I don't like token individuals mentioned because of their race or some such nonsense such as Crispus Attucks. Yes, a black man died in the Boston Massacre, but so did four white people, and their names were...oh, yeah, not covered. Attucks isn't mentioned because of the Boston Massacre; he is mentioned because he is black. If I were an African American, I would find it offensive that "being shot" qualifies as an accomplishment worthy of remembrance. I think Harvey Milk would be treated in much the same way. Apart from being gay and shot (and, I suppose, being indirectly involved with the Twinkie Defense), what exactly were Milk's accomplishments?
Anyway, I was going to make a list of the 25 Americans every U.S. history class should cover in some detail. Turns out that's basically impossible. Rather than attempt it, I'll make a list based on reasons those people should be known. This is probably the best way to weed out the token individuals; if you can't think of anything specific that person did that stands out, then odds are we don't have time for it in class. I wouldn't say this is an exhaustive list by any means. Nor would I say these are the people actually covered, though many of them are. In my ever so humble opinion, every American citizen should be familiar with the people listed below.
- Presidents. Easily the most remembered group.
- Supreme Court Justices- Woooo Article III! Seriously, these people are overlooked, given their immense importance to our understanding of our government and our law.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
- Members of Congress. Some of the more prominent:
John C. Calhoun
- Generals, Admirals, and other military folks. Pretty self explanatory; we wouldn't exist without our military.
John Paul Jones
Ulysses S. Grant
Robert E. Lee
James Longstreet (way underrated, certainly more important than Stonewall Jackson)
- Authors/Reformers/Other Politicians. I'm placing them in the same category because often the latter were also the former. This list in particular is far from complete.
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Harriet Beecher Stowe
John Brown (for the lack of a better place...may need a category for crazy people)
Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
W.E.B. Du Bois
William Randolph Hearst
Martin Luther King
Alexander Graham Bell
That is a lot of people and this is a very incomplete list. I only listed 10 people into the President's category and one of them was the President of the Confederate States. There are a great many more who could be added. Each person on this list was important in his or her own right and had a significant impact upon the nation. There are no token individuals here, placed not because they made a significant impact on our world but because they happened to belong to a race or class outside of the heterosexual WASP. We could put a Crispus Attucks or Harvey Milk on this list, but they would stand out for their lack of personal achievement. And, frankly, there are more important things to cover. California politicians may gain by this sop tossed to their homosexual constituents, but students are certainly not served.