October 2: A tie between Nat Turner, the Virginia slave and preacher who led one of the most violent, successful, and significant slave revolts, and whose voice continues to echo long beyond that moment; and Wallace Stevens, the lawyer and insurance salesman who also wrote some of the most dense, complex, erudite, and evocative 20th century American poetry.
October 3: A tie between Thomas Wolfe, whose flawed but powerful novels have a great deal to tell us about his own life, his home state, and turn of the 20th century America; and John Ross, whose lengthy and often tragic leadership of the Cherokee Nation reflects some of America’s darkest as well as its most inspiring histories and moments.
October 4: A tie between Frederic Remington, the talented artist and illustrator who is worth remembering as much for his connections to American legends and myths as for his own impressive career; and Buster Keaton, the pioneering comedian and filmmaker whose most famous work likewise engages directly with questions of American history and mythology.
October 5: A tie between Jonathan Edwards; and Louise Fitzhugh, who like Edwards is best known for one defining work but whose career is similarly much more diverse than that one impressive but singular text.
October 6: Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi sharecropper who in her mid-40s became a Civil Rights activist, voting rights advocate, and one of America’s most inspiring and influential voices for social change and equality.
October 7: A tie between two controversial and radical, angry and impassioned, and hugely important and inspiring American activists and artists, Joe Hill and Amiri Baraka.
October 8: A tie between Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I fighter pilot who became an aviation pioneer in even more influential ways; and Jesse Jackson, the minister and Civil Rights activist who became a social and political leader in even more ground-breaking ways.
October 9: A tie between two reformers and activists whose efforts have made America and the world more equitable, more democratic, and safer, Francis Wayland Parker and Jody Williams.
October 10: A tie between Robert Gould Shaw, the young Bostonian and Civil War officer whose heroic service as the Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts has inspired multiple American cultural responses; and Oscar Brown, Jr., the singer/songwriter, actor, playwright, and activist whose presence defined numerous 20th century cultural and social communities.
October 11: Eleanor Roosevelt!
October 12: A tie between George Washington Cable, who did as much for American historical and social understandings with his fiction as with his political writings; and Robert Coles, who has done as much for American psychology and narratives of childhood and identity with his teaching as with his pioneering writings.
October 13: A tie between two artists who greatly influenced 20th century American political, social, and popular culture: Herblock and Lenny Bruce.
October 14: E.E. Cummings, the Modernist poet whose innovations in punctuation, structure, and style complemented and amplified his complex and pioneering themes and perspectives.
October 15: A tie between two of the 20th century’s most impressive and influential writers, thinkers, and Americans, John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
October 16: A tie between two pioneering authors who helped change America’s languages, literatures, and culture in multiple and enduring ways, Noah Webster and Eugene O’Neill.
October 17: A tie between of the most inspiring and impressive (if at times frustratingly circumscribed and critiqued) 19th century American women, Sophie Hayden and Sarah Winnemucca.
October 18: A tie between two very very distinct but equally influential and significant American artists, Helen Hunt Jackson and Chuck Berry.
October 19: John Woolman!
October 20: John Dewey!
October 21: Ursula Le Guin, the pioneering science fiction and fantasy author who has also written eloquently about many of our most complex and important cultural questions.
October 22: A tie between two nearly mythic American icons whose actual experiences and identities, while complex and controversial, also comprise some of the bravest choices in our history, Daniel Boone and John Reed.
October 23: Johnny Carson, who redefined a television genre but whose influence on 20th century American culture and society went far beyond just late nights.
October 24: Annie Edson Taylor, the Civil War widow and retired schoolteacher who capped an impressive and inspiring subsequent life of travel and adventure by becoming, at the age of 63, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
October 25: A tie between two pioneering 20th century Americans who took America and the world to entirely new places and ideas, Richard Byrd and Henry Steele Commager.
October 26: Mahalia Jackson, for the groundbreaking and powerful recordings that helped make her “The Queen of Gospel,” but also for her courageous civil rights activism and advocacy.
October 27: A tie between two unique, significant, and hugely talented 20th century American authors, Sylvia Plath and Maxine Hong Kingston.
October 28: Jonas Salk!
October 29: Henry George, the writer, economist, and political activist whose Progress and Poverty, despite some outdated theories, remains one of the most prescient and salient works on inequality published in America.
October 30: Elizabeth Madox Roberts, the far-too-forgotten early 20th century novelist and poet who portrayed her beloved Kentucky with both sensitive realism and modernist innovation.