Our democracy has been shaped by many hands. Take the quiz below to discover your civic superpowers, and explore where your story fits into our history!
There is more than one way to shape the future of our nation — from demonstrating to investigating, to making sure everyone is fed, we can all be part of the story. Look at any movement in U.S. history, and you will see many people, contributing in many ways.
Look to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956, which required many people to come together to stand up for what they believed in. If the arrest of Defender Rosa Parks was the spark that ignited the boycott then the behind-the-scenes organization of Connector Jo Ann Robinson was the kindling that kept it burning. Georgia Gilmore organized other Nurturers to cook and sell food at mass meetings, which fed protestors and helped fund the protest. It was Amplifier Martin Luther King Jr that inspired protestors and articulated the demands of the boycott.
Like any skill, we can learn new civic superpowers through practice. We all have many talents, and fill multiple roles throughout our lives — figures in the past are just as multifaceted. Read on to meet influential figures in U.S. history below who share some of your superpowers, and connect your story through our past. Ready to level up your civic superpowers? Find activities and events to take action during the Civic Season.
You are crucial for sustaining the marathon of change. Do people need to be fed? On it. Does someone need cheering on? You’re there. You know change can’t happen without community, and you care for and support those around you. Your work ensures everyone has what they need to keep building a better future. Grow your Nurturer skills with these Civic Season resources!
Nurturers in History
- Clara Barton (1821–1912) left behind her office work to care for the wounded during the Civil War. She worked on the battlefield, providing supplies and care to the troops. Barton established the American Red Cross in the U.S.
- Fred Rogers (1928–2003) used his degree in music composition, love of puppets, and education as an ordained Presbyterian Minister to create Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. His message of kindness, compassion, and learning has inspired audiences around the world.
- Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865–1915) was the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She had her work cut out for her: facing racism from her white colleagues and distrust of Western medicine from her fellow Omaha tribal members. But she broke through barriers in order to care for her community.
- Henry Bergh (1813–1888) resigned as the U.S. diplomat to Russia to launch the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). He also succeeded in getting anti-cruelty laws passed and granting ASPCA the power to enforce such laws.
- Jane Addams (1860–1935) co-founded the famous Hull House in Chicago in 1889. Hull-House provided kindergarten and daycare facilities for the children of working mothers, employment services, citizenship classes, and community support.
- Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), a self-proclaimed ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist,’ dedicated his life to making the world work for all of humanity with design. Fuller’s work addressed issues of housing, transportation, environmental degradation, and more.
- Pura Belpré (1899–1982) was NYC’s first Puerto Rican librarian. Belpré was disappointed by the lack of Spanish language children’s books available in the U.S. and wrote her own. Her English translations of Puerto Rican folktales also helped introduce the culture to a wider audience.
Through your contact list and your commitment, you bring people, ideas, and movements together. You don’t just know the right people — you do the work to connect the dots. You are open-minded and make unlikely alliances, helping build the bridges to overcome obstacles and reach the future we envision, together. Add to your Connector skills with these Civic Season resources!
Connectors in History
- Larry Itliong (1913–1977) immigrated from the Philippines hoping to become an attorney. As a Filipino-American, many barriers kept him from college — so he took his skills and became a labor organizer, leading a movement for workers’ rights all along the West Coast.
- Yuri Kochiyama (1921–2014) worked to build connections and solidarity across racial and generational lines. Kochiyama started her activism while living in Japanese American internment camps during WWII. She supported fights for Civil Rights, Puerto Rican nationalism, and Japanese American redress and reparations.
- Tisquantum (1585–1622), also known as Squanto, was a Patuxet tribal member who was kidnapped, sold into slavery in Spain, escaped to England, and finally made his way back to his homeland. He used his English skills to become an interpreter and emissary between the English and Wampanoag Confederacy.
- Frances Perkins (1882–1965) was the first woman to serve in a president’s cabinet and became one of the key architects of the New Deal under the Roosevelt Administration. Her work lives on in our unemployment insurance, minimum wage, shorter workweek, regulations on child labor, and worker’s safety.
- Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was a Renaissance man — printer, writer, inventor, statesman, diplomat, and America’s first Post Master General. He helped create many organizations for U.S. intellects and created a positive image of the new country around the globe through his networking and writing.
- Jane Jacobs (1916–2006) had no formal training in planning or architecture, but her theories continue to shape our cities. She educated herself about urban planning and advocated for a long-term, bottom-up approach to ensure our cities were shaped by the people living in them.
- Edna Fischel Gellhorn (1878–1970) was a suffragist, civic leader, and reformer who dedicated her life to connecting people for a cause. Her work was often intersectional, promoting the rights of Black women within the suffrage movement that did not always welcome them.
On the front lines, you keep the movement MOVING. You don’t take no for an answer, and people count on you. You aren’t scared of confrontation or getting in trouble for standing up for what you believe in. Flex your Defender skills with these Civic Season resources!
Defenders in History
- Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) was a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Civil War military leader, suffragist, and advocate for human rights. Tubman escaped slavery as a young woman, and liberated many enslaved people before and during the Civil War.
- Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) was a skilled political strategist, suffragist, and peace activist who helped secure the right to vote for American women. Plus, she helped bring women into the political mainstream!
- Ed Roberts (1939–1995), a post-polio quadriplegic, was a disability rights activist and barrier breaker. He established disabled student housing at Berkeley, led a fight for the city to install curb cuts on city sidewalks, and advocated for removing social and physical barriers to allow independent living.
- Janet McCloud (1934–2003), also known as Yet-Si-Blue, of the Tulalip Tribes, was a prominent indigenous rights activist. She was a founding member of the Survival of American Indians Association (SAIA) and staged “fish-ins” protests to reaffirm treaty rights and bring attention to discrimination faced by Native Americans across the nation.
- Sylvia Rivera (1951–2002) was a transgender woman living in New York City and a fierce defender of LGBTQ+ rights. She founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), establishing the first shelter for LGBTQ+ youth, with Marsha P. Johnson.
- Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales (1928–2005) studied engineering but could not pay for school. Corky instead used his skills to build social and cultural organizations — like Ballet Chicano de Atlan, El Teatro Pachuco and the Escuela Tlatelolco school for Chicano children.
You know how to capture the imagination of everyone around you. With creativity and passion, you can translate ideas, making them interesting and easy to understand. Whether on stage or online, your voice makes progress possible. Turn up your Amplifier skills with these Civic Season resources!
Amplifiers in History
- Frederick Douglass (1817–1895) escaped enslavement and became a prominent abolitionist and suffragist. His writing and public speaking helped spread his message — but he also knew a picture was worth a thousand words. One of the most photographed people, his image as a dignified Black man was a tool to combat racial stereotypes.
- Rachel Carson (1907–1964) was a biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) when she wrote Silent Spring. The book highlighted the dangers of chemical pollution — and helped spur the U.S. environmental movement.
- Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) is best remembered as the first African American Supreme Court Justice. He had a remarkable career before SCOTUS as a lawyer for the NAACP, earning the title of “Mr. Civil Rights” for his diligent work and eloquent legal arguments.
- Harvey Milk (1930–1978) was an LGBTQ+ rights leader and politician. Milk mobilized union protests and spurred massive voter registration before being elected as San Francisco City Supervisor. Milk was assassinated, but his legacy helped advance human rights.
- Helen Keller became ill and was left blind and deaf as a baby. Deemed nearly hopeless, under the tutelage of Anne Mansfield Sullivan, Keller defied all expectations, learning to communicate. She graduated from college “cum laude” and dedicated her life to disability rights.
- Ida B Wells (1862–1931) lost three friends to lynching in 1892, and decided enough was enough. Her extensive writing about lynching brought the issue international attention, and she helped launch both the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
- Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) was one of the most impactful photographers of the 20th century. Her work recording the human experience, from the Dust Bowl to Japanese-American incarceration, helped prompt changes in social attitudes and policy towards marginalized groups.