Each year the nation takes the time to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Around the Tampa Bay area, there are a plethora of events to mark the late civil rights hero's life.
Born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, King is considered a civil rights icon. His persistent activism and nonviolent stance served as a catalyst for equality.
But King's struggle for rights was not a solitary climb. Countless others contributed to the necessary legal and social upheaval of that time. Though not as widely known as King, their existence and achievements contributed to the gains made during the era.
Here are a few who contributed to that progress:
Considered an early pioneer of what would become the civil rights movement, worked alongside greats such as Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois. The Virginia native preferred to work in the background. A granddaughter of a slave, Baker went on to graduate from Shaw University in 1927. During the 1930s, she worked for newspapers in New York and became national director of Young Negroes' Cooperative League, a black economic empowerment organization. In 1938, Baker began what would become a lifelong involvement with the NAACP, eventually ascending to director of branches, the organization's highest rank for a woman at that time. Among her chief accomplishments was the coordination of the Freedom Rides of 1961. Baker's legacy remains one of self-determination. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has existed for more than a decade in Oakland, Calif.
Harry T. Moore
He organized the first Brevard County branch of the NAACP in 1934. He then went throughout the state helping form other NAACP chapters. As founder of the Florida Progressive Voters League, he registered thousands of blacks. Moore and his wife, Harriette, were murdered in their home in Mims when a bomb exploded under their bedroom on Christmas Day 1951 — also their 25th wedding anniversary.
He was the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962. Meredith's admission came after he was twice denied admittance. His enrollment, opposed by segregationist Gov. Ross Barnett, sparked riots on the Oxford campus that required military troops to quell. Two people were killed and several law enforcement offers were wounded. On June 6, 1966, Meredith was shot but not seriously injured during a march he led from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., called the "March Against Fear." A white segregationist was arrested in the attack.
He was often the face the media saw when hearing about President John F. Kennedy's decisions and policies. Appointed as the president's associate press secretary on Nov. 10, 1960, Hatcher was instrumental in shaping Kennedy's speeches. He was the first black person to hold the prestigious executive position. Prior to the post, he worked as a journalist and assisted other politicians with speech writing in their campaigns. He also served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant during World War II.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
He was commander of the 15th U.S. Air Force bombers during World War II for the Tuskegee Airmen. On Oct. 27, 1954, he became first black general in the Air Force. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1912, Davis was ostracized by fellow students while a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. When he graduated in 1936, Davis was the fourth black person to graduate from the school. A conference center at MacDill Air Force Base is named after him.