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Al Sharpton is an outspoken and sometimes controversial political activist in the fight against racial prejudice and injustice.
Political Activism in Harlem (2:14)
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, discusses famous figures who contributed to the history of political activism in Harlem.
Watch a short video about Martin Luther King, Jr. to learn how this advocate for peace and equality inherited his name from his father.
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He, however, failed to garner enough support to become a contender for the nomination.
To this day, Sharpton remains a political and social activist, with many supporters and critics. He is known for his deft handling of the media, leading some to call him the master of the sound bite. Others are concerned that his flare for the dramatic overshadows the causes he represents or he uses the causes he champions to further his own agenda. Sharpton seems to be pay no heed to his critics and continues to throw his talents behind important causes, cases, and events in the African American community, including rebuilding of New Orleans after the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In June 2009, the Reverend Al Sharpton led a memorial for Michael Jackson at Harlem's Apollo Theater. A lifelong friend of the Jackson family, Sharpton said Michael Jackson was a "trailblazer" and a "historic figure" who loved the Apollo Theater.
More recently, Sharpton became involved in the Trayvon Martin case. He held rallies in Florida to fight for justice in the Trayvon Martin case. Martin, an unarmed African-American teen, was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch group, in February 2012. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, but others feel that Martin was a victim of racial profiling. Initially the local police did not file any charges against Zimmerman.
Some have worried that Sharpton's presence in Florida would turn already tense race relations into riots. But Sharpton has called for a peaceful approach to resolving this case. "We are not in the business of revenge. We are in the business of justice," he told the press.
Sharpton has two daughters, Dominique and Ashley, from his marriage to Kathy Jordan.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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