Author Alex Haley (1921-1992) was best known for works depicting the struggles of African Americans. Raised in Henning, Tennessee, he began writing to help pass the time during his two decades with the U.S. Coast Guard. After conducting interviews with Malcolm X for Playboy magazine, he turned the material into his first book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965). Haley’s subsequent novel, “Roots” (1976), was a fictionalized account of his own family’s history, traced through seven generations. It was adapted into a 1977 miniseries that became the most watched broadcast in TV history, a record it would hold for years.
Trailblazing athlete Althea Gibson became the first great African-American player in women’s tennis. Raised primarily in Harlem section of New York City, she won a string of American Tennis Association titles on the African-American circuit. After being allowed entry to the major tournaments, she became the first black player to win Wimbledon and the French and U.S. Open titles. Gibson turned professional in 1959, and made more history by becoming the first African-American competitor on the women’s pro golf tour in the 1960s. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971, and later served as Commissioner of Athletics for the state of New Jersey.
Founded in 1942, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) became one of the leading activist organizations in the early years of the American Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1960s, CORE, working with other civil rights groups, launched a series of initiatives: the Freedom Rides, aimed at desegregating public facilities, the Freedom Summer voter registration project and the historic 1963 March on Washington. CORE initially embraced a pacifist, non-violent approach to fighting racial segregation, but by the late 1960s the group’s leadership had shifted its focus towards the political ideology of black nationalism and separatism.