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Inspirational Figures

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Jovita Idar: Voice of the People
Imagine throwing shade at a politician online and police showed up to arrest you! It would be un-American, right? In this video, we'll explain the story of Jovita Idar, a Mexican-American journalist who refused to be silenced!
Dalai Lama: Empathy
The Dalai Lama is known as being the spiritual leader of Tibet. But how does this humble Buddhist monk advocate for love, empathy and compassion all around the world?
Malala Yousafzai: Critical Thinking
Captivated by female innovators, Malala stayed up into the night, imagining the world as fair and united. But how did she change it for the better?
Nelson Mandela: Respect for Difference
After being imprisoned for over 20 years, Nelson Mandela maintained his call for justice and equality. How did he become a symbol of positive change?
Margaret Mead: Intercultural Knowledge
Mead brought the central insight of cultural anthropology. A master in her discipline – fearless and freethinking – let’s find out how her determination to help others understand, celebrate, and learn from other cultures, made humanity stronger.
Dolley Madison: The First First Lady
As the host of unrivaled skill, First Lady Dolley Madison brought the US political elite together by throwing the best parties Washington, DC had ever seen.
Ellen Ochoa: The First Female Hispanic Astronaut
In 1993, Ellen Ochoa wrote her name in the stars – as the first Hispanic woman to enter orbit. She continues to inspire generations of aspiring astronauts today.
Ida B. Wells: Journalist and Anti-Lynching Activist
Investigative journalist Ida B. Wells made it her mission to exposing the horrors of racism in the American South, but it wasn't easy.
Frances Oldham Kelsey: Standing Up to Big Pharma
Meet Frances Oldham Kelsey - a true American hero! Frances was a pharmacologist working for the FDA who stood up to the big drug companies and ultimately saved thousands of American lives in the process.
Bob Fletcher: WWII Samaritan for Japanese-American Farmers
Good deeds – they happen all the time. Those little acts of kindness that make the world a better place but unless they go viral, they can go unnoticed. Which is why it’s time to celebrate Bob Fletcher: the greatest good Samaritan you've never heard of!
Bayard Rustin: Martin Luther King Jr's 'Out and Proud' Advisor
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the biggest protest America had ever seen. It culminated in Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. But the man who made it all possible, chief organiser Bayard Rustin, was almost written out of history not because he was black, but because he was gay.
Garrett Morgan
Kentucky-born Garrett Morgan invented life saving gadgets, but despite facing racial prejudice all his life, Morgan was recognised as one of America’s most prolific and socially conscious inventors
Breaking Barriers: Constance Baker Motley
Breaking through the limits placed on women and people of color was all in a day’s work for Constance Baker Motley. She was a civil rights activist, lawyer, judge and state senator.
Sojourner Truth: Fierce Warrior for Social Justice
How an enslaved woman became one of the most important social justice activists in American history.
Mary Church Terrell: Championing Suffrage and Civil Rights
Mary Church Terrell was a lifelong activist who advocated for suffrage and equal rights.
Fashionable Rebellion: Tignons: From Oppressive Attire to Creative Accoutrement
How free Black women in Spanish Louisiana turned an oppressive headscarf law into a celebration of individuality and culture.
Antonia Pantoja: Grassroots Organizer and Activist
The story of Latina activist Antonia Pantoja, who fought for bilingual education programs.
Stetson Kennedy: Unmasking The Ku Klux Klan
Folklorist and social crusader, Stetson Kennedy, helped unmask the KKK, one of the deadliest hate groups in US history.
Roberto Clemente: True Baseball Hero
Puerto Rican All-Star Roberto Clemente hit 240 home runs and was W a two-time World Series champion. He won the coveted Golden Glove twelve years in a row, but life in America was anything but easy.
Opening the Oval with David Rubenstein: The Role of First Ladies
In this episode, David Rubenstein explores the role of First Ladies in the White House with historian Annette Gordon-Reed and journalists Jonathan Alter and the late Cokie Roberts.
Mad Ann Bailey: Heroine of the Kanawha Valley
Historic accounts describe her “wild” appearance. So why did English settler Mad Ann Bailey don men’s clothes to take up the fight against Native American tribes?
Anna May Wong: Hollywood's First Asian American Movie Star
At a time when racist laws and shameful stereotyping limited the careers of ethnic minority actors, Anna May Wong broke down doors to become the first Chinese American movie star in history!
Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion
Nat Turner - known as the prophet in his enslaved community, led a violent uprising that changed everything.
The Enslaved Household of Thomas Jefferson
This is the story of Ursula, Edith and Frances – three teenagers who Thomas Jefferson brought to the White House to train as his enslaved personal chefs.
Thomas Garrett and the Underground Railroad
By day he worked as an iron merchant – but by night, Thomas Garrett helped thousands escape slavery as a station master on the Underground Railroad.
Changunak Antisarlook: The Reindeer Queen
She was known as the Reindeer Queen – and one of the richest women in Alaska. So how did Changunak Antisarlook use her remarkable wealth to benefit the Inupiat community?
Frida Kahlo: Self-Awareness
In a time where women struggled to find their voice, Frida was becoming one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. But how did Kahlo's vibrant art change the world?
Sally Hemings: Surviving Slavery and Sexual Exploitation
Sally Hemings was an enslaved woman who had several children with Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Her story of agency and eventual emancipation remains an inspiration.
Victoria Woodhull: The First Woman To Run for President
Victoria Woodhull ran for President of the United States before most American women were even allowed to vote.
Women's Activism and Social Change
For centuries, women have used activism in the United States to voice their concerns about society and secure their rights as citizens. Activism is an important part of any democracy as it’s the way ordinary people shape nations.
Claudette Colvin: The Original Rosa Parks
You know the story of David and Goliath, right? Well, America has its own version. Only our hero is 15-year-old African-American, school girl Claudette Colvin and in 1955, she took on the State of Alabama for real. The original Rosa Parks!
Newton Knight: Fighting the Confederacy
Newton Knight was a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War who went AWOL to form a guerrilla force of fellow deserters and escaped slaves, who fought against the Confederacy.
Linda Brown: The Schoolgirl who Changed America
Linda Brown was just 9-years-old when she was thrust into the national spotlight, as she fought - and won - against racial segregation in the American school system.
Mercy Otis Warren: Blowing the Whistle on British Rule
Mercy Otis Warren was a poet, playwright and ‘whistleblower’ who used her words to throw some serious shade on British Colonial rule.
George W. Bush: After September 11
In the wake of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history, President George W. Bush delivers a much anticipated speech to a Joint Session of Congress, outlining America’s reaction to the unprecedented atrocity.
Mary Carson Breckinbridge
Mary Carson, born into the wealthy Breckinridge family in 1881, changed the face of US midwifery. This is her story.
Harriet Robinson Scott: A Personal Fight for Emancipation with National Ramifications
The story of the enslaved woman who challenged slavery in the highest court in the United States.
Catalina Trico: New Netherland's Founding Mother
Catalina Trico was a young trailblazer and the first European mother in what would become New York State.
George Brittain Lyttle: The Bandit who Couldn't Ride a Horse
History is full of criminal masterminds – people who used cunning and skill to outwit the law. And then there is George Brittain Lyttle, the notorious stagecoach robber who couldn’t ride a horse!
The Battle of Athens and Gun Control
The story of how the Second Amendment was used in a fight against democracy, during the Battle of Athens, Tennessee.
The Bloodiest Race Riot in US History
It began as a protest against the Conscription Act of 1863 – but quickly descended into the bloodiest race riot in US history. So why did New York’s White working class kill at least 120 people during the New York Draft Riots?
Stephen H Long: The Man Who Mapped the West
Stephen H. Long mapped much of the unexplored American West – but he made one big mistake that set Western migration back decades.
The Explosive Story of Dynamite Hill
When Black residents moved into one neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama, White supremacists unleashed a wave of terror against the community.
Teaching Ruby Bridges
In the 1960s, Black schoolgirl Ruby Bridges and White teacher Barbara Henry showed America the true power of racial integration in the classroom.
Marian Anderson: The Opera Singer Who Challenged Segregation
When Black singer Marian Anderson was barred from performing in Washington by the Daughters of the Revolution – her Lincoln Memorial performance made her an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.
Kofi Annan: Understanding of Global Issues
Kofi Annan learned from a very young age that together, we are stronger. But how did this Nobel Peace Prize winner leave behind a legacy that creates a better world for us all?
Oprah Winfrey: Effective Communication
A captivating storyteller - how did this girl from Mississippi become the most powerful woman that America has known?
The Civil War Battle for Bread
When the women of Richmond, Virginia couldn’t afford to buy bread during the American Civil War, they incited the largest civil disturbance the Confederacy had ever seen.
Victoria Woodhull: Fighting for Women's Rights
At a time when women were expected to know their place, activist and businessperson Victoria Woodhull blazed a trail as a fierce advocate for women's suffrage and empowerment.
Elizabeth Freeman: Abolition Pioneer
Elizabeth Freeman played a critical role in the fight to end slavery in the United States.
Malitzen: Enslaved Interpreter for Hernan Cortés
The enslaved Native woman who acted as the primary interpreter for Hernan Cortés during his conquest of the Aztec Empire.
Lorenda Holmes: Loyalist Spy and American Sufferer
Loyalist spy in New York who did everything she could to undermine the American war efforts during the Revolution.
Emma Tenayuca: Latina Labor Activist
Latina labor leader, Emma Tenayuca, led a major food-industry strike in her early 20s and was eventually ostracized for her political beliefs.
Nelly Bly: Breaking Barriers from Asylums to the Skies
We've all got our favourite YouTubers, right? But everyone with a channel has this Pennsylvian lady, Nellie Bly, to thank. You could say she was the world’s first blogger.
Hedy Lamarr: Mother of WiFi
Did you know? The amazing technology behind Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS was the brainchild of Hollywood actor turned visionary inventor Hedy Lamarr - the Mother of Wi-Fi.
Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
With the country on the brink of war, lawyer and patriot Patrick Henry delivers a speech on the rights of the colonies before the Second Virginia Assembly. His words ‘give me liberty or give me death’ would become the war cry of the revolution.
Ronald Reagan: Tear Down This Wall
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivers a speech to the people of West Berlin, calling upon the Soviet Union to tear down the wall that divides the city.
Stepping Forward: The Fight for College Integration
For Autherine Lucy and Pollie Anne Myers, trying to get an education was an act of courage in itself.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Thurgood Marshall represented the country's first civil and human rights law firm. Known as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, they raised money, amassed lawyers, and launched lawsuits throughout the country to fight segregation.
Students and the Struggle for School Integration
The story of Barbara Johns and her fellow students fight for school integration resulting in the successful case - Brown v. Board of Education.
The Shelleys and the Right to Fair Housing
JD and Ethel Shelley fought against restrictive covenants for the basic right to choose their own home. These agreements prevent homes being sold to people of certain races.
Marsha P. Johnson: Transgender Activist
The story of transgender activist, Marsha P. Johnson, who dedicated her life to LGBTQ+ rights.
Patsy Mink: Changing the Rules
The first Asian American woman ever to be elected to Congress, Patsy Mink dedicated her life to participating in the democratic process and improving the lives of others.
Coverture
Coverture severely restricted women’s political, financial, and personal rights and was imported to the American colonies as a part of English common law. It affected the lives of all American women and although it has been diminished over time vestiges of it remain even today.
Barbara Jordan: Statement on the Articles of Impeachment
In 1974, US House Representative for Texas, Barbara Jordan delivered an impassioned speech on the power and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. Delivered on primetime television to critical acclaim during the coverage of the infamous Watergate scandal.
Lyndon B. Johnson: The Great Society Speech
In 1964, 36th U.S. President, Lyndon B. Johnson commanded the heart of the nation while delivering his "The Great Society" speech. Can you hear any parallels to modern-day America?
Opening the Oval with David Rubenstein: Presidential Leadership
In this episode, David Rubenstein explores Presidential Leadership with historian Douglas Brinkley and journalist Jia Lynn Yang.
Rachel Carson's Fight for the Environment
Marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson demanded that the US government take responsibility to protect people and the planet. Her book Silent Spring was a turning point in the modern environmental movement.
The Miss America Protest of 1968
In 1968 – the Miss America beauty pageant became the focus of an audacious protest that helped move feminism forward.
Zoot Suit Riots
Did you know that in LA, it’s illegal to wear Zoot suits? A fashion crime that dates back to the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943.
The Woman Suffrage Procession
The Women’s Suffrage Procession of 1913 changed how Americans protest – by getting bigger, better and more creative than ever before.
Whiskey Rebellion
Whiskey fanned the flames of a Pennsylvanian tax uprising that lasted for three years!
The Largest Slave Uprising in Colonial America
The Stono Rebellion of 1739 saw enslaved people rise up using coded sounds that sowed the seeds of jazz, blues and hip hop.
Elizabeth Keckly: From Slavery to the White House
She was enslaved at birth – but became the first lady’s favorite dressmaker and the author of a sensational memoir that shocked the nation. So who was Elizabeth Keckly?
The Enslaved Chef Who Revolutionized American Cuisine
James Hemings was an enslaved man and the first American to learn classic French cuisine. He helped popularise many of the dishes you know and love today.
Josefa Segovia: The Only Mexican-American Woman Hanged in California
Was Josefa Segovia – the first and only woman hanged in the state of California – killed for her actions or her race? And what can we learn from her tragic story?
The Fire that Sparked a Workplace Revolution
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Tragedy took the lives of 146 workers – and exposed a shocking lack of workplace health and safety laws in New York State.
Thurgood Marshall: From School Suspension to Supreme Court
Thurgood Marshall, the most successful civil rights lawyer of all time and America’s first Supreme court Justice, was instrumental in the fight for equality in the United States.
Polly Bemis: Chinese Immigrant Pioneer
Sold into slavery by her parents, Polly Bemis faced discrimination as a Chinese immigant in America – but became something of a pioneer of the West.
What is a Global Citizen?
How do YOU make the world a better place? Let's find out what it takes to be a Global Citizen!
Stephen Hawking: Curiosity
He changed how we see the universe and our place in it. But how did Stephen Hawking’s brilliant mind free him from his physical constraints?
Wangarĩ Maathai: Global-Mindedness
Born into a culture where a woman’s place was in the home, Wangarĩ Maathai went onto celebrate a Nobel Peace Prize for her Holistic Approach to Sustainable Development. Let's find out how!
Sacagawea: Intrepid Indigenous Explorer
Native American interpreter Sacagawea was the only woman on Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the West. She played a vital role, but was subsequently forgotten.
Charity and Sylvia: A Federal Era Love Story
Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant overcame many challenges to become pioneers of LGBTQ+ visibility in the United States.
Amelia Earhart: Flexibility
Most famously known for being the First Woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, how did Amelia Earhart go from defying traditional gender roles - to defying gravity?
Jailhouse Fight for Prisoners' Rights
What rights, if any, do prisoners have under US law? It’s a question that came to a head during the Attica Prison Riots of 1971.
America's First Prima Ballerina
In a world dominated by mainly caucasian dancers, Native American Maria Tallchief overcame discrimination to become the United States’ first prima ballerina.
María Ruiz de Burton: Chicano Activist Writer
Latina author María Ruiz de Burton raised the plight of Mexicans in America with two satirical and revealing books at a time when female authors were few and far between.
Lozen: Fearless Apache Warrior
At a time when Apache men and women followed specific gender roles, Lozen defied convention – to become one of the finest warriors in the tribe's history.
Chien-Shiung Wu: The First Lady of Physics
We hear a lot about famous scientists like Marie Curie and Albert Einstein, but have you ever heard of Chien-Shiung Wu and her work on the Manhattan Project?
Thomas(ine) Hall: Gender Non-conforming in Colonial Virginia
Thomas(ine) Hall was a 17th century intersex person who ran afoul of a small community in colonial Virginia.
Madam Queenie: New York's Notorious Crime Boss
America has always been captivated by crime and the sharp-dressed, trigger happy men who dominate the underworld. But one story remains criminally neglected, that of gambling kingpin Stephanie St. Clair, aka Madame Queenie - the Robin Hood of Harlem.
Marie van Brittan Brown: Creating CCTV in Queens
How did a hardworking nurse from New York City invent the world's first home security system? When a burglar tried to break into her apartment in the 1960s, this kickass crimefighter went where no-one had gone before.
William Jennings Bryan: Flag of an Empire Speech
Former U.S. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan spoke in Indianapolis back in 1900 on the opposition of Imperialism within America. The speech has since been entitled Flag of an Empire.
Barbara Jordan: The Black Texan Politician who Broke the Glass Ceiling
At a time when women and people of colour were all but excluded from the US government, one woman stormed the corridors of power and made them her own. This is the story of Barbara Jordan, the African American from the South who defied expectations by being selected to serve in Congress and who became one of the finest legislators in US history.
John Rollin Ridge: the Native American Novelist Like No Other
We've had some great American Novelists? You've read some of them in school, right? But one writer you've probably never heard of is John Rollin Ridge, aka Yellow Bird: the first Native American to ever publish a novel about a fictitious Mexican folk hero no less!
Shirley Chisholm: Equal Rights for Women
In 1969 Shirley Chisholm, the first African American Woman elected to Congress spoke to the US House of Representatives to argue in support of a controversial women’s rights bill; the Equal Rights Amendment.
Negotiating the Surrender of New Netherland
How two wives saved New Amsterdam from total destruction by English invaders through the power of negotiation.
Toypurina: Rebelling Against the Mission System
Toypurina, a Tongva woman who led a rebellion against a Spanish mission in Alta California.
Virginia Hall: Nazi Nemesis
They called her the Limping Lady. The Allied spy who topped the Nazis’ most wanted list. This is the story of Virginia Hall – one of the most decorated special agents of the Second World War.
Opening the Oval with David Rubenstein: Presidential Power in Wartime
In this episode, David Rubenstein explores Presidential Power in Wartime with historian Michael Beschloss and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.
Opening the Oval with David Rubenstein: Lincoln and Emancipation
In this episode, David Rubenstein explores the story of Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation with historians H.W. Brands, Eric Foner, David W. Blight, and Drew Gilpin Faust.
Opening the Oval with David Rubenstein: The Road to Women's Suffrage
In this episode, David Rubenstein explores the road to women's suffrage with journalists Elaine Weiss and the late Cokie Roberts.
Ethel Payne: First Lady of the Black Press
As the First Lady of the Black Press, Ethel Payne wielded her first amendment right to ask the tough questions and hold those in power to account.
When the Youth of Birmingham Changed History
In 1963, school children from Birmingham, Alabama skipped class to demonstrate for racial equality. Met with police violence, they helped to bring about significant change. The Birmingham Children's Crusade, as it was known, has gone down in history as a turning point in the fight for Civil Rights.
What Makes Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde a Classic?
First published in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde struck fear into the heart of Victorian readers. A sinister story of a split personality, its psychological themes still resonate today.
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