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Pioneers is a photo series capturing Civil Rights icons that have greatly contributed to The American Story.


In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, we present the first phase of the photo series featuring three American pioneers that worked closely with Dr. King.


 C.T. Vivian, Xernona Clayton and Andrew Young

have committed their lives to advancing the social, political, and economic condition of African American people in the United States.   


c.t. vivian

At 92 years young, Rev. Dr. Cordy Tindell Vivian, Sr. is living proof that long-term commitment to social change can lead to a long, fruitful, and rewarding life. For decades, he has devoted his time, energy, and various acts of kindness to helping those in need.

A true foot-solider for justice, Rev. Vivian  organized and participated in various marches and demonstrations throughout the Civil Rights Movement---most notably in 1960, as co-leader of the Nashville, TN sit-ins and  as an active demonstrator in the Freedom Rides. In 1963, he was named National Director of Affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), where he worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Vivian has provided Civil Rights counsel to five U.S. Presidents and in 2013, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.

xernona clayton

Xernona Clayton is a pionnering activist and media/broadcasting trailblazer.  

In 1965, she became an organizer for the SCLC and quickly formed friendships with Dr. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Throughout the Civil Rights era, Mrs. Clayton was a agent for change and pushed the needle toward a more safe and just United States for African Americans.     

In 1967, she became the first African American woman to host her own show in the South,  known as The Xernona Clayton Show. She later would take an executive position at Turner Broadcasting and would become Vice President of Urban Affairs at the company.  

In 1993, Mrs. Clayton founded the Trumpet Awards Foundation,  where she still serves as President and CEO. The foundation hosts an annual televised award show, known as the Trumpet Awards. It described as "a prestigious event highlighting African American accomplishments and contributions." 

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andrew young

Andrew Young is one of the most revered and recognizable figures of the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1960, he joined the SCLC and became the organization's Executive Director shortly thereafter. During his tenure with the SCLC, he organized literacy programs for African American children and played an active role in drafting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He traveled to Memphis, TN with Dr. King in 1968 and was with him in the Lorraine Motel on April 4th when he was assassinated.   

Mr. Young is often associated with his long and successful political career. He served as a U.S. Congressman from 1973 to 1977 and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations immediately after. In1981, he became Atlanta's  mayor--- the city's second Black mayor ever elected. The same year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.

Andrew Young has authored several books about his life, including An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America. At 86 years old,  he continues to travel the country and speak out about social injustices and human rights issues.

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