Born into slavery during the 1810s in Maryland, she survived a tragic, violent childhood before ultimately escaping and gaining her own freedom. Unsatisfied, Harriet Tubman embarked on a mission of liberation, freeing slaves and shepherding them to the North via the Underground Railroad. Over the course of her life, Harriet freed around 70 slaves and came to be known as "the Moses" of her people.
With Carter Roy & Vanessa Richardson
About Historical Figures
Big Lives. Little-known Facts. Great, unknown stories hide inside history—every other Wednesday, we dig up what you don't know about the icons you do know. Hosts Carter and Vanessa bring history to life, telling unexpected anecdotes, describing the real personalities behind big names, and examining each individual’s lasting impact on the world. A reboot of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths. (iTunes “Best Debuts of 2016”) Historical Figures is part of the Parcast Network and is a Cutler Media Production. Ad-free archives of episodes six months or older are now available through Stitcher Premium.
In the late 15th Century, explorer Christopher set out with on a mission that had never been attempted before: cross the Atlantic Ocean and find an alternate route to Asia. Instead, he landed in the Caribbean, and set himself up to be credited as the "man who discovered America". In reality, Columbus was a zealot and an egomaniac who oversaw the death and enslavement of thousands of native Americans.
This famous Queen ruled Egypt during the mid 14th century, BC, over a period of immense religious upheaval. With her husband, she conspired to convert all of Egypt from the traditional polytheistic religion to the worship of a single God. In the end, that devotion would cost Nefertiti her legacy, her life, and her tomb.
There was a time when science and religion worked in harmony, as two parts of a celestial design. Astrologer and philosopher Johannes Kepler oversaw this marriage of theory and belief when he proposed the revolutionary laws of planetary motion in the early 17th century. Amidst personal loss and the chaos of post-schism Europe, Kepler held true to his personal mission to find God among the stars.
As the world changed in the early 19th century, one man saw a future for a free Latin America. His name was Simón Bolívar, and he would lead a number of successful fights for independence against Spain. Though he was eventually given the name, El Liberador, he also came to known as a dictator in his own right.
As World War 2 raged on, Europe was rocked by the horrors of the holocaust, failed businessman turned Nazi spy, Oskar Schindler embarked on a personal mission to save the suffering Jewish prisoners of Poland's Płaszów Concentration Camp.
He was a one-of-a-kind talent remembered for making millions of people laugh. Robin Williams was born in 1951 and his acting abilities became apparent at a young age. He often described his home life in Chicago as lonely, and used comedy to garner attention from his parents. Williams was a comedian who made others laugh while dealing with his own darkness.
Around 6th-century AD, legendary tales began circling of a great warrior king that defended Britain against invaders. The man in question? King Arthur. The stories don’t stop there. A thousand years later, King Arthur’s conquests involving the Holy Grail, Excalibur, and the Knights of the Round Table are still shining him in a heroic light.
Responsible for leading the first expedition across North America in 1804, Sacagawea was only 17 when she made the trek, while pregnant, across the continent. The daughter of a Native American chief, Sacagawea was captured and enslaved by an opposing tribe and then sold as a bride to a canadian fur trapper.
A pioneer in the abolition movement and women's suffrage, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and championed a movement through his speeches and writings during the Civil War.
This poor young revolutionary would one day sit aside Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the aftermath of the greatest conflict in human history. What can we learn from Stalin's improbable rise to power?
Known as the Father of Genetics for his groundbreaking work on pea plants and subsequent discovery of the fundamental laws of inheritance, Mendel also struggled with mental health issues such as severe depression and anxiety.
Yangdi was the last emperor of the short-lived Sui dynasty. He was responsible for many great things like strengthening the northern border by rebuilding the Great Wall and building the Grand Canal. But he also had a violent streak which he used to seize power by killing both his older brother and his father.
Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish American industrialist, who helped build the American steel industry. He became one of the richest men in the world, and also one of its leading philanthropists. But his very first job was as a “bobbin boy” in a cotton factory where he was responsible for bringing bobbins to loom weavers.
Galileo Galilei is known as the father of modern science and the man whose work proved that the Earth orbits the sun. His scientific discoveries were in opposition of what the Catholic Church taught. But did you know that while he was a math professor at the University of Pisa, Galileo was fined because he refused to obey the school’s dress code and wear a toga?
Having stated that marriage and death “are nearly the same thing,” John Locke instead dedicated his life to knowledge, thought, and peace in one of England’s most turbulent times. From humble beginnings to the halls of power, John Locke’s philosophical ideas constructed the modern definition of the self. His political ideas surrounding the separation of church and state laid the foundation for democracy, and are also credited with starting the Age of Revolutions in the 18th century.
Genghis Khan is known as one of the most vicious rulers in history, but did you know that he created one of the first international courier systems called The Yam? It was a set of well-spaced outposts across his empire. Goods and information could be transported faster by replacing tired horses with fresh horses and it also allowed him to keep a closer eye on his network of military spies and scouts.
Sir Francis Bacon was many things. A philosopher. A lawyer. A scientist that is sometimes credited with formalizing the Scientific Method, a process that includes making a hypothesis, testing and retesting it until the results are found. But was he also...William Shakespeare?
Anwar El-Sadat was an Egyptian president who is credited with bringing peace between Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s. But, as a young soldier, he formed a group called The Free Officers, a revolutionary movement that would eventually overthrow King Farouk and liberate the Egyptian people from British rule.
Most people know Mark Twain as one of America’s most popular writers and humorists. Some even know that as a young man, he was a Riverboat pilot. But did you know that during the Civil War, he volunteered for the war effort to fight for the South?