August 2: James Baldwin, one of America’s most unique, multi-talented, eloquent, and uncategorizable writers, cultural figures, activists, and icons.
August 3: John Scopes, the Tennessee schoolteacher whose teaching of evolution—and more exactly whose willingness to take a stand in defense of that teaching—helped change the course of American education, law, and history, and inspired many cultural representations.
August 4: A tie between two unique and very talented 20th century American artists and voices, Louis Armstrong and Robert Hayden.
August 5: Another tie, this one between two pioneers without whom American history (as a discipline and as a narrative) would be significantly different, Mary Ritter Beard and Neil Armstrong.
August 6: A tie between two 20th century figures who took Americans to places they had never been before, Matthew Henson and Lucille Ball.
August 7: Ralph Bunche, the pioneering political scientist and mediator whose efforts in Palestine earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, one of many signal achievements in his inspiring life.
August 8: Bob Smith, the physician and longtime alcoholic whose founding of Alcoholics Anonymous has not only helped many millions of Americans, but has helped change our cultural attitudes toward addiction.
August 9: Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the Franco American engineer and architect who fought in the Revolution and created the plan for Washington, DC—just another compelling reason to thank the French!
August 10: Anna Julia Cooper!
August 11: A tie between two talented American writers, Sarah Piatt and Alex Haley, and one American Studier pére.
August 12: Cecil B. DeMille, one of America’s most significant and ground-breaking film directors, and a pop culture showman who combined P.T. Barnum with D.W. Griffith.
August 13: A tie between two very different but equally interesting and influential 19th century women, Lucy Stone and Annie Oakley.
August 14: Ernest Thayer, the philosopher, journalist, and poet whose most defining legacy is as the author of the definitive poetic tribute to America’s national pastime.
August 15: Julia Child, without whose unique and charismatic voice and presence American cooking, culture, and society would have been left significantly more hungry and less fun.
August 16: William Keepers Maxwell, Jr., who managed to write some of the 20th century’s most interesting novels and short stories (as well as a memoir) while editing many of the century’s other best writers in his 40 years as fiction editor at The New Yorker.
August 17: Davy Crockett, whose identity has been a complicated combination of myth, legend, and reality since his multi-part life, his death, and the many cultural representations of them both.
August 18: A tie between two pioneering Americans, in very different ways, Virginia Dare and Meriwether Lewis.
August 19: Another tie, this time between two men without whom the history of television and popular culture would be very different, Philo Farnsworth and Gene Roddenberry.
August 20: H.P. Lovecraft, one of the true masters of horror, fantasy, “weird tales,” and other supernatural and fantastic literatures, and a figure whose creations and imagination have influenced countless sides to 20th and 21st century American and world culture.
August 21: A tie between two game-changing performers who jazzed up American culture and scored hugely influential legacies, William “Count” Basie and Wilt Chamberlain.
August 22: A tie between two very different but equally unique, talented, and just plain entertaining 20th century writers, Dorothy Parker and Ray Bradbury.
August 23: Clifford Geertz, the pioneering cultural anthropologist who brought literary, psychological, and sociological insights to the field, and profoundly influenced our understandings of society, religion, community, and ourselves.
August 24: Howard Zinn, who embodied many of America’s ideals in his life and identity just as much as in his ground-breaking and game-changing public scholarly works.
August 25: A tie between two supremely talented and pioneering 20th century icons, composer Leonard Bernstein and tennis great Althea Gibson.
August 26: Lee DeForest, the scientist and inventor without whose contributions the worlds of radio, television, and film would sound very different—if they sounded at all.
August 27: A tie between two very different but equally unique, talented, and influential American authors, Theodore Dreiser and William Least Heat-Moon.
August 28: Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be sanctified by the Catholic Church, and a woman whose educational and social efforts on behalf of American women and the poor should be inspiring regardless of one’s faith or spiritual perspective.
August 29: Temple Grandin, the doctor and professor of animal science who is also and most significantly one of autism’s most vocal and inspiring advocates and voices.
August 30: Roy Wilkins, the Civil Rights and NAACP leader whose editorial, political, social, and legal efforts contributed as much as any American to some of the 20th century’s most important achievements.