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United States History I & II
Influential Men: World
Infuential Men: U.S.
Influential Women: U. S.
Influential Women: World
Primary Sources: U.S.
Primary Sources: World
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Key People US
Influential Men in US History
Smithsonian Museum of American History sculpture
For more information on key figures in history, use
, an historical fact finder from George Mason University.
Click here for a list of the
100 Most Influential Figures in American History
(includes men and women) done in 2006 by a group of 10 professional historians for
Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed: Part 1
. Andy Rooney (later with 60 Minutes) wrote the script for the show for which he
his first Emmy Award.
Latinos in History
from Scholastic provides short overviews of famous Hispanic figures in American history.
Field and Nationality
Key Writing or Achievement
Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)
Locke influenced the development of political thought by using natural rights as a foundation for government. TheDeclaration of Independence is strongly modeled after Locke's ideas.
For more, see
United States History I.2
Charles de Secondat Montesquieu
On the Spirit of Laws
United States Government
of the separation of powers in the government.
3rd President of the United States
The Declaration of Independence
Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and was elected to be the third President of the United States. He is known as one of the founding fathers of the United States.
United States statesman
Massachusetts Circular Letter to the Colonial Legislatures
Political Philosopher and Founding Father, he was one of the leaders of the American Revolution
2nd President of the United States
Adams was one of the founding fathers of the United States, the second president of the country, a federalist, and one of the main political
of the American Revolution
United States Politician
Governor of Massachusetts, President of the Continental Congress, and the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence
United States founding father
The Autobiography of
Ben Franklin was a United States Renaissance man of sorts known for his achievements of the realms of politics and sciences.
member of Continental Congress; one of founding fathers
e wrote most of
The Federalist Papers
- 85 essays supporting ratification of the Constitution
Fought alongside Washington in Revolutionary War, but resigns from Washington's staff after accused of disrespect. Outspoken against slavery. With friend Madison, he is a strong federalist. First Secty of Treasury under Pres. Washington. Aaron Burr, Hamilton's long-time political rival, lost a bid for NY governor in 1804, blames Hamilton and claims insult; the two duel, Hamilton dies. He also wrote
A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress
political pamphlet supporting right of Continental Congress to do trade boycott of Britain.
Early Republic 1751-1836
4th President of the United States
Known as the Father of the
Bill of Rights
One of the Founding Fathers, known for his achievements with the Constitution and as President.
1st President of the United States
Commander and Chief during the Revolution,
first president of the US 1789-1797
An American hero, monuments and memorials in his name all over the United States.
Mathematics, science and politics
Benjamin Banneker was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer, and antislavery publicist.
He built a striking clock entirely from wood, published a Farmers' Almanac, and actively campaigned against slavery. He was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.
7th President of the United States
Indian Removal Act
Jackson and his political allies formed the doctrine of Jacksonian Democracy which strengthened the power of the executive and judicial branches of the
over that of the congress establishing the philosophical base for the modern democratic party.
Chief Justice of the United States
Marbury v. Madison. See
During his time on the Supreme Courts in the early days of the United States he confirmed the power of the the federal government over that of the states.
United States Abolitionist
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
A former slave Douglass was one of the most prominent voices in the fight for abolition and equal rights in history.
American Education Reformer
Educational Writings of Horace Mann
His philosophy towards education helped to establish the basis for the modern United States public school system
Ralph Waldo Emerson
American Transcendentalist author
Helped to establish the philosophical ideology of transcendentalism which served as a counter to the prevailing philosophical ideology of the time.
Henry David Thoreau
Through his works Thoreau became one of the most prominent voices for environmentalism and civil disobedience in history. His focus on simplicity was most clearly evident in the time he spent living at Walden Pond in a small cabin that he built for himself on Emerson's land.
United States slave
Dred Scott Decision
Scott was a United States slave who unsucessfully petitioned the supreme court for his freedom when he and his master moved from a slave state to a free state.
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16th President of the United States
Under the command of Abraham Lincoln Union troops won the Civil War and in January of 1865 the 13th Amendment was passed abolishing slavery.
Stephen A. Douglas
He was the Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860 and lost to Abraham Lincoln. Stephen was nicknamed the Little Giant. He was responsible for Compromise of 1850 that settled slavery issues. He reopened slavery question with Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed people in new territories to have slavery or not. Supported Dred Scott Supreme Court Decision. Douglas believed deeply in democracy.
Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas
Raid on Harper's Ferry, Va.
Practiced armed Insurrection. Lead Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856 and Raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. John was known as the most controversial of all 19th century Americans. He attempted a liberation movement of enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia in which he failed and was hanged for treason.
Alexander Graham Bell
Scottish Inventor and Scientist
Inventor of Telephone
Invented the telephone. Received first U.S. patent for invention of telephone. Founding member of National Geographic Society. Studied speech and hearing due to his mother and wife being deaf.
"Gospel of Wealth"
businessman, a major philanthropist, and the founder of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company which was later merged with Elbert H. Gary's Federal Steel Company and several smaller companies to create U.S. Steel. Built libraries in many places. Started the Carnegie institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.
American inventor most prolifically remembered for inventing the lightbulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera
J. P. Morgan
Morgan was an American financier who helped to transform American business into the leading world power during the Progressive Era
First US Billionaire, first major philanthropists, owner of Standard Oil
first major philanthropists in US. Organized the Standard Oil Company. owned 3/4ths oil in US. Supreme Court found Standard Oil to be in violation of anti trust laws and broke it up into individual firms. Founded University of Chicago. Founded Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
Vanderbilt is most remembered for his railroad empire that helped connect the far reaches of the United States geographically, economically, politically, and culturally.
American Union Leader
American Federation of Labor
With the founding of the AFL Gompers established the modern day union which since has helped to establish fair pay and working conditions of workers from all walks of life.
American Union Leader
Founding member of both the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World he would become one of the United States most prominent socialists and a candidate for the United States Presidency and a member of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party
26th President of the United States
Roosevelt Corollary to The Monroe Doctrine
and Panama Canal
Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858 to a wealthy family in New York. During the Spanish-American War was a lieutenant colonel, and became one of the most popular hero's during the war. Roosevelt became the Vice President of McKinley and upon his assisination Roosevelt took office just shy of 43 years old. He beleived that the government serves as a liason for the contrasting economic forces of capitol and labor. He wanted to ensure justice between the two competing economic elements. Roosevelt was focused on international relations and global affairs. The Panama Canal was created under his presidency and the Monroe Doctrine ensured that intervention in Latin America was left solely to the United States. Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919.
William Howard Taft
27th President of the United States
Olmstead v. United States (1928) Opinion
Taft held many positions in the Federal Government. Prior to being President, Taft was Governor-General of the Philippines and Secretary of War. With Roosevelt's blessing, Taft was the Republican nominee for President. While he did win the election, he found it difficult to escape the shadow of Roosevelt's Republicanism and appease the wishes of Progressives. He served only one term. In 1921, Taft was nominated to be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the only man in history to be a President and a Chief Justice. He enjoyed being Chief Justice, remarking "I do not remember that I was ever President."
28th President of the United States
Woodrow Wilson, known as the "Professor President" was able to push forward the Progressive agenda during his two terms in office. As the Democratic candidate, he called for the New Freedom, which stressed states' rights. Initially opposed to fighting the World War in Europe, Wilson changed his mind and believed that the US should fight in the conflict. He felt that the US could be an international beacon for democracy. Additionally, he believed that world peace could be achieved by the formation of an international governing body called the League of Nations. While on a national tour promoting the League, Wilson suffered a stroke. His League would not be ratified and Wilson would die in 1924.
William Jennings Bryan
Politician and Lawyer
"Cross of Gold"
William Jennings Bryan was born in Ilinois and after graduating law school became a Democratic Representative for Nebraska. Bryan was elected in NE twice, in 1890 and 1892. He opposed high protective tariffs and encouraged the free trade of silver. He was not re-elected into Senate, so later became an orator and the editor of Omaha
He was nominated at the Democratic Convention three consecutive political races, in 1896, 1900 and 1904, but lost three times. He was a trailblazer and was the first candidate to openly seek political support. He traveled great distances and gave speeches to obtain political popularity. He later founded the
in 1901 (a weekly newspaper that ran for 12 years).He actively worked for peace, women's sufferage and prohibition. He died in 1925.
Robert La Follette
La Follette was an influential politician during the Progressive Era of the early 20th century. He believed government to be corrupt and vigorously spoke out in favor of direct primary elections, ending the abuse of industrial workers, and the need to establish unions.
Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore 1878. Even though his immediate family was poor, he spend a lot of time with his wealthy grandparents. The difference in wealth caused him to turn to socialism. He funded his college education and became a successful author. He went undercover in a Chicago meat packing business and focused his observations on the immigrant experience.
based on his reserch became a best seller. His book sold 150,000 copies and earned him 30,000 dollars (equivalent to 600,000 today). Within the next few years, the book was translated into 17 different languages. When Theodore Roosevelt read the book, he ordered an investigation on the meat packing industry. The Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed, along with the Meats Inspection Act, both direct responses to the novel. Sinclair used the royalties from the book to fund a socialist community.
W.E.B. Du Bois
African-American Rights Activist
Founding member of the
W.E.B Dubois played a key role is reshaping black and white relations in America. As the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University, Dubois became an academic, sociologist, author, advocate, and journalist and formed his own ideas about the advancement of African Americans. He founded the NAACP and it's journal, the first black popular magazine, The Crisis. Through these mediums, he promoted his ideas that education would allow significant improvements in the lives of African Americans as well as the formation of a black elite, known as the Talented Tenth, that would work for the progress of African Americans. Some of his most influential ideas involving
the color line
helped to spark the Civil Rights movement and later anti-war movements.
African-American Rights Activist, Pan-Africanism
Jamaican born, Marcus Garvey was a major advocate for African-Americans to separate from American culture and society and return to Africa. To promote these ideas, Garvey established Black Nationalist groups such as the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League. While Garvey's theories would influences groups such as the Nation of Islam and Rastafarians, others, like W.E.B. DuBois, believed his sepratist message hurt civil rights on the whole.
Booker T. Washington
African-American Rights Activist
Founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute
Booker T. Washington was born into the slave system of antebellum Virginia. At an early age Washington was interested in learning, but was unable to pursue an education because he was a slave. With the end of the Civil War Washington was able to enter school. In the 1870s, he attended Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute where he met and befriended the headmaster, General Samuel C. Armstrong. Armstrong was impressed with Washington and recommended him to be the headmaster of a "colored" school. Washington was the headmaster of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. The Tuskegee school allowed many African-Americans to obtain an education. This was Washington's main goal regarding Civil Rights. This view came under fire from other African-American Civil Rights activists, notably W.E.B. DuBois.
Sacco & Vanzetti
Sacco and Vanzetti Trial
The Trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti is a case study in American prejudice in the early 20th century. Sacco and Vanzetti were tried with the murder of two men in Braintree, Massachusetts. They were found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death. However, many believed that the Court wanted to convict the two men because of their Italian ethnicity and their ties to an anarchic organization.
Click here for
Darwin's obituary from the Journal of Natural History
John Maynard Keynes
he Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)
The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money
Was at the head of economic thought in the West in the first half of the 20th century. He challenged ideas that a standard "free market" economy would solve issues with unemployment. His ideas were adopted by many Western Powers.
Ludwig von Mises
Friedrich von Hayek
Income from Independent Professional Practice (
Studies in the Quantitative Theory of Money
A Theory of Consumption Function
Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960
Free to Choose
31st President of the United States
President Hoover was the scapegoat of the Great Depression. During the Depression, Hoover believed that aid to those effected should come from local and voluntary efforts, not the federal government. Although his administration was largely a failure, Hoover did have an impressive administrative record before his Presidency.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States
The New Deal
Franklin D. Roosevelt was an American president during the Great Depression and World War II. His most lasting impact comes from his New Deal policies that were geared towards ending the depression. Important programs, such as Social Security, were developed at this time. Having been nominated as the party candidate, FDR made the first acceptance speech ever given at a Democratic National Convention. It was in this speech that FDR presented his New Deal.
Share Our Wealth
"The Kingfish" wanted "every man to be a King." Long became wrapped in populist ideals and greatly expanded the role of government in Louisiana. During his tenure as governor, Long expanded the state's road systems, provided free schools, and increased sales and gas taxes. Elected to the US Senate in 1930. While he was a populist advocate, he strongly opposed FDR's New Deal. He proposed an alternate program titled Share Our Wealth. The Share Our Wealth program provided $5,000 for all families to purchase a radio, housing, and a car. The program would also give out pensions, veteran bonuses, and would have the government pay for college. He was assassinated in 1935 on the steps of the Louisiana State House.
Catholic Priest/Radio Broadcaster
National Union for Social Justice
Charles Coughlin was a Catholic priest and radio broadcaster who was a self proclaimed voice of the common people. During Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential campaign, Coughlin used his radio show to drum up support. Coughlin also supported the New Deal. Coughlin assumed this support would lead to a position in Roosevelt's cabinet. When that did not happen, Coughlin turned on FDR. Coughlin created the National Union for Social Justice. This political group sought many changes to the country, such as the nationalization of resources, conscription of men during war, and the value of human rights over property rights. In the late 1930s, Coughlin's views became extremely right wing. He became increasingly antisemitic, going so far as to defend the Nazi-sanctionedKristallnacht. He also believed that authoritarian government was the only solution to capitalism and democracy. Despite these views, his radio shows remained popular until his retirement in 1966.
Harry S. Truman
33rd President of the United States
Ordered the Atomic Bomb dropped on Japan to end World War II
Harry S. Truman was FDR's Vice-President and became Commander-in-Chief following Roosevelt's death in April 1945. While Truman is best known for dropping the Atomic Bomb to end WWII, he has a long list of domestic and foreign achievements. He called for a set of domestic programs called the Fair Deal. The Fair Deal expanded Social Security, creation of public housing, and removing slums. He was committed to preventing the spread of Communism around the globe by approving the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and forming NATO. He was a two-term president
Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th President of the United States
Eisenhower's Farewell Address (Military- Industrial Complex)
While Eisenhower had an illustrious military career, as a President he was an advocate for world peace. During his two terms, Eisenhower lessened the tensions between the USSR and the US. He also secured a truce between North and South Korea. On the domestic front, Eisenhower continued the policies of FDR and Truman. He also focused on balancing the budget. A triumph for Eisenhower was the complete desegregation of the US Armed Forces.
US History II.23
John F. Kennedy
35th President of the United States
He was the first Roman Catholic president of the United States. Also, he was the first president to have his debates televised. People who watched the debate said JFK one, but those who listened at home said the Nixon was the winner. Kennedy was known for his charm and good looks. He worked hard for civil rights and wanted America to be seen as the place for revolution of human rights. He also had to deal with
. From the Bay of Pigs to the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy's short term was very eventful.
Lyndon B. Johnson
36th President of the United States
Great Society Legislation
Johnson became President following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. His greatest ambition was to turn the United States into a "Great Society." LBJ was able to
many reforms through Congress. These reforms included, aid to education, urban renewal, more equal voting requirements, crime prevention, fighting poverty, and many other reforms. While he was successful at domestic reforms, his escalation of the conflict in Vietnam gave him many critics.
37th President of the United States
One of the most divisive Presidents in US history, Richard Nixon served from 1968-1974. During his tenure, Nixon successfully ended the military draft, saw a man on the moon, became the first US President to visit China, and improved relations with the USSR. However, Nixon's presidency is remembered primarily for the Watergate Scandal. During the 1972 election, a break-in occurred at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC, home to a Democratic National Convention. The burglars were connected to Richard Nixon. Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment.
40th President of the United States
Citing government as the problem, Reagan looked to restore the United States to past glories. His Reagan Revolution, or devolution, looked to stimulate the economy through the private sector. He cut many government programs, but did increase spending on defense. While he did increase defense spending, Reagan looked for peace with the Soviet Union. He achieved a historic agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev by eliminating middle-range nuclear missiles.
Spy for Communist Russia
Perjury and espionage of Alger Hiss
Pro-Communist who betrayed US
US lawyer, businessman. writer
Was secretly a communist while in federal service.
J. Edgar Hoover
First director of FBI
Founded FBI and remained director of the program for 48 years
Republican Senator from Wisconsin
"Enemies from Within" Speech
Elected in 1946, Joseph McCarthy would dominate domestic politics in the early 1950s. In a speech given to a group of Republican women in West Virginia, McCarthy claimed there were hundreds of Communists working for the US State Department. These accusations fanned the fire of America's Red Scare. McCarthy conducted many investigations and hearings, but did not turn up any evidence of Communists embedded in the US Government.
Julius Rosenberg and
US Attorney General, New York Senator, civil rights advocate
RFK served as the Attorney General under his brother John F. Kennedy's presidency as well as serving as New York state Senator. Ran for President on a platform of Civil Rights, advocating the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Was assassinated surprisingly not for his Civil Rights work, but for supporting Israel, his killer being a Palestinian.
The first African-American baseball player to play in the major leagues.
Born into a simple family in 1919, Jackie Robinson grew up excelling at multiple sports, including baseball and basketball. After playing in the minor leagues for the Montreal Royals, Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, a major league baseball team. This made Jackie Robinson the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues during the twentieth century which also broke down baseball's color barrier. Throughout his major league career, he helped bring the Dodgers to six pennant wins and one World Championship. He won the first ever Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, inspiration and spokesperson of the Civil Rights Movement
I Have A Dream speech, winner of Nobel Peace Prize
MLK Jr. was a civil rights activist in the segregated south who championed for equality for African Americans. His inspirational "
I Have A Dream
" speech is one of the most famous of all time, and like Gandhi, he was an advocate of non-violent protest. He was assassinated in 1968.
For a Delicious Stack containing resources on MLK, see
First African-American Supreme Court Justice
Brown v. Board of Education
Thurgood Marshall was a preeminent lawyer for the NAACP dating back to the 1930s. He successfully argued against de jure segregation in front of many different courts. One of his great achievements was the victory in the Supreme Court case
Brown v. Board of Education
(1954). The Court found segregating schools on the basis of race unconstitutional. In 1965, President Johnson appointed Marshall the first black Solicitor General, the person who argues for the United States in front of the Supreme Court. Two years later, in 1967, Johnson would appoint Marshall to the Supreme Court, the first African-American Justice. In one obituary for Marshall, the author stated: "We make movies about Malcolm X, we get a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, but every day we live with the legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall."
Civil Rights Leader
"The Ballot or the Bullet"
Malcolm Little was born in 1925. His father Earl Little, an avid supporter of Marcus Garvey, was killed in 1931 by a white supremacist gang. His mother was institutionalized as a result and Malcolm and his seven siblings were scattered in foster homes. Malcolm was arrested and sentenced to ten years in jail for burglary in 1946. While in jail, Malcolm was introduced to the Nation of Islam, which was a separatist African American movement. He left jail in 1952 as a devote follower with a new last name. Malcolm X was an eloquent speaker and increased the membership of NOI. Malcolm X split from NOI in 1964 due to problems with the movements leader, Elijah Muhammad. After a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 Malcolm was enlightened and took a new stance on integration. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 while speaking in Manhattan.
42nd President of the United States
Eliminated the budget deficit, signed NAFTA, which eliminated trade barriers among Mexico, Canada, and the US, known for impeachment charges for perjury in relation to affair with Monica Lewinsky
George W. Bush
43rd President of the United States
Became POTUS in historically close election against Al Gore, his presidency saw advent of Iraq War in the wake of 9/11 as well as an economic crisis, highly publicized legislation included the signing of
No Child Left Behind
, and the
Vice President to Bill Clinton. 2000 Presidential nominee. advocate of Global Warming awareness
An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore was the Democratic nominee in the controversial 2000 Presidential election. The election was ultimately decided for the Republican nominee George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Gore v. Bush (2000).
In 2007 Al Gore won an honorary international Emmy for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, focusing on the dangers of emissions, the energy crisis, and impending global warming.
American businessman, designer and inventor.
Best known as the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. as well as the pioneer of the personal computer revolution.
Steve Jobs transformed the world with his innovative approach, ideas and creativity. The former Apple CEO was a visionary in the world of computing and is largely responsible for the level at which computers are integrated with our everyday lives. Initially, from a mouse to making of iMac, iPod, iPad, iTunes and iPhone, Jobs revolutionized the world of computers.
American immigrant from Russia.
Development of radio broadcasting.
Sarnoff first posed the concept of broadcast radio in 1915. At that time, more than half of the American population lived in towns of less than 5,000 people; information arrived through newspapers, magazines, mail order catalogs, letters and postcards, and word of mouth. Today, there are nearly 13,000 AM and FM radio stations in the United States, and thousands more abroad, as well as nearly 20,000 internet radio stations.
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