In all of the history classes that I've been in, there are always particular people that are revered by society and have become historical icons; From Julius Caesar of Rome to Martin Luther King Jr of the civil rights movement, we have always pointed out, celebrated and remember the lives and achievements of specific people, and rightfully so.
However, as we continue to glorify the more iconic people in history, we continue to ignore others in history who are significantly less known, yet still hold as much historical importance as any other icon in history.
In this article, I plan to pay homage to three particular people who made extraordinary sacrifices and even more extraordinary accomplishments that helped this world change for the better.
1. James Armistead Lafayette of the American Revolution
Whenever talking about the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War, the usual names always pop up, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere. However, there are some people who contributed to the American victory that, unfortunately, do not receive enough credit for their actions and one of them is James Armistead Lafayette.
James was born a slave on a Virginia plantation and named after his owner, William Armistead. Soon after the war had started, James was sent to fight in the war and was put under the command of French military officer, Marquis de Lafayette. Since he was able to read and write, James had volunteered to be utilized as a spy for the Continental Army. As posing as a runaway slave who defected to the British, James was able to both collect valuable information for the Americans and fed fake information to the British. Shortly after the war had ended and he finally won his freedom, James took up the surname of the man that believed in his capability to be a valuable asset, Marquis de Lafayette.
If not for the intel and misinformation that James had collected and dealt, the Americans may have never won the Revolutionary War.
2. Code Name Jane
Code Name Jane, although not a single person, was one of the several names for the clandestine group of everyday women that existed back in the late 60s and early 70s. Back in pre-Roe v. Wade America, abortion was still very much an illegal practice nationwide. The mission of the group was to offer underground abortion services to women in Chicago and was created in 1969.
In 1972, Chicago police raided an apartment that was used by this group and seven of them were arrested. While in the police van, these women had the names and addresses of women they were helping written on index cards. Knowing that if their names were revealed, they too would be arrested, these women of Code Name Jane ripped up and swallowed the index cards, ensuring that the identities of these women would never be revealed.
When reading more about this group, its activities and the women they served, it all seems as if it's written straight from a spy novel. The level of sacrifice and bravery that these women and the many others that were apart of Code Name Jane stand as one of the many examples of how ordinary people, bonded by a common goal, can come together and do some actual good, despite the cost.
3. Bayard Rustin of the Civil Rights Movement
When talking about the civil rights movement in the U.S., of course, many iconic names come up, but there is one man in particular who was left in the shadows, and that man was Bayard Rustin.
Having grown up during the Great Depression, Rustin had been a vocal advocate for change in the country. He would eventually start to work and collaborate with other leaders of the civil rights movement. He even became the right-hand man and a highly influential person to Martin Luther King Jr. He influenced MLK in his peaceful approaches to creating change in 1960's America.
However, political rivals of Rustin and the civil rights movement used his homosexuality against Rustin, threatening to accuse him and King of having an affair. In order to protect the reputation of King and the whole movement, Rustin retreated into the background of the movement. Even though he was unfairly forced to take a back seat in the movement, he still played a tremendous role in organizing and creating the tactics and events that lead to better lives for Rustin's generations and for future generations.