Racial Justice Speakers Take Center Stage This Juneteenth

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On June 19, America celebrates Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Celebrated since the late 1800s, Juneteenth goes beyond marking a critical moment in history — it reminds us how important it is to keep the conversation around justice and equality going.

Largely due to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020, Juneteenth has garnered even more well-deserved attention these past two years. We are still seeing the repercussions of these actions as the nation continues to strive toward racial justice and equality.

The racial justice speakers highlighted below have gained national attention as they celebrate Juneteenth, empower their communities, and bring about hope and change through the power of the spoken word.

Scholars & Authors

These professors, doctors, and published authors make for eye-opening and thought-provoking racial justice speakers to help celebrate Juneteenth.

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Civil Rights Advocate & Leading Scholar in Critical Race Theory

Kimberlé Crenshaw is a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia and is a leading authority in the areas of civil rights, Black feminist legal theory, and racism. She is a nationally recognized published author, as well as the founding coordinator of a Critical Race Theory workshop that is a part of the curriculum at numerous distinguished law schools across the country.

Crenshaw speaks on a variety of issues pertaining to gender and race in the domestic arena, including violence against women, structural racial inequality, and affirmative action.

Clayborne Carson

Scholar, Author, Professor, Civil Rights Historian & Director of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

Clayborne Carson has devoted most of his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements that King inspired. Since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University, where he is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor of History and Founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Because of his vast knowledge of civil rights history, Carson is an ideal racial justice speaker who preaches the message of the late Dr. King as a part of the Juneteenth holiday.

Angela Davis

Feminist, Social Activist, Professor & Writer

If you are trying to find the top racial justice speakers to help celebrate Juneteenth this year, Angela Davis is undeniably among the best of the best. An often-requested speaker, Davis has been deeply involved in our nation’s quest for social justice. Her work as an educator, both at the university level and in the larger public sphere, has always emphasized the importance of building communities and the struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.

Davis’ speaking career has led her to deliver keynote speeches on six continents. Her persistent message addresses social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of communities most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early ’70s as a person who spent 18 months in jail and on trial after being placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Dr. Cornel West

Philosopher, Professor, Political Activist & Author of “Race Matters”

Currently serving as the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary, Dr. West continues to have a longstanding career as a respected educational figurehead. His courses cover philosophy, religion, African American critical thought, as well as a wide array of other subjects.

You might have seen Dr. West on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span, or another national broadcast covering his lifelong work of preserving the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through his keynote speaking engagements and his classic literary works “Race Matters” and “Democracy Matters”.

Ijeoma Oluo

Writer & Social Activist, and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “So You Want to Talk About Race”

A self-proclaimed “internet yeller,” Ijeoma Oluo has caught the attention of many with her work as a social justice advocate addressing a wide array of racial issues.

Along with being featured in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, Oluo has twice been named to the Root 100 and has received the Feminist Humanist Award and Harvard Humanist of the Year Award. You might also recognize Oluo from interviews on programs like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Oluo has dazzled audiences as one of the country’s top racial justice speakers, covering topics related to Juneteenth and the true meaning behind the holiday.

Juneteenth Icons & Activists

These racial justice speakers have deep roots to Juneteenth and the causes that the federal holiday aligns with.

Fred D. Gray

Veteran Civil Rights Attorney

Fred D. Gray is one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys. At the age of twenty-four, he was the legal counsel for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He represented the Freedom Riders, the Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers, and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study participants. He also won countless school desegregation and voting rights lawsuits. 

As a keynote racial justice speaker, Gray continues to enforce his experiences throughout his challenging legal career — work that has changed the social fabric of America.

Opal Lee

Educator, Counselor & Activist; Known as the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’

At 90 years of age, she started her walking campaign from Fort Worth, TX to Washington, DC to bring awareness to the need for celebrating Juneteenth nationally. She walked 2.5 miles in cities across the country to represent the 2.5 years it took after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act Bill that officially established Juneteenth as a federal holiday. In the room when that bill was signed into law was Opal Lee. As the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), a national movement to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday, it was fitting that Lee was present for such a momentous occasion.

Bakari Sellers

Author, Attorney, Political Commentator & Youngest African American Elected Official in the U.S.

Bakari Sellers was born to be a racial justice activist.  His father, civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers, instilled core values in Bakari from a young age to continue the tireless commitment to service that he had started.

Sellers made history in the 2006 South Carolina state legislature as the youngest African American elected official in the nation, at the age of 22. His political career continued in 2014 as the Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor in the state of South Carolina. Sellars also had the honor of working with Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Sellers has served as a featured speaker at various political events, universities, and national trade organizations across the country, such as the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Convention. Sellers also partnered with AAE to speak at the Durham Children’s Initiative’s 2nd annual RISE event this past April.

Tamika D. Mallory

Social Justice Leader & Movement Strategist

Tamika D. Mallory is a groundbreaking, award-winning social justice leader and movement strategist. Mallory has risen to become the most sought-after, influential activist of her generation. Her committed work, advocacy, frontline bravery, and heroic servitude continue to fuel a global movement inspiring millions around the world to get involved in the fight for racial and social equality.

Mallory has been honored as one of Time 100’s Most Influential People and was featured on Fortune’s list of the World’s Greatest Leaders. Her deliberative vision and focused intentionality have deeply moved and motivated a new generation of spirited, engaged activists.

Dr. Bernice King

Minister, Attorney, Author & Daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Few surnames resonate with civil rights, racial justice, and Juneteenth like “King.”

Dr. Bernice King, daughter of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a global thought leader, strategist, solutionist, orator, peace advocate, and CEO of the King Center, an organization dedicated to research, education, and training in the principles, philosophy, and methods of Kingian nonviolence. Dr. King is an innovative, inspirational, and transformational leader. She is dedicated to ensuring that her parents’ legacy and teachings, The King Center, as well as the work of creating the Beloved Community, are introduced to new generations of influencers.

Dr. King also leads the development of a “Nonviolence365” certification program for trainers, which provides individuals with the opportunity to teach the NV365 curriculum on behalf of The King Center. She is an instructor for the program and a trainer.

Celebrity Speakers

Star power can be a powerful tool to help gain an audience’s attention, and these racial justice speakers can do just that.

Stephen A. Smith

Sports Journalist, Analyst & Talk Show Host Known for “First Take”

Stephen A. Smith has taken the sports commentary world by storm. He is a featured commentator on ESPN’s “First Take,” as well as the host of numerous TV and radio programs throughout the ESPN family of networks and his own personally-branded content.

As an athlete and graduate of an HBCU, Smith is familiar with the adversity that growing up as a Black man in America can present. He is known for being a passionate, yet poignant speaker on ethics, leadership, and reaching out to the Black community as a whole.

Hill Harper

Bestselling Author, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor, Philanthropist & Actor; Best Known For “CSI: NY” & “The Good Doctor”

Hill Harper is a humanitarian, award-winning actor, best-selling author, entrepreneur, health and wellness ambassador, educator, and philanthropist. Currently, Harper stars in ABC’s #1 television drama, “The Good Doctor” and has starred in numerous television and film projects including “CSI:NY,” “He Got Game,” and “Lackawanna Blues.”

Harper is the Founder and Chairman of The Black Wall Street Digital App and Wallet and is on the Board of Directors for the National Black Bank Fund. He was named Honorary National Co-Chair of the Redevelopment of Black Wall Street, Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, and served on the President’s Cancer Panel, having been appointed by President Obama in 2011.

Kendrick Sampson

Racial Justice Activist; Actor Known for “Miss Juneteenth” & HBO’s “Insecure”

Kendrick Sampson is an actor and activist from the suburbs of Houston, TX, where he was surrounded by musicians and artists and naturally gravitated to the arts. He starred in the 2020 Sundance and SXSW award-winning film “Miss Juneteenth” directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples.

Starting off his career on various television series including “Greek,” “CSI,” and “The Vampire Diaries,”  Sampson has since had recurring roles as ‘Caleb Hapstall’ on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Robbie MacDonald” on Showtime’s “White Famous,” and ‘Dominic Lanse’ on The CW’s “The Flash.”

Sampson uses his voice to empower marginalized communities and to shine a light on issues of inequity and inequality. His activism is focused on racial justice,  intersectionality, criminal justice reform, and uniting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

In addition to the speakers featured above, there are numerous keynote speakers who can help make your Juneteenth celebration as powerful and inspirational as possible. Whether you are looking for prominent Black voices, successful Black business leaders, technology speakers who speak on being Black in tech, or other speakers who cover Black heritage and culture, All American Speakers Bureau has you covered.

Lee Phillips:
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