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Famous people from history, read articles online free. Biography articles from newspapers & popular magazines. Podcasts & videos too.

10 of Benjamin Franklin’s Lesser-Known Feats of Awesomeness – Famous People from History

He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered was running a swimming school of his own. He also invented his own swim fins. His printing company printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them’Benjamins’ in his honor. (And 8 more feats)

Jamie Spatola, MF 2018

14 Surprising Facts About Aaron Burr – Famous People from History

Did you know that he basically invented modern campaign organizing? Or that he helped Tennessee join the union? Or that he had a remarkably progressive outlook on women’s rights for a man of his time? (And 14 more facts)

Mark Mancini, MF 2018

Doria Shafik, Who Led Egypt’s Women’s Liberation Movement – Famous People from History

Her hunger strikes and demonstrations made her one of the most influential women in the history of the Arab world. Yet few Egyptians today know her name.

David Kirkpatrick, NY Times 2018

The Importance of Being Ordinary

Gwendolyn Brooks’s life and work asserted the humanity of black people in America.

Lovia Gyarkye, New Republic 2017

Meet Jenny Lind, one of America’s first female celebrities – Famous People from History

Long before Hollywood actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn became iconic stars, popular female opera singers of the early to mid-19th century were among the first American celebrities. One of those early American stars was Jenny Lind, nicknamed the “Swedish Nightingale.”

Regan Shrumm, National Museum of American History 2016

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Overlooked No More: Julia de Burgos, a Poet Who Helped Shape Puerto Rico’s Identity – Famous People from History

De Burgos, a literary foremother of the Nuyorican movement, defied societal norms and advocated for the island’s independence.

Maira Garcia, NY Times 2018

Harriott Daley, the Capitol’s First Telephone Operator

Daley, who became a switchboard operator in 1898, made sure members of Congress were just a phone call away from their constituents.

Alexandra Jacobs, NY Times 2018

5 fascinating facts about Alexander Graham Bell that aren’t about the telephone – Famous People from History

Bell’s contributions to telephony are so great that they tend to overshadow his work in other fields of scientific inquiry. Bell’s interest in studying sound came from teaching those with hearing and speech impediments. He came from a family of speech teachers, and his mother and his wife were both deaf.

Leslie Poster, Smithsonian Museum of American History Blog 2015

5 Questions: Restoring Grant to Greatness

Ron Chernow’s new biography, Grant upsets a century and half of historiography, illuminating Ulysses S. Grant as a flawed but just man who, despite his drinking problem, won the Civil War and, though scandals marred his presidency, should be remembered as one of our major chief executives. An interview with the author.

Nancy Tappan, HistoryNet 2018

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Laura Ingalls Wilder: Truth from Fiction – An Interview with Michelle McClellan – Famous People from History

They are among the most beloved children’s books in American history. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fictionalized memoirs of her experience growing up on the American frontier in the late nineteenth century—the famous Little House books—have been read and re-read by countless generations of children both here in the United States and abroad.

The Ultimate History Project

Hiding in Plain Sight: Hell-Roaring Mike

Captain Michael Healy (1839-1904) was the Coast Guard’s first African American captain.

James M. O’Toole, We’re History 2015

My Memories of Winston Churchill – Famous People from History

Ike’s son, historian John Eisenhower, recalls attending meetings with the British wartime leader and reflects on his character and accomplishments.

John D. Eisenhower, American Heritage 2017

Ten Common Misconceptions About George Washington

Some of the most commonly known “facts” about George Washington are simply not true. Go beyond the mythology and find out how much you don’t know about the man.

Mount Vernon website

The Infamous Story Of Patty Hearst And The Symbionese Liberation Army

How Patty Hearst went from wealthy heiress to gun-toting, bank-robbing, radical militant of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Richard Stockton, ATI 2019

Leon Ray Livingston, America’s Most Famous Hobo – Famous People from History

Jay Serafino, Mental Floss 2018

Overlooked No More: Leticia Ramos Shahani, a Philippine Women’s Rights Pioneer

Shahani, who died in 2017, worked to advance women’s causes in her native Philippines and around the world.

Jennifer Jett, NY Times 2018

Abigail Adams: Revolutionary Speculator – Podcast – Famous People from History

Woody Holton, a Professor of History and author of Abigail Adams: A Life, helps us explore a different, largely unknown aspect of the Adams’ life: Her financial investments.

Woody Holton, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 150

Paul Robeson, Black Dockworkers, and Labor-Left Pan-Africanism – Famous People of History

Paul Robeson was one of the greatest black internationalists of the twentieth century. A gifted actor and singer, he was also an unabashed leftist and union supporter. This resulted in his bitter persecution, destroying his career and causing, to a surprising degree, his disappearance from popular–if not academic–memory.

Peter Cole, Black Perspectives 2016

The 10 Most Common Misconceptions about Abraham Lincoln

Here are the debates around ten of the most common ‘misconceptions’ about Abraham Lincoln as shared by Scott M. Hopkins.

Scott M. Hopkins, History is Now Magazine

The Many Lives of Pauli Murray – Famous People of History

She was an architect of the civil-rights struggle—and the women’s movement. Why haven’t you heard of her?

Kathryn Schulz 2017

President Chester A. Arthur – Famous People of History

Chester A. Arthur, twenty-first President of the United States, who held office from 1881-85. He was a little-known Vice President when President Garfield was assassinated.

Todd Arrington, We’re History 2016

Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance

The author of ‘Abigail Adams and Unruly Americans’ describes how the First Lady defied American laws that prevented women from owning property or controlling and dispensing with their own money.

Woody Holton, HistoryNet 2018

Adam Shatz reviews Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté by Frantz Fanon – Famous People of History

Book review and biographical article about Frantz Fanon, spokesman for the Algerian Revolution and author of ‘The Wretched of the Earth., the’bible’ of decolonisation; and inspiration to Third World revolutionaries.

Adam Shatz, London Review of Books 2017

The Dark Side of Alexander Hamilton

Thanks to Lin Manuel-Miranda’s eponymous musical, the founding father is remembered as a scrappy revolutionary immigrant, a hero of the American dream. But is the musical a realistic portrayal of Alexander Hamilton? Tom Cutterham argues that the real Alexander Hamilton was an elitist anti-democrat, who used violence to crush dissent…

Tom Cutterham, History Extra 2020

Ruby Payne-Scott, Who Explored Space With Radio Waves

Payne-Scott helped establish the field of radio astronomy by using radio waves to detect solar bursts, but she was forced to resign after she got married.

Rebecca Halleck, NY Times 2018

Top Hats, James Bond and a Shipwreck: Seven Fun Facts About John F. Kennedy – Famous People of History

Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian 2017

Sex, scandals and betrayals: Charles II and his court – Famous People of History

It is said to have been one of the most hedonistic courts in English history – a sexual merry-go-round of flirtation, seductions and infidelities. RE Pritchard explores the sexual liaisons of Charles II and the men and women at his court…

R.E. Pritchard, History Extra 2015

Overlooked No More: Lillias Campbell Davidson, an Early Advocate for Women’s Cycling

Davidson encouraged women to bicycle at a time when they were told they were “by nature physically unfit.”

Amanda Hess, NY Times 2018

She Followed a Trail to Wyoming. Then She Blazed One.

The Western territory made history in 1869 by giving women the right to vote. When Esther Morris became justice of the peace a few months later, she made history as well.

Jessica Anderson, NY Times 2018

Someone’s Finally Making a Movie About Ida Tarbell – Famous People of History

Ida Tarbell was a groundbreaking investigative journalist in the golden age of muckraking, best known for her multipart exposé of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company which ran in McClure’s magazine from 1902 to 1904 before being collected in a book, ‘The History of the Standard Oil Company.’

Matthew Dessem, Slate 2016

The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

Was the famous author killed from a beating? From carbon monoxide poisoning? From alcohol withdrawal? Here are the top nine theories.

Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian Magazine 2014

The 19th-Century Woman Journalist Who Made Congress Bow Down in Fear

A new book examines the life and legacy of Anne Royall, whose literal witch trial made headlines across the country.

Jeff Biggers, Smithsonian 2017

Mary Baker Eddy

Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith

Dr. Julius Silberger, Jr., American Heritage 1980

Alexander Hamilton, immigrant and statesman, dies at 47 — or 49 – Famous People of History

Alexander Hamilton, a founding father and the first secretary of the treasury of the United States, died 214 years ago today from a gunshot wound. He was of indeterminate age.

Erin B. Logan, Washington Post Retropolis 2018

The Adventurous Writer Who Brought Nancy Drew To Life

Mildred Wirt Benson helped invent the fictional teen sleuth who became a generational role model

Jennifer Fisher, Smithsonian 2018

Trace Martin Luther’s Footsteps Through Germany

It’s 500 years since the start of the Protestant Reformation—here’s what you can still see today.

Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian Magazine 2017

The lost Kennedy: the tragic life of JFK’s sister Rosemary

The sister of American president John F Kennedy and US senators Robert and Ted Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy was born into one of 20th-century America’s most prominent political families. Presented to elite British society in the 1930s and deemed beautiful and charming by the press, the eldest Kennedy daughter would disappear from society at the age of 23, following a tragic decision taken by her father…

Marius Gabriel , History Extra 2019

The Taming of Muhammad Ali – Famous People of History

Muhammad Ali was reborn at least twice. The first rebirth was his conversion, in the 1960s, to Islam (initially through the heterodoxy of the Nation of Islam; then through Sunni Islam, a more universal version of the faith). Another rebirth of sorts occurred in the 1980s and 90s, when the aging champion, increasingly enfeebled by Parkinson’s, was reclaimed by white America and the corporate establishment.

Russell Rickford, Black Perspectives 2016

Alison Hargreaves, Who Conquered Everest Solo and Without Bottled Oxygen

Hargreaves sent her children a message from the apex: “I am on the highest point of the world, and I love you dearly.” She perished months later while descending Earth’s second-highest peak, K2.

Maya Salam, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

Amazing Grace Hopper, the Tiny Old Lady Who Changed Our Lives – Famous People of History

In 1946, the U.S. Navy considered Grace Hopper too old to be an officer. Thirty-seven years later, President Ronald Reagan promoted her to rear admiral because of her pioneering work in computers.

New England Historical Society

Travels with The Champ in Africa, 1980

The late Muhammad Ali was a diplomat extraordinaire, as this firsthand account of a mission to Africa attests.

Lannon Walker, The Foreign Service Journal 2016

Hamilton: the man behind the musical.

Podcast with Alexander Hamilton’s biographer, Ron Chernow.

Ron Chernow, Acast 2018

Churchill’s darkest hour

Podcast with novelist Antony McCarten.

Antony McCarten, Acast 2018

Life and Legacy of Frederick Douglass

Museum curator for the National Capital Parks – East Ka’mal McClarin talked about the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass in this interview recorded at the American Historical Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Ka’mal McClarin, C-SPAN 2018

Monticello Is Done Avoiding Jefferson’s Relationship With Sally Hemings

A new exhibit grapples with the reality of slavery and deals a final blow to two centuries of ignoring or covering up what amounted to an open secret.

Farah Stockman, NY Times 2018

Sally Hemings Takes Center Stage

Sally Hemings takes center stage in Monticello on Saturday when the Thomas Jefferson Foundation opens an exhibit in a space where she is said to have lived for some time. Her story is told through the recollections of her son Madison Hemings, the third of four children she and Thomas Jefferson had who lived to adulthood.

Annette Gordon-Reed, NY Times 2018

Journalist Virginia Irwin Broke Barriers When She Reported From Berlin at the End of WWII

Her exclusive dispatches from the last days of Nazi Germany appeared in newspapers around the country, briefly making her a national celebrity

Francine Uenuma, Smithsonian Magazine 2018

Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s favorite queen

Podcast with historian Alison Weir.

Alison Weir, Acast 2018

Overlooked No More: Lillias Campbell Davidson, an Early Advocate for Women’s Cycling

Davidson encouraged women to bicycle at a time when they were told they were “by nature physically unfit.”

Amanda Hess, NY Times

Raoul Wallenberg’s Quest to Save a Nation

In March 1944 Hitler ordered the German army to occupy Hungary. With it came the angel of death, Adolf Eichmann, and his newly formed special operations unit, to carry out the Final Solution on Hungary’s Jewish population.

Carlo D’Este, History Net 2017

14 Surprising Facts About Aaron Burr

It’s fair to say that no Founding Father has attracted more scorn than Aaron Burr, the tragic antagonist of a certain Broadway smash hit. Born on this date in 1756, Burr is mainly remembered for two things: killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel and later getting himself tried for treason under President Jefferson. Less attention is paid to Burr’s other major accomplishments.

Mark Mancini, Mental Floss 2018

The young Elizabeth II: life before she was Queen

At the time of her birth, Elizabeth II was a princess who was never expected to succeed the throne. So how did she become queen? From her unconventional childhood to the crisis that made her a monarch, Kate Williams charts Elizabeth II’s life within the royal family before she was crowned…

Kate Williams, History Extra 2019

Ada Lovelace: The First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace has been called the world’s first computer programmer. What she did was write the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine that existed only on paper.

Miss Cellania, Mental Floss 2015

Vladimir Putin: ‘the godfather of a mafia clan’

The Moscow journalist Masha Gessen pulls no punches in her biography of ‘Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face’.

Mick Brown, Telegraph 2012

The 19th-Century Woman Journalist Who Made Congress Bow Down in Fear

A new book examines the life and legacy of Anne Royall, whose literal witch trial made headlines across the country.

Jeff Biggers, Smithsonian Magazine 2017

Emperor Charlemagne, King of the Franks

Charlemagne lived between c. 747 and c. 814. He became joint Frankish King in 768 upon the death of his father, and once his brother and co-King, Carloman, died suddenly in 771, Charlemagne became sole ruler.

Just History Posts 2016

Mary Katharine Goddard, the Woman who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Likely the United States’ first woman employee, this newspaper publisher was a key figure in promoting the ideas that fomented the Revolution

Erick Trickey, Smithsonian 2018

Boudica, Queen of the Iceni

Boudica is one of the most famous women in English history. Boudica was a member of the Iceni tribe, a celtic tribe whose territory included present-day Norfolk and parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. In 45 AD the tribe allied with Rome under Claudius’ conquest of Britain, although by 47 AD they began to tire of Roman influence on their affairs which led to a revolt.

Just History Posts 2017

Meet Mansa Musa I of Mali – the richest human being in all history – Famous People of History

A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time

John Hall, Independent 2012

The Infamous Story Of Patty Hearst And The Symbionese Liberation Army

How Patty Hearst went from wealthy heiress to gun-toting, bank-robbing, radical militant of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Richard Stockton, All That’s Interesting 2017

Martin Luther and the German Reformation

A comprehensive account of the man who split western Christendom for good.

Bridget Heal, History Today 2017

Nelson Mandela: His Written Legacy – Famous People of History

Read excerpts from letters, speeches and memoirs reflecting on each stage of his life—from the innocence of a tribal village boy to the triumphs and pressures of being South Africa’s first black president.

David Roos, History 2019

The man who ‘discovered’ 780 Indian languages

When Ganesh Devy, a former professor of English, embarked on a search for India’s languages, he expected to walk into a graveyard, littered with dead and dying mother tongues. Instead, he says, he walked into a “dense forest of voices”, a noisy Tower of Babel in one of the world’s most populous nations.

Soutik Biswas, BBC News 2017

American Robber Barons business powerhouses

Very brief biographical profiles of Vanderbilt, Astor, Jay Cooke, Duke etc.

Elena Holodny, Business Insider 2016

Aristotle: The Man Who Needs No Introduction

Brief description of Aristotle’s life and work.

Dr. Sophia Protopapa, Ancient Origins 2017

Overlooked No More: Pandita Ramabai, Indian Scholar, Feminist and Educator

Ramabai traveled around India in the 19th century to give lectures on women’s emancipation and established one of the country’s first women’s shelters and schools.

Aisha Khan, NY Times 2018

Remembering Gwen Patton, Activist and Theorist

“Ideas are powerful,” Dr. Gwendolyn Patton used to say when she talked to the younger generation about civil rights and political organizing. This simple but powerful notion undergirded Patton’s incredible activist life, one that spanned much of the late 20th century and many different facets of the Black Freedom Struggle.

Ashley Farmer, Black Perspectives 2017

Beatrice Tinsley, Astronomer Who Saw the Course of the Universe

An insurgent who challenged the academic establishment and became a foremost expert on the aging of galaxies, she was eventually forced to choose between family and career.

Dennis Overbye, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

Chris Fobare on American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Review of Ronald C. White’s ‘American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant’.

Chris Fobare, H-Net Reviews 2017

E.P. Thompson’s Search for a New Popular Front

A book review of ‘E.P. Thompson: A Twentieth-Century Romantic’ by Christos Efstathiou. Thompson was a leading British historian and socialist, and author of ‘The Making of the English Working Class’.

Stefan Collini, Nation 2017

Food and beverage books pdf

Singer, siren, activist, spy: the extraordinary life of Josephine Baker

Born into poverty, dancer Josephine Baker became an overnight sensation in a vaudeville show, launching a glittering cabaret career that took her across the globe, from Broadway to Paris. Yet Baker was no ordinary performer – she went on to become a Second World War spy, was active in the fight against segregation and even attracted the attentions of the FBI.

Ailsa Ross, History Extra 2017

Charlotte Brontë, Novelist Known for ‘Jane Eyre’

She was fearless — so fearless that she paid to have a volume of poems by her and her younger sisters published under pseudonyms, an unusually ambitious act for a woman of her era.

Susan Dominus, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor of Worldwide Acclaim

As an artist she transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her.

Penelope Green, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

Emma Gatewood, First Woman to Conquer the Appalachian Trail Alone

What the woman known as Grandma Gatewood accomplished in 1955 was remarkable. So is the untold story of what she overcame before that.

Katharine Q. Seelye, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

The Most Eminent Victorian – William Gladstone

Adored as “the People’s William” and execrated by “the upper ten thousand,” Gladstone was the great statesman of his age.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Atlantic 1997

Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

“Frontline” Video Documentary (1 hr 53 min) about the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy

PBS, Frontline 2013

Women We Overlooked: Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an investigative reporter who exposed the systematic lynching of black men in the South. Her work made her the most famous black woman in the country.

Podcast, NY Times 2018

Read full novel at Century Past

Edward I: man of principle or grasping opportunist?

The author is a biographer of English King Edward I (reign: 1272-1307). This article provides a biographical profile and addresses key issues about his rule.

Caroline Burt, History Extra 2018

Eugenie, the Tragic Empress

The story of the wife of Napoleon III, Empress of France.

Victorian Paris 2017

Overlooked No More: Yu Gwan-sun, a Korean Independence Activist Who Defied Japanese Rule

When a call for peaceful protests came in spring 1919, a schoolgirl became the face of a nation’s collective yearning for freedom.

Inyoung Kang, NY Times 2018

Fannie Farmer, Modern Cookery’s Pioneer

She brought a scientific approach to cooking, taught countless women marketable skills and wrote a cookbook that defined American food for the 20th century.

Julia Moskin, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018

From Enemy to Icon: The Life of Emma Goldman

While alive, Emma Goldman was considered an enemy of the state. In death, she became a celebrated American icon.

Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily 2016

He made ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody the world’s first reality star

But he died a pauper buried in an unmarked grave.

Steve Hendrix, Washington Post Retropolis 2017

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), author and creator of ‘Lord of the Rings’ – Podcast

The life of Oxford scholar and author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2016

Madame Muckraker – Ida Tarbell

At the turn of the 20th century Tarbell was a leading investigative journalist, authoring a ground-breaking expose of the biggest company of the day, the Standard Oil Company.

Kathleen Brady, American Experience

Pioneer Life of Job Archer and Family

Description by Job Archer’s daughter of her childhood on the frontier in southern Michigan in the 1840s.

Pioneer history of Ingham County, Michigan

Visit our collected free online biography books

Ray Stannard Baker

A native of Lansing, MI, Baker became a journalist and a leader in the Muckraking movement at the turn of the 20th century. He was a progressive and friend of Woodrow Wilson, and wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning bio of Wilson.

American Experience, PBS

Hedy Lamarr’s Forgotten, Frustrated Career as a Wartime Inventor

Description

Leslie Camhi, New Yorker 2017

Statement by Alexander Hamilton on Impending Duel with Aaron Burr

Letter written by Hamilton 28 June – 10 July 1804. He was mortally wounded by Aaron Burr on 11 July 1804.

Today’s Document, National Archives
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