Girls 1 of 16
Sojourner 2 of 16
Origin: French; Meaning: traveler
Sojourner Truth, an African-American women's rights activist, was originally born a slave named Isabelle Baumfree. At the young age of 9 years old, Sojourner was sold to a new owner (along with a herd of sheep) for just $100. She took on her new name — and her mission — while traveling and fighting for abolition in the middle of the 19th century.
Coretta 3 of 16
Origin: Greek; Meaning: maiden
Married to the renowned civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King was just as smart as her husband from early on, having graduated as class valedictorian from Lincoln High School. After the assassination of her husband, Coretta Scott King took on both the struggle for racial and gender equality. She continued to be a voice for civil rights until her death in 2006.
Ida 4 of 16
Origin: Old German, Greek; Meaning: hardworking, prosperous
Born in 1862, Ida B. Wells was a journalist and an early voice in the civil rights and women's suffrage movements, along with husband Ferdinand L. Barnett. 71 years before Rosa Parks famously declined to move her seat on a bus, Wells refused to listen to a train conductor asking her to move from her spot to a crowded smoking room — and made headlines when she won a suit against the railroad after she was dragged out of the car. Throughout her career, Wells used journalism to document and condemn lynching in a post-Civil War United States.
Ella 5 of 16
Origin: Old German; Meaning: other, foreign
A contemporary of W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, Ella Baker was a strong proponent of civil and human rights in America. She began her activism in the 1930s, when working as an undercover reporter, writing an exposÃ© on the mistreatment of African American women domestic workers. Her fight to empower black women to rise up and help themselves continued until her death in 1986.
Ruby 6 of 16
Origin: English; Meaning: red gemstone
Ruby Bridges was just six years old in 1960, when her parents volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans, Louisiana, public school system. Despite threats, isolation, and protests against her, Bridges continued to attend. Today, she is known as the first African-American child to attend an all-white school in the South.
Septima 7 of 16
Origin: Latin; Meaning: seventh
Septima Poinsette Clark started her career as a schoolteacher and later became known as the "Queen mother" of the American Civil Rights Movement. Noticing the discrepancy of pay and quality between her school and the white schools in her town, Clark began to fight for pay equalization for all teachers, leading to her work in civil rights.
Myrlie 8 of 16
Origin: French; Meaning: blackbird
The former wife of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers-Williams worked with her husband in the NAACP, campaigning for voting rights, working to end segregation, and organizing voter registration drives. Evers was shot down in front of his family home in 1963, but the end of his life didn't stop Evers-Williams from working with the NAACP, running for Congress, and working at the center for Educational Opportunity at Claremont College.
Boys 9 of 16
Luther 10 of 16
Origin: Old German; Meaning: soldier of the people
The boys' name Luther is often used as an homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., a clergyman and prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement. King led the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated city bus. After his assassination in 1968, King continues to be an icon for the advancement of civil rights worldwide.
Malcolm 11 of 16
Origin: Scottish, Gaelic; Meaning: devotee of Saint Columba
Though this activist was originally born Malcolm Little in 1925, his work within the nation of Islam and for African-American rights during his lifetime earned him the name Malcolm X. Today, he's remembered as one of the most influential — and controversial — black leaders of the 20th century.
Thurgood 12 of 16
Origin: Old English; Meaning: "Thor's good," Puritan virtue name
Thurgood Marshall served on the United States Supreme Court for 24 years and was the first African-American justice to do so. Before serving on the Court, Marshall was well known as a lawyer on the famous case Brown v. Board of Education, which banned segregation in public schools.
Stokely 13 of 16
Origin: English; Meaning: "from the tree stump meadow"
Stokely Carmichael, who later changed his name to Kwame Ture, was a Trinidadian-American activist during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He's well known as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, also known as "snick") and was later a key player in the Black Panther Party.
Langston 14 of 16
Origin: Old English; Meaning: long stone, long town
Out of the many voices in the Harlem Renaissance of the '20s and '30s came Langston Hughes, a writer and poet. Hughes' poetry is widely celebrated and respected as an insightful look at American black life during the first half of the 20th century. Frustrated with living in a segregated America, Hughes let his political beliefs as a radical democrat and civil rights advocate come through in his life's work.
Hosea 15 of 16Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: salvationHosea Williams had earned a Purple Heart during his WWII military service, yet came home to a segregated country where he was beaten for drinking out of a "Whites Only" water fountain. After this incident, Williams began his more than 40 years of civil rights activism, supporting demonstrations and strikes throughout the South. Over the years, Williams was arrested more than 125 times while fighting for his beliefs.
Booker 16 of 16
Origin: English; Meaning: scribe
Born into slavery in 1856, Booker T. Washington worked his way through schooling and college after emancipation to become one of the most prominent members of the African-American community in the early 20th century. Washington gave voice to blacks who were unable to vote due to Southern legislatures' disfranchisement. He spoke at the Atlanta Compromise of 1895, which ensured basic education and due process in law for black Southerners.