More

5 American heroes you know, and the 5 ways they fought for freedom you might not know about.

What better way to celebrate good ol' American freedom than by honoring the people who helped shape the country we know and love (OK, at least know)?

5 American heroes you know, and the 5 ways they fought for freedom you might not know about.

Ah, 4th of July. Freedom is in the air.

Can you smell it? GIF from "The Colbert Report."


The U.S. has a rich history of separate movements that have worked together to create a better country for its citizens. But sometimes it seems we forget that these movements do not occur in silos; they're often intertwined — and even share some activists!

So, before you fire up your grill and share some drinks with family and friends, let's take a second to have a quick (but fun!) history lesson, shall we?

Here are five not-so-well-known causes that were supported by well-known freedom fighters:

1. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, but she was also an anti-rape advocate.


Image from the White House.

During her time as chapter secretary of the Montgomery, Alabama, NAACP, Rosa Parks served as an sexual crimes investigator and was heralded as one of the best. She continued to speak out and fight the systemic abuse of black women outside her role as well, helping black women find justice against white rapists in a time when justice was near impossible to get.

While we've come a long way, the fight against rape culture is still going strong. Check out some of the groups working to create a world free of sexual violence at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

2. Helen Keller advocated for the rights of people with disabilities, but she also supported increased birth control access.

Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty.

The deaf and blind activist best known for her work in disability rights also supported a myriad of other causes. Many people don't know that she a passionate advocate for women's access to birth control. Or, to put it in her words, which are delightfully blunt:

"Only by taking the responsibility of birth control into their own hands can [women] roll back the awful tide of misery that is sweeping over them and their children."

#realtalk, amirite?

I can't believe that I'm writing this in 2015, but ... the fight for reproductive rights is still raging on. Check out these organizations that are carrying on the fight for increased access to birth control and comprehensive sex education: Advocates for Youth and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

3. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech, but he also focused on the importance of equal economic opportunity for all.

Image via Minnesota Historical Society/Flickr.

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Dr. King dreamed of a world where people of different races could coexist peacefully. But he also knew how having equal economic opportunity for all Americans is vital to creating a more just society.

If you want to get in on the action to increase economic opportunity for Americans, check out Jobs with Justice and the Center for American Progress Talk Poverty project.

4. Susan B. Anthony fought for women's suffrage, but she started out as a slavery abolitionist activist.

Image from History of Woman Suffrage/Wikimedia Commons

"Extend to him all the rights Citizenship. Let him vote and be voted for; let him sit upon the judge's bench, and in the juror's box. ... Let the North thus prove to the South, by her acts, that she fully recognizes the humanity of the black man."

Anthony grew up with parents who were active in the antislavery movement of the 1840s. She followed in her parents' footsteps when she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She also loved to write scathing op-eds denouncing lynchings and other racist acts against African-Americans in the local newspapers.

The fight for racial equality continues today, and it's far from over. Check out the Black Lives Matters movement (started by women, no less!) to see what you can do in the continued crusade for racial justice.

5. Cesar Chavez didn't only care about humans. He was also an avid animal rights supporter.

Image from Movimiento/Wikimedia Commons

"The basis for peace is respecting all creatures. We cannot hope to have peace until we respect everyone — respect ourselves and respect animals and all living things."

Chavez is best known for his leadership in the movement for farm workers' rights. But he also believed that the commitment to justice should include respect and love of animals. He really was about practicing what he preached: Chavez spent the last 25 years of his life not eating meat and even spent a few years as a vegan. Who knew?

If you're also all about helping our furry friends, definitely check out the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

Now go impress your friends at the BBQ this weekend with your impressive historical knowledge.

Happy 4th!

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less