June 2: Betty Freeman, whose philanthropic support of contemporary composers and musicians profoundly influenced world music, and who was a talented photographer in her own right.
June 3: A tie between two pioneering and controversial 20th century artists, Josephine Baker and Allen Ginsberg.
June 4: Dr. Ruth Westheimer, whose funny accent, quirky personality, and risqué recommendations shouldn’t disguise the revolutionary and liberating nature of her frank and unashamed embrace of sex and the power of mass media.
June 5: Bill Moyers, the pioneering television host and journalist whose investigative reporting, philosophical and spiritual conversations, and American Studies efforts have fundamentally impacted and changed American journalism, politics, and culture.
June 6: Nathan Hale, who had but one life to lose for his country, and in so losing it became one of America’s first truly mythologized heroes and figures.
June 7: A tie between Gwendolyn Brooks, the prolific poet, novelist, editor, and national icon who embodies Chicago as fully as any American writer; and Louise Erdrich, the Chippewa and German American poet, storyteller, and novelist whose interconnected series of multi-generational novels comprise some of the most significant American fiction of the last thirty years.
June 8: Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, designer, writer and philosopher, educator, and American legend whose legacies have informed countless aspects of contemporary society and life.
June 9: Luis Kutner, the pioneering human rights lawyer who co-founded Amnesty International, founded World Habeas Corpus, represented the Dalai Lama and numerous other significant clients, and created the crucial modern concept of the “living will” (among other impressive accomplishments).
June 10: Maurice Sendak!
June 11: Jeannette Rankin, whose historic status as the first woman elected to Congress only scratches the surface of her impressive and inspiring life, activism, and legacies.
June 12: John Roebling, the German-born civil engineer and architect whose Brooklyn Bridge, while certainly his most famous project (and one of America’s best known and most mythologized landmarks), was one of many pioneering achievements.
June 13: Dwight B. Waldo, the scholar and college president whose efforts on behalf of teachers, teachers colleges, and a democratic and public vision of higher education helped change American society for the better.
June 14: Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose Uncle Tom’s Cabin would be more than sufficient to earn her a nomination, but whose long and expansive writing career extended well beyond that most influential work for sure.
June 15: Josiah Henson, the escaped slave turned abolitionist, preacher, and activist whose inspiring life and compelling autobiography served as one of Stowe’s influences and deserve a central place in our collective story in their own right.
June 16: Geronimo (Goyathlay), the Apache leader and warrior whose legendary life has inspired numerous cultural responses and texts, but should not blind us to the very real and too often dark histories to which he also connects.
June 17: James Weldon Johnson, on whose truly Renaissance life see that post!
June 18: James Montgomery Flagg, the talented child prodigy and turn of the 20th century artist and illustrator whose most lasting legacy is his creation of an iconic, definitely patriotic, perhaps jingoistic and disturbing, and certainly striking and memorable American figure.
June 19: Pauline Kael, perhaps America’s greatest and most influential film critic, and a cultural commentator whose voice and perspective helped shape our conversations and community throughout the late 20th century.
June 20: Charles Chesnutt, author of (to my mind) the greatest and most significant American novel, among his many other complex and important, and far too unremembered, literary and historical works.
June 21: Reinhold Niebuhr, the son of German immigrants who became one of 20th century America’s greatest theological, philosophical, and cultural thinkers and commentators, and whose voice and ideas continue to influence our national converations.
June 22: Billy Wilder, one of America’s most talented and successful film directors and screenwriters, and one who contributed some of the 20th century’s most pioneering and important (as well as popular and influential) films.
June 23: Alfred Kinsey, the scientist and researcher whose pioneering and controversial investigations into human behavior and sexuality fundamentally changed our understanding of ourselves.
June 24: A tie between two almost diametrically opposed but equally influential 19th century Americans, Henry Ward Beecher and Ambrose Bierce.
June 25: James Meredith, the Civil Rights activist whose pioneering educational and social efforts were only the first acts in a long and complex American life and story.
June 26: A tie between two unique, talented, and influential 20th century American women, Pearl S. Buck and Babe Didrickson Zaharias.
June 27: A three-way tie between three passionate and inspiring activists, writers, and 20th century American women: Emma Goldman, Helen Keller, and Lucille Clifton.
June 28: Esther Forbes, the talented and prolific novelist whose children’s books, set both in her native Worcester (MA) and in some of the most significant eras of American history, won her numerous awards and have continued to find an audience into the 21st century.
June 29: A tie between two very distinct but equally courageous and influential 20th century political and social activists, Julia Lathrop and Stokely Carmichael.June 30: Lena Horne, the unique, talented, and charismatic singer, actress, and performer whose civil rights activism helped change American culture and society.