American icons who wholeheartedly believed in human rights, , freedom, and fiercely fought for equality.
American icons who wholeheartedly believed in human rights, , freedom, and fiercely fought for equality.
Dr. Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was the nation's most prominent leader in the 20th century struggle for civil rights. He was born in the segregated south of Atlanta, Georgia and after graduating from Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University he entered the Christian ministry. He married Coretta Scott King in 1953, and became a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1954, he joined the leadership of the local NAACP chapter, the Montgomery Improvement Association, and helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization formed to provide leadership for the burgeoning civil rights movement.
Bridget “biddy” mason
Bridget Biddy Mason (1818-1891) was born enslaved in Mississippi. In 1848, Mason walked 1,700 miles behind a 300-wagon caravan. During that time, Mason also took care of her three young daughters. Her last owner Robert Smith moved his family to California, despite slavery being illegal in the state. Bridget was soon urged to legally contest her slave status. After spending five years enslaved in California, Mason challenged Smith for her freedom until the L.A. District Judge Benjamin Hayes approved Mason’s appeal. After gaining freedom, Mason became one of the first notable citizens and landowners in Los Angeles in the 1850s and 1860s. She organized the oldest African American Church in the city in 1872. Mason used her wealth to become a philanthropist. She donated to many charities, fed and sheltered the poor, and visited prisoners.
Cesar e. chavez
César Chávez (1927-1993) was a labor activist. He was born poor and was greatly affected by the Great Depression. In 1944, Chávez enlisted in the U.S. military and served in the Navy for two years until discharged at the end of World War II. Chávez returned to California and focused on agricultural work. In 1972 he founded the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) which had great historic importance for its role in the 20th-century labor, civil rights, and environmental movements. La Paz, which became the symbol of UFW outside of California, continues to serve the UFW and its organizations. In 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed the La Paz property as the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument. Chávez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Charlotta Amanda Spears Bass (1874-1969) was an advocate for women’s rights, immigration, and civil liberties and supported local black-owned enterprises. Charlotta worked at the black-owned Providence Watchman for ten years. After relocating to California, she took over The Eagle, another black-owned paper which she later changed to The California Eagle and probably became the first African American woman to run a newspaper. By the 1930s, She and her husband Joseph used the paper to urge reforms against police brutality, restrictive housing, and the KKK. After the death of her husband, Charlotta participated in the NAACP, the Civil Rights Congress, and the UNIA. She also founded the National Sojourner for Truth and Justice Club, which aimed to improve working conditions for black women. She later entered the political arena and in 1952 became the first African American woman to run for Vice President.
Dolores Huerta was born in 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico. After her parents divorced, Dolores moved to California where she later earned a teaching credential from the University of the Pacific’s Delta College in Stockton. After teaching farmworkers’ children she later pursued labor activism. In 1960, Huerta founded the Agricultural Workers Association, which soon united with CSO and ended with a launch of the National Farm Workers Association. NFWA later joined forces with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, ultimately forming the United Farm Workers of America in 1966. Huerta is still actively involved in community organizing. In 2003, she established the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Dolores Huerta received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and other awards.
dr. alice paul
Alice Paul (1885-1977) was one of the leading activists of the 20th-century women's rights movement. She had an unusually high level of education for a woman of her time: she received a master's in sociology, a Ph.D. in economics, and a law degree. Alice worked with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In 1916, Paul founded the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and the party began picketing the White House which was the first protest of the White House. Her work led to the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which paved the way for most women to vote. Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) - a lifelong campaign to win full equality for women. Paul also founded the World Woman’s Party, which served as the NWP’s international organization until 1954.
Dr. elizabeth blackwell
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman in the United States with a medical degree. She was an advocate for female doctors. Blackwell moved with her family from the UK to the United States at the age of 11. Before pursuing a career in the medical field, Blackwell was told by several doctors that it would be an impossible thing to achieve. Blackwell applied to a dozen medical schools. After a strain of rejections, she was accepted to the Geneva Medical College where she still had to fight for access to a full education. Dr. Blackwell graduated in 1849. She had to pursue further studies outside of the US, yet upon returning, she opened the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children with two other female doctors where women were provided with medical training.
a. phillip randolph
A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a labor organizer and among the most influential political strategists of the twentieth century. Randolph founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) and was a member of the American Federation of Labor for the BSCP, which made it the first black labor union in the United States. He organized a march in Washington, DC to protest discrimination in the defense industry whcih influenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an Executive Order abolishing discrimination in the defense industry. Another march led to President Harry S Truman issuing an Executive Order ending segregation in the military. Randolph received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his activism and founded an organization aimed at studying poverty - the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), is one of the greatest physicists of all time. He is most famous for the theory of relativity, particularly the mass-energy equivalence, E=mc². Apart from his career in science, he was an avid advocate of peace, human rights and a supporter of a homeland for the Jewish people.He received his Ph.D. in 1905 - the same year he presented the concept of “special relativity”. Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. When the German National Socialist Workers Party under Adolf Hitler came to power, Einstein left Germany and emigrated to the United States and accepted a position at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies which he retired from in 1945 yet continued to live and work in Princeton until his death.
Bayard Rustin (1912- 1987) was a key figure in American political and social history. Rustin led a life as a social activist and organizer. He was a gay African American Quaker, civil rights advocate, a proponent of non-violence, and campaigner for social and economic justice. He worked on paramount campaigns in non-violence, pacifism, civil rights, economic injustice, human rights, and LGBT civil rights. He led the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which created jobs and justice for trade unionists. He was a part of the Freedom House, a Human Rights and voting rights advocacy organization, and the International Rescue Committee, which supported refugee resettlement. In the mid-1980s he lobbied the New York City government to support the lesbian and gay rights bill.
dr. mabel ping-hua lee
Mabel Lee (1896-1966) was born in Guangzhou, China. She won a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship which granted her a US visa and the Lee family moved to New York City's Chinatown. Lee became a prominent figure in New York’s suffrage movement. Lee helped lead the suffragists’ parade which was attended by ten thousand people. Lee later studied at Barnard College - an all-female school, because Columbia University did not allow women to attend. Women won the right to vote in New York State in 1917 and in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote throughout the country. Yet Chinese women could not vote until 1943 because of The Chinese Exclusion Act. Lee still advocated for women’s voting rights, even though Chinese women did not benefit from the legislation. Lee was the first Chinese woman who got a Ph.D. in economics at Columbia University. She later published her book “The Economic History of China.”
Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) was born on a ranch in Montana. Rankin studied biology at the University of Montana and later became involved in the women's suffrage movement while at the University of Washington. She participated in organizing the New York Women's Suffrage Party and worked as a lobbyist for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman in US history to be elected to the House of Representatives in 1916 and was the first federally elected woman to the U.S. House of Representatives as one of two congressional representatives for Montana. At the age of 60, Rankin was appointed to the Committee on Public Lands and the Committee on Insular Affairs. She was a strong opponent of the US participating in both world wars which caused her to leave Congress two times during her political career. She later led a march of 5,000 against the Vietnam War.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was born into slavery and was named Isabella Baumfree. She became one of the most powerful advocates for human rights in the nineteenth century. Her master did not honor his promise to free her whilst upholding the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827, so Isabella ran away. Soon after Isabella became an itinerant preacher and in 1843 changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She became involved in the antislavery movement and in the women's rights movement. At the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Ohio, Sojourner Truth delivered one of the most famous women’s rights speeches recognized as one of the most famous women’s rights speeches in American history called “Ain’t I a Woman?”.
Clara Barton (1821-1912) was the founder and president of the American Red Cross. She founded one of the state’s first public schools which was a great success, yet had to resign after the board decided to hire a man. She then had a position at the U.S. Patent Office, which she also had to leave for being a woman. Later in life, she advertised for donations of medical supplies, and in 1862, began distributing the supplies directly to the battlefields. After the war, Barton helped families reunite with the missing men. After founding the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881, Barton worked in the field and gave lecture tours.
ida b. wells
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was an African American civil rights advocate, journalist, and feminist. Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Wells studied at Fisk University in Nashville. A turning point of her life happened on a train where she was forced to move to the car for African Americans despite having a first-class ticket. She sued the railroad and won a $500 settlement yet the decision was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Wells started actively writing about issues of race and politics after the incident. She later owned two newspapers: The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and Free Speech. Wells formed the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago which played a crucial role in the victory and resulted in the passage of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Act. Ida B. Wells was awarded a Pulitzer Prize "for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching" in 2020.
Nat Turner, (1800-1831) was an enslaved Black American who led the only effective slave rebellion in U.S. history. His action set off a new wave of oppressive legislation until the American Civil War .Together with other slaves, he started a campaign of annihilation, murdering about 60 white people in a few nights. The rebellion was crushed by the state militia. After six weeks in hiding, Turner was captured and hanged.
Bessie Burke (1891-1968) was the first African American teacher and principal hired in the Los Angeles public school system. She spent more than 40 years working and was a spectacular humanitarian, well-respected educator, and responsible administrator. She served in such organizations as the YWCA, Native California club, and the NAACP. Bessie was a member of “Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc”.
Daisy Bates (1914-1999) was an African American civil rights activist and newspaper publisher. Daisy had a tragic childhood: her mother was violently murdered by three white men. Her father left her and the young girl was raised by friends of the family. Later in life, Bates married L.C. Bates and the couple operated the Arkansas State Press - a weekly African American newspaper that promoted civil rights. Bates was the president of the Arkansas NAACP chapter and played a pivotal role in desegregation in Arkansas. Arkansas State Press was closed due to lack of revenue and in 1960. Bates was a powerful force in the battle for school integration and published her story on the issue “The Long Shadow of Little Rock”. She moved to Washington, D.C where she worked for the Democratic National Committee. After her husband passed away Bates revived the newspaper and continued to document the battle to end segregation in Arkansas.
dr. alice hamilton
Dr. Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) graduated from the University of Michigan where studied medicine. She further pursued training in bacteriology and pathology. She worked at Northwestern University and joined the Hull House - institutions in poor urban areas where middle-class settlement workers and low-income neighbors lived and worked. After seeing problems at such spaces, Dr. Hamilton started publishing studies on “industrial medicine.” She was appointed to the Occupational Diseases Commission - the first government organization that investigated employee health and safety. She studied how diseases, toxic chemicals, and workplace injuries hurt poor people. Apart from that, Dr. Hamilton advocated for women's rights and the international peace movement. In 1919 Dr. Hamilton became the first woman on the faculty of Harvard’s Department of Industrial Medicine.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was an activist, the longest-serving first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, political figure, and diplomat. Eleanor campaigned to assist confined Japanese Americans. She had a daily newspaper column, where she praised the efforts of the inmates to grow their own food in the harsh desert climate and the foulness of the quickly built camps. Closing the camps and getting young Japanese people out of these camps was one of her key oppositions during the war.
Estevancio - the first identifiable Muslim in North America. The Moroccan guide and interpreter arrived in Florida in 1527 from Spain as part of the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition. His hometown was captured by the Portuguese after which he was enslaved. The expedition to Florida collapsed, and Estevancio was one of the four survivors to reach modern-day Mexico. There Estevancio was sold to Antonio de Mendoza, the Viceroy of New Spain. He was appointed to lead a small reconnaissance party on foot to Culiacan, Mexico. Although Estevancio was enslaved as a Native African, his knowledge helped transform the view of the American Southwest. It also proves that Islam and Muslims reached the shores of the United States a long time ago.
Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (1910-1985) was born in Baltimore. Murray’s groundbreaking work on gender discrimination was crucial to the Equal Protection Clause. Murray excelled in her studies and graduated with an English Literature degree from Hunter College. That’s when Murray started struggling with her gender and changed her name to “Pauli”. Murray worked for the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Workers Defense League, and as a teacher in New York City. Her poems and articles were published in numerous magazines. Later in life, Murray became actively involved in the civil rights movement. Murray wanted to end segregation. Murray entered Howard University law school, wanting to become a civil rights lawyer. Murray’s application to Harvard Law School was rejected on the basis of gender which stemmed much of her work in civil rights. Despite the faced challenges, Murray received her J.S.D. from Yale University and was the first African American to receive this degree. Murray was appointed to the Committee on Civil and Political Rights by President John F. Kennedy.
Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and later she completed a Master’s degree in elementary education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She spent a decade working in early childhood education and became an expert in the field. She became involved in Brooklyn’s political groups - the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League, and the League of Women Voters. Shirley was elected to the New York State Assembly where she served for 3 years. Shirley was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. She was assigned to work in the House Agriculture Committee. Later, she was one of the members who created the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1972 she became the first Black female candidate to be considered to run for the President of the United States. In 1983 Chisholm left politics and focused on teaching politics and sociology and gave speeches across the country.
Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914) was a notable member of Philadelphia's elite black community, abolitionist, writer, poet, and teacher. She was the first black teacher on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. She was amongst those chosen to create a system of public schools on the islands aimed to educate the liberated black population. She wrote a series of essays "Life on the Sea Islands," where she chronicled her experience on the islands. These were published in a few issues of the Atlantic Monthly. Post-war, Grimke recruited teachers for the U.S. Treasury Department. She took a position of a Treasury clerk in 1873 and continued to be actively involved in the civil rights movement.
dr. betty shabazz
Dr. Betty Shabazz (1934-1997) was born Betty Dean Sanders. Shabazz left Detroit and attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where she faced racism due to which she left Alabama to attend the Brooklyn State College of Nursing in New York. She met Malcolm X at a party at the Nation of Islam temple who she later married. After going to Malcolm’s services she converted to Islam and changed her surname to X symbolizing the loss of her African ancestry, yet she later left the Nation of Islam. Soon after, Malcolm X was killed by members of the Nation of Islam while giving a speech in New York City. Shabazz gave lectures on the African American situation. She was an American educator and civil rights activist. After pursuing further education Shabazz took a position as an associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College.
ann pamela cunningham
Ann Pamela Cunningham (1816-1875) dedicated herself to saving the estate of President George Washington - Mount Vernon. Ann is a key figure in women’s and disability history. Her campaign began by creating the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in which lobbied Congress to acquire Mount Vernon as a historical site. When the request was rejected, the Association chose women in thirty states to raise money to buy the property. Downpayment was made to John Augustine Washington III. Ann soon launched a newsletter that focused on the importance of historic preservation. To this day, Ann’s legacy lives on with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association - the oldest preservation organizations in the United States.
dr. franklin e. kameny
Franklin Kameny (1925-2011) was a Harvard-trained astronomer and World War II veteran. He was fired from the Army Map Service for refusing to answer questions about his sexual orientation. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s executive order left thousands without their civil service jobs because of their sexual orientation. Dr. Kameny endured a four-year legal battle against the concept of sexual orientation being unfitting for federal service. Although unsuccessful, it was the first equal-rights claim regarding sexual orientation. Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington that focused on achieving equal legal and social rights for homosexuals. Eventually, the Civil Service Commission abandoned its policy. As a result of Kameny’s activism, homosexuality was removed as a psychic disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. and in 1998 President Clinton banned sexual orientation discrimination in federal employment.
Dr. mary edwards walker
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) was an American feminist, suffragist, prisoner of war, and surgeon. Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College with a doctor of medicine degree. She and her husband opened a joint practice, yet it failed because at the time the public did not accept a female doctor. At the beginning of the Civil War, Walker was denied by the Union army to serve as a medical officer, so she volunteered as a surgeon at the U.S. Patent Office Hospital. She wore male clothing which was odd for the society of that time and she was ridiculed for it throughout her life. In 1863, Dr. Walker became the first female U.S. Army surgeon and she often crossed the lines when treating civilians which led to her arrest. She was freed in a prisoner exchange after 4 months. She was awarded the Medal of Honor for her service during the Civil War.
amelia boynton robinson
Amelia Robinson (1911-2015) got a degree in home economics and attended numerous universities. She worked as a home demonstration agent for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) where she promoted home canning, nutrition, and agricultural improvements. Amelia focused on government work with her husband, with whom she ran an insurance agency, real estate office, and an employment agency. They served African American communities. After her husband passed away, Amelia became a Democratic candidate for a seat in the US House of Representatives and was the first Black woman to do so in Alabama. After her request, Dr. Martin Luther King and the SCLC came to Selma to aid in fighting for Civil Rights. Amelia and almost 600 people marched from Selma to Montgomery On March 7, 1965. They were attacked by the police and 70 marchers were beaten. Amelia took part in the following crucial marches that resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Amelia earned the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a philosopher, statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and the founding father of the United States of America. Franklin started his own printing business and prospered by doing it. He purchased “The Pennsylvania Gazette” newspaper. In 1732 he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac. Franklin became a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1751 to 1764. In 1757 Franklin went to England as a diplomat. Upon his return to the States in 1775 Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress. Soon after he signed the Declaration of Independence. Franklin negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War and his final public service accomplishment was his role in the convention that formed the U.S. Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). and the third President of the United States. Jefferson was a strong advocate of liberty. He studied at the College of William and Mary. At the age of 33, Jefferson wrote a draft of the Declaration of Independence and later worked to make its content come to life. As the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans began to form Jefferson took leadership of the Republicans. He opposed a centralized Government and fought for the rights of states. Jefferson served two terms as the President of the United States.
Benjamin Tonsler (1854-1917) was an African American and educator in Charlottesville. Benjamin attended the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton which is a historically black college. Tonsler was a tutor at the Jefferson Graded School where he worked his way up and became the principal and held the position for 30 years until he died of pneumonia.
edward (ed) verne roberts
Edward (Ed) Verne Roberts (1939-1995) is a key figure in the United States’ disability rights movement. At the age of 14, Edward contracted polio which left him paralyzed in most of his lower body. Roberts needed to use iron lung medical equipment ever since. During recovery, he had to resume studies on the telephone. He soon realized that students with disabilities were discriminated against. Roberts was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley yet administrators tried to reverse Roberts’ acceptance upon discovering that he was quadriplegic. Roberts was persistent and became the first student in a wheelchair at UCLA. Roberts created a group for students with disabilities that urged UC Berkeley to design accessible classrooms and dorm buildings. The group later became the Physically Disabled Students Program - the country’s first college organization for students with disabilities. Roberts finished his education and taught political science courses at UC Berkeley and later led California’s Department of Rehabilitation. He co-founded the World Institute on Disability which continues to teach students about disability.
franklin delano roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. Franklin greatly admired his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, and was inspired to enter public service through politics as a Democrat. He was appointed by President Wilson as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. At the age of 39, he was diagnosed with poliomyelitis. Battling the disease, he eventually became the Governor of New York and later was elected President in 1932 - the first of four terms. Much has happened during Roosevelt’s presidency, yet by the end, he devoted himself to the planning of the United Nations, in which, he believed, international issues could be resolved peacefully.
margaret chase smith
Margaret Chase (1897-1995) worked at the Independent Reporter newspaper and later married the outlet’s owner - Clyde Smith. Margaret got involved in politics, and in 1930 was elected to the Maine Republican State Committee. Her husband was elected to the US House of Representatives and after suffering a heart attack, he asked Margaret to run for his House seat. He passed away and shortly after Margaret won the election. Margaret was the longest-serving woman in Senate history up until 2011, yet she remains the longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate. After a long career in politics, she decided to run for president and was the first woman in the States to be a major party’s presidential candidate. Margaret Chase Smith supported increased education funding, civil rights, and Medicare. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is considered the highest civilian award of the United States.
Levi Coffin (1798-1877) helped thousands of fugitive slaves escape to freedom prior the American Civil War. He was a strong opponent of African American slavery from a very early age. Coffin was an active participant in the Underground Railroad with the help of which, he helped slaves gain their freedom in Canada. He also helped African Americans start their own businesses and get an education post-slavery. He was nicknamed the "president of the Underground Railroad" by his fellow abolitionists.
mary g. ross
Mary Ross (1908-2008) earned her Bachelor’s degree in maths from the Northeastern State Teachers' College. She taught math and science and worked as a statistical clerk for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was reassigned to be an advisor to girls at the Santa Fe Indian School. She completed her Master's degree in mathematics from the Colorado State Teachers College and took every astronomy class that was available. She was hired as a mathematician at Lockheed. She designed fighter jets and large planes and later became the first Native American woman to receive professional certification in engineering. She was one of the 40 founding members of Lockheed's secret Advanced Development Program, which still remains classified.
modjeska monteith simkins
Modjeska Simkins (1899-1992) graduated from Benedict College. Modjeska began teaching at Booker T. Washington High School, yet when she married Andrew Simkins she was asked to resign because married women were not allowed to work in public schools in Colombia. Simkins worked as the Director of Negro Work in the public health field. Simkins created alliances with black and white groups. She helped raise funds that made a considerable health impact for African Americans. Simkins was chosen as Secretary of the state conference and was the only woman to serve as an officer and her work aided in pushing the state closer to racial equality.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was an engineer and physicist who made dozens of breakthroughs in the production, transmission, and application of electric power. He invented the alternating current motor, developed AC generation and transmission technology. Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia. Tesla studied math and physics at the Technical University of Graz and philosophy at the University of Prague. After living and working in Paris for a few years, he immigrated to the United States, where he worked with Thomas Edison yet soon quit. Tesla was later hired by George Westinghouse Edison’s competitor in the “Battle of the Currents.” Tesla was presented with his own lab. Tesla invented electric oscillators, meters, improved lights, and the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla coil. Tesla’s lab was burned along with years’ worth of notes. Tesla continued working on new inventions as his mental health sadly deteriorated.
Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) was an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat. Bunche attended UCLA and completed his graduate work at Harvard University, where he received his master's degree and a doctorate in political science. He was the first African American to gain a Ph.D. in political science from an American University. His first book “World View of Race” was published in 1936 after which he conducted his postdoctoral research in anthropology at the London School of Economics and the University of Cape Town. Bunche worked as a senior social analyst on Colonial Affairs at the Office of Strategic Services. He was appointed Associate Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs. Bunche traveled to the Middle East as the chief aide to Sweden's Count Folke Bernadotte. After Bernadotte’s assassination, Bunche became the U.N.'s chief mediator. In 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for fulfilling the 1949 Armistice Agreements. He was the first African American to receive such an award.
samuel gridley howe
Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876) graduated from Brown University and Harvard Medical School. Howe served as a soldier and doctor during the Greek War of Independence. After his time in Greece, Howe was invited to become the director of the New England Asylum for the Blind. It was the first school for the blind in the US. It later relocated and was Massachusetts and was later known as the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Samuel advocated for the education of blind people and traveled across 15 states to support such schooling programs. He helped open schools for the blind in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Later in life, Howe also founded schools for children with intellectual disabilities and for deaf children. Howe advocated against slavery and created an antislavery newspaper, the Boston Daily Commonwealth, and became the chair of the Massachusetts State Board of Charities In 1864.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) became an internationally famous activist, abolitionist, suffragist, publisher, and author. He was born into slavery. While being in captivity, Frederick educated other slaves, tried to fight back" and one day successfully escaped from slavery. He worked as a laborer and started attending abolitionist meetings where he spoke about his experience in slavery. He became an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and went on speaking tours. He published his autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” where he spoke about his experiences in detail. Douglas had to flee the States in order not to get re-enslaved until the abolitionists offered to purchase his freedom. Later in life, Douglas continued to help people and was part of the women's rights movement, helped people on the Underground Railroad, and stood for anti-slavery political parties. Frederick ran his own newspaper, The North Star, and later published his second autobiography “My Bondage and My Freedom”.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) lost her ability to see and hear when she was nineteen months old. Her parents sought out help at the Perkins School for the Blind. Helen was taught to read braille and soon was able to communicate through both sign language and aural speech. Helen completed her studies at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and then enrolled at Radcliffe College. She wrote her autobiography, The Story of My Life. Her work was done in conjunction with Anne Sullivan - her tutor from the Perkins School. Helen was a suffragette and advocated for others for the rest of her life. Keller gave lectures in support of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and that’s how she earned a living. Helen was also passionate about global causes.
juanita j. craft
Juanita Jewel Craft (1902-1985) was a civil rights advocate and politician. After graduating high school, Craft attended Prairie View A&M University where she studied sewing and millinery yet after two years moved to Austin and obtained her teaching certificate from Samuel Houston College. She worked as a maid at a hotel and later as a seamstress. Craft joined the NAACP, and over the span of 11 years, she organized 182 branches. She was the first African American woman to vote in a public election in Dallas County. Craft began helping in the organization of segregation protests. She also fought to help enroll the first black student at the University of North Texas. Craft’s public service legacy brought her the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award in 1984.
septima poinsette clark
Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) was a civil rights activist. She started as a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Segregation was in place until the mid-1900s, so Clark wasn’t allowed to teach in the Charleston public school system, so she had to opt for teaching in rural school districts. Clark started protesting and demanded the right to teach at public schools. Her social activism was successful. Clark was part of the NAACP and the City School Board asked for it to be kept secret. She was fired for not being willing to do so and dedicated herself to activism. Clark created educational programs to teach African Americans how to read and write and she believed it was a crucial factor for being able to vote. She thought this was important in order to vote and gain other rights. Her concept of a “citizen education” became the Civil Rights Movement’s foundation. She worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and SCLC to win rights for African Americans.
thomas calhoun walker
Thomas Calhoun Walker (1862-1953) was a teacher, attorney, and government official, known as Virginia’s “Black Governor”. Walker was born enslaved in a small cabin, a year before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed enslaved African Americans in the southern states. At the age of 13 Walker still couldn’t read or write yet he learned after a teacher gave him a spelling book called, “John’s Common Book.” Walker saved money and went to Hampton Institute to gain a higher education yet couldn’t pass the entrance exam. He persuaded the school’s founder to make an exception. Walker was studying law. After Walker was admitted to the Virginia Bar he worked on many cases to defend African Americans. Walker got into politics and was elected to the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors. Later, he was appointed by President Roosevelt as the advisor and consultant of Negro affairs for the Virginia Emergency Relief Administration.
mrs. marie l. baldwin
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin (1863-1952) worked as a clerk in her father’s law office. They moved to Washington, DC, and defended the treaty rights of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation. They became members of a Native American community. Marie was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a clerk in the Office of Indian Affairs. Marie highlighted the value of traditional Native cultures in the modern world which resulted in her radical act of wearing a Native dress for the government personnel file. When her father died, Marie started actively advocating for Native identity and became nationally known for it. At the age of 49, she enrolled at the Washington College of Law and later graduated as an attorney and became the first woman of colour to do so. Marie was active with the suffrage movement in Washington DC and educated people about the traditional political roles of women in Native society.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) enrolled at Pennsylvania College for Women to attain a degree in English, yet switched to biology in her first year and graduated with honors. She received a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University with a focus on zoology and genetics. Carson wrote scientific pamphlets for the Bureau of Fisheries during which she wrote her first book about the history of the ocean “Under the Sea-Wind”. She became the Editor-in-Chief of all department publications and completed her second book, The Sea Around Us which was on The New York Times bestseller list for months. After resigning from her governmental job, she focused on conducting research on tidal pool ecosystems which led to her third publication “The Edge of the Sea”. Her next book “Silent Spring” focused on the interconnectedness of all living things and that pesticides have harmful side effects on the environment.
dr. rebecca lee crumpler
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) was the first Black woman with a medical degree in the United States. Crumpler enrolled at the New England Female Medical College (NEFMC) which was the first educational establishment to train women M.D.s. She began practicing in Boston, and then in Richmond. She participated in numerous charities that took care of freed African Americans who couldn’t afford medical care. Crumpler published her book “A Book of Medical Discourses” which includes advice on treating illnesses in infants, children, and young women.
elizabeth harden gilmore
Elizabeth Harden Gilmore (1906-1986) was the first black woman licensed as a funeral director and a civil rights advocate. She co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Gilmore served on the Kanawha Valley Council of Human Relations, where she took part in discussions of racial differences. She helped displaced black renters to find housing. She successfully pushed to amend the 1961 state civil rights law which got her a seat on the Board of Regents. Gilmore was also involved with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and community education and welfare committees.
Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) was born into slavery. After escaping slavery, Harriet promised to bring her loved ones to freedom and made 13 rescue trips to do so. Tubman was a humanitarian at heart and a brave civil rights activist. She befriended such notable figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Franklin B. Sanborn, and many others. She was a spy and nurse during the Civil War She soon joined the 2nd South Carolina Infantry in an assault on several plantations and helped rescue more than 700 enslaved people. After the abolition of slavery, Tubman fought to attain women’s suffrage.
James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He created jazz poetry and was the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. His signature poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was first pulbished in The Crisis in 1921 and later became a part of his first book of poetry The Weary Blues (1926). In his work, Hughes tried to depict the real lives of working-class African Americans in the lower social-economic class. He protested racial stereotypes and wanted to encourage pride in diverse black folk culture and aesthetics.
nat king cole
Nathaniel A. Cole (1919-1965) was an American jazz pianist and vocalist. In his early teens, Cole received formal classical piano training and later switched from classical music to jazz. He left school to pursue a career as a jazz pianist. Cole created the King Cole Trio and toured until their song “That Ain’t Right” landed on the charts and the trio’s success has been on the rise. Cole decided to become a solo performer. Throughout his musical career, he encountered racism and had been attacked by white supremacists during his performance. He was criticized by the African American community for not being a part of the civil rights movement, yet Cole saw himself as an entertainer, not an activist. He became the first African American performer to host a variety TV series in 1956. His music continues to live on.
Ruby Nell Bridges Hall was born in 1954 and is the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. Ruby's school district had entrance exams for African American students, which determined if African American students can compete academically at an all-white school. Ruby passed and was sent to an all-white McDonough Elementary School. She had to be escorted by four federal marshalls, and despite the difficulties of being an outsider, the girl did not miss a single day of school. Ruby made a shift in public perception and today continues to be a civil rights activist as an adult. She founded The Ruby Bridges Foundation that helps promote tolerance and positive change through education.
Ynes Enriquetta Julietta Mexia (1870-1938) began her botanical career at the age of 55 and became one of the most successful botanists and female plant collectors of her time. Mexia spent 13 years traveling the Americas all the while collecting thousands of plants. She fought for preserving the redwood forests in California and was a conservationist at her core. Ynes Mexia was born in Washington DC but spent almost 30 years living in Mexico. When she discovered her passion for environmentalism she joined the Sierra Club and Save the Redwoods League. She studied botany at UC Berkeley and that is when she began collecting and categorizing plants and working in the field of botany. During her first plant collecting trip, Ynes collected over 1,500 specimens. Her amazing career in botany lasted for 13 years during which she collected over 145,000 specimens.
Cathay Williams (1842-1893) worked as an Army cook and a washerwoman during the Civil War. Despite women being prohibited from serving in the military, Williams enlisted for three years in the U.S. Regular Army under the name of "William Cathay" and pretended to be a man. Because of frequent hospitalization, it was discovered that she was a woman and so she was honorably discharged by her commanding officer. After that, Williams joined a regiment that would soon be known as the Buffalo Soldiers. Her story was published in the St. Louis Daily Times.
Zitkala-Ša (1876-1938) was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation. As a child, she was taken to Indiana to attend White’s Indiana Manual Labor Institute. She grieved after losing her heritage by being forced to pray as a Quaker and cut her hair. She pursued piano and violin and was soon hired as a music teacher at the Institute. Later in life, she began to collect stories from Native tribes. Her writing was published in the national English magazines. Zitkala-Sa believed that Indigenous people in America should be American citizens and that as citizens, they should have the right to vote. The Indian Citizenship Act was passed in1924 and granted Native Americans US citizenship. Zitkala-Ša alongside her husband founded the National Council of American Indians which aimed to unite the tribes across the country to gain suffrage for all Indians.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was one of the greatest leaders of the United States and its 16th president. Lincoln was self-educated and started working as a lawyer in a law practice. In 1846 he was elected to Congress and 10 years later he joined the new Republican Party that eventually led him to run as their presidential candidate. Lincoln opposed slavery when campaigning and his victory led to a crisis as seven southern states left the Union and formed the Confederacy with four others joining later. The Civil War broke out and two years later Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves. Lincoln won the election again and continued his second presidential term. The Civil War ended in 1865, the same year Lincoln was assassinated by a supporter of the Confederacy.
william lloyd garrison
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) was an American journalistic crusader. He led a successful abolitionist campaign against slavery in the United States. William started an abolitionist paper called “The Liberator” and helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society.
John Brown (1800-1859) was an abolitionist and was raised in a family with extreme anti-slavery beliefs. He supported the abolitionist cause and established the League of Gileadites which help runaway slaves escape to Canada. For a couple of years, he raised money to continue his anti-slavery war in the South and tried to gather his own army yet it was hard to do so and most of Brown’s men were killed or captured during his raid. Brown was found guilty of murder and hanged in 1859.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was an American civil rights activist who is widely known for refusing to free her seat on a public bus which was the spark that ignited the civil rights movement in the United States. Growing up, the Ku Klux Klan was always a threat to Rosa’s family and all other Black families. When going to school, Rosa had to walk with other Black children, while white children were bused. As a grown-up Rosa Parks joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After the famous bus incident, the boycott of the bus company took place. The absence of African Americans on buses cut the revenue drastically. As a result, Montgomery’s segregated bus seating was pronounced unconstitutional by the government.
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) went to her father’s school and at home, he taught her astronomy. Later in life, she opened her own school that allowed non-white students to attend. She worked as a librarian of the Nantucket Atheneum for 20 years and continued to work on astronomy during the nights. She received an award from King Frederick of Denmark for being the first person to discover Comet 1847 VI which brought her global fame as America’s first female astronomer. She was also the first Fellow woman of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and later was elected for the American Philosophical Society. After leaving her job as a librarian, she joined the U.S. Nautical Almanac Office as an astronomer. In 1865 she was hired as faculty and Director of the Vassar College Observatory. She tutored at Vassar College until retirement.
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