What was the significance of certain individuals during the civil rights movement?
Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most prominent figure of the civil rights movement. He was not only a gifted orator—often opined to be one of the best in history—but he was a prominent social and political activist. He is known for the monumental "I Have a Dream" speech, as well as "“Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence," "The Other America," and "I've Been to the Mountaintop." Although known for his fiery delivery of political speeches, King also promoted economic policy improvements, especially for the working-class. His assassination on April 4, 1968 marked a turning point in the country's civil rights movement by accelerating direct-action tactics by activists and reinvigorating the passions within black activism in general.
Another prominent figure, and often considered a direct opposite of MLK, was Malcolm X. He was formerly a member of the Nation of Islam, but later converted to orthodox Sunni Islam after performing the hajj in Mecca and realizing the destructive and deceitful methods of the Nation of Islam. Like King, Malcolm X was a brilliant orator and writer. However, their ideologies differed in minor ways. Malcolm X, at least in his early political career, advocated an extreme form of black nationalism. However, before his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X adopted a more all-inclusive and open-minded approach.
Rosa Parks, by simply refusing to move out of her seat in a segregated bus, led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This pivotal moment is considered by historians as one of the contributing factors to the birth of the civil rights movement. Parks not only became a symbolic figure of the movement, as well as defiance of the South's Jim Crow laws, but she became an activist as well.