The Dream Keepers: 12 People Who Changed Your Life

Article excerpt

AS individuals, they could not have been more different: Male and female; young and old, Black and White, poor and privileged.

But as a group, they heeded the call for freedom and equality.

As a group, they understood the significance of basic human rights and the Civil Rights Movement. As a group, they vowed to do the work and walk the talk and make that sacrifice--sometimes the ultimate sacrifice--to steer the entire nation down the path of "justice and liberty for all." They had no assurances that social change was coming, but they forged ahead because they believed.

But as a group, they changed your life and helped redefine what it means to be a Black or a White American.

On these pages, EBONY salutes this select group of visionaries who represent the greatness that the human race can achieve.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Considered to be the greatest civil rights leader ever, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Freedom Movement that created a new South and new North, and increased the boundaries of freedom for all Americans. As the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and citywide movements in Birmingham, Memphis, Chicago and other localities, he won victories that advanced the cause of Black and White Americans, including, most notably, students and women. He helped to lead the 1963 March on Washington, where he made his famous I Have a Dream speech. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35 and garnered worldwide acclaim, which is evidenced by the city streets, schools and museums named in his honor.

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

The first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court (1967-1991), Thurgood Marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, worked tirelessly as a fighter for civil rights throughout his life. As the lead attorney for the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, he was the mastermind behind litigation strategies that included ending racism in housing, transportation and education, as evidenced by his most famous court victory, that of Brown v. Board of Education. As associate justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Marshall continued to be an unwavering voice for equal protection of the law and for affirmative action until his retirement from the bench in 1991.

Rosa Parks (Feb. 4, 1913-)

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a Montgomery, Ala., seamstress and activist on her way home from work, refused to give up her seat to a White man on a city bus. Her single, silent protest helped spark the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and jump-started what became the Freedom Movement. The boycott helped overturn racial segregation on public transportation in Montgomery and throughout the South. Parks inspired tremendous change for Black Americans through quiet and resolute courage. She later moved to Detroit, where she worked for U.S. Rep. John Conyers until her retirement in the mid-1980s. She continues to be an endearing and enduring symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackie Robinson (1908-1993)

Seven days before the publication of the first EBONY, Jackie Robinson signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which sent him to the Montreal farm club, and later (April 15, 1947) made him the first Black player in Major League Baseball in modern times. He answered the call of Branch Rickey, the team's president and general manager, who said: "I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!" Robinson responded to racial taunts and insults with superb play on the field that won him Rookie of the Year and later Most Valuable Player awards.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

The 35th president of the United States used the Oval Office to advance the Civil Rights Movement, using federal troops to protect freedom riders. He was an active supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. On June 11, 1963, the president ordered Alabama Governor George Wallace to stop preventing Black students from attending the University of Alabama. …