Today, as the United States celebrate Independence Day, we reflect on many who have fought for the freedom of oppressed people. They come in all shades and backgrounds – Hispanic, Native American, Black and others. Below, we’ve compiled a list of five notable freedom fighters that we should all know about.
1. Gloria Anzaldúa
Gloria Anzaldúa was a notable feminist and author who’s credited with paving the way towards a feminism that included Chicana women. From a very young age, she fought segregation throughout her own education and early career as a teacher. She was also involved in the farmworkers movement and the Mexican American Youth Organization. She was vocally critical of the male focus in both organizations.
Along with feminist scholar Cherríe Moraga, Anzaldúa co-edited the influential book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. This book was one of the first to place women of color at the center of the feminist conversation.
Up until her death in 2004, Anzaldúa documented the struggles of Chicana women through books, poetry and essays.
2. Cesar Chavez
Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American civil rights activist who was instrumental in securing union rights for migrant farm workers during the 1960s. As a young boy, he dropped out of school to help support his family through field work. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Chavez returned to farming with a determination to better the lives of workers like him. He began forming the National Farmworkers Association, which is now known as the United Farm Workers of America, to advocate for improved working conditions and wages.
He was a firm believer in nonviolent protesting, and preferred to use tactics such as marching, fasting and boycotting. In 1968, Chavez orchestrated a boycott that resulted in a collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing field workers the right to unionize.
Chavez died in 1993, but his legacy lives on in many of the labor protections we see today.
3. Mary Ellen Moore-Richard
Mary Ellen Moore-Richard was a member of the American Indian Movement during the 1970s. Under the name Mary Crow Dog, she later wrote a popular memoir titled Lakota Woman.
By her late teens, Moore-Richard joined the American Indian Movement, also known as AIM, a civil rights group that led well-publicized protests, including one in which demonstrators occupied the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington in 1972.
4. Dennis Banks
Dennis Banks co-founded the American Indian Movement in 1968 to advocate on behalf of Native people and against discriminatory federal policies and practices. Group members, including Banks, participated in an occupation of Alcatraz Island started by the Indians of All Tribes in 1969. The occupation captured national attention as they protested over living conditions on reservations and other issues. The American Indian Movement had much impact and its effects can still be felt today.
5. Nat Turner
Nat Turner was a slave who led a rebellion on August 21, 1831 against white slave owners with the killing of his owners, the Travis family. The rebellion also in turn had 100-200 slaves slaughtered. On October 30, 1831, Turner was captured. He was represented by a lawyer named Thomas R. Gray, who wrote down Turner’s confession. Turner pled not guilty during his trial because he believed that his rebellion was the work of God. He was sentenced to death by hanging, and this sentence was carried out on November 11, 1831. Many of his co-conspirators met the same fate.