For The Culture

African American Martyrs: Dying For A Cause

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” – James Baldwin

James Baldwin stated this prolific statement in 1962 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. His words ring true to the Black community, who are still dehumanized, and ostracized. These words represent the constant thoughts of the activists who have lost their lives to confront the ugly side of the United States.

Black martyrs understood what James Baldwin was saying before he even said it. They understood the importance of confronting the injustices and the inequalities imposed upon them because they knew if they did not that the disease of racism would continue to spread throughout the American system. So they put their fears aside. Brushed off their worries and got to work. These martyrs left behind families and dreams all because of the color of their skin.

martyr
 noun
mar·​tyr | \ ˈmär-tər \
Definition of martyr
 (Entry 1 of 2)
1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principlea martyr to the cause of freedom
3: VICTIMespecially a great or constant sufferer

martyr
 verb
martyredmartyringmartyrs
Definition of martyr (Entry 2 of 2)
transitive verb
1: to put to death for adhering to a belief, faith, or profession
2: to inflict agonizing pain on TORTURE

Here are just a few Black martyrs from the Civil Rights Movement to recognize not only during Black History Month but year long and forever.

Willie Edwards Jr. 

Photo of Willie Edwards Jr. from SPLC

Edwards was on his way to work in Montgomery, Alabama when four members of the KKK stopped him after mistaking him for a man who they believed was dating a white woman. They forced Edwards to jump off a bridge at gunpoint. His body was found three months later, he was only 24 years old. 

Reverend George Lee

Photo of George Lee From SPLC

Reverend Lee was one of the first Black people to register to vote in Humphreys County, Mississippi. He not only used his pulpit to preach but to encourage Black people to vote. White officials offered Reverend Lee protection if he stopped getting Black people to vote, however, he did not. Shortly after, he was murdered.

Medgar Evers

Photo of Medgar Evers from SPLC

Evers directed the NAACP for Mississippi and was leading integration efforts in Jackson, Mississippi, was shot and killed by a sniper in his home at 37 years old.

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley

Photos of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley from SPLC

These four girls were killed after a bomb went off at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The church was known to hold civil rights meetings and marches. 

Herbert Lee

Photo of Herbert Lee from SPLC

Lee worked with Bob Moses to help Black people register to vote in Liberty, Mississippi. He was killed by a state legislator, Rep, E. H Hurst. Hurst claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Years later, Louis Allen, a Black man who witnessed the murder, was also killed.

These are just a few of the people who were killed during the Civil Rights Movement, in total there were 41 confirmed deaths. It does not include the people who do not know about the people who were fighting before the Civil Rights Movement began. 

Sadly, the fight is not over. Black people still face racism and discrimination on a daily basis. So, let’s not forget the names of the people who died for the Black community to progress, and let’s continue their legacy by continuing the fight for equality and equity. 

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