Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.
Virginia Woolf was an English writer who pioneered a narrative mode called stream of consciousness to describe the thoughts and feelings of the narrator. Regarded as one of the most prominent modernist 20th-century writers, Woolf's works have gained much attention for inspiring feminism. Her life and work have inspired several films, novels, and plays.
Widely considered one of the greatest British poets of all time, Lord Byron remains influential as his works are widely read even today. He was also one of the most important personalities of the Romantic Movement. He is also known for his role in the Greek War of Independence, for which the Greeks consider him a national hero.
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.
Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.
James Joyce was an Irish novelist, poet, teacher, short story writer, and literary critic. Widely considered one of the 20th century's most important and influential writers, James Joyce contributed immensely to the modernist avant-garde movement. Joyce's work has influenced several scholars and writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Salman Rushdie, Seán Ó Ríordáin, Flann O'Brien, John Updike, and Cormac McCarthy.
Anton Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer and playwright. Widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of short fiction, Chekhov's works have influenced the progression of the modern short story. As a playwright, Anton Chekhov is credited with influencing the rise of modernism in theatre, along with August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American philosopher and writer. Apart from publishing two best-selling novels, Ayn Rand is credited with developing a philosophical system called Objectivism. Over the years, Ayn Rand has been a major influence among American conservatives and libertarians. Some of the famous personalities influenced by her include Amber Heard, Vince Vaughn, Jimmy Wales, Ayelet Shaked, and Mary Ruwart.
German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.
Norman Mailer was an American journalist, novelist, essayist, filmmaker, actor, and playwright. A prolific writer, Mailer had at least one best-selling book in each of the seven decades post Second World War. Overall, he had 11 best-selling books in a career spanning over 60 years. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Mailer is regarded as an innovator of New Journalism.
Australian author and feminist Germaine Greer made headlines with her first book, The Female Eunuch, which focused on female sexuality. Greer’s career boasts of a PhD in literature, and she has also taught at the University of Warwick and other institutes. She was later named an Australian National Living Treasure.
Widely considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens was an English writer famous for creating world-renowned fictional characters. Regarded by critics and scholars as a literary genius, most of his short stories and novels are read around the world even today. His distinctive style of writing is referred to as Dickensian.
For someone who was voted by his acting school peers as 'The Least Likely To Succeed', Gene Hackman went on to have a remarkable acting career spanning around half a century with multiple prestigious awards. His notable films include Bonnie and Clyde, The French Connection, Unforgiven, Mississippi Burning and The Royal Tenenbaums. Apart from acting, Gene Hackman is also a novelist and has written six books.
Australian actress Isla Fisher attained widespread fame in 2005 when she starred in the commercially successful Hollywood film Wedding Crashers. Some of her other notable films are The Great Gatsby, Now You See Me, I Heart Huckabees, Bachelorette, Rango and Rise of the Guardians. She has also acted in television series and is an author of children’s books.
Known for her Academy Award-nominated performance in The Hateful Eight, Jennifer Jason Leigh had started her career at age 9. Fans also loved her in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and Margot at the Wedding. She was also seen as Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes’s Broadway production Cabaret.
Activist, philosopher, academic and author, Angela Davis is a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). She has worked in the areas of feminism, class, race and the US prison system. She has also received criticism for supporting the erstwhile Soviet Union and has been accused of supporting political violence.
Nicolle Wallace has been Jeb Bush's press secretary, the White House communications director under George W. Bush, and John McCain’s senior political advisor. She has also hosted Deadline: White House and The View, and written three political novels, including Eighteen Acres. A self-proclaimed “non-practicing Republican,” she supports same-sex marriage.
Henry Rollins is an American musician. Rollins is credited with forming the Rollins Band, which was active from 1987 to 2006. He is also credited with founding the publishing company and record label 2.13.61, Inc. Also a well-known activist, Henry Rollins has campaigned for various causes, including the promotion of peace movement and LGBT rights.
A lawyer, law professor, political analyst and a civil rights activist, Maya Harris’s list of achievements is huge. One of the youngest in the US to become a law school dean, Maya Harris has worked with Hillary Clinton and her own sister Kamala Harris in their respective presidential campaigns.
Renowned British essayist Charles Lamb was a major figure of the Romantic period. He is best remembered for his Essays of Elia and his book of abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays, Tales from Shakespeare, which he co-wrote with his sister, Mary. He had also once spent time in a mental facility.
The leading English art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was a hugely influential figure in the latter half of the 19th century. Also a philosopher and prominent social thinker, he wrote on varied subjects like geology, architecture, education, botany, myth, ornithology, literature, and political economy. He founded the charitable trust Guild of St George.
Ina Garten is an American author and TV host best known for hosting Food Network's cooking show, Barefoot Contessa. Over the years, Garten has released several best-selling cookbooks, including The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home.
Colette was a French author who received a nomination for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. She is remembered for her novella Gigi, which inspired the 1958 movie and the 1973 musical of the same name. Her life and work have inspired several films, including the 2018 biographical drama film Colette, where Keira Knightley played the title role.
Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.
August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, painter, essayist, novelist, and poet. He wrote over 30 works of fiction and more than 60 plays in an illustrious career that spanned 40 years. Widely regarded as the father of modern Swedish literature, Strindberg is best remembered for his work The Red Room, which is considered the first modern Swedish novel.
Author and poet Audre Lorde is remembered as a firebrand feminist and a champion for the LGBT community. Openly lesbian, she penned iconic volumes such as Cables to Rage and The Black Unicorn. She also recorded her 14-year struggle with cancer in The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light.
Gertrude Stein was an American playwright, novelist, poet, and art collector. She is remembered for publishing works about lesbian sexuality, which was considered a taboo at that time. Over the years, Gertrude Stein has been the subject of several works of art. In the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, Stein was portrayed by Kathy Bates.
American Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton was ordained a priest and named Father Louis. He was a member of the monastery Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. He is remembered for his bestselling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and for his study of Eastern religions such as Buddhism.