Born September 6, 1860
Died May 21, 1935
Founder of Hull-House and of modern social work
"Teaching in a Settlement requires distinct methods, for it is true of people who have been allowed to remain undeveloped and whose facilities are inert and sterile, that they cannot take their learning heavily."
Chicago, Illinois, 1890. "Hog Butcher for the World," poet Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) called it, in his 1916 poem, "Chicago." "Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; / Stormy, husky, brawling, / City of the Big Shoulders." In 1890, Chicago was all these things, and more. It was the new home of thousands of Italians and Lithuanians, Poles and Bohemians, Germans and Greeks, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe recently arrived in America with pockets full of dreams and little else. Chicago was also the new home of a well-educated, sophisticated, and independent young woman. Despite her uncertain health, she did not feel like settling for the...
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Born May 28, 1807
Died December 14, 1873
Naturalist and teacher
"The book of Nature is always open…. Strive to interpret what really exists."
Louis Agassiz (pronounced AG-uh-see) was the leading naturalist of the nineteenth century, advancing the study of nature through scientific observation. Born in Switzerland, he emigrated to the United States in middle age after his reputation was already well established. Agassiz was famed for his studies of glaciers, the moving rivers of ice that led Agassiz to formulate the notion of an "Ice Age" in the distant past. As a professor at Harvard University, Agassiz taught generations of students engaged in the scientific study of nature, which he regarded as evidence of God. On that basis, he led opposition to the new theory of evolution brought forth by English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882).
Youth in Switzerland
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was born into a comfortably...
(The entire section is 2225 words.)
Born May 15, 1937
Czech refugee from World War II who became the first female secretary of state
"The success of American foreign policy … will make the difference between a future characterized by peace, rising prosperity and law, and a more uncertain future in which our economy and security are always at risk, our peace of mind is always under assault and American leadership is increasingly in doubt."
Madeleine Albright was the daughter of Jewish parents in Czechoslovakia at a time when Germany controlled the country and hunted down Jews for eventual murder as undesirable people. Her family smuggled her out of the country to England. She made her way to the United States, where she eventually became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, later, the first woman secretary of state.
Early life in Czechoslovakia
Madeleine Albright was born Maria Jana Korbel on May 15, 1937, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her father, Josef Korbel (1909–1977), was a diplomat for the Czech government. When Germany seized...
(The entire section is 2005 words.)
Born August 2, 1942
Writer of novels and memoirs
"I knew exactly what was happening in my country, I lived through it, and the dead, the tortured, the widows and orphans, left an unforgettable impression on my memory."
Beginning in the 1980s with the international success of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende became the best-known contemporary female writer from South America. In her novels and autobiographical works, Allende draws on her experiences to weave together tales of families as well as the effects of social and political pressures. Her writings also feature richly described settings, sometimes with elements of fantasy.
Influenced by grandparents
Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru, in 1942 to Chilean parents. At that time, her father, Tomás, was serving in Peru as a diplomat for the government of Chile. He was a first cousin of Salvador Allende Gossens (1908–1973), who later became president of Chile. Isabel Allende and her mother, Fransisca, maintained close ties with the Allende...
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Astor, John Jacob
Born July 17, 1763
Died March 29, 1848
New York, New York
First American immigrant millionaire
"Rogues do their work at night. Honest men work by day. It's all a matter of habit, and good habits in America make any man rich. Wealth is a result of habit."
John Jacob Astor was one of the first examples of what became a great American myth: poor boy sails from Europe to the United States and ends up a millionaire thanks to hard work. But in Astor's case, it was not myth: He did sail from London to Baltimore, Maryland, before he was twenty years old, with very little money in his pocket. When he died, he was thought to be the richest man in the United States. The usual version of his life describes how Astor made a fortune buying and selling animal furs, especially beaver skins, to be turned into men's hats; then he made profitable investments in real estate, or land, development in New York City, where his name is enshrined in the well-known luxury hotel called the Waldorf-Astoria. Less famous is his role...
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Audubon, John James
Born April 26, 1785
Les Cayes, Haiti
Died January 27, 1851
New York, New York
Illustrator and painter of North American birds
"Proud of its beautiful form, and prouder still of its power of flight, [the whooping crane] stalks over the withering grasses with all the majesty of a gallant chief. With long and measured steps he moves along, his head erect, his eye glistening with delight."
In the early 1800s, most of the land that now makes up the United States had not yet been explored. What sort of landscape it contained—mountains? lakes? deserts?—could only be guessed at by European settlers on the East Coast. What animals and birds might make their homes there was also a mystery. The opportunity for ordinary people who might be interested in observing and describing the natural wonders of the continent was wide open; interested amateurs could make significant contributions to scientific knowledge of the region. That is exactly the opportunity that John James Audubon saw and seized. He captured the beauty of birds through his...
(The entire section is 1900 words.)
Bell, Alexander Graham
Born March 3, 1847
Died August 2, 1922
Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada
Inventor of the telephone
"All really big discoveries are the results of thought."
It is possible that Alexander Graham Bell is the world's bestknown inventor. He is well known for inventing the telephone. This device would completely change how people communicated: Soon it became possible to talk instantly with anyone in the world with access to a telephone. Bell also worked in many other fields, including aviation, the design and manufacture of aircraft. He invented the hydrofoil, a craft that skims above the surface of the water.
Born into a family of speech experts
Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847 to a family of experts in human speech. His grandfather, Alexander Bell, taught elocution, the art of speaking clearly, and his father, Alexander Melville Bell (1819–1905), was also an expert in elocution and the physiology of speech. (Physiology...
(The entire section is 2001 words.)
Born November 2, 1938
Presidential advisor, newspaper columnist, presidential candidate, anti-immigrant crusader
"Uncontrolled immigration threatens to deconstruct the nation we grew up in and convert America into a conglomeration of peoples with almost nothing in common."
Some Americans take pride in describing the United States as a nation of immigrants, and there is no doubt that since 1620 the character of the North American continent has been drastically changed as a result of people arriving from Europe, Africa, and Asia. But the celebration of the nation of immigrants has often been countered by a strong backlash against new arrivals. It happened in the middle of the nineteenth century, with the secretive Know Nothing Party, and it happened again at the end of the twentieth century with the repeated presidential aspirations of Pat Buchanan, a well-known conservative (supporting traditional values) newspaper columnist and presidential advisor.
Buchanan's efforts to achieve the White House, while never close to successful, illustrated a thread running through...
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Born November 25, 1835
Died August 11, 1919
Industrialist and philanthropist
"Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket."
Andrew Carnegie stands as a symbol of the idea that immigrants could come to the United States and make a vast fortune. In Carnegie's case, he came to the United States from his native Scotland at age thirteen and worked his way from poverty to one of the great fortunes of the world based on manufacturing steel. In retirement, Carnegie gave away several hundred million dollars, a significant portion of his fortune during his lifetime. He financed public libraries throughout the United States as well as donated money to universities and bought organs for churches.
The industrial revolution
In one respect, Carnegie shared an experience with countless other Europeans who immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth and early...
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Born April 16, 1899
Died December 25, 1977
Actor and comedian in the era of American silent films
"Even funnier than the man who has been made ridiculous is the man who, having had something funny happen to him, refuses to admit that anything out of the way has happened, and attempts to maintain his dignity."
Charlie Chaplin came to the United States as an English stage actor and became one of the world's best-known and best-loved comic actors in the early days of the U.S. film industry, a time when films were known as "silent movies" because early movies did not contain sound. Chaplin created the figure known as the Little Tramp, who appeared in nearly all of his best-known works. The Little Tramp represented the common man, the ordinary fellow who confronted a loss or setback, got up, and carried on. Even after the era of films with sound, Chaplin used his talents of pantomime, or communicating silently with only hand and body gestures, to create a worldwide audience. But Chaplin fell out of...
(The entire section is 2280 words.)
Born March 31, 1927
Died April 23, 1993
San Luis, Arizona
Migrant workers union leader
"Our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are."
César Chávez was the leader of California farm workers who for three decades helped them achieve improved wages and working conditions as well as a measure of dignity. He also persuaded millions of Americans who may never have been on a farm, or even in California, to stop buying table grapes as a way of supporting the cause of farm workers. Chávez made visible to mothers and fathers in grocery stores across America the symbolic fingerprints left on those grapes by the hands, brown hands mostly, that had picked them. Those brown hands belonged to migrant workers: the families who sometimes spent nights in tin storage sheds or broken-down cars parked under bridges, and spent days picking grapes and other crops for wages that barely sustained life. Chávez grew up traveling from farm to farm harvesting...
(The entire section is 2847 words.)
Born July 1, 1961
Died February 1, 2003
In Columbia explosion upon return to Earth
Astronaut and aeronautical engineer
"You're floating [in space]…. Earth is very beautiful. I wish everyone could see it."
Kalpana Chawla was the first female astronaut from India. To pursue her dream of flying airplanes and becoming an aerospace engineer, she studied physics, chemistry, and math in high school and excelled at an engineering college in India. She then took on advanced studies in the United States. She joined the American space program in 1995 and traveled millions of miles in space, orbiting Earth hundreds of times on two space-shuttle missions. She was a flight engineer and mission specialist on the space shuttle Columbia, which broke up sixteen minutes before it was scheduled to land on February 1, 2003. Chawla and her six fellow astronauts were killed.
Stargazer and trailblazer
Kalpana Chawla was born on July 1, 1961, in Karnal, India, in the...
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Born June 15, 1932
New York, New York
Governor of New York, lawyer, and noted speechmaker
"I learned about our obligation to each other from [my parents]. They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children and they asked to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This nation and this nation's government did that for them."
Mario Cuomo was elected governor of New York three times, each time by a wide margin. Yet he is perhaps best known for "the Speech," a nationally televised address he made during the Democratic Party's 1984 presidential convention. The speech was made memorable when Cuomo described the difficult struggles of his immigrant parents to overcome poverty and hardship to provide for their family.
From the family store to center field
Mario Matthew Cuomo was born in 1932 in an apartment above the family store his parents had purchased the year before. His father, Andrea, and mother, Immaculata, had immigrated to New York City from Salerno, Italy, in the late 1920s. Cuomo's parents knew only how to speak Italian, yet they managed to run the store successfully in their mixed ethnic neighborhood, called South Jamaica, in Queens, a borough, or section, of New York...
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Born March 14, 1879
Died April 18, 1955
Princeton, New Jersey
"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."
Albert Einstein was already a world-famous scientist when he immigrated to the United States in 1933. Over his lifetime, he had three nationalities: German, Swiss, and American. He also was Jewish, which led him to support the founding of the state of Israel. But as the top physicist in the twentieth century, Einstein in some ways rose above nationalities to become a citizen of the world. His story as a world citizen cast a different light on the larger subject of emigration and migration across national borders.
Not a promising young student
Albert Einstein was the son of a middle-class Jewish businessman. Einstein was born in Germany, a country that had been unified into a single state only eight years before his birth. Previously, a group of kingdoms, of which Prussia was the largest, had occupied the territory...
(The entire section is 2267 words.)
Born September 29, 1901
Died November 30, 1954
Nobel Prize–winning physicist
"It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge."
Enrico Fermi had a long and illustrious career as a physicist. By the age of twenty-five, he had won international recognition for devising a new statistical method for describing atomic particles. After winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938, Fermi and his family immigrated to the United States to avoid growing political oppression in Italy. Immediately after his arrival in America, Fermi was swept up into what President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) would later describe as "the battle of the laboratories." World War II (1939–45) was underway and scientists in Nazi Germany and the United States were racing to harness atomic power. Fermi was the first scientist to create an atomic chain reaction, which provided a new source of energy and made it possible to build the atom bomb.
(The entire section is 2359 words.)
Born January 7, 1800
Cayuga County, New York
Died March 8, 1874
Buffalo, New York
Thirteenth U.S. president and candidate of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party
"May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not."
Millard Fillmore became president unexpectedly in 1850 upon the sudden death from a stomach ailment of President Zachary Taylor (1785–1850; served 1849–50). As a conservative politician from New York, Fillmore shared in widespread prejudice against immigration that arose after a large influx of German and Irish immigrants during the 1840s. Some of the anti-immigrant prejudice reflected the fact that Irish immigrants in particular were overwhelmingly Catholics, which aroused long-standing religious prejudices by many American Protestants. In 1856, four years after losing the Whig nomination as the incumbent, or current, president, Fillmore was nominated for president by the anti-immigrant American Party (popularly known as the Know-Nothing Party). But in the election in November, he won a...
(The entire section is 2316 words.)
Born November 15, 1882
Died February 22, 1965
U.S. Supreme Court justice, legal scholar, and defender of civil rights
"It was a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals."
Felix Frankfurter came to the United States in 1894 at the age of twelve, not speaking English but possessed with a lively imagination. He was part of a great wave of immigrants to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Within forty years of arrival, he had become a top advisor to the president and was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a living testament to the promise of opportunity in the United States.
The immigrant on the Lower East Side
Felix Frankfurter was born in Vienna, Austria, on November 15, 1882. His father, Leopold, lived in Vienna, capital of the immense Austro-Hungarian empire that ruled central Europe. The Frankfurters were Jewish; Leopold had intended to become a rabbi...
(The entire section is 2195 words.)
Born August 17, 1887
St. Anns Bay, Jamaica
Died June 10, 1940
Leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which preached black pride and advocated a return to Africa
"I saw before me then, even as I do now, a new world of black men, not peons, serfs, dogs and slaves, but a nation of sturdy men making their impression upon civilization and causing a new light to dawn upon the human race."
Marcus Garvey burst onto the African American scene in March 1916. He had come to Harlem, a black neighborhood in northern Manhattan in New York City, to seek financial support for a school he was trying to establish in his homeland, Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean. He soon went on to promote a mass return to Africa by the descendants of black slaves. Garvey was one of the first effective promoters of black pride, emphasizing the historical dignity of black people.
Marcus Garvey addressed a central issue in American society: the failure, after three hundred years, to include descendants of Africans in a society that prided itself as a "melting pot." (The...
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Born July 14, 1912
Died October 3, 1967
New York, New York
Folk singer whose songs raised consciousness about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s
"This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me."
Woody Guthrie was the foremost composer of folk music in twentieth-century America. His hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, is just the sort of place one would expect him to be from. He once described Okemah as "one of the singiest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razor carryingest of our ranch towns and farm towns, because it blossomed out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns."
To fully understand Guthrie's life, it is necessary first to understand two events that took place during the 1930s: the Great Depression and the Dust...
(The entire section is 2415 words.)
Hayslip, Le Ly
Born December 19, 1949
Ky La (now Xa Hoa Qui), Vietnam
Director of the East Meets West Foundation and author
"Working together to heal the wounds of war."
Le Ly Hayslip experienced and survived the horrors of war. She persevered through many hardships and became a force for uniting once bitter enemies by creating the East Meets West Foundation. Building clinics, schools, and rehabilitation centers in Vietnam with the assistance of American Vietnam War veterans and other donors, the East Meets West Foundation improved life in Vietnam and promoted understanding and respect between people in her native country (Vietnam) and her adopted country (the United States).
Hayslip is also well known for her two memoirs, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (1989) and Child of War, Woman of Peace (1993). The first book shows the effects of the Vietnam War (1954–75) from a Vietnamese perspective. The second book covers her life in America beginning in 1970 and her return visits to Vietnam after the war.
"Nourished by God"...
(The entire section is 1726 words.)
Born May 30, 1948
Lawyer and activist for Latino causes
"A solid education levels the playing field for everybody. It's the surest provider of equal opportunity."
Antonia Hernández has drawn on her experience as an immigrant to forge a career protecting and expanding the rights and opportunities of Latinos. She learned to speak English while attending school as a young girl; as a teenager, she spent summers picking crops; and she survived in tough East Los Angeles. "I grew up in a very happy environment but a very poor environment," she told Parents magazine. She became a lawyer and for eighteen years she was president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Working to support bilingual education and challenging anti-immigrant laws are among the many activist causes Hernández has pursued.
Life experience breeds activism
Antonia Hernández was born on May 30, 1948, on a ranch near the town of Torreón in northern Mexico. She was the eldest of six children. Her...
(The entire section is 2017 words.)
Hill, James J.
Born September 16, 1838
Rockwood, Ontario, Canada
Died May 29, 1916
St. Paul, Minnesota
"Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work."
James J. Hill's recipe for success
Called the "empire builder of the Northwest," James J. Hill founded in 1878 what became the Great Northern Railroad Company, which built a rail line that ran from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Puget Sound in Washington. Hill became one of the wealthiest men of the nineteenth century, but he also shared with other railroad men a reputation as a "robber baron" when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1904 that his railroad and financial system violated antitrust laws (laws designed to punish businesses that dominate a market or industry and are alleged to have stifled competition). His larger reputation rests as a shrewd and visionary businessman, and as a generous philanthropist, one who donates money to worthy causes. Hill was "without peer, the preeminent builder of the frontier economy of the Northwest,"...
(The entire section is 2597 words.)
Inouye, Daniel K.
Born September 7, 1924
U.S. senator and decorated World War II hero
"My grandparents came over from Japan as migrant workers in the sugar cane fields. Both were semiliterate … and obviously, they were impoverished. Who in his right mind would have said their grandson would be sitting here [in the U.S. Capitol]?"
Daniel K. Inouye was the first American of Japanese descent to serve in the U.S. Congress. A hero from World War II (1939–45), he was awarded several medals for bravery. Inouye was elected the U.S. representative when Hawaii first became a state in 1959. In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and was reelected six more times. Inouye is best known as a longtime activist for civil rights and for serving on several historic Senate panels, including the nationally televised Senate Watergate Committee Hearings (1973–74). The committee investigated wrongdoing by President Richard Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) and several of his aides that occurred during the president's 1972 reelection campaign.
Go for broke
Daniel Ken Inouye was born on September 7, 1924, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was the oldest of four children of Hyotaro and Kame (Imanaga) Inouye, who were first-generation Japanese immigrants. Inouye's...
(The entire section is 3114 words.)
Jackson, Helen Hunt
Born October 14, 1830
Died August 12, 1885
San Francisco, California
Writer and activist for Native American rights
"Oh, write of me, not 'Died in bitter pains,' But 'Emigrated to another star!'"
Most widely remembered as an activist for Native American rights, Helen Hunt Jackson also wrote poetry, essays, novels, and children's stories. She used her writing talent to publicize the mistreatment of Native Americans, particularly the Mission Indians of Southern California. This dedication to Indian reform earned her a place in American history.
A life of tragedy
Helen Hunt Jackson was born Helen Maria Fiske in Amherst, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1830. Her parents were Nathan Welby Fiske, a professor and minister, and Deborah Vinal, a writer. The Fiske household was religious and scholarly, and undoubtedly, Helen's later career was influenced by her parents' intellectual interests. One of four siblings, Helen's two brothers died in infancy, leaving...
(The entire section is 2290 words.)
Born May 26, 1886
Died October 23, 1950
San Francisco, California
"You think that's noise—you ain't heard nuttin' yet!"
Al Jolson was arguably the biggest star on Broadway in the early to mid-1900s, with a career that spanned four decades (1911–40). He starred in the first commercially successful "talking" movie (film with sound, as compared with the "silent" films in which all dialogue was printed on the screen), The Jazz Singer, in 1927, and that is the role for which he is best remembered. Jolson was the first Jewish star to publicly acknowledge his Jewish heritage. He is credited with almost single-handedly introducing African American music such as jazz and ragtime to white audiences. He was known in his day as "The World's Greatest Entertainer."
A young Russian Jew makes his way
Al Jolson was born Asa Yoelson on May 26, 1886, in the Lithuanian village of Seredzius, located in Russia. This date cannot be proved to be Jolson's...
(The entire section is 2986 words.)
Jones, Mary "Mother"
Born May 1, 1830
County Cork, Ireland
Died November 30, 1930
Silver Spring, Maryland
Fierce advocate for the rights of working people, especially coal miners
"Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living."
Like many immigrants to the United States, Mary Harris Jones led a hard life. She experienced the economic hardships that were common to factory workers in the middle of the nineteenth century. But it was as a campaigner for coal miners that she gained her nickname, Mother Jones, and a national reputation for making trouble for mine owners. Jones was symbolic of the struggle waged by workers to achieve better lives in the face of unyielding opposition by business. Her willingness to fight against the wealthy class was an attitude that she brought with her from her native Ireland.
The spirit of a rebel
Mary Harris Jones was born Mary Harris in Cork, Ireland, the daughter of Richard and Mary Harris, on May 1, 1830. But although that was the date she gave in her...
(The entire section is 2364 words.)
Born Spring 1840
Wallowa Valley, present-day Oregon
Died September 21, 1904
Leader of the Nimitu (Nez Perce) tribe and famous orator
"It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. I want time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more for ever."
Chief Joseph endures as a symbol of dignity—as a tribal leader who exhausted all efforts to find a peaceful means to secure the homeland of his tribe, and as an eloquent spokesman who won a good measure of public sympathy for the plight of the Nez Perce tribe. His attempts to avoid war, his skillful military strategy when confronted by larger and better-equipped U.S. forces, his care for the defenseless people in his tribe, and his noble surrender when victory proved impossible became legendary during his lifetime.
(The entire section is 3107 words.)
Kissinger, Henry A.
Born May 27, 1923
U.S. secretary of state and foreign policy expert
"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."
Henry Kissinger, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, was one of the most powerful American officials during the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) and Gerald R. Ford (1913–; served 1974–77). He is widely credited with negotiating an end to the Vietnam War (1954–75), as well as opening a new era of improved relations with the Soviet Union (a country made up of fifteen republics, the largest of which was Russia, that in 1991 became independent states) and the People's Republic of China. Critics of Kissinger, however, also blamed him for supporting the brutal anticommunist policies of governments in South America that resulted in violations of human rights. Kissinger, who came to the United States as a child refugee from Nazi Germany in 1938, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his work in ending the Vietnam War.
Beginnings in Germany...
(The entire section is 1985 words.)
Born May 19, 1922
San Pedro, California
Activist and speaker
"Don't become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You'll learn something from everyone. Follow what you feel in your heart."
As a teenager, Yuri Kochiyama lived a quiet life in small-town San Pedro, California. She wanted to be a teacher and had no interest in political issues or life much beyond her local, middle-class community. That all changed after the surprise attack in December 1941 on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese forces. Within weeks, the U.S. government forced over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—70 percent of whom were American-born citizens—to leave their homes and move to internment camps, where people were held in custody during a war. That experience was the inspiration for Kochiyama's political activism for social justice, civil rights, and racial equality.
Kochiyama's activism took root during the 1960s, when she became involved in many causes and groups, including membership in the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU). She became a close friend of...
(The entire section is 2024 words.)
Born July 22, 1849
New York, New York
Died November 19, 1887
New York, New York
Author of the famous poem that appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and Jewish rights advocate
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…"
If Emma Lazarus had done nothing else in life, writing the poem "The New Colossus" would have preserved her name in American history. Engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty (see entry in volume 2) in New York Harbor, the poem seems to capture the spirit of the woman holding a torch aloft, as if to light the way for the flood of European immigrants streaming into the United States when the lines were written in 1883: "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. / I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The facts that lie behind the poem, and its author, reveal the much greater complexities of immigration to the...
(The entire section is 2370 words.)
Born October 20, 1882
Died August 16, 1956
Los Angeles, California
Movie actor famous for his roles in horror films
"I am Count Dracula!"
Bela (pronounced BAY-la) Lugosi is arguably one of the most famous immigrants in film history. Although his career began on the stage in his native Hungary, he broke into films in the early 1930s in America when he accepted the choice role of Count Dracula for Universal Studios. Lugosi often shared the screen with the highly respected actor Boris Karloff (1887–1969) in his many horror films throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, but he eventually took roles in lesser-quality movies, a career move that would prove his downfall. Per his will, Lugosi was buried in his Dracula cape.
Lugosi's career takes off
Bela Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó on October 20, 1882, the youngest of four children in an upper-middle-class family. At twelve, Blaskó ran away from his small Hungarian hometown and survived by toiling in...
(The entire section is 2157 words.)
Moynihan, Daniel Patrick
Born March 6, 1927
Died March 26, 2003
Social scientist and U.S. senator
"Religion and race define the next stage in the evolution of the American peoples."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan had two careers: the first as a professor and sociologist, and the second as a public servant and U.S. senator from New York. As a sociologist, Moynihan created a stir in 1963 when he and coauthor Nathan Glazer (1923–) published Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City, challenging the idea that as different nationalities came to the United States, they melded together to create a new "American" identity.
As a politician, Moynihan was a Democrat, but he held positions under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He often used his academic work in trying to solve difficult social problems, such as the endurance of poverty among African Americans. As a result, Moynihan was difficult to pin down as a conservative or a...
(The entire section is 2210 words.)
Born May 9, 1947
Chief executive officer of a leading clothes and fashion accessories firm
"Respect yourself and your vocation. Respect is the result of passion. You cannot expect to get respectful reactions from people if what you are doing doesn't originate from deep within your soul."
Josie Natori has been an immensely successful business-woman in the diverse fields of investment banking and fashion. Natori made a major change in her life at the age of thirty—leaving the security of a high-paying position in banking to start a business, the Natori Company, importing crafts and clothes from the Philippines. Acting on a comment by a purchase agent, one who selects clothes that a store will sell, that a blouse Natori was selling would be more attractive as a nightshirt, Natori started a line of women's clothes that can be worn as intimate apparel or high fashion, as sleepwear or outer garments. Founded in 1977 and still thriving over twenty-five years later, the Natori Company has annual sales that exceed...
(The entire section is 1927 words.)
Born February 18, 1933
Artist, writer, and performer
"When I first came out there was a lot of xenophobia [fear of foreigners] and suspicion because I was an Oriental woman standing with John [Lennon]. It scared people, and I understood that in some way. Now I'm 70, and people could say 'She's old' and be intolerant, but they haven't…. It's nice not to feel like an outsider. It's opened my life up."
When Yoko Ono turned seventy in 2003, she was enjoying more popular and critical respect than at any time during her more than forty years as an artist. A large retrospective exhibit of her artwork, called Transmodern Yoko, was on a world tour. Songs she released twenty years earlier had been remixed by contemporary artists and were playing regularly at dance clubs. "People think that their world will get smaller as they get older," she told Steve Dougherty of People magazine. "My experience is just the opposite. Your senses become more acute. You start to blossom."
Her career began with a small art-crowd following interested in...
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Pei, I. M.
Born April 26, 1917
Canton (now Guangzhou), China
Architect famous for designing museums and other structures
"At one level my goal is simply to give people pleasure in being in a space and walking around it. But … architecture can reach a level where it influences people to want to do something more with their lives. That is the challenge that I find most interesting."
When I. M. Pei retired from full-time work in the 1990s, he was one of the most famous architects of the twentieth century. His building designs feature simple, geometrical forms, like triangles and rectangles. These forms take on dramatic flourishes in Pei's buildings by his use of glass walls, distinctively colored stone, and other eye-catching materials. Pei approaches each project as a unique opportunity to match the look of the building with the purpose for which it will be used and to ensure the building blends with the surrounding environment.
Inspired by gardens and buildings
Ieoh Ming Pei was born on April 26, 1917, in Canton (now Guangzhou), China. He was...
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Born March 24, 1733
Died February 6, 1804
Scientist, philosopher, teacher, minister
"Truth can never have a fair chance of being discovered, or propagated, without the most perfect freedom of inquiry and debate."
Joseph Priestley is credited for being one of the founding fathers of the science known as chemistry. In addition to discovering oxygen, he conducted experiments with fixed air (carbon dioxide), which eventually led to the development of carbonated beverages, or soda pop. His good friend Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) aroused his interest in electricity, and it was Priestley who discovered that graphite is a useful electrical conductor. In addition to his scientific interests, Priestley was a published philosopher whose beliefs differed from the religious majority of the day. As a result, he and his family were outcasts, subjected to ridicule and physical violence. Priestley brought to America a new religion—Unitarianism—although the movement would not be...
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Born April 10, 1847
Died October 29, 1911
Charleston, South Carolina
Publisher who created mass-circulation newspapers that strongly affected government policy
"Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery."
Joseph Pulitzer is considered the inventor of the modern newspaper as a part of the mass media, which today refers to an entertainment or information source, including print and electronic sources, designed to appeal to a very large audience rather than to a narrower audience of people with special interests. He turned newspapers, which had been largely devoted to political parties and causes, into an entertainment medium. By doing so, Pulitzer achieved political influence for newspapers that had not existed before.
Young man overcomes early odds
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Born March 4, 1888
Died March 31, 1931
College football player and coach
"[A football star must have] brains, courage, self-restraint, coordination, fire of nervous energy and an unselfish point of view. Of course, he must have a bit of speed and a bit of physique, but then these things are taken for granted."
As a legendary player and coach for the University of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne helped to change the game of football and increase its popularity. A player from 1911 to 1913, he helped lead Notre Dame to three straight undefeated seasons. The 1913 team revolutionized football by using the forward pass more frequently; rushing, or running, the football had been the standard and dominant way football was played since American football was introduced three decades earlier. As a coach from 1918 to 1930, Rockne led his team to five more undefeated seasons, and Notre Dame won nearly 90 percent of its games under his leadership.
Rockne's teams played before overflow crowds...
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Roebling, John Augustus
Born June 12, 1806
Died July 22, 1869
Brooklyn, New York
Engineer and bridge designer whose most famous work is New York City's Brooklyn Bridge
"As a great work of art and as a successful specimen of advanced bridge engineering, [the Brooklyn Bridge] will forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and wealth of that community…."
Carving a European-style country out of the North American continent in the nineteenth century was a mammoth undertaking. A key element was building transportation routes across the wild, uncharted territory. Bridges were a vital, if often overlooked, element in both water and surface transportation. John Augustus Roebling, an immigrant from Germany, made two major contributions to the developing nation's transportation: He developed steel ropes, or cables, and he developed the nation's first suspension bridges, which could span longer distances than could bridges made with other technologies.
The story of how Roebling came to be America's first...
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Rölvaag, O. E.
Born April 22, 1876
Died November 5, 1931
Novelist who focused on the lives of immigrants in Minnesota and South Dakota
"[There] will scarcely be a life history which it would not be interesting to look at if it were singled out for scrutiny. Human portraiture has no end."
O. E. Rölvaag is best known for his novels centered on the experiences of Norwegian Americans living in rural areas of Minnesota and South Dakota. His main characters face conflicts as they try to maintain their self-identity while adapting to new social and physical surroundings. Drawing on his own experiences, Rölvaag created many characters who welcome their new world while struggling with spiritual and cultural ties to their past.
Born in a fishing village
O. E. Rölvaag was born Ole Edvart Pedersen on April 22, 1876, one of seven children of Peder Benjamin Jakobsen and Ellerine Pedersdatter Vaag. He was born in the family's cottage in a small fishing village...
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Born November 1, 1935
Died September 25, 2003
New York, New York
Political, social, and arts critic and commentator; contributor to Palestine's Declaration of Statehood (1988)
"Palestine is a thankless cause…. How many friends avoid the subject? How many colleagues want nothing of Palestine's controversy? How many liberals have time for Bosnia and Somalia and South Africa and Nicaragua and human and civil rights everywhere on Earth, but not for Palestine and the Palestinians?"
Edward Said was the most visible supporter in the United States for Palestinian people. He helped author the English-language version of the Palestine Declaration of Statehood in 1988, through which the Palestine Liberation Organization sought to establish a nation of Palestinian people. They had been without a country since 1947, living in lands occupied first by Jordan and Egypt, and then after 1967 by Israel. In 1991, however, Said resigned from his position on the Palestine National Committee because he was dissatisfied with the Palestine...
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Born July 30, 1947
Governor of California, movie star, and champion bodybuilder
"For the people to win, politics as usual must lose."
"Do we want philosophy or action? I want action."Arnold Schwarzenegger made that statement in reply to a question posed by a journalist about whether an after-school program he championed would put the government in the position of replacing moms. The statement reflects Schwarzenegger's style: He sets a goal and works tirelessly and aggressively toward it, adding charm and a knack for self-promotion as he undertakes quests for ultimate titles: he has been Mr. Universe, King of the Box Office, Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and Governor of California. Schwarzenegger has been an action hero in movies and in real life.
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, in Graz, Austria, and raised in the nearby village of Thal. His father, Gustav, was a police officer. Austria at the time was still recovering from the...
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Born June 27, 1936
Military leader; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
"The Polish underground occupied our apartment, and shortly after that the Germans bombed it. With our apartment destroyed, we lived by just moving around…. We survived by going from cellar to cellar. Most often the only way to get anyplace was through the sewer lines…. A piece of bread during this period was like a holiday meal."
General John Shalikashvili was the first person born outside the United States to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The chairman of this group of military commanders is the lead advisor to the president. "General Shali," as President Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001) referred to him when announcing Shalikashvili's appointment, served in the U.S. military for almost forty years. He was commissioned as an officer in 1959, served in the Vietnam War (1954–75), commanded the airlift of food to Kurdish refugees in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War (1991), and played a significant role in peace negotiations among warring...
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Born June 9, 1768
Died April 20, 1835
Webster, Rhode Island
Industrialist who brought secret designs of early textile machinery to the United States
"I understand you have taught us how to spin."
U.S. president Andrew Jackson, who called Slater "father of American manufactures"
When Samuel Slater landed in the United States in 1789, he brought with him detailed plans to make automated machinery used to spin yarn from cotton, equipment that was a key element in launching the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The Industrial Revolution is the historical process of replacing traditional hand-crafted methods of manufacturing with complex machinery using energy sources besides muscle power, such as steam engines or waterwheels. Slater did not pack the plans in his baggage, which would have violated English law. He brought the designs in his head. After years of working with industrial equipment in England, he had memorized the thousands of details of how the machines...
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Statue of Liberty
Built (work completed) in 1884
Unveiled in 1886
New York Harbor, New York
America's symbol of democracy and welcome to immigrants
"From her beacon-hand / Glows world-wide welcome …"
In New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, an elegant lady holding a torch to light the way for hundreds of thousands of European immigrants, is a stirring symbol of both the United States and its welcoming embrace of "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The image of the statue is widely reproduced as a celebration of the American political system and the country's history as a collection of immigrants who together built a new nation on the North American continent. Like written documents such as the Declaration of Independence (1776) declaring that "all men are created equal," the Statue of Liberty has a long history behind its symbolism.
The Statue of Liberty began as a joint vision in the eyes of two Frenchmen: sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904) and politician...
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Born January 6, 1914
Died February 6, 1991
Los Angeles, California
Television star and producer; founder, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital
"That's my epitaph. It's right on the cornerstone [of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital]: Danny Thomas, founder."
Danny Thomas was a television star of the 1950s and 1960s and a producer of such hit television series as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, and The Mod Squad. His success in television allowed him to keep a vow he made in prayer in 1940, when he was struggling to support his family. Learning that St. Jude was the patron saint of hopeless causes, Thomas prayed to the saint, asking for direction. In return for the saint's help, Thomas vowed to build a shrine for St. Jude. Soon afterward, he had his big break as a performer at a nightclub in Chicago, Illinois. He won a regular contract and went on to become a major star on radio and television. In 1962, after funding the construction he dedicated the St. Jude's...
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Tocqueville, Alexis de
Born July 19, 1805
Died April 16, 1859
French writer who first defined the meaning of American as a new nationality
"[Americans] seem to me stinking with national conceit; it pierces through all their courtesy."
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat, or member of the upper class, sent to the United States in 1831 to study American prisons. He kept a detailed diary of his nine-month visit, and later wrote a book, Democracy in America. Tocqueville's journals and book described the ordinary, day-today aspects of American society. He thought that democracy could explain the many differences between the habits of Americans and the habits of Europeans, but it might be just as accurate to say that American society reflected the differences that emerged as a result of emigration. His writing addressed the issue of just what it meant to emigrate from a European society to another society in North America.
A young aristocrat in France...
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Born c. 1820
Dorchester County, Maryland
Died March 10, 1913
Auburn, New York
African American abolitionist who helped slaves emigrate from the United States to freedom in Canada using the Underground Railroad
"I was a stranger in a strange land."
For millions of people from Europe, and later Asia, the United States was a beacon of freedom and opportunity. For millions of African Americans living in the United States from 1619 to 1863, however, the United States was a prison, a place of enslavement from which the only escape in the middle of the nineteenth century was Canada. Harriet Tubman was the most prominent African American who helped slaves make the dangerous journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
Tubman made an estimated twenty round trips from the North to the South, and back north to Canada during the 1850s, a time when escaping slaves were subject to arrest and forced return to bondage, even in the nonslave states of the North. For several years, Tubman, herself an escaped slave,...
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Born February 20, 1920
Died March 24, 1990
Pioneer of computer-related innovations
"Progress does not follow a straight line; the future is not a mere projection of trends in the present. Rather, it is revolutionary. It overturns the conventional wisdom of the present, which often conceals or ignores the clues to the future."
Avisionary inventor and industrialist, Dr. An Wang was a pioneer of the computer age. From devising magnetic-memory cores in the 1940s that greatly increased the amount of data that could be stored in a computer and making the data easier and faster to retrieve, to introducing desktop word processors in the 1970s, Wang was a leading contributor in the evolution of computers from room-sized to desktop systems. He founded Wang Laboratories in Boston, Massachusetts, which became the largest minority-owned business in the United States and made him a billionaire. He was estimated to be the fifth richest man in America by Forbes magazine in 1984. Wang gave generously...
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Born September 30, 1928
Writer, teacher, and human rights activist
"Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe."
Elie Wiesel (pronounced ELL-ee vee-ZEL) is one of the world's best-known human rights activists. Wiesel is a survivor of the Nazi death camps—concentration camps run by the Nazis, a German political party which, under the direction of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), seized control of Germany in 1933 and was responsible for the destruction of millions of European Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other minorities. In the 1940s, Wiesel used his experiences to write more than forty books dealing with topics such as peace, evil versus good, and human nature. In 1978, Wiesel was appointed chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust (the systematic murder of more than six million European Jews by the...
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