John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, is referred to as the "Father of National Parks." One biographer, Donald Worster, says he believed Muir's mission was "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism."
Muhammad Ali dumped his slave name when he became a Muslim and subsequently regained the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship after having it taken away for refusing the military draft. One of his notable quotes: "I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a n-word." Many would agree that Ali was more well known and loved around the world than any person ever before or after, whether politician, pope, philosopher or general.
Mother Jones, labor and community organizer. She helped coordinate major strikes and was a cofounder of the Industrial Workers of the Worl d. In 1902 she was called "the most dangerous woman in America" for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against deplorable mine-working conditions. She was a fiery orator and fearless organizer for the mine workers during the first two decades of the 20th century. "I have been in jail more than once and I expect to go again. If you are too cowardly to fight, I will fight," she said.
John Trudellwas a Native American author, poet, actor, musician and political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribestakeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement. In 1979. shortly after he burned an American flag in protest, his pregnant wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in a suspicious fire at the home of his parents-in-law.
Martin Luther King, originally vilified as an "uppity black Communist", is today honored as perhaps our leading civil-rights leader. Assassinated in 1968 after making a bit of progress.
Ned Ludd, the figure blamed for any and all destruction of machinery when the Weaver's Guild was fighting mechanization of the trade. People who understand how much machinery can hurt workers and society in the absence of social controls are called Luddites, a label I proudly carry.
Cesar Chavez went from farm worker to co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union. His aggressive, but nonviolent, approach gained him nationwide support.
Woody Guthrie, a singer and songwriter who chronicled the plight of the average American during the depression. It said on his guitar, "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS." He even wrote songs bashing one of his racist landlords, Fred Trump, father of our 'orange alligator in chief.'
Eugene Debbs, a socialist labor leader and five-time socialist presidential candidate, once got six percent of the vote. He formed the American Railway Union and was a founding member of the Wobblies. Imprisoned twice, once over the Pullman strike and once for denouncing American participation in WWI.
Geronimo, an Apache war leader who was never considered a chief. He led raids against both the Mexicans and Americans in the Southwest who were encroaching on Apache territory. His active role was from 1850 to 1886 after which he remained a prisoner of war, loosely confined at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where he died in 1909.
Crazy Horse, a skilled tactician and leader of war parties trying to protect the Oglala Lakota from encroachment by the US. He was never captured or defeated in battle, but was murdered while negotiating a formal surrender. In the view of author Chris Hedges, "there are few resistance figures in American history as noble as Crazy Horse," while adding that "his ferocity of spirit remains a guiding light for all who seek lives of defiance." A monument to him and his resistance, much more grand than Mt. Rushmore, is being carved in a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Malcolm X had a horrific childhood in which white supremacists threatened and possibly killed his father. His mother was cheated out of insurance money and the family fell apart. Malcolm went from petty crime to prison where he converted to Islam. His strength of character and oratory skills gave him a leadership role in the black community that sent shudders through the oppressive whites. Malcolm X continued to mature as a leader and gained worldwide influence before he was assassinated.
Florence Nightingale revolutionized nursing and patient care, often buying supplies out of her own pocket, fought tooth and nail against arrogant doctors and bureaucrats who stubbornly allowed preventable deaths due to unsanitary conditions and poor food. Used statistical methods to prove her case and influence health care laws.
George Orwell, democratic socialist, influential writer about totalitarianism.
John Lennon, British singer and song writer with the Beatles, the world's most commercially successful band. Singing peace to power, hounded by the FBI for believing in peace and love--contrary to the US love affair with war and murder used to steal other country's assets--was shot in the back four times and killed by a deranged Christian.
Mahatma Gandhi, a leader of the movement seeking independence from the British in India. Gandhi pioneered the use of non-violent civil disobedience for gaining relief from political repression. He also used fasting to near death to draw attention to political wrongs.
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