Civil Rights Heroines and Martyrs

Black Women were (and still are) the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement, yet our contributions are largely ignored. I salute these HER-story making sistas for their contributions. I will be doing posts like this every so often to pay homage to Civil Rights heroines and martyrs.

The Civil Rights Widows: Betty (Betty X) Shabazz (left), Coretta Scott-King (middle), and Myrlie Evers-Williams (right)
The Civil Rights Widows: Dr. Betty (Betty X) Shabazz (left), Coretta Scott-King (middle), and Myrlie Evers-Williams (right)

Dr. Shabazz, Mrs. Scott-King, and Mrs. Evers-Williams were more than members of the unfortunate club of the civil rights widows. In the aftermath of their husbands’ deaths they continued to push forward raising their children and preserving their husbands’ legacies. They were not only wives and mothers, they were professionals and civil/human rights activist too.

Dr. Betty (Betty X) Shabazz: (1934-1997)- Widow of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Nurse, Educator, and Civil Rights Activist. Associate professor of Health Sciences at Medgar Evers College (1976-1997) Director of Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs at Medgar Evers College (1980-1997)

Coretta Scott-King: (1927-2006) Widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Author, Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, and Anti-War Activist. Winner of the Academy of Achievements Golden Plate Award (1997) and Gandhi Peace Prize (2004)

Myrlie Ever-Williams: (1933)- Widow of Medgar Evers, author, journalist, former chair of the NAACP (1995-1998), and Civil Rights Activist. Winner of the NAACP Spingarn Award (1998) and National Freedom Award (2009).

Claudette Colvin, 15
Claudette Colvin, 15
          Claudette Colvin today

Claudette Colvin (1939)- Nurse’s Aide and Civil Rights Activist. On March 2, 1955, a few months before Rosa Parks gave up her seat and at only 15 years old, Claudette refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and became one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that Montgomery’s segregated bus system was unconstitutional.

Rosa MCauley-Parks
Rosa McCauley-Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley-Parks (1913-2005)– Seamstress and Civil Rights Activist. On December 1, 1955, Montgomery, Al. Mrs. Parks refuse to give up her seat to a white passenger, which was the catalyst of the city-wide Montgomery Bus Boycott causing Montgomery city officials to lift the bus segregation laws. In June 1999, she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor by former President Bill Clinton.

Rosa Parks in June 1999, when she was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal.
         Rosa Parks in June 1999, when she was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal
The 4 Little Girls
           The 4 Little Girls


The 4 Little Girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carol Robertson)– On Sunday September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed by four KKK members. The innocent lives of four beautiful Black Princesses  between the ages of 11 and 14 were killed in the blast while preparing for Sunday School Services. Martyrs by default, these little girls’ murders marked a turning point in the civil rights movement and a catalyst for the signing of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On May 24, 2013  President Barack Obama  awarded the 4 little girls posthumously  the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor.


The Civil Rights Widows, Rosa Parks, and Claudette Colvin Biographies from

The 4 Little Girls Bio from


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