The Short Biographies of Influential American People

One More River to Cross

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks was the first American to die for the cause of independence. He was born a slave in 1725, in Massachusetts. He was an expert livestock trader. On March 5, 1770, he left dinner after hearing strange fire bells. He then gathered an angry mob and went to where a British soldier was staying. The soldier shot into the crowd killing Attucks and injuring other civilians. Thousands attended his funeral.

Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker was the first American woman to earn 1 million dollars. On December 23, 1867, she was born into a racist society. She grew up working in the laundry mats, trying to invent a hair product for regrowth. A black man told the ingredients in a dream she had one night. She set up her own business and sold her products worldwide. In 1919, she died of kidney failure. Her business is still running today.

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson was one of the first two people to reach the North Pole.

He was born in Maryland, in 1866. He had many jobs by age 14 in Baltimore. He worked on a ship at age 19; he sailed around China. Then he met another captain. They made trips up north to reach the pole and met many disasters. He reached the pole in 1909 and he died in 1955.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was born February 17, 1902, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age 6, she joined her church’s junior choir. From high school on she sang at churches, clubs, and organizations.

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She had won a contest in New York a few years later. She traveled to Europe to help herself with her opera pronouncing. She was very famous in Europe. She had performed in the White House for President Roosevelt. She set up funds for young musicians with her money from contests. She was a very good singer until 1993 when she died.

Dr. Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden is the most celebrated black American artist of the 20th century. He was born on September 2, 1912, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He became the organist at his church at a young age. After high school, he went to Boston University to study medicine. He was an excellent pitcher. After a year he transferred to New York University. He drew political comics for newspapers. He graduated in 1935 with a math degree. He liked art very much. In 1936 he went to the Manhattan Art School for one and a half years. He traveled to Paris in 1949 to continue his art career. He opened shows and museums to show all his work. He was a success all over the world. He died in 1988 of bone cancer.

Frannie Lou Hamer

Frannie Lou Hamer reached national fame with her courage and determination against discrimination. She was born in 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. At age 6 after surviving polio, she started working in the fields. She was a married sharecropper at age 27. She worked as a maid. When she registered to vote her owner kicked her out. She became a major leader of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). In 1970, Ruleville had IFrannie Lou Hamer Dayi for her accomplishments. She died of cancer on March 15, 1977.

Eddie Robinson

In 1986, Eddie Robinson became the most Iwinningesta, football coach. He was born on February 12, 1919, in Jackson, Louisiana. As a child, he had worked on his farm. In high school, he played many sports. For his football skills, he got a scholarship to Leland College. He graduated in 1941. By age 22 he was a football coach at Grambling College. By 1949, he sent over 200 players to the NFL. In 1968 he started to travel around the U.S. with his team making money. He traveled to Japan and all over the world. In his 55 years at Grambling, he has broken many records.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm was very important during the civil rights movement. She started IMs. because she thought people shouldn’t be judged by if they are married or not. She was born in 1924, in Brooklyn, New York. She got good grades in high school; she graduated in 1942 and then majored in sociology at Brooklyn College. She took night classes while she was a teacher so she could get her master’s degree in education. In 1964 she ran for state assembly and won. In 1968 she ran for Congress and won. In 1972 she ran for president of a major party after being encouraged by all her friends and colleagues. She did not win. She retired from politics in 1972 and left congress in 1982. Then she started to teach politics.

Malcolm X

Malcolm was born on May 19, 1925. As a child he shined shoes. When he was older he became a hustler; he sold drugs and robbed people. He was sent to prison in 1946. While in prison, he read about slavery and blacks. He turned to Islam and in 1952 he was out of jail. He was against nonviolent civil acts. All his ways were related to Islam and he compared everything to Islam. His leader, Mr. Muhammad, named him the first national minister. He spoke for the cause of blacks. Years later he went to talk on stage, then two men ran down the aisle firing at him and killing him. He never got to pursue his dream of a white and black organization.

Ronald McNair

Ronald died when the Challenger space shuttle crashed. He was born on October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. He was very good in school. He went to North Carolina A&T. took classes at the local YMCA and went to MIT. He then graduated and continued to take physics at MIT. He worked in research labs, and during these years President Kennedy started the space program. He was trained as an astronaut. He flew in Challenger and orbited the earth. It was to fly on January 28, 1986, as it launched it went up in a fireball. He and all the astronauts were killed. His family set up a fund for people wanting to attend college. MIT named its space program after Ronald McNair.

Ralph Bunche

In 1950, Ralph Bunche was the first black American to win the Nobel peace prize, for bringing Israel and its neighbors together. He was born on August 7, 1904, in Detroit, Michigan. He had excellent grades, so he went to UCLA while working two jobs. After UCLA he went to Harvard and got his master’s degree in government. In 1934 he got his Ph.D. in political science. In 1944 during World War 2, he was the first black American to hold a desk job. After he helped to organize the United Nations, he served as a guide for Africans. He died in 1965 from bad health.

Charles R. Drew

Charles R. Drew saved thousands of lives by finding out how to keep blood stored for a long time. He was born on June 3, 1904, in Washington DC. He was a good athlete all his life. He went to Amherst College in Amherst Massachusetts. He graduated in 1926 and taught biology. After getting money for medical school, he went to McGill University in Montreal. He worked at hospitals and helped in World War 2. He won many awards. He was the first black to get a doctorate in science for forming a blood bank. He worked in surgery. In 1950 when driving home at two a.m., he fell asleep and tipped his car over, and was killed instantly. No one else was killed.

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The Short Biographies of Influential American People. (2022, Aug 07). Retrieved from

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