BLACK VOICES
01/18/2016 11:35 am ET

A Nod To The Enduring Style Of MLK And The Freedom Fighters

There is strength in style and the civil-rights movement is a perfect example.

As the country celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and legacy -- we'd also like to take a moment to remember his personal style.

Not only do we remember the determination and fortitude of our legendary civil rights leaders, but we're also keen to note their powerful wears. 

There is strength in style and the civil-rights movement is a perfect example. 

Robin Givhan, fashion editor at The Washington Post, said it best in her essay about the civil-rights movement's legacy of stylish dignity:

Style, after all, plays the role of silent orator in most every form of protest. And as civil-rights advocates fought for their humanity, self-definition was a fundamental goal. Fashion was essential."

The clothes worn by MLK, many African American leaders and their supporters during the movement were just as refined, sophisticated and inspiring as the way they fought for equality. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. at home in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. 
Getty
Martin Luther King, Jr. at home in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. 

King knew how to rock a sharp suit and how to hang it up for a more causal style statement. Malcolm X captivated crowds in his black rimmed glasses and white bow tie while speaking at rallies. Angela Davis glowed in her larger-then-life afro. Rosa Parks even looked beautifully pulled together in a skirt suit during her infamous bus boycott arrest and mugshot.

So in celebration of MLK Day, here's a look at some of our favorite fashion-forward photos from the civil rights movement.

  • Martin Luther King Jr.
    Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
    Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
  • Coretta Scott King
    Coretta Scott King being interviewed in her office at the Martin Luther King Center. (Tom Hill, WireImage / Getty Images)
    Coretta Scott King being interviewed in her office at the Martin Luther King Center. (Tom Hill, WireImage / Getty Images)
  • Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin
    The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and Bayard Rustin, leaders in the racial bus boycot
    The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and Bayard Rustin, leaders in the racial bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., leave the Montgomery County Courthouse on Feb. 24, 1956. The civil rights leaders were arraigned along with 87 other black activists. Thousands of supporters walked in protest against the mass indictments and arrests. (AP)
  • Malcolm X
    Portrait of American political activist and radical civil rights leader Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) as he holds an 8mm movie came
    Portrait of American political activist and radical civil rights leader Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) as he holds an 8mm movie camera in London Airport, London, England, July 9, 1964. (Express Newspapers / Getty Images)
  • James Baldwin and Marlon Brando
    James Baldwin and Marlon Brando on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.
(PhotoQuest /
    James Baldwin and Marlon Brando on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. (PhotoQuest / Getty Images)
  • Rosa Parks
    Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the civil
    Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the civil rights movement, is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956. She was among some 100 people charged with violating segregation laws. (Gene Herrick), AP Photo)
  • Harry Belafonte Jr. and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    American singer and actor Harry Belafonte Jr. (left) shakes hands with American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King J
    American singer and actor Harry Belafonte Jr. (left) shakes hands with American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) at Kennedy International Airport on Aug. 14, 1964 before he and his family board a Pan American jet bound for Conakry, Guinea, New York City. Belafonte was invited to Conakry by Guinea's president, Sekou Toure, to dedicate a theater and cultural center. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
  • James Baldwin, May Mercier, Hazel Scott and Memphis Slim
    Author and playwright James Baldwin (1924 - 1987), wearing sunglasses, stands between May Mercier (L) and pianist and singer
    Author and playwright James Baldwin (1924 - 1987), wearing sunglasses, stands between May Mercier (L) and pianist and singer Hazel Scott (R), while pianist and composer Memphis Slim (1915 - 1988) stands behind them, at a public demonstration supporting the civil rights 'March on Washington,' on Aug. 21, 1963 in Paris, France. (RDA / Getty Images)
  • Lucretia Collins
    Lucretia Collins, 21, "Freedom Rider" from Fairbanks, Alaska, walks to plane in Jackson, May 27, 1961, after being freed from
    Lucretia Collins, 21, "Freedom Rider" from Fairbanks, Alaska, walks to plane in Jackson, May 27, 1961, after being freed from the county jail on $500 bond. (AP)
  • Huey P. Newton
    Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton (1942 - 1989) reclines on the grass as he answers questions from a Liberation N
    Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton (1942 - 1989) reclines on the grass as he answers questions from a Liberation News Service reporter on the campus of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, in April of 1970. (David Fenton, Getty Images)
  • Nina Simone
    Nina Simone, 1970. (Gilles Pétard Collection / Getty Images)
    Nina Simone, 1970. (Gilles Pétard Collection / Getty Images)
  • Malcolm X
    American political activist and radical civil rights leader, Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) speaks from a podium during a rally of A
    American political activist and radical civil rights leader, Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) speaks from a podium during a rally of African-American Muslims in Washington DC. He is dressed in a formal jacket and a white bow-tie. (Richard Saunders, Pictorial Parade / Getty Images)
  • Stokely Carmichael
    Trinidadian-American Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Toure, 1941 - 1998) at City College of Ne
    Trinidadian-American Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Toure, 1941 - 1998) at City College of New York, New York, Dec. 3, 1968 (David Fenton, Getty Images)
  • Coretta Scott King
    American Civil Rights activist Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006) smiles as she attends a party in honor of the theatrical prod
    American Civil Rights activist Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006) smiles as she attends a party in honor of the theatrical production 'I Have a Dream' held at the US Steak House, New York, New York, September 1976. (Tim Boxer, Getty Images)
  • Eldridge Cleaver
    Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party and presidential candidate for the Peace and Freedom Pa
    Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party and presidential candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party speaking at the Woods-Brown Outdoor Theatre, American University in 1968. (Buyenlarge / Getty Images)
  • Angela Davis
    American activist Angela Davis, shortly after she was fired from her post as philosophy professor at UCLA due to her membersh
    American activist Angela Davis, shortly after she was fired from her post as philosophy professor at UCLA due to her membership of the Communist Party of America, Nov. 27, 1969. (Lucas Mendes / Archive Photos / Getty Images)
  • David Harris
    David Harris, the first reverse freedom rider to arrive in Hyannis from Little Rock, Ark., relaxes on lawn of home where he l
    David Harris, the first reverse freedom rider to arrive in Hyannis from Little Rock, Ark., relaxes on lawn of home where he lives in this resort town, July 14, 1962. Since arriving here in May he has worked as a cook in a restaurant and opened his own little restaurant and has no complaints. (Frank C. Curtin, AP)
  • Mrs. L.C. (Daisy) Bates
    Mrs. L.C. (Daisy) Bates, state President of the NAACP is shown on Aug. 13, 1959 in Little Rock, Ark., as she reads a telegram
    Mrs. L.C. (Daisy) Bates, state President of the NAACP is shown on Aug. 13, 1959 in Little Rock, Ark., as she reads a telegram she sent to President Eisenhower appealing for protection. (AP)
  • Stokley Carmichael and Myriam Makeba
    Stokley Carmichael, and his wife South-African singer Myriam Makeba
    getty
    Stokley Carmichael, and his wife South-African singer Myriam Makeba
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King
    Martin Luther King, 27, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, emerge 23 March 1956 from Montgomery Court House, following his tri
    getty
    Martin Luther King, 27, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, emerge 23 March 1956 from Montgomery Court House, following his trial on charges of conspiring to boycott segregated city buses.
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