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keisha thomas update

Screenshot from The Fire|YouTube

Teen photographed protecting KKK member, now a human rights activist

In 1996 there was a moment that was captured on camera that took place that would become a piece of social justice history. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally when counter protestors showed up as a means to show that white supremacist group was unwelcome in their town. The historic moment came when a man, Albert McKeel Jr., wearing a confederate flag shirt with SS tattoos enters the counter protestors' side alone.

Keisha Thomas, then just 18-years-old was in the crowd to protest the KKK being in Ann Arbor when things . People in the crowd at first attempted to chase the man out of the crowd when it was announced he was there, but the group quickly became violent. That's when Thomas was shocked into action.

Though she is Black and the man was wearing symbols that depict his alleged hatred of Black people, Thomas didn't let that stop her.


The teen threw herself on top of the man demanding that the crowd stop hitting and kicking him. In that moment, she let compassion for another human being lead the way, possibly saving his life. In an update video with The Fire, a non profit organization, Thomas said it felt as if two angels lifted her in that moment.

Albert McKeel Jr. fleeing

Mark Brunner|flic.kr

Years later, Thomas ran into the man's son at a coffee shop where he thanked her for stepping in to save his dad. The two stayed in touch over the years, allowing Thomas to speak to McKeel's 12-year-old daughter after his passing in 2016. The little girl also thanked the woman expressing that if it weren't for her then she wouldn't exist.

Thomas tells MLive, "When I heard that, I thought this was the future and the past of what peace has created," Thomas said. "The real accomplishment of all this to me is to know that his son and daughter don't share the same views. History didn't repeat itself. That's what gives me hope that the world can get better from generation to generation."

ann arbor kkk protest

Mark Brunner|flic.kr

To think she made a piece of history before she even graduated high school. The photo of her throwing herself on top of McKeel won Life Magazine's best photo of the year for 1996. The now iconic photo even landed Thomas an interview with Oprah.

But what is Thomas up to now? It seems she still has a passion for social justice and human rights. According to the Michigan media site, MLive, she's done everything from volunteering after 9/11 to distributing food to Hurricane Katrina victims. She also walked from Selma, Alabama to Washington D.C. for voting rights with the NAACP and volunteered at a hospital in Haiti.

Thomas has been on the move to help other people in any way she could since that photo was taken nearly three decades ago. The moment didn't just inspire her to keep showing up for other people, but it continues to inspire others every time it goes viral on social media.

Watch her update video below: