The Rev. Alfred Charles “Al” Sharpton Jr. was turning 64 years old on Wednesday, achieving a milestone within a lifetime filled with multiple other milestones that have been centered on fighting for the rights of Black people whose voices would otherwise go unheard. The world-renowned minister and civil rights and social justice activist has been in the business of making sure that Black lives matter for nearly 50 years.
Sharpton preached his first sermon in 1958 at the age of 4, before he could even read or write, according to CNN. From there he went on to found several social justice organizations, including the National Action Network, run for a variety of political offices including president of the United States and become one of the most prominent faces within the ongoing movement for Black lives.
Sharpton’s involvement in high-profile cases involving African-Americans dates back to the infamous Bernard Goetz subway vigilante case when a white man shot several Black youths trying to rob him in New York City’s subway in 1984. Since then, the Brooklyn native has been at the center of dozens of clear miscarriages of justice against Black people, including the killing of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a New York City police officer for the nonviolent offense of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In honor of the good reverend’s birthday, take a look at the below photo retrospective of Sharpton’s much-needed lifetime of service to the Black community. Happy birthday!
1. Happy birthday!
2. ‘Justice For All’ civil rights marchSource:WENN
‘Justice For All’ civil rights march on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., organized by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
3. New York City’s Central Park Jogger TrialSource:Getty
New York City’s Central Park jogger trial (from left to right: Al Sharpton, Tawana Brawley & C. Vernon Mason) July 30, 1990. (Photo by Robert Kalfus/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
4. Sharpton with families of Michael Brown and Eric GarnerSource:WENN
Civil rights leaders join the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at a press conference to call for immediate justice and federal review of racial violence and discrimination in law enforcement.
5. THE DIALLO CASE TRIALSource:Getty
Al Sharpton (center) and Reverend Herbert Dautry at the time of the selection of the jury. (Photo by Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images)
6. Interfaith Ministers’ March For JusticeSource:Getty
Rev. Al Sharpton of National Action Network, Martin Luther King III, and Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism lead the Ministers March for Justice August 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. About 1,000 faith leaders gathered and participated in the march from Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
7. Trayvon Martin rallySource:WENN
100 Cities across America held rallies for Trayvon Martin, protesting the jury’s decision finding George Zimmeerman not guilty of shooting Trayvon Martin.
8. Operation Black VoteSource:Getty
Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton speaks at a rally for Operation Black Vote at Friends House in central London. (Photo by Tim Ireland/PA Images via Getty Images)
9. Sharpton And Eric Garner’s FamilySource:Getty
(L – R) Gwen Carr, mother of the late Eric Garner, Ellisha Garner, Rev. Al Sharpton, Esaw Garner, wife of the late Eric Garner, Rev. Al Sharpton and family attorney Jonathan Moore listen to questions from the press after meeting with Department of Justice officials, June 21, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The family was expected to receive a status report on the progress of the civil rights investigation into Eric Garner’s police-involved choking death. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
10. Martin Luther King Day : A Freedom MarchSource:Getty
On Martin Luther King Day, hundreds gather to take part in a commemorative walk. In the middle, Rev. Al Sharpton, a Baptist minister and politician known for his political commitment, especially for his struggle for the Civil Rights in the U.S. (Photo by Reza/Getty Images)
11. We Stand United NYC RallySource:Getty
Rev. Al Sharpton speaks onstage during the We Stand United NYC Rally outside Trump International Hotel & Tower on January 19, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
12. Sharpton and “Central Park 5” victimSource:Getty
Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton raises the hand of Kharey Wise, a member of the “Central Park 5” who served 13 years in prison found to be wrongly convicted, at the Jan. 14, 2017, We Shall Not Be Moved march in Washington, D.C., organized by his organization, National Action Network (NAN). (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
13. Sharpton with ObamaSource:Getty
Reverend Al Sharpton stands with President Barack Obama after introducing him at the 20th anniversary National Action Network Gala on April 6, 2011, in New York City. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
14. Sharpton and Meek MillSource:Getty
Al Sharpton and Meek Mill attend the 2018 Essence Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 7, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence)
15. 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation ConferenceSource:Getty
Al Sharpton is honored at the CBCF Chair and Board of Director’s Reception for the 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on September 14, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
16. Aretha Franklin’s FuneralSource:Getty
Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan. Franklin died at the age of 76 at her home in Detroit on August 16. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
17. National Action Network 25th Anniversary ConventionSource:WENN
Political figures, community leaders, and guests during Day 1 of the National Action Network’s 25th Anniversary Convention on April 13, 2016 at the Sheraton Times Square in New York City.
18. Interfaith Clergy Visit Texas Detention CenterSource:Getty
The Rev. Al Sharpton joins other members of an interfaith delegation of 40 religious leaders as they hold a news conference before visiting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Centralized Processing Center on June 21, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. The group had demanded that the Trump administration immediately end the policy of separating families seeking asylum at the nation’s borders. Before Trump signed an executive order yesterday that the administration says ends the practice, more than 2,300 immigrant children had been separated from their parents in the zero-tolerance policy for border crossers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
19. 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.Source:Getty
Martin Luther King III (R), Al Sharpton (C) and others march for labor rights on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. April 4, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
20. Stephon Clark’s FuneralSource:Getty
Rev. Al Sharpton, left, hugs Stevante Clark while speaking during the funeral services for police shooting victim Stephon Clark at Bayside Of South Sacramento Church March 29, 2018, in Sacramento, California. Clark, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by Sacramento Police Officers, Sunday, March 18, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Chiu-Pool/Getty Images)
21. Reform: Bringing Injustice To LightSource:Getty
oe Tacopina, Kathy Williams and Reverend Al Sharpton attend Reform: Bringing Injustice To Light at Irvine Auditorium on March 13, 2018, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)