Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson, WikiMedia Commons

By Linnea Quammen, age 10

  1. I was born on July 30, 1924, in Boonville, Missouri.
  2. I led my first sit-in, which sought to desegregate Barton’s Cafeteria in Peoria, Illinois, in 1947.
  3. I dropped out of college to become a minister and was an inspiring leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
  4. On April 19, 1960, I was one of thousands of demonstrators who marched on City Hall in Nashville, Tennessee. Ultimately, we managed to persuade then-Mayor Ben West to publicly say that racial discrimination was morally wrong.
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said I was one of his closest advisers and the best preacher who has ever lived.
  6. In 1961, I participated in Freedom Rides to Mississippi and was arrested.
  7. “You can turn your back on me, but you cannot turn your back upon the idea of justice,” I famously said to Sheriff Jim Clark during a drive to promote Black votes outside the courthouse in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.
  8. I was very important in the civil rights movement, and due to our sustained efforts, by the end of 1965, Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act.
  9. In 1966, I started VISION, now known as Upward Bound, by helping 700 students in the state of Alabama to get scholarships for college.
  10. Soon after, in 1970, I wrote Black Power and the American Myth.
  11. President Obama presented me with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
  12. I died in Atlanta on July 17, 2020, at age 95.