So we’re coming to the half-way point in the series. When it came to compiling this series, some states were easier than others since not every state has a lot of famous people. I know who I have for Massachusetts is bound to get complaints since I’m well aware that some people might have other ideas on which people I should put on since the state has a very rich history with Puritans, patriots, authors, and other historical figures. Virginia is another one since it has all Founding Fathers and no Robert E. Lee in sight. And don’t get me started about New York or California. Nevertheless, I bring you more Mount Rushmore compilations in my series from Massachusetts to Missouri. From Massachusetts I’ll introduce you to an underrated Founding Father, an author most people read in high school, the most famous suffragette, and a guy whose main interests included camping in the woods and sticking it to the man. After that, it’s on to Michigan where you’ll meet an industrialist who revolutionized transportation and the American way of life, a controversial civil rights activist, and two labor leaders with one buried under concrete somewhere in Detroit. Then we venture into the state of Minnesota where you’ll meet a Native American historian, an iconic cartoonist, a celebrated author of the Jazz Age, and a legendary aviator who maybe shouldn’t be hanging around with Nazis. Next, it’s down South to Mississippi where you’ll find a leader of a bunch of states that broke off from the country over slavery, a man they call a rock n’ roll king, a woman who organized Freedom Summer, and a puppeteer who died too soon. Finally, we go to Show Me State Missouri where you’ll see an animation tycoon, a black beauty maven, a smartass US president, and an expatriate poet who inspired a hit Broadway musical.
Figure 1: John Adams– lawyer, author, statesman, and diplomat who served as president and as a Founding Father was a leader of American independence. Was a political theorist in the Age of Enlightenment who promoted republicanism and a strong central government with his innovative ideas frequently published. Though he collaborated with cousin Samuel Adams, he established his prominence prior to the American Revolution providing a successful though unpopular defense of British soldiers involved with the Boston Massacre and played a major role in persuading the Continental Congress to declare independence as well as assisted Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and was its foremost advocate. As a diplomat, he established the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain and acquired vital governmental loans from Amsterdam bankers. Was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 which influenced American political theory as did his earlier Thoughts on Government. Narrowly avoided a war with France and appointed John Marshall during his presidency and is often called, “the father of the American Navy.” Though he wasn’t a popular president to serve another term and had been forgotten for decades, modern historians have ranked his presidency favorably and his legacy has been rediscovered in recent years.
Figure 2: Nathaniel Hawthorne– novelist and short story writer known for works featuring moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration set in New England. His fiction is considered part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically Dark romanticism with themes often centering on the inherent guilt, evil and sin of humanity with his works often having moral messages and deep psychological complexity, loaded symbolism, and sometimes bordering on surrealism. His portrayals of the past are a version of historical fiction used only as a vehicle to express common themes of ancestral sin, guilt and retribution. And later works reflect his negative view of the Transcendentalist movement. Best known for writing The Scarlet Letter which is almost always required reading in high school and while students complain about boring them to tears because they have no appreciation whatsoever for a great literary genius. Also wrote The House of the Seven Gables, Twice-Told Tales, The Blithedale Romance, The Marble Faun, “Young Goodman Brown,” “Rappacchini’s Daughter,” and Tanglewood Tales.
Figure 3: Susan B. Anthony– social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Collaborated with her lifelong friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton in social reform activities primarily in women’s rights publishing a newspaper called The Revolution, founding the National Woman Suffrage Association, with Matilda Joslyn Gage worked on what eventually grew into a 6-volume History of Woman Suffrage, and arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote which was ratified as the 19th Amendment in 1920. Best known for being arrested for voting in Rochester, New York in 1872 which resulted in her conviction in a widely publicized trial. Played a key role in creating the International Council of Women which is still active. Though harshly ridiculed and accused of destroying the institution of marriage when she started campaigning for women’s rights, public perception changed radically during her lifetime mostly because of her efforts that she celebrated her 80th birthday at the White House.
Figure 4: Henry David Thoreau– author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. As a leading transcendentalist, he’s best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings and his essay Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. His books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Lasting contributions are his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern-day environmentalism. Literary style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and “Yankee” love of practical detail. Philosophy of civil disobedience later influenced the political thoughts and actions of such notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Figure 1: Henry Ford– industrialist who founded the Ford Motor Company and sponsored the development of the assembly line technique of mass production which led him to become one of the richest and best known people in the world. His development, manufacture, and introduction of the Model T revolutionized transportation and American industry which transformed the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the twentieth century. Credited with “Fordism” which was mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers and believed in consumerism as the key to world peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Was widely known for his pacifism during WWI and publishing antisemitic tracts like the The International Jew (as well as did business with the Nazis well into WWII). Was adamantly against labor unions as well.
Figure 2: Malcolm X– Muslim minister and human rights activist who has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. To admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans while detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. Though he served as the public face for the Nation of Islam for a dozen years, he soon grew disillusioned with the group and its leader that he eventually repudiated it, disavowed racism, and founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity where he continued to emphasize Pan-Africanism, black self-determination, and black self-defense. His book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published shortly after his assassination, is considered one of the most influential non-fiction books of the 20th century.
Figure 3: Walter Reuther– labor union leader who made the United Auto Workers a major force not only in the auto industry but also in the Democratic Party and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the mid 20th century. As a leading liberal and supporter of the New Deal coalition, working to strengthen the labor union movement, raise wages, and give union leaders a greater voice in state and national Democratic party politics. As a senior union organizer in the 1930s, he helped win major strikes for union recognition against General Motors and Ford with a highly publicized confrontation with Ford security forces in 1937. During the course, he’d be hospitalized after being badly beaten by strike breakers. He’d also survive two assassination attempts, one of them which permanently crippled his right hand. After WWII, he led a 113 day strike against General Motors with limited success. Delivered contracts for his membership through brilliant negotiating tactics such as choosing one of the “big three” automakers, and if it did not offer concessions, he’d strike it and let the other two absorb its sales. Not to mention, along with higher hourly wages, he’d also negotiate for paid vacations, employer-funded pensions, health insurance, supplementary unemployment benefits, and lower price cars for workers. Was a major supporter in the Civil Rights Movement where he participated in the March on Washington as well as the Selma to Montgomery March. Also marched with with the United Farm Workers. He even stood beside Martin Luther King Jr. during the latter’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In his prime, he was said to be influential and powerful enough to frighten conservatives that Barry Goldwater once declared him a more dangerous menace to the US than the Soviet Union or Sputnik.
Figure 4: Jimmy Hoffa– union leader and author who served as president of the Teamsters Union from 1958-1971 where he played a major role in the growth and development of the union which eventually became the largest (by membership) in the United States with over 1.5 million members at its peak, during his terms as its leader. His involvement with organized crime got him into a lot of trouble which led him convicted of jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud in 1964 as well as his imprisonment in 1967 and sentence to 13 years after an exhaustive appeal process. And he was only released when he agreed to resign in 1971 as part of a pardon agreement with Nixon which blocked him from union activities until 1980. His disappearance in 1975 has given rise to many theories as to what happened to him (though organized crime had something to do with his death). While his critics say he enriched himself at the expense of the teamsters, his defenders claim that “dedication as an American labor leader for more than 40 years, as well as his widely recognized accomplishments on behalf of teamsters and all working people in America” should not be forgotten.
Figure 1: Charles Eastman– Santee Dakota physician, writer, national lecturer, and reformer who in the early 20th century was “one of the most prolific authors and speakers on Sioux ethnohistory and American Indian affairs.” After working as a physician on reservations in South Dakota (one time caring for Indians after Wounded Knee), he became increasingly active in politics and issues on Native American rights, he worked to improve the lives of youths, and founded 32 Native American chapters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) as well as also helped found the Boy Scouts of America. Also considered the first Native American author to write American history from the Native American point of view.
Figure 2: Charles Schulz– cartoonist best known for his comic strip Peanuts (which featured the characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, among others). Widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, cited as a major influence by many later cartoonists. Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson wrote in 2007: “Peanuts pretty much defines the modern comic strip, so even now it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes. The clean, minimalist drawings, the sarcastic humor, the unflinching emotional honesty, the inner thoughts of a household pet, the serious treatment of children, the wild fantasies, the merchandising on an enormous scale—in countless ways, Schulz blazed the wide trail that most every cartoonist since has tried to follow.”
Figure 3: F. Scott Fitzgerald– novelist and short story writer whose works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age and is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Considered a member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s, he wrote 5 novels and numerous short stories many of which treat themes of youth and promise, and age and despair. Best known work is The Great Gatsby which is considered required reading in many high school and college classes as well as continues to sell millions of copies.
Figure 4: Charles Lindbergh– aviator, author, inventor, military officer, explorer, and social activist who emerged making the first solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris with his Spirit of Saint Louis monoplane which earned him an Orteig Prize and the Medal of Honor. His son’s kidnapping and eventual murder was the subject of a major government investigation and a national tragedy. While he was (somewhat rightfully) accused of being a fascist for shaking hands with Hitler, he flew 50 combat missions in the Pacific during WWII as a civilian consultant. Later became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist. Had 7 children in 3 secret European families.
Figure 1: Jefferson Davis– politician best known as the President of the Confederacy during the American Civil War who took personal charge of the Confederate war plans but was unable to find a strategy to defeat the more populous and industrialized Union. After the war had ended, remained a proud apologist for the cause of slavery for which he and the Confederacy had fought. Many historians attribute the Confederacy’s weaknesses to his poor leadership like his preoccupation with detail, reluctance to delegate responsibility, lack of popular appeal, feuds with powerful state governors and generals, favoritism toward old friends, inability to get along with people who disagreed with him, neglect of civil matters in favor of military ones, and resistance to public opinion all worked against him. Wrote a memoir entitled The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. And while he was initially displaced by Ex-Confederate affection, but through his reconciliation efforts between North and South, they eventually came to appreciate his role in the war, seeing him as a Southern patriot, and he became a hero of the Lost Cause in the post-Reconstruction South.
Figure 2: Elvis Presley– musician, singer, and actor who is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll”, or simply, “the King.” Was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues and regarded as the leading figure of rock and roll after a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial. As one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century, he was commercially successful in many genres pop, blues and gospel and is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music with estimated record sales of around 600 million worldwide.
Figure 3: Fannie Lou Hamer– voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist who was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which attempted to register as many African American voters in the state as possible as well as set up dozens of Freedom Schools, Freedom Houses, and community centers in small towns throughout Mississippi to aid the local black population. Later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Epitaph reads: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Figure 4: Jim Henson– puppeteer, artist, cartoonist, inventor, screenwriter, songwriter, musician, actor, film director, and producer who achieved international fame as the creator of the Muppets. Helped develop characters for Sesame Street with which he was involved for 20 years as well as won fame for his creations, particularly Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie. Also had frequent roles in Muppets films such as The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan, and created advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. Founded the Jim Henson Company, Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. His sudden death from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome was widely lamented in the film and television industries.
Figure 1: Walt Disney– entrepreneur, animator, voice actor, and film producer who was a prominent figure within the American animation industry and throughout the world and is regarded as a cultural icon. Known for his influence and contributions to entertainment during the 20th century and as a Hollywood business mogul, co-founded the Walt Disney Company with his producer brother. As his studio became more successful, he became more adventurous in his cartoons introducing synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons and introducing technical developments on cameras. Noted as a filmmaker and popular showman as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. With his staff created famous fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy and was the original voice for Mickey himself. He also produced feature films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia, Bambi, and more. Yet, he wasn’t said to be great to work with. Moved to theme parks in the 1950s where he opened Disneyland and was in the planning stage of Disney World when he died of lung cancer. Left behind a vast legacy, including numerous animated shorts and feature films produced during his lifetime; the company, parks, and animation studio that bear his name; and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Reputation changed in the years after his death, away from an American patriot and toward someone whose work was representative of American imperialism. But his movies continue to entertain.
Figure 2: Madam C. J. Walker– entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist who is eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America and became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country. Made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty products for black women through the successful business she founded the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. And in addition to sales training and grooming, she showed other black women how to budget, build their own businesses, and encouraged them to become financially independent. Also known for her philanthropy and social activism who donated to numerous organizations and was a patron of the arts. Her lavish Villa Lewaro served as a social gathering place for the African American community.
Figure 3: Harry S. Truman– president from 1945-1953 whose administration saw the final months of WWII and the start of the Cold War as well as marked a turning point in US foreign policy in which it renounced isolationism for good. Made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Helped found the United Nations and issued the Truman Doctrine to contain Communism as well as got the $13 billion Marshall Plan enacted to rebuild Western Europe. Oversaw the Berlin Airlift, the creation of NATO, and most of the Korean War. On the domestic front, he successfully guided the American through the post-war economic challenges as well as submitted first comprehensive civil rights legislation and issued Executive Orders to start racial integration in the military and federal agencies. His 1948 election upset to win a full term as president has often been invoked by later ‘underdog’ presidential candidates. Popular and scholarly assessments of his presidency initially were unfavorable but became more positive over time following his retirement from politics. However, his firing of Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War did attract considerable controversy even though it was the right decision.
Figure 4: T.S. Eliot– expatriate essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic and “one of the twentieth century’s major poets” who attracted widespread attention for his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which is seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement and was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land, “The Hollow Men,” “Ash Wednesday,” and Four Quartets. Also known for 7 plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral and made major contributions to literary criticism as well. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry.” His Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was made into the highly popular Broadway musical Cats.