Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has a powerful and lasting legacy which continues to extend far beyond his death. His leadership during the Civil Rights era inspired a generation to collectively raise their voices and demand change. Of the millions of Americans who were galvanized to action by Dr. King's work, six brave changeMAKERS stand apart for the contributions they made to society. These women—Marian Wright Edelman, Nichelle Nichols, Aileen Hernandez, Esta Soler, Alice Walker, and Diane Nash—reflect on their relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund rose to prominence as the first African-American woman to practice law in Mississippi, a groundbreaking role for 1963. She worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. to organize the Poor People's March and Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the late 1960s. In her MAKERS profile, Edelman reflects on delivering an important message to Dr. King, the aftermath of his assassination and how it reaffirmed her dedication to help disenfranchised children.
You may recognize the actress from her long-running role as Star Trek's Commander Uhura. What you may not know about the actress and NASA recruiter is that she almost left the show to pursue a career on Broadway—only to have Dr. King change her mind. Nichols recounts the moment when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. approached her at a fundraiser and encouraged her to continue her work as the first African-American woman playing a lead role on television, saying, "For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. Do you understand that this is the only show my wife Coretta and I will allow our children to stay up and watch?"
During her time on Star Trek, Nichols inspired a generation of women like astronaut Mae Jemison to pursue their dreams.
The feminist organizer and former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has always been a voice for women of color within the Women's Movement. In this MAKERS moment, Hernandez reflects upon Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and shares how she tries to live by his example.
She was just a teenager when Martin Luther King Jr. came to her small town of Bridgeport, Conn., but he left an indelible mark. The founder and president of Futures Without Violence, a non-profit organization which advocates against domestic violence, recalls her experience with Dr. King in this MAKERS moment.
The author and poet brought visibility to the experiences of poor, African-American women in the South through her novel The Color Purple, which earned her the honors of becoming the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983. Inspired by television coverage of Martin Luther King Jr., Walker joined the Civil Rights movement while in college and marched for liberty.
As a student navigating racism while attending Fisk University in the '60s, the activist knew she had to take a stand. Her work staging lunch counter protests in Tennessee made her an icon of the Civil Rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lauding her efforts, calling her the "driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters." He later nominated her for a civil rights award in 1962. Nash went on to advise President John F. Kennedy on legislation that would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.