7 Iconic American Figures In History

7 iconic and influential figures in American history, that’s what we’re talking about today! 

In this lesson, I’ve put together 7 categories: Music, Literature/Art, Cinema, Government, Sports, Science, and Miscellaneous. From each category, I am going to tell you about someone who had a tremendous effect on American culture! 

Make sure you listen closely because at the end of the lesson I’ll be asking you a few questions about the people we learn about!

Alright, let’s get after it!

 

Music

Music is the first category for today! And the Iconic American I am talking about is the king himself, Elvis Presley! 

Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935! 19 years later in 1954, he recorded a song called “That’s All Right” which was the beginning of his career!

Heartbreak Hotel” was released 2 years later, and by that time Elvis had become a worldwide phenomenon!

But did you know, Elvis was drafted into the US military?

At the height of his popularity, he was sent to Germany in Bad Neuheim…a small town north of Frankfurt! And I’ve actually been there!

Elvis returned to America in 1960 and over the next 17 years, he recorded dozens of songs and movies, inspiring musicians around the world and forever changing music history! Elvis died in 1977 due to a drug overdose.

 

Literature And Art

If I say the name Samuel Clemens, do you know who I am talking about? Maybe not, and that is because this man is better known by his pen-name, Mark Twain! Twain was born in 1835, in Florida, Missouri (funny name for a city right!). 

His childhood dream was to be the pilot of a steamboat. At age 23 he fulfilled this dream, but only a few years later the American Civil War forced him to move west, and that is when he began writing.

He is famous for his satire and adventure books with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Mark Twain died in 1910 due to a heart attack. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain:

  • Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
  • “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

 

A World Famous Actress

I have almost no doubts that you’re familiar with Norma Jeane Mortensen. Wait, no? What about Marilyn Monroe? Here we have another figure who became famous with an alias. Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane in 1926 in Los Angeles, California. 

She spent much of her childhood in foster care, where she was sexually assaulted on several occasions. She quit school at age 15, and was married at age 16. While working in a factory, a photographer helped her start a modeling career.

She would go on to become the most famous actresses of all time, winning multiple Grammy awards, and an inspiration for many modern feminists. Marilyn Monroe was one of the first actresses to push back against Hollywood stereotypes, and take control of her image and sexuality. She has since become a role model of modern feminists. She died in 1962 due to a drug overdose.

 

The 16th President of the USA

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky. His family was poor and his mother died when he was 9. Lincoln had many jobs as a young man, but he educated himself and read many books. At the age of 25, Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois government. 

He was mostly involved in politics, becoming famous for his speeches against slavery. In 1860 he won the presidential election, but the southern states did not want him to be the leader and they tried to leave the United States. This caused the Civil War.

Honest Abe’ is most famous for ending slavery, uniting the states, and the Gettysburg Address: one of the great speeches in American history. President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1965.

 

Breaking Racial Barriers in Sport

James Cleveland Owens was born in 1913 in Alabama. He was poor and eventually moved north to Ohio, where he became a track star! He liked to be called “J.C,” which was an acronym of his name, but people had trouble understanding his accent when he said this and called him ‘Jesse,’ which is the name he used afterward! 

Across the world, the Nazi regime was growing; Adolf Hitler was gathering horrific power in the 1930s. With the Olympics scheduled to take place in Berlin in 1936, Hitler had a vision to show the world his idea of Aryan supremacy. 

Jesse Owens, however, would have something to say about that. Owens was one of the best American sprinters of all time, and by the time the 1936 Olympics arrived, he already owned several world records. He won 4 gold medals at the Olympics and was a pioneer in breaking racial barriers in America.

Unfortunately, Owens was an avid smoker and died of lung cancer in 1980.

 

Let There Be Light!

When it comes to science and innovation, Thomas Edison is on any list of important figures! I mean, after all, he invented the light-bulb! Edison was born in 1847 in Ohio. As a teenager, he saved a young boy from death by a train! The father of the boy was so grateful, he offered to train Thomas Edison as a telegraph operator. This is where he developed his fascination with inventions.

Edison would eventually create the first voice recording device, the first functional light bulb, motion picture, and own more than 1000 patents!

 

Miscellaneous!

Our final iconic figure in American is Uncle Sam! He is most famous as an Army recruitment character, where he famously says to the reader: “I Want YOU!” The origin of this character is recognized by the US government to be based on Samuel Wilson, who helped feed soldiers during the War of 1812.

This poster was printed more than 4 million times during World War I, with Uncle Sam representing a sense of patriotism. Since then, his image has been used for marketing purposes on countless products.

 

Quiz Time!

Alright, it’s time to see who has been paying attention!

  1. Which of today’s figures was born with the name Norma?
  2. Who won the 100m race at the Berlin Olympics?
  3. Which of today’s figures was drafted into the Military?
  4. Who had the word “honest” in their nickname?
  5. Which of today’s figures is famous for their satire?

**Answers below**

So that wraps up today’s English lesson! Do you have questions about these iconic figures? Are you interested in learning about others? Let me know!

 

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Answers:

1) Marilyn Monroe

2) Jesse Owens

3) Elvis Presley

4) Abraham Lincoln

5) Mark Twain

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