The civil liberties we enjoy today, were not simply offered to us by the governments. People fought for this freedom, and a few even died for it. The strong and detrimental civil right activists play a huge role in expanding freedom terms for every individual. In the past, the times were even tougher. Be it the plight of African-Americans for equality or their struggle for voting rights, the 20th century observed some of the revered civil right activists.
Here we bring you the names of people who were assassinated for their stronghold in America’s Civil rights movement of 20th century:
George Washington Lee
The vice-President of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, George Washington Lee was assassinated in 1955 for he wanted African-Americans to register for their vote in Humphreys County, Mississippi. Even though the blacks formed majority part of the population of the county, the 1890 constitution had them disfranchised. Lee spoke at the annual meeting of NAACP where 7,000 people had gathered. The crowd seemed to be electrified with his speech, but only after a month he was shot and killed while he was driving his car in Belzoni, Mississippi. His death was a catalyst for numerous other activists to step up and fight for their rights.
William Lewis Moore
A member of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), William Lewis Moore was against racial segregation. His assassination is often referred to as ‘the Mailman Murder’. Once diagnosed with schizophrenia, William was an activist on behalf of the mentally ill, but gradually became an activist for the rights of African-Americans. He had undertaken three civil rights protests in which he marched to a capital to deliver his own hand-written letter criticizing racial segregation. His first march was to Annapolis, Maryland, second walk was to the White House, and the third was planned from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi, but he was found dead on US Highway 11. He was wearing a sandwich board sign with the quote, “Equal rights for all & Mississippi or Bust“. One line from the letter read, ‘the white man cannot be truly free himself until all men have their rights.‘
At the age of 37, Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith, who was a White supremacist and a member of White Citizen’s Council. He had worked towards providing equality for African-Americans and struggled to expand opportunities for them, including the voting rights. He wished to prevent the segregation of society, and organized local affiliates of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). But the White Citizen’s Council, was a group formed against the notion. His murder had received national attention and there was an increased civil right protests. His brother Charles Evers emerged to be the first African-American to be elected for the position of mayor of Mississippi.
One of the most influential African-Americans, was Malcolm X – the American Muslim minister who was courageous enough to demand the rights for blacks on most harshest terms. When he was in prison for larceny and breaking and entering, he became a member of Nation of Islam (NOI), a group that advocated black nationalism and racial separatism. But when he was out of the prison, he began to developed philosophies a bit different from that of Elijah Muhammad. In June 1964, he established an Organization of Afro-American Unity. It focused on the evil being racism and not white-Americans. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot dead by none other than the members of Nation of Islam, while he was speaking at a rally.
An American Unitarian Universalist minister and pastor, James Reeb was beaten grievously in Selma, Alabama in 1965, when he was a part of Selma to Montgomery marches . These marches were held to protest for voting rights of African-Americans. He died in hospital two days later succumbing to the head injuries. His death caused a state of mourning in the entire country. Martin Luther King in the Eulogy of Reeb stated, ‘He was a witness to the truth that men of different races and classes might live, eat, and work together as brothers’.
Martin Luther King Jr.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
The Baptist minister and the person who moved the crowd just with his words – Martin Luther King Jr was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary in April 4, 1968. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is well-known for advancing the notion of civil rights by non-violence and helped combat racial inequality by similar ways. Since 1986, he is remembered each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is a U.S. federal holiday.