Diverse American Pioneers Library
Arts: Author, Musician, Playwright, Actor
Alexandre Dumas, also known as Alexandre Dumas père, was a French writer. His works have been translated into many languages, and he is one of the most widely read French authors.
Movies: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask,
Famous Quotes: “There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
" Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope.”
Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.
Famous Quote: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act, a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory.
Famous Quotes: “Words are your business, boy. Not just the word. Words are everything. The key to the rock, the answer to the question.”
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO, a graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s, where rap, punk, and street art coalesced into early hip-hop music culture.
Famous quote: I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.
Political and Community Leaders
Sojourner Truth was an American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.
Famous Quote: “If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”
Dorothy Irene Height was an American civil rights and women's rights activist. She focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness.
Famous Quotes: “ Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.”
“Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.”
Harriet Tubman - Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
Famous Quote: Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972). Her motto and title of her autobiography--Unbossed and Unbought—illustrates her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.
Famous Quote: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”.
W.E. B Dubois was a Harvard studied American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor.
Famous Quote: “Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men”.
John Robert Lewis was an American politician, statesman, and civil rights activist and leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966. Wikipedia
Only eight months into his presidency, Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his work to advance dialogue among racial, ethnic, and religious lines and his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. At the onset of his time in office, President Obama called for renewed relations between the Muslim and Western worlds, and put a plan in motion to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. He also spoke on the issues of human rights and climate change.
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's first African-American justice.
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. - African-American inventor, businessman, and community leader. His most notable inventions were a three-position traffic signal and a smoke hood notably used in a 1916 tunnel construction disaster rescue.
Famous Quote: “If you can be the best, then why not try to be the best?”
Patricia Bath (born November 4, 1942) is an American doctor and inventor. Born in New York City, she was living in Los Angeles when she received her first patent, becoming the first African American female doctor to patent a medical invention. Bath's patent was for a method for removing cataract lenses using laser devices to make the procedure more accurate. She was an American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic. She was an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery.
Famous Quote: “My love of humanity and passion for helping others inspired me to become a physician."
Lewis Howard Latimer was an American inventor and patent draftsman for the patents of the incandescent light bulb, among other inventions.
Famous Quote: “We create our future, by well improving present opportunities: however few and small they be.”
Granville Tailer Woods was an inventor who held more than 60 patents in the U.S. He was the first African American mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. Self-taught, he concentrated most of his work on trains and streetcars.
George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century
Marie Van Brittan Brown was an American inventor. She was the inventor of the home security system in 1966, along with her husband Albert Brown. In the same year they jointly applied for a patent, which was granted in 1969. Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York; she died there at the age of 76.
Elijah J. McCoy was a Canadian-born inventor and engineer of African American descent who was notable for his 57 US patents, most having to do with the lubrication of steam engines. Born free in Canada, he came to the United States as a young child when his family returned in 1847, becoming a U.S.
Madam C.J. Walker was an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Famous Quote: “I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment to hundreds of women of my race.”
Movers and Shakers: Engineers
Men of Steel -- In 1863, construction began on the transcontinental railroad—1,776 miles of tracks that would form a link between America's West and East coasts. While thousands of European immigrants worked on the westbound Pacific Union rail, there was not enough manpower to build the Central Pacific line, which snaked through the rugged Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1865, Central Pacific officials hired 50 Chinese laborers to lay down a section of track. Their work was so well done, they decided to recruit more Chinese men. In the end, nearly 12,000 Chinese railroad workers were hired to perform dangerous work that white men refused to do. They dammed rivers, dug ditches, and blasted tunnels through mountain ranges. Hundreds of men died on the job. The Chinese also faced discrimination because they looked different from the white workers. Although they often outperformed other laborers, they were paid less. Despite all of the hardships, the Chinese laborers never quit. Thanks to their hard work, America became the first continent to have a coast-to-coast railroad.
To see photographs of the building of the railroad, click on the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour
According to the Smithsonian Institution, Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman astronaut. She went on four missions with NASA, spending 978 hours in outer space. She also added co-inventor to her resume when she helped develop three patents in the field of optics. Her inventions now help NASA process information collected on missions.
Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license. She earned her pilot license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first black person to earn an international pilot's license
Guatemalan-born Luis von Ahn is regarded as one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing. However, he is most well-known for two significant contributions to modern technology—the reCAPTCHA system and Duolingo.
You may not know what reCAPTCHA is, but you see it almost every time you sign into a new website. It’s those “I am not a robot” checkboxes and distorted text images that you have to complete before accessing certain pages. Though annoying at times, reCAPTCHA helps computers differentiate between robots and human beings, keeping internet users safe from malware and spam.
Luis von Ahn is also the co-founder of Duolingo, a completely free app that has caused major buzz among those wanting to learn another language. The app provides free language education covering 33 languages and serving about 300 million users worldwide according to NBC News.
Raised in Guatemala, Ahn received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and obtained his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He recently won the prestigious Lemelson-MIT prize and currently works full-time as the CEO of Duolingo.
Born in Uruguay, Alejandro Zaffaroni was one of the most innovative and impactful pioneers in the history of biotechnology.
His revolutionary work is something many of us benefit from directly on a regular basis. What exactly do we have to thank him for? Well, Zaffaroni helped create multiple biotechnology companies that are responsible for many brilliant medical breakthroughs. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Zaffaroni played a major role in the development of “extended-release tablets, implantable devices, transdermal patches (notably the NicoDerm CQ nicotine patch), and inhalers, such as Adasuve.” He also served as the head of research at a pharmaceutical company that developed one of the earliest effective birth control pills.
Even after his death in 2014, Zaffaroni’s work continues to live on. His legacy is lasting, and his inventions are helping humans have a higher quality of life each day.
LifeSavers: Doctors, Nurses and Scientist
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, born Rebecca Davis, was an American physician and author. After studying at the New England Female Medical College, in 1864 she became the first African-American woman to become a doctor of medicine in the United States.
A Political Pioneer
Dalip Singh Saund made history in 1956 when he became the first Asian elected to Congress. Born in India in 1899, Saund came to the United States in 1920 to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a doctorate degree in mathematics. Despite being highly educated, Saund discovered that his career options were limited due to anti-immigrant feelings in the U.S. As a result, he worked in farming for the next 20 years. At the same time, Saund began fighting discriminatory laws against Indians. In 1949, he and other Indians finally earned the right to become U.S. citizens. In 1956, Saund left the fields of California for the halls of Congress. He served three terms in the House of Representatives, working to improve U.S.-Asian relations. Saund's political career was cut short when he suffered a stroke while campaigning for a fourth term. Still, he opened the door for Asian Americans to enter U.S. politics.
To find our more about Dalip Singh Saund, go to http://www.saund.org/dalipsaund/
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Perfection on Ice -- For nearly a decade, Michelle Kwan had been skating circles around the competition. The California native bounced back from a disappointing finish at the 2002 Winter Olympics to win her seventh U.S. women's figure skating title in January and her fifth world title in March. Her career 37 perfect scores are the most of any skater in history. When competing, Kwan always wears a Chinese good luck charm around her neck. The charm was a gift from her grandmother. Kwan began skating at age five and won her first competition two years later. Now, at age 22, she is a skating legend, who is admired for both her athleticism and grace on the ice.
King of the Waves --Duke Kahanamoku came to be known as the father of international surfing, but the Hawaiian native made his first splash as a swimmer at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Born in Honolulu in 1890, Kahanamoku struck gold by setting a world record in the 100-meter free-style and earned a silver medal in the 200-meter relay. He won two more golds at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, a silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and a bronze at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Kahanamoku's swimming and surfing talents caught the attention of Hollywood, and over the course of nine years, he appeared in nearly 30 movies. Kahanamoku went on to serve as sheriff for the City and County of Honolulu for 26 years. When the legendary swimmer and surfer died at the age of 77, he was remembered for his athletic talent and sportsmanship.
To find our more about Duke Kahanamoku, go to the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation
Carter Godwin Woodson was an American historian, author, journalist, and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora, including African-American history.