Civil Rights

Lester Blackwell Granger

Lester Blackwell Granger was a prominent civil rights leader in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. Born in 1896 in Newport News, Virginia, Granger grew up in a time of segregation and discrimination. Despite these obstacles, he went on to become a trailblazer in the fight for equality and justice for African Americans.

Granger’s early life was marked by hardship and adversity. His father died when he was just six years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings alone. Despite this setback, Granger excelled in school and went on to attend Virginia Union University, where he earned a degree in sociology. After graduation, Granger worked as a social worker in New York City, where he witnessed firsthand the inequalities and injustices faced by African Americans. This experience inspired him to become involved in civil rights activism, and he soon became a leader in the National Urban League.

President Eisenhower meets with African American leaders. L-R: Lester Granger, National Urban league; Martin Luther Jr. King, Southern Leadership Conference; E. Frederic Morrow, Administrative Officer, White House; Eisenhower; Asa Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO; Attorney General William Rogers; Rocco Siciliano, Spec. Asst. to the President; and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. June 23, 1958.

As executive director of the National Urban League from 1941 to 1961, Granger played a key role in advancing the cause of civil rights. He worked tirelessly to promote equal opportunities for African Americans in employment, housing, education, and other areas. He also advocated for the desegregation of schools and other public institutions, and played a pivotal role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Granger’s leadership and advocacy were instrumental in bringing about significant gains for African Americans during the civil rights era. His work helped to break down barriers and create opportunities for future generations.

In addition to his work with the National Urban League, Granger was also involved in a number of other civil rights organizations. He served as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1955 to 1959, and was a member of the executive committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Throughout his life, Granger remained committed to the cause of civil rights and social justice. He was a tireless advocate for equality and worked to ensure that the voices of African Americans were heard and respected. His legacy continues to inspire and motivate those who seek to create a more just and equitable society.

In recognition of his contributions to civil rights, Granger received numerous awards and honors throughout his life. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and was posthumously inducted into the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 1996. Lester Blackwell Granger was a true pioneer in the fight for civil rights. His leadership and advocacy helped to lay the foundation for the progress that has been made in advancing equality and justice for all Americans. His legacy serves as a reminder that even in the face of adversity and opposition, one person can make a difference and change the course of history.

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