5. Bayard Rustin
According to PBS, Bayard Rustin was an early organizer in the Journey of Reconciliation, and a advocated non-violent actions for change. As the chief organizer of the March on Washington, he provided mentoring to Martin Luther King Jr. and advocated for the LGBTQ+ community, being an openly gay man himself.
4. Ella Baker
According to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Ella Baker played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the NAACP, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
3. Charles Hamilton Houston
Known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow,” Charles Hamilton Houston passed on before the commonly accepted beginning of the civil rights movement; however, according to NAACP, Houston was instrumental in dismantling the Jim Crow laws. He also helped mentor and train Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
2. Dion Diamond
According to the Washington Post, Dion Diamond was an early counter-protester, and he faced off against members of the American Nazi party when he was still a student at Howard University. He took time off from college to devote all of his efforts to the civil rights movement, and he even got arrested protesting a group of anti-immigration picketers in 1960. His outspoken form of activism turned to education when he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin to study sociology. As of 2020, Dion still protests and speaks publicly, hoping to motivate young people to fight for equality.
1. Ruby Sutton
Ruby Sutton is known as “The Mother Theresa of Dubuque,” and she was a dedicated advocate for human rights and inclusion. According to the Dubuque Multicultural Family Center, Ruby Sutton kickstarted the Dubuque Human Rights Commission after she was refused public accommodation at a restaurant in 1969. The Dubuque Human Rights Commission is still very much active today, and they are currently working on race in the Heartland conference, as well as unemployment in Dubuque. Sutton also helped organize Dubuque’s NAACP chapter, and she served as the president from 1973-2009. The Dubuque NAACP chapter has continued to make a meaningful impact on the community. In addition to the organizations that she started or helped start, Sutton was trained for and served as a mediator for the city and helped design the first Diversity Training for the City. Learn more about Sutton here.