This review provides relevant background information about the vulcanization process, as well as the chemistry of thiuram- and sulfenamide-accelerated sulfur vulcanization with emphasis on the role of activators, to lay a base for further research. It commences with an introduction of sulfur vulcanization and a summary of the reaction mechanisms as described in literature, followed by the role of activators, particularly ZnO. The various possibilities to reduce ZnO levels in rubber compounding, that have been proposed in literature, are reviewed. A totally different approach to reduce ZnO is described in the paragraphs about the various possible roles of multifunctional additives (MFA) in rubber vulcanization. Another paragraph is dedicated to the role of amines in rubber vulcanization, in order to provide some insight in the underlying chemical mechanisms of MFA systems. Furthermore, an overview of Model Compound Vulcanization (MCV) with respect to different models and activator/accelerator systems is given. In the last part of this review, the various functions of ZnO in rubber are summarized. It clearly reveals that the role of ZnO and zinc compounds is very complex and still deserves further clarification.