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Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to participants in the Civil Rights Movement's March on Washington from the Lincoln Memorial.
Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson poses in his batting stance. Robinson broke baseball's color barrier when he joined the Dodgers in April 1947, going on to be named National League Rookie of the Year.
Obama speaks during a church service commemorating the 1965 Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March. (Corbis)
There were four all-Black regiments during World War I: the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. The men who served in these regiments were considered heroes in their communities, sewing the seeds for equality in the U.S. military. However, still facing insurmountable segregation in the United States at the time, many soldiers opted to remain overseas where they experienced greater freedom and acceptance.(Getty Images)
Charlie "Bird" Parker is considered one of the most influential jazz musicians. The saxophonist played a leading role in the development of bebop, which eventually became an international movement. In 1949 Bird left the U.S. and toured Europe, where he popularized jazz and earned the nickname 'Zoizeau.' (Getty Images)
Best known for his autobiography, Black Boy, Richard Wright is regarded as an inspirational African-American author. Exhausted with communism and white American ideals, he traveled to Mexico before expatriating to Paris, where he became friends with Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. He earned his French citizenship in 1947, and continued to travel throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa for the remainder of his life. (Getty Images)
1957: Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American to play in, and win, the women's singles title at Wimbledon.
Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, scholar W.E.B. Du Bois fought for racial equality as a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Journalist Daisy Bates gazes out of a broken window of her home during the Civil Rights Movement in 1958, one year after she helped the Little Rock Nine attend school during desegregation. (Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images)
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Rosa Parks smiling after a Supreme Court ruling banning segregation on city public transit vehicles took effect. 1956
Known for his Islamic ideals and radical approach to equality during the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X speaks passionately to a crowd in 1963.
Talented dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker became the first African-American female to star in a motion picture.
Known as one of the founding fathers of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes continuously fought for social justice and racial equality through his literature.
Classical pianist and singer Nina Simone revolutionized American jazz. In search of a more racially equitable music scene and culture - and to avoid unpaid taxes - Simone traveled to Liberia, Switzerland, and Barbados before settling in the South of France in 1992. She lived in Aix-en-Provence until her death in 2003. (Redferns)
1936: Jesse Owens becomes the first African-American to win four gold medals at a single Olympics tournament.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass escaped slavery before becoming an instrumental part of the abolitionist movement through his literature and speeches during the 19th century. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, played a vital part in ending legal segregation during the Civil Rights Movement through the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education. (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images)
Muhammad Ali knocks out both opponents and barriers as a world heavyweight boxing champion who refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of his personal beliefs, even with the consequence of jail time and the stripping of his title. (Photo by Trevor Humphries/Getty Images)