When you get right down to it, news and history are primarily about people. Here's a dramatis personae of some of the movers and shakers in civil liberties activism. It will grow over time, and it will never be a complete, or even close to complete, list; no such list is possible. But by reading the stories of human beings who make the news, we can gain a better understanding of its context.
U.S. Secretary of State, 2009-; U.S. Senator from New York, 2001-2009; First Lady to President Bill Clinton, 1993-2001. Democrat.
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1993-; Associate Justice of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1980-1993; Founder and Chief Litigator of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, 1972-1980.
- Graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1959 with the highest grade point average ever recorded.
- Wrote majority opinion in United States v. Virginia (1996), which made military academies coeducational.
- Wrote majority opinion in Reno v. ACLU (1997), which struck down the Communications Decency Act.
NAACP President, 2008-; President of the Rosenberg Foundation, 2005-2008; U.S. Human Rights Director at Amnesty International, 2002-2005.
- Rhodes Scholar who earned an M.S. in comparative social research from Oxford University in 1998.
- From 1999 to 2002, served as managing editor of the Mississippi-based Jackson Advocate and as president of the historically black National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).
- Has also worked against the closure of historically black colleges and universities (as director of the AFL-CIO's HBCU Initiative) and for the rights of low-income tenants (as a community organizer with the Harlem Restoration Project).
2008 Republican Vice-Presidential Nominee; Governor of Alaska, 2006-2009.
- Autobiography, Going Rogue: An American Life (2009), is a New York Times bestseller.
- Conservative lecture-circuit fixture and an unofficial leader of the Tea Party movement.
- Regarded by many, including this author, as a likely frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 2005-; Associate Justice of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 2003-2005; Deputy Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Justice, 1989-1993; Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, 1982-1986.
- Clerked under his predecessor, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, from 1980 to 1981.
- Was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001, but his nomination was held up for two years due to strong Democratic opposition.
- When he was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005, the ACLU released a report detailing his record on civil liberties.
Host, Keepin' It Real with Al Sharpton, 2006-; Founder and President, National Youth Movement, 1971-1986; Director, Operation Breadbasket, 1969-1971.
- Prominent national leader in the black civil rights movement since the late 1960s.
- A principal organizer of most high-profile national protests against police brutality since 1986.
- Actively sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.