded Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party (MFDP), a breakaway party to the all-black Mississippi Democratic Party. Black Mississippians’
interests were advocated by the MFDP, which worked to assure their participation in politics. Hamer
and other MFDP members flew to Atlantic City for the 1964 Democratic National Convention, where
they requested to be seated as the Mississippi delegation. Despite their lack of success, their action
raised awareness of the problem of racial discrimination in the Democratic Party.
Legacy And Impact
The activity and advocacy of Fannie Lou Hamer had a significant influence on the civil rights
movement and the struggle for voting rights. Her stirring words and bold advocacy motivated others
to fight for justice and equality. Her involvement with the SNCC and the MFDP aided in the fight
against racial prejudice and advancing black participation in politics.
The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute at Jackson State University continues Hamer’s legacy by advancing
social justice and civic participation via outreach and education. Today’s black activists who struggle
for social justice and equality are still motivated and energized by the life and work of this pioneering
Contemporary Black Activists
In today’s culture, black activism is crucial in the battle against discrimination, police brutality, and
systematic racism. Black activists now use political lobbying, grassroots organization, social media,
and grassroots organizing to draw attention to black community problems.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which started in 2013 in reaction to the shooting death of
Trayvon Martin, was co-founded by Patrisse Cullors. Cullors has been an outspoken supporter of
criminal justice and police reform, calling for accountability and the eradication of structural racism.
She also started the Dignity and Power Now group, which works to eradicate mass imprisonment
and police brutality in Los Angeles.
In addition to being a co-founder of the BLM movement, Alicia Garza has actively promoted
intersectionality and black feminism. She is a co-founder of the Black Futures Lab, an organization
dedicated to promoting policies that benefit black communities and involving them in the political
process. Using her position to raise awareness of problems impacting black people, such as housing
discrimination, healthcare inequities, and police violence, Garza has been a strong voice in the
struggle for social justice.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Brittany Packnett Cunningham is a well-known activist and educator who has led the charge for
racial justice and police reform. She co-founded the Campaign Zero group, which promotes
legislation to eradicate racism and police violence in the criminal justice system. Additionally, she
has actively promoted voting rights and campaigned to boost turnout in the 2020 presidential
Movement For Black Lives
Over 50 organizations have joined the Movement for Black Lives, which advocates for racial equality
and social justice. Organizations, including Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders, and the Ella
Baker Center for Human Rights, are part of the coalition. The Movement for Black Lives promotes
laws that deal with problems impacting black communities, such as housing discrimination,
economic inequality, and criminal justice reform.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
An influential civil rights group that has been battling for racial justice for more than 80 years is the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The group advocates for laws that address systematic racism and advance equality via litigation and campaigning. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has taken part in important lawsuits, including Shelby County v. Holder and Brown v. Board of Education.
A group of activists and data scientists established the nonprofit Campaign Zero in 2015 to stop
police violence in the U.S. The group has a ten-point police reform proposal that calls for banning
broken window enforcement, equipping all officers with body cameras, and creating neighborhood
Campaign Zero played a significant role in pressing for the use of force regulations to be adopted at
the municipal and federal levels and establishing a national database of police shootings. In addition,
the group has assisted community activists with resources and training while collaborating with
police forces to achieve changes.
Color Of Change
A nationwide group called Color of Change promotes racial equality and justice in the U.S. In the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the inadequate government response to the tragedy, the group
was established in 2005. The organization Color of Change has worked on various topics, such as
voting rights, economic fairness, and criminal justice reform.
The group has effectively pushed for legislative improvements, such as repealing New York’s cash
bail system and the House of Representatives’ approval of the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Additionally, Color of Change seeks to make businesses responsible for their deeds and has led
successful campaigns against businesses that use discriminatory business practices.
The Dream Defenders
A youth-led movement called The Dream Defenders was established in 2012 in reaction to the
murder of Trayvon Martin. The group has played a significant role in promoting legislative reforms in
economic justice and criminal justice reform. The Dream Defenders have worked on various topics,
including reducing mass imprisonment, the school-to-prison pipeline, and promoting a living wage.
With the passing of the Florida First Step Act, which aims to lower mandatory minimum sentences
for non-violent drug offenses, the group has effectively promoted policy reforms. The Dream
Defenders have also fought to elect progressive politicians that share their policy objectives through
Future Of Black Activism
With many young activists continuing to lead the battle for social justice and racial equality, the
future of black activism is promising. Social media amplifies Black activists’ voices significantly,
enabling them to reach a larger audience and mobilize more successfully.
One of the difficulties black activists have is keeping the momentum and energy necessary to effect
long-lasting change. Building a sustainable infrastructure for activism is a top priority for many
organizations, including providing young activists with resources and training and forming alliances
with other groups.
The growing opposition from right-wing organizations and politicians to social justice movements is
another difficulty for black activists. As a result, threats and intimidation against activists have risen,
making it more challenging to influence legislation.
Despite these difficulties, there remains hope for the future of black activism as many young activists
continue to take the lead in the struggle for racial and social justice. They are attempting to create a
more fair and just society for all people via their actions and advocacy.
In conclusion, Mary Church Terrell and Fannie Lou Hamer played significant roles in advancing social
justice and civil rights in their day. Modern black activists are still inspired by and guided by their
legacy in pursuing racial equality and justice. A handful of the numerous groups and leaders doing
this crucial work are Campaign Zero, Color of Change, and The Dream Defenders.
It’s critical to be aware of the difficulties ahead and the requirement to keep this movement’s
momentum as we look to the future of black activism. We must encourage and amplify the voices of
black activists while working to create a more just and equal society.
All of us may contribute to assisting black activists and their causes. This might involve working with
nearby nonprofits, giving to important causes, or utilizing our platforms to spread the word and
promote change. By working together, we can carry on the work of Fannie Lou Hamer and Mary
Church Terrell and create a brighter future for all.