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Civil rights have been at the forefront of people’s minds for decades, and the importance of these civil rights seem to have increased in recent years, especially in the United States. Well-known civil rights movements are headed by leaders just as they were in years past. Each of these leaders addresses the injustices faced by people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, women, undocumented immigrants, the Muslim community, and more. Most people know civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but it’s important to note today’s civil rights leaders and the influence they’ve had on society in the 21st century. 

Here are just a few of today’s most influential civil rights leaders and what they’ve fought for throughout their lives.

Esmeralda Simmons

Esmeralda Simmons is the Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY, and has been fighting for civil rights for more than thirty years. She’s fought hard for quality public education for students of color through her various positions in the U.S. Department of Education, alongside a federal judge, and throughout the New York state and city government. Currently, Simmons’ place of occupation provides legal services to those facing voter suppression and discrimination.

 Susan Burton

As the Founder and Executive Director of A New Way of Life, Susan Burton has made it her goal and passion to support formerly incarcerated women. A New Way of Life aims to reduce recidivism rates after their release from prison by providing sober living, free legal services, and other support. The cause is personal to Burton, as she had been in and out of prison for drugs and nonviolent crimes for two decades. Her work earned Burton the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2010, alongside being named a CNN Top 10 Hero. 

Chad Griffin

Chad Griffin is a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights activist and Founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He was a Los Angeles political consultant in 2013 when he brought the then-risky lawsuit against California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Since that lawsuit, Griffin has been diligent in his social and legal campaigns to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and win new supporters. Until recently, he was the president of the Human Rights Campaign: the largest civil rights organization working toward equality for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.