Leadership in the Struggle For Freedom, Equality and Justice

The Struggle for freedom and Justice and equality has been an integral aspect of African American life throughout American history from the colonial period to the present. The leadership of courageous and persistent women and men has been a consistent aspect of that struggle. Some, but far from all of those leaders have been memorialized with public monuments. However, those represented here illustrate the central importance of leadership is to the struggle. It is also noteworthy that leadership in the struggle has come from people of many walks of life. Yes, some were politicians and clergy, but there are also artists, working people, union organizers, academics, teachers, and school children. All of them provided visionary leadership, thus giving the necessary direction, inspiration and encouragement that enabled others to move forward.

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Richard Allen

The founder and  first Bishop of the A.M.E. Church, Richard Allen (1760-1831) was a minister, educator, and writer.  He was one of the earliest leaders in the struggle for freedom and equality. For more information click on the link below.

Philadelphia, PA

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Dred and Harriet Scott

Dred Scott, an enslaved African American sued for his freedom and that of his wife and children in U.S. courts for ten years from 1847 through 1857. His case was finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857  where  his freedom was denied.  The Court's decision in this case denied citizenship rights to all people of African descent, enslaved or free. 

St. Louis, MO 

Photograph  by  Devoree Crist

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Octavius V. Cato

Octavius Valentine Cato (1839-1871) was an educator, scholar, athlete and activist in 19th Century Philadelphia. He also served as a military officer and recruiter during the Civil War. To learn more about his life click the link below.

Philadelphia,  PA

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Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls (1839-1915) was among the earliest African Americans elected to Congress during the post Civil War Reconstruction era.

Beaufort, SC

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is the subject of several monuments throughout the U.S. This outstanding advocate for the abolition of slavery was born an enslaved person. 

Rochester, NY

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W. E. B. DuBois

Intellectual, civil rights activist, author, publisher, educator, Pan-Africanist and more, W.E.B. Dubois (1868-1963) stands out as one of the most prominent and  tireless advocates for African American freedom and equality of the late 19th and  20th Centuries. 

Accra,  Ghana - West Africa.

Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker ( 1864-1934) was a pioneering business person and educator. She was the first woman to own a bank in the United States and the first African American woman bank president. 

Richmond, Virginia
Photograph by Michael Black

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Mary McLeod Bethune 

Mary McLeod Bethune, (1875-1955) a prominent educator and civil rights activist was the founder of the National Council of Negro Women.

Washington, DC

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Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a civil rights activist and attorney, who successfully led the legal challenge to school segregation. Later, he became the first African American to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Morgan State College, Baltimore, MD
Photograph by Michael Black

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Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson, (1898-1976) was multi-talented. He was an athlete, artist of stage, screen and concert hall as well as a relentless advocate for justice and equality in the United States and throughout the world. The pictured monument is one of few non-representational monuments in this collection. However, it does much to convey the undaunted spirit of this global citizen and American of African descent.

Washington, D.C.
Allen Uzikee Nelson, Sculptor

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was the most prominent civil rights leader of the mid-20th Century. His soaring oratory, his written works and his courage in the face of often violent opposition are characteristics that inspired African Americans and others to engage in the struggle for justice and equality.

Washington, D.C.
Photograph  by Michael Black

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

This non- representational monument to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is located in New York City. Click the button below to see video clips of some of Dr. King's speeches.

New York, NY

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A. Phillip Randolph

A. Phillip Randolph ( 1889-1979) was the founder of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He was a labor leader and civil rights activist, who was one of the primary architects of the 1963 March on Washington.

South Station, Boston, MA.

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Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972) was the Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York City and Congressperson representing Harlem, NY from 1945 through 1971. Throughout his long tenure in Congress he was a staunch advocate for racial equality and justice. Noted for his fiery oratory, he consistently pointed out the racism and hypocrisy of many of his Euro-American Congressional colleagues.  

New York, NY (Harlem)

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Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks 1913-2005 is known as the "First Lady of Civil Rights." She became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a Birmingham bus, an action that sparked the Birmingham bus boycott. 

Detroit, MI

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The Greensboro 

On February 1st 1960 these four freshmen at North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro staged the first lunch counter sit in. An action that would spark a national movement of non-violent protest to desegregate public accomodations. 

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In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, students in Clinton, Tennessee became the first African American students to integrate a public school in the South.

The Clinton 12

Photograph by Melvin Black

Telling Their Story

This monument depicts the historic walk of the Clinton 12 to their new high school on August 26, 1956.

Photograph by Melvin Black

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The Little Rock Nine

On September 4, 1957 nine African American students were  registered  to begin classes at the previously all white Little Rock Central High School. Their attempts to attend classes were met with staunch opposition from angry mobs and the Arkansas political establishment, led by then Governor Orval Faubus. Federal intervention on behalf of the students led to what was then referred to as the Little Rock Crisis. This monument, commemorating those nine courageous students, is located at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.  

Little Rock, AK