The third Monday in January is a federal holiday in the U.S. that honors the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. who promoted nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s . Many other important people have made an impact on American history as they worked to advance civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights.
Here are 10 amazing people who impressed me! Do you know any others?
1. Martin Luther King Jr
A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King’s work led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Tip: Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial when you walk along the National Mall in Washington, DC.
2. Rosa Parks
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This simple act of defiance helped change the course of civil rights activism in America.
Tip: To find out more about the life of Rosa Parks, visit the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, AL.
3. Jane Addams
In 1931, Jane Addams became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.
Tip: Learn more about Jane Addams’ work at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago.
4. Ellen Degeneres
A famous American comedian and a LGBTQ activist, her 1994-98 show Ellen was groundbreaking as one of the first to feature a gay main character. She is now the host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has won 59 Daytime Emmy Awards and is one of the most popular in the country.
Tip: If you’re in LA and would like to be in the audience of Ellen’s show, request your tickets (in advance!).
5. Gloria Steinem
A journalist and a social political activist, Gloria Steinem has been a leader and spokeswoman for the American feminist movement, especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Tip: Want to explore women’s history through exhibitions, programs, and immersive multimedia? Visit this one-of-a-kind Center for Women’s History in NYC!
6. John Lewis
At 25 years old, John Lewis led a group of civil rights marchers in Alabama, from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. The goal of the march was to bring attention to the lack of voting rights for African Americans. Rep. Lewis has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 30 years.
Tip: Explore the civil rights trail and visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Al. This is the spot where police officers attempted to stop Rep. Lewis’ group.
7. Elizabeth Stanton
In 1848, Elizabeth Stanton and several other women held the Seneca Falls Convention. The outcome of this meeting was a historic document called the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which demanded equal social status and legal rights for women, including the right to vote.
Tip: There are 25 women serving in the United States Senate, the highest proportion of women serving as U.S. Senators in history! Tour the U.S. Capitol for free.
8. Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States and a groundbreaking pro-LGBTQ politician in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. His work had a major impact on advancing gay rights in America.
Tip: LGBTQ Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in June, with parades taking place in major cities, such as this one in San Francisco!
9. Dorothy Height
A civil rights and women’s rights activist, Dorothy Height’s work focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. She was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tip: The National Women’s History Museum curates online exhibitions and is a great place to learn about Dorothy Height and other prominent women in U.S. history.
10. Audre Lorde
She is famous for her poems that express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her work largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.
Tip: You can read Audre Lorde’s poetry by visiting her page on the Poetry Foundation’s website.