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50 Important Civil Rights Speeches From History

Activists, athletes, actors, and preachers with sometimes-fiery presentation abilities are just some of the individuals who’ve communicated the message of civil rights to the lots.

When many individuals consider civil rights, the trail to equality for the Black neighborhood involves thoughts, however oration has been a part of different civil rights actions too, together with these making an attempt to safe equality for ladies, those that are older, and LGBTA+ folks.

Stacker compiled a listing of 50 important civil rights speeches utilizing assets together with BlackPast, TED, American RadioWorks, the Obama Foundation, and extra media and academic sources.

50 essential civil rights speeches
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Almost everybody is aware of the names and the works of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Barack Obama, however one presenter who focuses on intersectionality features a telling take a look at in her speech, that reveals how visibility for some will be nearly nonexistent. And one of many key gamers of the civil rights motion of the ’60s was generally silenced as a result of he was Black and homosexual.

Being incendiary was pure for a few of these audio system, whereas others toed the road between creating change and avoiding offending more-conservative components of the motion. Some of the speeches are from 50+ years up to now, however a number of are from historic occasions in 2020, starting from Black Lives Matter marches to the 2020 March on Washington, that includes highly effective orators starting from one of “The Squad” to MLK’s granddaughter. Reform of the legal justice system is a subject addressed in these speeches, throughout many many years. The record options speeches by activists starting from professionals with doctorates to a grade-school scholar.

Many of the audio system had a lifetime dedication to human rights, however one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, earlier than later signing off on main civil rights laws. Several fought for freedom for a couple of oppressed group.

Keep studying to find 50 important civil rights speeches.

You might also like: ‘I Have a Dream’ and the remainder of the best speeches of the twentieth century

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'Montgomery Bus Boycott' speech
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’ speech

Four days after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat in 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed hundreds of people that have been a part of the following boycott of the Montgomery bus system. He talked in regards to the long-time intimidation of Black bus riders, and the significance of continuous the protest.

Malcolm X’s White Liberals and Conservatives'
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Malcolm X’s ‘White Liberals and Conservatives’

Malcolm X talked in 1963 in regards to the energy of the vote to vary the race drawback, noting that solely 3 million “Negro integration-seekers” within the “Black bourgeoisie” vote, however 8 million do not. He proposed that each white liberals and conservatives use civil rights “in this crooked game of power politics” to garner energy.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' speech
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ speech

The civil rights chief penned this speech in 1963 whereas jailed for persevering with to protest the therapy of Black folks. King talked in regards to the interconnectedness of humanity, reminding us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere—we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

John F. Kennedy’s 'Civil Rights Address'
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John F. Kennedy’s ‘Civil Rights Address’

After National Guard help was required in 1963 to permit two Black college students onto the University of Alabama campus, President John F. Kennedy reminded the nation that Americans of any shade ought to be capable of attend public faculties, obtain equal service, register to vote, and “enjoy the privileges of being American,” framing these rights as an ethical situation. The stats he quoted to show that this was not the case have modified over time, however many present that equality has not but been achieved.

John Lewis’ '1963 March on Washington' speech
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John Lewis’ ‘1963 March on Washington’ speech

Before representing Georgia in Congress, John Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizing with different civil rights leaders together with Martin Luther King Jr. Lewis drafted his March on Washington speech in response to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963, stating that “we cannot be patient” for jobs and freedom and that “we are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'I Have a Dream' speech
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

The civil rights icon called for an end to racism in entrance of greater than 250,00 folks in 1963. King talked in regards to the lack of progress at the moment, however nearly 60 years later, the police brutality decried on this speech nonetheless exists, seen within the deaths of unarmed Black citizens and the protests that followed.

Malcolm X’s 'By Any Means Necessary'
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Malcolm X’s ‘By Any Means Necessary’

The Nation of Islam activist spoke in 1964 in regards to the creation of a Black nationalist get together and/or military, primarily based on the successes of African brothers in gaining “more independence, more recognition, more respect as human beings.” His new Organization of African Unity would hasten the “complete independence of people of African descent…by any means necessary,” beginning in Harlem.

Malcolm X’s 'The Ballot or the Bullet' speech
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Malcolm X’s ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’ speech

Malcolm X continued his incendiary tone in 1964 together with his speech about”The Ballot or the Bullet,” the place he advocated for voting however would not rule out extra violent reactions. He famous that Black persons are “fed up,” “disenchanted,” and “disillusioned,” creating an explosive setting.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s 'Taking it to the Mountain'
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Fannie Lou Hamer’s ‘Taking it to the Mountain’

Former sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer talked in 1964 about touring 26 miles to register to vote to turn out to be “first-class citizens,” being met by police, and in the end being evicted for her efforts. She requested, within the speech, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hook?”

Lorraine Hansberry’s 'The Black Revolution and the White Backlash' speech
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Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘The Black Revolution and the White Backlash’ speech

Not far off the mark from the commentary of Malcolm X, Hansberry mentioned the “problem about white liberals,” who do not perceive the impatience of Black individuals who’ve been “kicked in the face so often.” Her 1964 speech famous that the answer is to get them to “stop being a liberal and become an American radical.”

Joseph Jackson’s 'The Vote is the Only Effective Weapon in the Civil Rights Struggle'
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Joseph Jackson’s ‘The Vote is the Only Effective Weapon within the Civil Rights Struggle’

Baptist preacher Joseph Jackson talked in regards to the interconnectedness of civil rights and voting rights on this 1964 speech. The conservative chief implored the Black neighborhood to “fight their battles in the polling booth,” however opposed the direct motion taken by many different civil rights leaders of the time.


Bayard Rustin’s 'Negro Revolution in 1965'
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Bayard Rustin’s ‘Negro Revolution in 1965’

Rustin is comparatively unknown in civil rights historical past, regardless that he was a significant contributor to the motion, and acted as deputy director of the March on Washington. In this 1964 speech, he mentioned that “the Negro is forcing the American people into a revolutionary situation” targeted on higher training, housing, and job alternatives. Some more-conservative components needed to silence Rustin as a result of he was Black and homosexual.

James Baldwin’s 'Pin Drop'
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James Baldwin’s ‘Pin Drop’

Writer and activist James Baldwin talked in 1965 about the way it can appear to Black those that they “belong where white people have put you.” He addressed how gentrification existed 55 years in the past: “When someone says ‘Urban Renewal,’ that Negroes are simply going to be thrown out into the streets.” And he talked about how those that are excluded will stand up: “The people who are denied participation in [the American Dream], by their very presence, will wreck it.”

Lyndon B. Johnson’s 'And We Shall Overcome'
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s ‘And We Shall Overcome’

After the atrocities of Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon B. Johnson called out in 1965 for voting and civil rights, stating “Their cause must be our cause too.” Johnson had helped cross the Civil Rights Act the earlier 12 months. But he’d beforehand referred to as a press convention to detract from testimony by Fannie Lou Hamer about voter suppression.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'Our God is Marching On'
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Our God is Marching On’

After a four-day march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, King spoke to the gang, asking the query “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men?’ with the often-repeated answer “not lengthy, as a result of the arc of the ethical universe is lengthy, however it bends towards justice.” King hoped that racist brutality was coming to an finish, however progress has continued to be spiked with beatings and deaths and new records in the number of hate groups.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'The Three Evils of Society'
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘The Three Evils of Society’

Martin Luther King Jr. talked in 1967 in regards to the “triple evils” of struggle, poverty, and racism on the 1967 National Conference on New Politics in Chicago. His ideas on struggle speak about “guided missiles and misguided men,” whereas his insights on poverty and racism notice that “capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor both black and white, both here and abroad.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'The Other America'
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘The Other America’

Equality for all was one other of King’s rallying cries. In this 1967 speech, he acknowledged that some folks stay in a “lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'I’ve Been to the Mountaintop'
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’

No assortment of civil rights speeches could be full with out the hopeful presentation by Martin Luther King Jr. from the evening earlier than his assassination in 1968. Despite the roadblocks alongside the way in which, together with the beatings and deaths of quite a few folks within the motion, the civil rights chief was nonetheless satisfied that “we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

Muhammad Ali’s 'Wake Up And Apologize'
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Muhammad Ali’s ‘Wake Up And Apologize’

In a 1972 dialog with an Irish journalist, Muhammad Ali launched right into a poetic evaluation of what it is wish to face police brutality as a Black man. The GOAT famous, “better far from all I see, to die fighting to be free, what more fitting end could be…let me die by being Black, better far that I should go, standing here against the foe is the sweeter death to know.”

Angela Davis’ 'Speech at the Embassy Auditorium'
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Angela Davis’ ‘Speech on the Embassy Auditorium’

Socialist and activist Angela Davis confronted sexism whereas championing legal justice reform and civil rights for the Black neighborhood, even being imprisoned consequently. After her trial, she gave this speech in 1972, suggesting that society “redirect that wealth…and channel it into food for the hungry, and to clothes for the needy; into schools, hospitals, housing, and all the material things that are necessary.” The concepts parallel present requires reform.

Shirley Chisholm’s 'The Black Woman in Contemporary America'
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Shirley Chisholm’s ‘The Black Woman in Contemporary America’

The first Black woman elected to Congress not-surprisingly urged all Americans in 1974 to “Forget traditions! Forget conventionalisms! Forget what the world will say whether you’re in your place or out of your place.” This mindset served her effectively when she put her title within the hat for president.


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Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’

Two-time presidential candidate, activist, and organizer Jesse Jackson spoke to the Democratic National Convention in 1988 aboutfinding widespread floor, many years earlier than the divisiveness seen lately. “Progress will not come through boundless liberalism, nor static conservatism, but at the critical mass of mutual survival.”

John Lewis’ 'You Cannot Tell People They Cannot Fall in Love'
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John Lewis’ ‘You Cannot Tell People They Cannot Fall in Love’

The Georgia consultant and civil rights organizer stepped up on the Defense of Marriage Act congressional debates in 1996 to inform the world that “You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love.” Lewis drew parallels between interracial and homosexual marriages in his response to the wording within the Act that outlined marriage as a authorized union between one man and one girl as husband and spouse.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s 'America Beyond the Color Line'
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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s ‘America Beyond the Color Line’

Harvard professor and mental Henry Louis Gates, Jr. spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California in 2004 about touring everywhere in the nation to speak to Black folks about their experiences, particularly round racial equality. His interviews came about all over the place, from “Ebony Towers” and “Black Hollywood” to the internal metropolis and all-black communities within the South.

Barack Obama’s 'Speech at Democratic National Convention'
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Barack Obama’s ‘Speech at Democratic National Convention’

Before he was even elected as a senator, Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 from the attitude of the kid of fogeys who deemed him blessed to be in America. His speech thought-about the progress the nation has made, but in addition how far now we have to go.

Barack Obama’s 'A More Perfect Union'
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Barack Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’

When President Obama was nonetheless a candidate in early 2008, he addressed America and its racism, speaking in regards to the authentic sin of slavery, and the way the reply was already embedded within the Constitution, “that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.” Continuing, he talked about how protest “on the streets and in the courts,” has moved us nearer to a “more just, more equal, more free, more caring, and more prosperous America.”

Barack Obama’s 'Inaugural Address'
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Barack Obama’s ‘Inaugural Address’

When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, his speech acknowledged the variety of the American folks with respect to race, faith, and extra. His speech held out hope “that the old hatreds shall someday pass” and “that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve.” 2020 has proven us we’ve not reached that aim but, however Obama’s speech promised that in the future we are going to.

Bryan Stevenson’s 'We Need to Talk About an Injustice'
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Bryan Stevenson’s ‘We Need to Talk About an Injustice’

Bryan Stevenson is a human rights lawyer who based the Equal Justice Institute and its Legacy Museum that educates folks in regards to the direct path from slavery to mass incarceration. In this 2012 TED Talk, he talks about injustices and the influence of the demise penalty, in a world the place 10% of these on demise row are in the end exonerated.

Barack Obama’ 'Calls for Equality and Gay Rights'
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Barack Obama’ ‘Calls for Equality and Gay Rights’

President Obama took the chance of his second inauguration in 2013 to draw parallels between Black and ladies’s rights, fought for in Selma and Seneca Falls, to the Stonewall riot that was pivotal for the homosexual rights motion. His dedication to that trigger was showcased in his remark that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” setting the stage for arguments to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Vernā Myers’ 'How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them'
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Vernā Myers’ ‘How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them’

Diversity consultant Vernā Myers said to “stop trying to be good people, we need real people” on this 2014 TEDx Talk. “Don’t even think about colorblindness.”

Yoruba Richen’s 'What the Gay Rights Movement Learned From the Civil Rights Movement'
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Yoruba Richen’s ‘What the Gay Rights Movement Learned From the Civil Rights Movement’

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen, who can also be a part of the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, spoke in this 2014 TED Talk about her frustration when there gave the impression to be a battle between the 2 worlds, however realized that there was actually extra intersection. She explored how the homosexual neighborhood in the end efficiently used methods and ways utilized by the Black neighborhood of their civil rights efforts.


John Lewis’ 'Selma 50th Anniversary March'
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John Lewis’ ‘Selma fiftieth Anniversary March’

Fifty years after the Selma march that grew to become referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” due to the brutal beatings by police that nearly killed him and different marchers, John Lewis returned to the Edmund Pettus bridge in 2015. Lewis reminded everyone, “We must use this moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish the work. There is still work left to be done. Get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of America,” he mentioned.

Jimmy Carter’s 'Why I Believe the Mistreatment of Women is the Number One Human Rights Abuse'
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Jimmy Carter’s ‘Why I Believe the Mistreatment of Women is the Number One Human Rights Abuse’

President Jimmy Carter posited on this 2015 TEDWomen Talk that abuse of girls and women is the key human rights abuse of our time, ensuing from varied causes, together with misinterpretation of scriptures and “men [who] don’t give a damn.” He outlined various abuses which might be commonplace the world over. His Carter Center is dedicated to protecting and advancing human rights.

Julian Bond’s 'Declaration: We Must Practice Dissent'
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Julian Bond’s ‘Declaration: We Must Practice Dissent’

From the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the Southern Poverty Law Center and NAACP, Julian Bond has been a part of among the main organizations of the civil rights motion. In his final speech in 2015, he continued to advocate for protest and dissent.

Barack Obama’s 'Love is Love'
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Barack Obama’s ‘Love is Love’

More than two years after advocating for marriage equality in his second inauguration, Barack Obama celebrated the downfall of a part of theDefense of Marriage Act in 2015 with a speech the place he declared “love is love.”

Jesse Williams’ 'Condemnation Police Brutality at 2016 BET Awards'
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Jesse Williams’ ‘Condemnation Police Brutality at 2016 BET Awards’

Actor Jesse Williams’ speech on the 2016 BET Awards remembered Black folks killed by police, noting “we know that police somehow managed to deescalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day, so what’s gonna happen is we are gonna have equal rights and justice in our own country, or we will restructure their function and ours.” Mirroring the calls for of different civil rights activists for motion now, not later, he famous that “the hereafter is a hustle, we want it now.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s 'The Urgency of Intersectionality'
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Kimberlé Crenshaw’s ‘The Urgency of Intersectionality’

Crenshaw started her 2016 TEDWomen discuss saying the names of individuals killed by police, conducting an experiment that reveals that girls in that group are comparatively unknown. Discrimination in opposition to Black girls “feels like injustice squared,” in line with Crenshaw. She requested the viewers to #SayHerIdentify to bear witness to those girls.

Ashton Applewhite’s 'Let's End Ageism'
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Ashton Applewhite’s ‘Let’s End Ageism’

One sort of discrimination that is much less thought-about within the civil rights realm is ageism. In this 2017 TED Talk, Ashton Applewhite called it the “last socially-acceptable prejudice.” Many concern getting previous, regardless that the stats present that actuality would not match our fears. And prejudice of any sort divides us. She implored us to get off the “hamster wheel of age denial.”

Daryl Davis’ 'Why I, as a Black Man, Attend KKK Rallies'
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Daryl Davis’ ‘Why I, as a Black Man, Attend KKK Rallies’

Black musician Daryl Davis talked in regards to the uncommon evolution of a friendship between himself and a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon in his 2017 TEDx Talk. The takeaway is the “Hate stems from fear of the unknown. Take the time to sit down and talk with your adversaries. You’ll learn something; they’ll learn something.” And the Grand Dragon truly left the Klan.

Oprah Winfrey’s 'Golden Globes Speech'
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Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Golden Globes Speech’

The #MeToo motion was outstanding in Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech in 2018 for the Cecil B. DeMIlle Award. Winfrey gave gratitude to girls who survived abuse and assault as a result of that they had “children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”

Melinda Epler’s '3 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace'
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Melinda Epler’s ‘3 Ways to Be a Better Ally within the Workplace’

Civil rights efforts want the collaboration and contribution of allies. Oftentimes, it is not an worker who’s failing, however the tradition, as a result of microaggressions and different obstacles. In this 2018 TED Salon discuss, Melinda Epler shared particular methods to help these going through discrimination.

Samy Nour Younes’ 'A Short History of Trans People's Long Fight for Equality'
Samy Nour Younes

Samy Nour Younes’ ‘A Short History of Trans People’s Long Fight for Equality’

This 2018 TED Talk in regards to the centuries-old historical past of trans folks famous that they don’t seem to be new, and explored each the struggles and triumphs of the neighborhood. The matter was well timed—in 2020, a minimum of 37 transgender or gender non-conforming people — largely Black and Latinx girls — have been killed.

John Lewis’ 'Good Trouble'
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John Lewis’ ‘Good Trouble’

Returning in 2020 to the Edmund Pettus Bridge the place police broke his cranium 55 years earlier on Bloody Sunday, Georgia Representative John Lewis implored the gang to “Go out there, speak up, speak out. Get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” Lewis himself had gotten into loads of “good trouble” over time, being arrested greater than 40 instances as the results of civil disobedience.

Andre Williams’ 'Speech About Police Brutality'
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Andre Williams’ ‘Speech About Police Brutality’

Andre Williams reminded others at a 2020 Black Lives Matter march that “guess what, in the morning we still wake up Black, and we cannot continue to allow the people to oppress the African-American community.” He begged them to “be the voice for Black people” with their dad and mom, grandparents, and households.

Barack Obama’s 'Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence'
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Barack Obama’s ‘Reimagining Policing within the Wake of Continued Police Violence’

President Obama reacted to the police violence of 2020 on this speech. “I’ve been hearing a little bit of chatter on the internet about voting versus protest, politics, and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action. This is not either/or, this is both/and, to bring about real change. Because they kept marching, America changed. We’ll get back up, that’s how movement happens, that’s how history bends.”

John Boyega’s 'Speech at London's Black Lives Matter Protests'
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John Boyega’s ‘Speech at London’s Black Lives Matter Protests’

British actor John Boyega spoke out at a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in London, noting “I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this.” He talked about his personal expertise and people of others, noting “Every Black person understands and realizes the first time you were reminded that you were Black. I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing.”

Playon Patrick’s '2020 Quarantine Killings'
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Playon Patrick’s ‘2020 Quarantine Killings’

Playon Patrick was a part of the Obama Foundation Conversation with President Obama about Reimagining Policing in 2020. His spoken word performance talked in regards to the expertise of Black boys on this nation. “We are early graves before we are anything else. Always conflicted between being black and being people. I wish God could give us a choice.”

Yolanda Renee King’s 'March on Washington Speech'
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Yolanda Renee King’s ‘March on Washington Speech’

The civil rights chief’s granddaughter Yolanda Renee King channeled MLK on this powerful speech at the 2020 March on Washington. She famous that “great challenges produce great leaders: We have mastered the selfie and TikToks, now we must master ourselves.” She claimed that her technology was going to be “the one that moves from me to we—we are going to be the generation that dismantles systemic racism once and for all.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s 'March on Washington Speech'
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Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s ‘March on Washington Speech’

Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley “let it play” on the 2020 March on Washington, reminding us that ” Another world is possible. Yes, it is possible to legislate justice and accountability, people over profits, joy over trauma, freedom over fear. Yes, it is possible to write budgets that actually value Black lives. If it feels unfamiliar, that’s because it has never been done in America.”

Martin Luther King III’s 'March on Washington Speech'
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Martin Luther King III’s ‘March on Washington Speech’

The son of the civil rights icon spoke out on the 2020 March on Washington, speaking about America’s “rocky but righteous journey towards justice” and advocating for “demilitarizing the police, dismantling mass incarceration, and declaring that Black Lives Matter.” Voting was one other focus of this speech, the place King talked about “marching to the ballot boxes, and the mailboxes,” to defend our freedoms.

You might also like: Major Civil Rights Movements in All 50 States

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