When you're told to think of vital Black American civil rights leaders, it's likely that you instinctually envision Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—and rightfully so. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the civil rights hero was an unparalleled pillar of strength for African Americans in the nonviolent fight towards equality and the end of legal segregation in the Unites States. Through his various arrests, demonstrations, and unforgettable words of wisdom, there is no question that he's an icon.
But there are many that came before him, stood beside him, or came after in his memory, that made it their priority to fight for the freedom of all Black Americans. You may recognize a few of these names from the pages of your history books or Black History Month lessons. Others may turn out to be welcome discoveries—hidden figures of our time. And the rest you may know as ever-important voices of today, who work to ensure we'll never forget that #BlackLivesMatter. But one thing they all have in common? We'll feel their impact for generations to come.