|Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland. His mother, who was deaf, was a musician and a painter of portraits. His father, who taught deaf people how to speak, invented "Visible Speech". This was a code which showed how the tongue, lips, and throat were positioned to make speech sounds. Graham, or "Aleck", as his family called him, was interested in working with the deaf throughout his life.
He only attended school for five years; from the time he was 10 until he was 14, but he never stopped learning. He read the books in his grandfather's library and studied tutorials * .
When he was a teen-ager, he and his brother Melly used the voice box of a dead sheep to make a speaking machine that cried, "Mama!" This created even more interest in human speech and how it worked.
When he was in his early 20's, his two brothers died of tuberculosis * . Bell himself had the disease and his father moved the family to Canada looking for a better climate in which to live. Bell recovered from the disease.
Two years later he went to Boston to open a school for teachers of the deaf and then became a professor at Boston University. It was at this time that he met Mabel Hubbard, one of his students who was 10 years younger than he. Mabel had become deaf at the age of four due to scarlet fever. Five years later they were married. At the wedding ceremony he gave her a gift of all but 10 shares of the stock in the newly formed company called Bell Telephone Company. They had three sons.
He became a U.S. citizen, but he died in Canada at the age of 75.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia in the large twelve room house of his parents on January 15, 1929. His grandparents also lived in the house.
He was born during a time when black people did not have the rights which they have today. M.L., as he was called, first experienced racial discrimination* when their white neighbors refused to let him play with their boys. This was hard for him to understand because the boys had grown up as neighbors and had played together for years.
At a later time he and his father were asked to move to the back of a shoe store to be fitted with shoes. They left without buying anything. These early incidents made a deep impression on the young boy.
When he was five years old his mother persuaded the first grade teacher, Miss Dickerson, to make room for him in her class. Even though he started several weeks after the other children, he soon caught up with them academically and even surpassed* them before the year was over.
He attended Oglethorpe Elementary School which was a private school associated with Atlanta University. His parents paid $25 a year which covered all his expenses. Miss Lemon, his teacher taught him to be independent. She taught him if there was an injustice, he could rebel, but still keep his dignity and find quiet ways to resist. She inspired her students to learn about black history and take pride in their heritage* . She took the class on field trips to visit with successful black businessmen and professionals. Her students started each day by singing the song, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
He attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. He was younger than most of the students and also skipped some subjects because he already knew the subject matter.
On one occasion he and his teacher were riding on a bus. When the bus filled up with people, the driver asked them to stand up and let two white people have their seats. It was the law. Martin saw the injustice of it, and he never forgot that incident.
When he was 15 years old he entered Morehouse College. After two years in school he decided he could best serve others by becoming a minister. He became assistant minister of the Ebenezer Baptist church where his father was minister. The following year he graduated from college. He was only 19 years old.
He then attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. While he was at Crozer he began to study the teachings of Mahatma Ghandi, a man who brought about changes in India through "passive* resistance". Ghandi urged people to not fight, but to protest peacefully. Martin saw this method of non-violent resistance as the answer to the unfair treatment blacks received in America.
When he was a senior at Crozer he was elected class president and also won an award as the most outstanding student.
He worked on his Ph.D. at Boston University. It was there he met Coretta Scott who would become his wife. They would eventually have four children; two boys and two girls. When he graduated from Boston University he became the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Blacks and whites were segregated* in Montgomery, attending different schools and sitting in separate sections on buses. Sometimes blacks would be forced to stand on a bus even though there were empty seats in the "white" section at the front of the bus. On December 1, 1955 Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. The police were called and she was arrested. This event led to a revolt all over America.
E.D. Nixon, who was a train porter, bailed Rosa out of jail, and he started contacting others about starting a boycott* of the buses. "Boycott" means they would refuse to ride the buses until they received fair treatment. The newspapers heard of the plan and wrote an article. This article was very helpful in getting the word out about the boycott.
The black leaders were asking for courteous treatment from the drivers and seating on a first-come, first-served basis, with whites in the front of the bus and blacks in the rear. No one was to be asked to give up a seat for someone else. They also wanted black drivers in the areas where they lived.
The boycott lasted for more than a year and they walked, rode bicycles, and rode in car pools to get to work. In December of 1956 the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unlawful.
In 1957 Dr. King helped establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and he became its president.
Black students began to stage "sit-ins" at lunch counters. Up until this time they had been forbidden food service at eating places.
Then the "freedom riders" began riding buses from state to state and doing "sit-ins" at lunch counters and "white" waiting rooms. The Jim Crow laws that said blacks were to be denied certain rights began to be challenged in many cities in America.
Peaceful marches were organized and people were arrested because they were taking part. Even little children were sprayed with water hoses and arrested! On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King and other leaders led a march into Washington D.C. Over 200,000 people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. It was here Dr. King delivered his "I Have Dream" message.
In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. He gave the $54,000 prize money to the civil rights groups which were working to secure the rights blacks deserved.
Dr. King was put in jail 30 times for his resistance. Some people tried to kill him. Then on April 4, 1968 a gunman did murder him in Memphis, Tennessee. His widow Coretta Scott King passed away January 30, 2006.
Many changes have taken place in America because of the leadership of Martin Luther King. In 1986 when Ronald Reagan was president, Congress passed a law establishing a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day.
Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The family moved to Indiana and 8 year old Abe helped his father build another log house. A year later his mother died and the house was very empty. His father remarried and in addition to his sister Sarah, who was 3 years older, there were now 3 more children in the family.
Lincoln had less than a year of schooling. Books were scarce and so was paper. He worked his arithmetic problems on a board and cleaned the board with a knife so he could use it again.
The family owned a Bible and he spent many hours reading it. He would copy parts of it in order to memorize it. Sometimes he would walk for miles to borrow a book. One of his favorite books was "The Life of George Washington".
By the time he was 17, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. He would walk 17 miles to the county courthouse in order to watch the lawyers work. He sat in the back of the courtroom and watched them as they shook their fists and became red in the face. Then he would go home and think about what he had seen.
Every time he got a new job he would try to work on a skill which would help him when he became a lawyer. When he was a shopkeeper he tried to be honest and fair. Once he
shortchanged * a woman by 6 cents, and he followed her home so he could give the money back to her.
When he was a postmaster, he tried to learn how to get along with people well.
When he was a surveyor; * a person who measured land, he tried to always be accurate in his measurements.
While he was working as a surveyor, he was elected to the Illinois legislature. *
He still wanted to be a lawyer. He would go without sleep in order to study. In 1836 he passed the test and became a lawyer.
He was inaugurated * president in March of 1861. Five weeks later the Civil War began. It was a fight about slavery. Lincoln wanted the United States to remain one nation. It was in danger of being divided into two nations; the North and the South.
He quoted from the Bible," A house divided against itself cannot stand." He was able to realize both of his goals. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation * Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Southern states, and the country was able to remain a united nation. Eventually all the slaves in the United States became free.
Lincoln died after being shot at a theater performance in Washington, D.C.