So we’re off to a great start. You might notice that you might not know some of these people I put up on the last post, especially the ones from Alaska excluding Bob Ross of course. In some states, there’s not a lot of famous people who’ve achieved national fame or made contributions that affected the country. While looking on Wikipedia, I found a lot of the people listed in some of the less populated states that are either alive or local politicians. In my second selection in this series we look at the Mount Rushmores I picked from states beginning with Colorado and ending with Georgia. From Colorado you’ll meet a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, a white woman who dedicated her life advocating for Native Americans, a globetrotting journalist who came with the idea of the travelogue, and a famous singer-songwriter who sang about his love of nature and his favorite state. From Connecticut, you’ll see an iconic American writer and humorist known for wearing a white suit, a woman who wrote a controversial novel that drove the country apart and into war, a man who made a fortune in his innovation of firearms, and a man who invented a device that contributed to the expansion of the institution of slavery. Next, it’s off to Delaware where you’ll find a Frenchman who founded one of the most successful American corporations, the first black woman to own a newspaper, a man who built one of the country’s most iconic buildings, and a woman who invented a family of synthetic fibers. After that is an all-black lineup in Florida with a key woman of the Harlem Renaissance, a labor organizer who arranged the March on Washington, a leader of the NAACP, and an iconic musician whose influence can still be felt in the music industry today. Finally, we get to Georgia where we’ll get to know an iconic Southern Gothic writer, another writer who wrote a novel that inspired an iconic film, a minister who helped keep the dream alive, and a man from the Harlem Renaissance who helped inspire future civil rights activist in future decades.
Figure 1: Dalton Trumbo– screenwriter and novelist who was a member of the Hollywood Ten who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 that resulted in him being blacklisted by the motion picture industry for over a decade. Yet, he continued working clandestinely eventually earning 2 Academy Awards for Roman Holiday and The Brave One (with credit given to a front writer). His public credit for scripting Exodus and Spartacus marked the end of the Hollywood Blacklist and his earlier achievements were eventually credited to him.
Figure 2: Helen Hunt Jackson– poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the US government. Described the adverse effects of government actions in her history A Century of Dishonor. Her novel Ramona dramatized the federal government’s mistreatment of Native Americans in Southern California during the Mexican-American War which attracted considerable attention to her cause. Though commercially popular enough to have been reprinted 300 times and attract many tourists to Southern California, most readers preferred the romantic and picturesque qualities rather than its political content. Was lifelong friends with Emily Dickinson. Buried in Colorado Springs.
Figure 3: Lowell Thomas– writer, broadcaster, and traveler who’s best known as the man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous through shooting dramatic footage, touring the world, narrating his film With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence which was seen by 4 million people and made $1.5 million. He did this through funding by 18 Chicago filmmakers who he’d done a favor for by exposing a blackmailer (without the information becoming public) and because he wanted to find material that would encourage Americans to support WWI which wasn’t very popular with the public. Came up with the novel idea of the travelogue. Later spent his career narrating newsreels and was a newscaster for CBS and NBC radio and television. Was known to make the occasional gaffe.
Figure 4: John Denver– singer-songwriter, activist, actor, and humanitarian. Best known as a popular acoustic artist in the 1970s and was America’s best-selling performer by 1974. Primarily sang about his joy in nature, his enthusiasm for music, and his relationship trials. Music has appeared on a variety of charts including country and western as well as adult contemporary. Signature songs “Rocky Mountain High” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” have become state songs for Colorado and West Virginia respectively. Sang about his beloved Colorado numerous times and was honored as the state’s Poet Laureate in 1974. Activism usually focused on calling attention to environmental issues, supporting space exploration, and testifying in front of Congress against censorship.
Figure 1: Mark Twain– author and humorist best known for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the latter often called, “The Great American Novel” as well as has been repeatedly restricted by American high schools. Was a master at rendering colloquial speech as well as helped create and popularize distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. Noted as “the great American humorist of his age” and called by William Faulkner as “the father of American literature.” Work continues to be rediscovered by researchers as recently as 1995 and 2015 since he wrote under so many different pen names. Often depicted as an old man in a white suit. Said to be born and die with the coming of Halley’s Comet though he did read his obituary before writing that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.
Figure 2: Harriet Beecher Stowe– abolitionist and author who’s best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin which depicts the harsh life of African Americans and slavery which reached millions that it energized anti-slavery forces in the North while provoking widespread anger in the South during the 1850s. Wrote 30 books including novels, 3 travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. Was influential for both her writings and her public stands on social issues of the day.
Figure 3: Samuel Colt– inventor and industrialist who founded what’s now Colt’s Manufacturing Company and made the mass production of the revolver commercially viable. During the Civil War, he supplied firearms for both the North and the South and his weapons were prominent during the settling of the western frontier. His use of interchangeable parts helped him become one of the first to exploit the assembly line. His innovative use of art, celebrity endorsements, and corporate gifts to promote his wares also made him a pioneer in the fields of advertising, product placement, and mass marketing. By the time he died in 1862, he was one of the wealthiest men in America.
Figure 4: Eli Whitney– inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin which was a key invention of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South by making upland short cotton a very profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States and eventually culminated into the American Civil War. Though he received fame, his invention didn’t make him rich. Also championed the idea of interchangeable parts as a maker of muskets.
Figure 1: Éleuthère Irénée du Pont– chemist and industrialist founded the gunpowder manufacture and future chemical conglomerate E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company which became one the largest and most successful corporations in America. His descendants, the Du Pont family have been one of America’s richest and most prominent families since the 19th century with generations of influential businessmen, politicians, and philanthropists.
Figure 2: Mary Ann Shadd Cary– anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer. Was the first female African American newspaper editor and publisher in North America when she edited the Provincial Freeman in 1853. Traveled around the US and Canada advocating for full integration and self-reliance. She also advocated that free blacks move to Canada which attracted controversy. During the American Civil War, she helped enlist black volunteers for the Union Army. Became the second black woman to earn a law degree when she graduated as a lawyer at the age of 60 in 1883.
Figure 3: John Jakob Raskob– financial executive and businessman for Du Pont and General Motors, and builder of the Empire State Building. Though he was a key supporter of Alfred E. Smith as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he was a prominent opponent of FDR’s New Deal legislation.
Figure 4: Stephanie Kwolek– chemist and inventor whose career at Du Pont spanned over 40 years and is best known for inventing the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness known as Kelvar which has many applications, ranging from bike tires, racing sails, and body armor. In 1995, she became the 4th woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Figure 1: Zora Neale Hurston– novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist who wrote 4 novels and more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. Best known work is her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Traveled extensively through the American South, the Caribbean, and Central America to conduct anthropological research and immerse herself in the local culture. Despite being a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, her work slid into obscurity for decades.
Figure 2: A. Philip Randolph– leader in the Civil Rights Movement, the American labor movement, and socialist political parties. Organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters which was the first predominantly African American labor union. In the early Civil Rights Movement, he led the March on Washington Movement which convinced President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to issue an executive order in 1941 banning discrimination in defense industries during WWII. Head of the March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and inspired the Freedom budget, which aimed to deal with economic problems facing the black community. Had a significant impact on the Civil Rights Movement with leaders in the 1950s and 1960s using tactics he pioneered like such as encouraging African-Americans to vote as a bloc, mass voter registration, and training activists for nonviolent direct action.
Figure 3: James Weldon Johnson– author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist who’s best remembered for his leadership of the NAACP where he was the first African American to be chosen as executive secretary of the organization. Also established his reputation as a writer and was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. Most famous work is The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man which explores the conflict between assimilation and maintaining one’s cultural identity.
Figure 4: Ray Charles– singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. Referred to as “The Genius” and “The High Priest of Soul,” he pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s combining rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into music he recorded for Atlantic records. Also contributed to the racial integration of country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success at ABC Records as well as be one of the first African American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company. Called by Frank Sinatra as “the only true genius in show business,” and it was often said by Billy Joel, “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley.” Has been one of the most influential recording artists to date. Version of “Georgia On My Mind” was made the official state song of Georgia.
Figure 1: Flannery O’Connor– writer and essayist who was an important voice in American literature. Wrote 2 novels and 32 short stories as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. Was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. Her writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics. Was the first writer born in the 20th century to have her works collected and published in the Library of America.
Figure 2: Margaret Mitchell– author and journalist best known for writing Gone With the Wind for which she won a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It has since become an American classic and adapted into one of the greatest movies of all time. Yet it has led people worldwide to incorrectly think that it was the true story of the Old South and how it was changed by the American Civil War and Reconstruction as well as the negative effects it has had on race relations by its resurrection of Lost Cause mythology.
Figure 3: Ralph Abernathy Sr. – Baptist minister, civil rights leader, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest friend who collaborated with him to create the Montgomery Improvement Association which would lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of which he became president after King’s assassination. Led the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D. C. and served as an advisory committee member of the Congress on Racial Equality. Addressed the United Nations in 1971 on World Peace. Wrote And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography, a controversial autobiography about his and King’s involvement in the civil rights movement.
Figure 4: W. E. B. Du Bois– sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor who was the first African American to earn a doctorate and was one of the co-founders of the NAACP. As a civil rights activist, he insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation and believed that believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership. Strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow Laws, and discrimination in education and employment and his cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in colonies. Helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to fight for independence of African colonies from European powers as well as made several trips to Europe, Africa, and Asia. After WWI, he surveyed the experiences of African American soldiers in France and documented widespread bigotry in the US military. His collection of essays The Souls of Black Folk was a seminal work of African American literature and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction Era. Wrote one of the first scientific treatises in the field of American sociology, he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history as well as published many influential pieces in the NAACP journal he edited, The Crisis. Many of the reforms for which he had campaigned his entire life were embodied in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that was enacted a year after his death.