American History

The history of the U.S. started with the arrival of Native Americans in North America around 15,000 BC. Numerous indigenous cultures formed, and many disappeared in the 1500s. The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 started the European colonization of the Americas. Most colonies were formed after 1600. By the 1760s, the thirteen British colonies contained 2.5 million people along the Atlantic Coast east of the Appalachian Mountains. After defeating France, the British government imposed a series of taxes, including the Stamp Act of 1765, rejecting the colonists' constitutional argument that new taxes needed their approval. Resistance to these taxes, especially the Boston Tea Party in 1773, led to Parliament issuing punitive laws designed to end self-government in Massachusetts. Armed conflict began in 1775 and the following year, it won independence. A Constitution that was adopted in 1789, and in 1791, a Bill of Rights was added. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase doubled its size. A second and final war with Britain in 1812, solidified national pride.

Using manifest destiny, U.S. territory expanded to the Pacific Coast. Westward expansion was driven by a quest for inexpensive land for farmers and slave owners. The expansion of slavery was increasingly controversial and fueled political and constitutional battles, which were resolved by compromises. Slavery was abolished in all states north of the Mason–Dixon line by 1804, but the South continued to profit from the institution, mostly from cotton production. In 1861, Southern slave states rebelled and created the Confederacy, leading to the Civil War. Defeat of the Confederates in 1865 led to the impoverishment of the South and the abolition of slavery. In the Reconstruction era following the war, legal and voting rights were extended to freed slaves. However, in 1877, white Democrats regained their power in the South, often by paramilitary suppression of voting They passed Jim Crow laws to maintain white supremacy, as well as new disenfranchising state constitutions that prevented most African Americans and many Poor Whites from voting. This continued until the gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the passage of federal legislation to enforce uniform constitutional rights for all citizens. (Text adapted from Wikipedia, cropped flag from the City of Grafton, IL.)

Legacy Stories from the Americans All Heritage Honor Roll

We are pleased to host and share these legacy stories created by honorees’ family, friends and associates. They, like us, appreciate that heritage and culture are an integral part of our nation's social fabric and want to help students participate effectively in our nation's economy, workforce and democracy.

Language
State
Last Name of Individual
First Name of Individual
Group name

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (? - ?)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created under President Jimmy Carter by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979.

Robert S. McNamara District of Columbia (June 9, 1916 - July 6, 2009) Irish, Ireland, Businessman, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Defense issues, including the missile gap, played a prominent role in the campaign of 1960. President-elect John F. Kennedy, very much concerned with defense matters although lacking former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's mastery of the issues, first offered the post of secretary of defense to former secretary Robert A. Lovett. When Lovett declined, Kennedy chose Robert S. McNamara on Lovett's recommendation.

Lt. Gen. Harold Gregory "Hal" Moore Colorado (February 13, 1922 - February 10, 2017) Veteran, Vietnam War, Author

Born in Bardstown, Kentucky, Lt. Gen. Harold Gregory “Hal” Moore moved to Washington, DC, where he completed his high school education. He attended The George Washington University (GWU) for two years before receiving his appointment to the United States Military Academy.

Admiral Chester William Nimitz Sr. Texas (February 24, 1885 - February 20, 1966) German, Veteran, Navy Fleet Admiral, Fredericksburg

Chester William Nimitz, who guided Allied forces to victory in the Pacific in World War II, was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, on February 24, 1885, the son of Chester Bernard and Anna (Henke) Nimitz. His father died before he was born. During his early years his grandfather Charles H. Nimitz, a German immigrant, former seaman and owner of the Nimitz Hotel, served as the father figure whom Nimitz credited with shaping his character and values.

Alice Stokes Paul New Jersey (January 11, 1885 - July 9, 1977) American History, Discrimination, Feminist, 19th, Nineteenth Amendment, Quaker, Suffrage Movement, Suffragist, Women's Rights Activist

A vocal leader of the twentieth century women's suffrage movement, Alice Stokes Paul advocated for and helped secure passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. She next authored the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, which has yet to be adopted. Her life symbolizes the long struggle for justice in the U.S and around the world. Her vision was the ordinary notion that women and men should be equal partners in society.

Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Nebraska (c.1865 - c.1915) Native American, French Canadian, Physician, Omaha Reservation

Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first person to receive federal aid for professional education, and the first American Indian woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. In her remarkable career, she served more than 1,300 people over 450 square miles, giving financial advice and resolving family disputes as well as providing medical care at all hours of the day and night.

Zebulon Montgomery Pike New Jersey (January 5, 1779 - April 27, 1813) Army Veteran, Western Explorer

Zebulon Montgomery Pike, United States Army officer and Western explorer, was born on January 5, 1779, at Lamberton, now a part of Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Isabella (Brown) and Zebulon Pike, a veteran of the American Revolution and a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. After receiving some education in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, young Pike entered his father's regiment, the Third United States Infantry, as a cadet.

Honorable Ronald Wilson Reagan: Political Career California (February 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004) Irish Catholic, Ireland, Scotland, Veteran, Actor, Politician, Governor of California, President of the U.S.

As a result of his travels on behalf of General Electric (who had hired him as a home office goodwill ambassador), he became convinced that big business was not the problem in the economy, it was big government. As a result, more Republican groups began to extend him speaking invitations. In the fall of 1962, he officially joined the Republican party. In 1964, he acted in his final film, playing a villain for the first and only time in “The Killers.”

Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson New York (January 31, 1919 - October 24, 1972) African-American, Baseball Player, Baseball Hall of Fame, Businessman, Color Line

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” This, more than his on-the-field statistics, can be viewed as his enduring legacy. He was born in Cairo, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers, the youngest of five children, and his mother moved the family to Pasadena, California, the following year. He grew up in relative poverty and the prejudice the family encountered . . .

Bayard Rustin New Jersey (March 17, 1912 - August 24, 1987) Activist, African American, Athlete, Black, Civil Rights, Desegregation, Economic Justice, Freedom Ride, Gay, Globalist, Jim Crow, March on Washington, Musician, Nonviolence, Pacifist, Prejudice, Quaker, Radical, Socialist, Strategist, Voting Rights

For more than 50 years, Bayard Rustin was a nonviolent activist and leading strategist in the struggle for human rights and economic justice. As a gay man with radical politics, he was often marginalized despite his major contributions to the struggle for African-American civil rights and his work for peace and disarmament. He was born in West Chester, PA . . . 

Augustus F. "Gus" Sherman New York (c.1866 - c.1925) Protestant, Registry Clerk, Ellis Island, Photographer

Augustus Sherman worked as a registry clerk with the Immigration Division of Ellis Island from 1892 until his death in 1925. Not much is known about his private life. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1866 and came to New York in 1892 to begin working at Ellis Island.

Chief Standing Bear Nebraska (c.1829 - c.1908) Native-American, Chief, Ponca Tribe, Standing Bear

Chief Standing Bear, head of the Ponca Native American Tribe, successfully argued in 1879 in the U.S. District Court in Omaha that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton New York (November 12, 1815 - October 26, 1902) Abolitionist, Anthony, Anti-Slavery, Declaration-of Sentiments, Equal Rights, Feminist, Our-Girls, Quaker, Seneca-Falls, Suffrage, Temperance, Women’s Bible, Women’s-Rights, Voting

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her growing family lived in Seneca Falls from 1847 to 1862. During that time Stanton helped organize the 1848 First Woman’s Rights Convention and launched the reform movement for women’s rights to which she dedicated the rest of her life.

Emma Beatrice Tenayuca Texas (December 21, 1916 - July 23, 1999) Hispanic, Mexican-Comanche, Civil Rights Activist, Labor Organizer, Educator, Communist, Pecan Strike

Emma Beatrice Tenayuca, Mexican American labor organizer, civil rights activist, and educator was a central figure in the radical labor movement in Texas during the 1930s and a leading member of the Workers Alliance of America and Communist Party of Texas. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in organizing the largest strike in San Antonio history, the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike of 1938.

Charles Thomson Pennsylvania (November 29, 1729 - August 16, 1824) Irish, Ireland, Politician, Revolutionary War, Designer

The name of Charles Thomson is not as familiar today as it was in the early days of America when it was widely known and respected. Born in County Derry, Ireland, Thomson was one of the most influential men of the entire American Revolution. He served as Secretary of the Continental Congress for over 15 years and was the Chief Executive of the American Government several times between 1776 and 1789. He also designed both sides of the Great Seal of the United States

Sojourner Truth Michigan (c.1797 - November 26, 1883) African-American, Methodist, Abolitionist, Author, Women’s Rights Activist, Civil War, Detroit Housing Project

Sojourner Truth was born c. 1797 as “Isabella Baumfree” to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, slaves on a Dutch settlement owned by Colonel Johannes Hardenbaugh, in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York. One of 12 children, she spent her early years serving various masters and never learned to read and write. slave, Thomas, owned by the Dumonts.

Harriet "Minty" Tubman Maryland (c.1822 - June 14, 1914) African American, Underground Railroad, conductor, abolitionist, Union spy, civil war, slavery, suffrage, scout, nurse, civil rights

Born, c.1822, into slavery on a slave-breeding plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore, she was named Araminta “Minty” Ross by her enslaved parents, Ben Ross, and Harriet (“Rit”) Green. Rit’s mother was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess, whose inherited Harriet when Mary’s mother, Atthow Pattison, died in 1797. Rit was a house cook on the plantation and her father . . . 

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo California (c.1808 - January 18, 1890) Hispanic, Mexicano-Estadounidense, Veterano, Político, Ranchero

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (c.1808–Enero18, 1890) fue uno de los líderes en la lucha de California por ser estado. A lo largo de su vida, fue testigo del gobierno de tres naciones en California. Nacido en una familia acaudalada de Monterrey, California, el octavo de 13 hermanos, ingresó al servicio militar a la edad de 16 años.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo California (c.1808 - January 18, 1890) Hispanic, Mexican-American, Veteran, Politician, Rancher

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (c.1808–January 18, 1890) was a leader in the struggle for statehood for California. During his lifetime, he witnessed three nations rule California. Born to a wealthy family in Monterey, California, the eighth of 13 children, he entered military service at age 16.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 - March 25, 1931) African American, author, civil rights advocate, feminist, journalist, leader of the anti-lynching crusade

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an African American woman of striking courage and conviction. A civil rights advocate, journalist and feminist, she achieved nationwide attention as a leader of the anti-lynching crusade. She was born a slave on the Bolling Farm near Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16,1862, the oldest daughter of James Madison and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Wells (Warrenton). James had been taken by his father . . .