Washington elementary school 2015 social studies fair michigan history day theme: leadership & legacy in history

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**This year students will do research and create a project about a person or group of people whose actions in the past have had a lasting impact on Michigan, the U.S., or the World. This is different than a biography report on a person’s life. Students should focus on specific actions that this person took in their lifetime, and how those actions affect our lives today.

This list emphasizes people who are connected to our 4th and 5th grade standards, but you may certainly look beyond this list. Find a topic that interests and excites you.

This list is just the beginning!


  1. Etienne Brule, French explorer – first European explorer to explore Michigan

  2. John Johnston (1762–1828) , Sault Ste. Marie fur trader.

  3. Susan Johnston, Native American woman married to John Johnston

  4. Jacques Marquette, Jesuit priest, established first mission at Sault Sainte Marie, MI

  5. Douglass Houghton (copper mining in Keweenaw Peninsula)

  6. Bishop Frederic Baraga

  7. "Chief" Okemos, (adopted "John" aka John Okemos) , Native American tribal leader

  8. Tecumseh, Shawnee chief who tried to organize Native Americans to slow the advance of American settlement.

  9. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, United States Indian agent noted for his early studies of Native American cultures, as well as for his 1832 expedition to the source of the Mississippi River

  10. Andrew Blackbird, Ottawa leader, historian and negotiator in the Treaty of 1855 (born in Harbor Springs)

  11. Pontiac, Native American chief and war leader (born near the Detroit River)

  12. Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, Brigadier General in the War of 1812, 1848 Democratic Party presidential nominee, governor of Michigan Territory (born in New Hampshire; moved to Michigan when appointed governor)

  13. Steven T. Mason, first governor of MI

  14. Chase S. Osborn, former SSM newspaperman and postmaster. Former governor of MI.

  15. Charles T. Harvey, Soo Locks

  16. Horace Elgin Dodge, Automobile manufacturer, Machinist

  17. John Francis Dodge, Automobile manufacturer, Machinist

  18. James Anthony Bailey, (born James Anthony McGuiness)  Impresario, Formed Barnum & Bailey Circus

  19. Elijah McCoy, Inventor, “the Real McCoy”

  20. Thomas Edison, Inventor

  21. Henry Ford, Industrialist, Founder: Ford Motor Company

  22. Berry Gordy, Jr., Businessman, Founder: Motown Record Corporation

  23. Will Keith Kellogg, Businessman, Inventor

  24. Iven Carl "Kinch" Kincheloe, Jr. , Air Force Pilot

  25. Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Aviator, first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean

  26. William Boeing, aviation pioneer, founder of Boeing Company (born in Detroit)

  27. Ransom E. Olds, automobile manufacturer; founded Olds Motor Vehicle Company (born in Geneva, Ohio, long-time resident of Lansing)

  28. Erastus Hussey, abolitionist and leading Underground Railroad stationmaster (from Battle Creek)

  29. Sojourner Truth, abolitionist (lived in Battle Creek)

  30. Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth president, led the country during the Civil War

  31. Sarah Emma Edmonds, Union spy and soldier who famously disguised herself as a man (born in, New Brunswick, Canada; moved to Flint)

  32. Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (born in Tuskegee, Alabama; moved to Detroit

  33. Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader

  34. Jackie Robinson, baseball legend, first African American to play in the Major Leagues

  35. Aretha Franklin, singer known as "The Queen of Soul" (born in Memphis, Tennessee; raised in Detroit)

  36. Stevie Wonder, Famous “Motown” musician from Detroit

  37. Anna Howard Shaw, Leader of the women’s rights movement in Michigan. Worked to change the Michigan Constitution to allow women to vote.

  38. Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States, advocate of breast cancer early detection and chemical dependency treatment (born in Chicago; raised in Grand Rapids)

  39. Gerald R. Ford, US President (born in Omaha, Nebraska; raised in Grand Rapids)

  40. Senator Carl Levin

  41. William Penn, Quaker leader who founded the colony of Pennsylvania

  42. Chief Powhatan, helped the English settlement at Jamestown.

  43. Pocahontas, Daughter of Chief Powhatan, marriage to John Rolfe led to the “Peace of Pocahontas”

  44. John Adams, 2nd President of the U.S., member of the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention

  45. Benjamin Franklin, Writer, inventor, scientist, signer of the Declaration of Independence, delegate to the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention

  46. Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of U.S. and author of the Declaration of Independence. Responsible for the purchase of Louisiana from France.

  47. Francis Scott Key, Writer of the “Star spangled Banner” in 1812, which became our National Anthem.

  48. Pierre L’Enfant, designed the plan for Washington, DC.

  49. George Washington, First president of the U.S.; Fought for the British in the French and Indian War; led the Continental Army in the American Revolution

  50. Christopher Columbus, Italian sea captain. Sailed for Spain and in 1492 reached and named the West Indies

  51. Clara Barton, Nurse for the Union during the Civil War. Later founded the American Red Cross

  52. Jefferson Davis, US Senator who became president of the Confederate States of America

  53. Johannes Gutenberg, German printer whose invention of movable spread learning

  54. Mary Ludwig Hays, American patriot known as “Molly Picher.”

  55. Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth president, led the country during the Civil War

  56. Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth president, led the country during the Civil War

  57. Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist, Underground Railroad Conductor, Spy for the Union Army during the Civil War

  58. Lucretia Mott, Abolitionist and women’s rights leader

  59. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abolitionist and women’s rights leader

  60. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the U.S., created “New Deal” programs during the Great Depression. Led our country during World War II.

  61. Eleanor Roosevelt and the UN Declaration of Human Rights

  62. Nelson Mandela and the Fight for Equality in South Africa

  63. Lilly Ledbetter, leader of efforts to gain equal pay for women

  64. Theodore Roosevelt and the building of the Panama Canal

  65. Billy Graham and his use of television to promote religious ideals

  66. General Anna Mae Hayes, leader of the Army Nurse Corps

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