The 100

The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century

Tom Johnson (1854–1911)

Robert M. La Follette Sr. (1855–1925)

    Eugene Debs (1855–1926)

   Louis Brandeis (1856–1941)

       Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

   Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)

   Florence Kelley (1859–1932)

   John Dewey (1859–1952)

  Victor Berger (1860–1929)

 Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)

   Jane Addams (1860–1935)

 Lincoln Steffens (1866–1936)

   Hiram Johnson (1866–1945)

 W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963)

 William “Big Bill” Haywood (1869–1928)

  Alice Hamilton (1869–1970)

 Emma Goldman (1869–1940)

 Lewis Hine (1874–1940)

 Robert F. Wagner Sr. (1877–1953)

 Upton Sinclair (1878–1968)

   Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

  Margaret Sanger (1879–1966)

 John L. Lewis (1880–1969)

  Helen Keller (1880–1968)

  Frances Perkins (1880–1965)

 Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945)

 Rose Schneiderman (1882–1972)

    Fiorello La Guardia (1882–1947)

   Roger Baldwin (1884–1981)

  Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

 Norman Thomas (1884–1968)

  A. J. Muste (1885–1967)

  Alice Stokes Paul (1885–1977)

 Sidney Hillman (1887–1946)

 Henry Wallace (1888–1965)

  Asa Philip Randolph (1889–1979)

 Earl Warren (1891–1974)

  Floyd Olson (1891–1936)

 Dorothy Day (1897–1980)

 Paul Robeson (1898–1976)

 William O. Douglas (1898–1980)

  Harry Bridges (1901–1990)

 Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

  Vito Marcantonio (1902–1954)

  Virginia F. Durr (1903–1999)

  Ella Baker (1903–1986)

  Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (1904–1991)

  Myles Horton (1905–1990)

 Carey McWilliams (1905–1980)

 William J. Brennan Jr. (1906–1997)

 Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972)

  Rachel Carson (1907–1964)

 Walter Reuther (1907–1970)

  I. F. Stone (1907–1989)

 Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993)

 Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973)

 John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006)

  Saul Alinsky (1909–1972)

 Bayard Rustin (1912–1987)

  Harry Hay (1912–2002)

 Studs Terkel (1912–2008)

 David Brower (1912–2000)

 Woody Guthrie (1912–1967)

  Arthur Miller (1915–2005)

 Jane Jacobs (1916–2006)

 C. Wright Mills (1916–1962)

 Barry Commoner (1917–)

 Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977)

 Jackie Robinson (1919–1972)

 Pete Seeger (1919–)

 Jerry Wurf (1919–1981)

  Bella Abzug (1920–1998)

  Betty Friedan (1921–2006)

 Howard Zinn (1922–2010)

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Howard Zinn was a historian, playwright, and activist. He wrote the classic A People’s History of the United States, ‘a brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories.”

 Rev. William Sloane Coffin (1924–2006)

  Malcolm X (1925–1965)

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One great speaks about another

“I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and the root of the problem. He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems we face as a race.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after the murder of Malcolm X

  Cesar Chavez (1927–1993)

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From UNITED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (UHR): “Mexican-American farmworker, labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez brought about better conditions for agricultural workers.”

  Michael Harrington (1928–1989)

  Rev. James Lawson (1928–)

  Noam Chomsky (1928–)

  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968)

 Allard Lowenstein (1929–1980)

Harvey Milk (1930–1978)

Ted Kennedy (1932–2009)

Ralph Nader (1934–)

Gloria Steinem (1934–)

Bill Moyers (1934–)

Bob Moses (1935–)

    Tom Hayden (1939–)

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In this interview from Brave New Films, Tom Hayden talks about creating social change as it happened in the 1960s and how it can happen today.

  John Lewis (1940–)

  Joan Baez (1941–)

  Bob Dylan (1941–)

  Barbara Ehrenreich (1941–)

 Jesse Jackson (1941–)

 Muhammad Ali (1942–)

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MUHAMMAD ALI, the Legend: “He’s still the most recognizable man on earth. And over forty years after he burst onto the scene as a gold-medal winner at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Muhammad Ali remains a magical figure, known and loved throughout the world. His success as a boxer is widely respected, but Ali’s greatest triumph lies in his legacy as a champion, leader, humanitarian, and artist. His work both inside and outside the ring truly makes Muhammad Ali ‘The Greatest of All Time.'”

 Billie Jean King (1943–)

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From WORLD TEAM TENNIS: “As one of the 20th century’s most respected and influential people, Billie Jean King has long been a champion for social change and equality. She created new inroads for both genders in and out of sports during her legendary career and she continues to make her mark today.”

  Paul Wellstone (1944–2002)

 Bruce Springsteen (1949–)

 Michael Moore (1954–)

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SICKO: “The words ‘health care’ and ‘comedy’ aren’t usually found in the same sentence, but in Academy Award winning filmmaker Michael Moore’s new movie ‘SiCKO,’ they go together hand in (rubber) glove.”

FAHRENHEIT 9/11: “One of the most controversial and provocative films of the year, Fahrenheit 9/11 is Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore’s searing examination of the Bush administration’s actions in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11.”

BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE: “An alternately humourous and horrifying film about the United States. It is a film about the state of the Union, about the violent soul of America. Why do 11,000 people die in America each year at the hands of gun violence? The talking heads yelling from every TV camera blame everything from Satan to video games. But are we that much different from many other countries? What sets us apart? How have we become both the master and victim of such enormous amounts of violence? This is not a film about gun control. It is a film about the fearful heart and soul of the United States, and the 280 million Americans lucky enough to have the right to a constitutionally protected Uzi.”

 Tony Kushner (1956–)

18 thoughts on “The 100

  1. Donald Cohen

    It’s amazing that, as a life-long progressive, there are people on the list whose work I can’t describe. There are names on the list that give me pause, but ultimately it makes me realize that people are complex and we can applaud the better sides of leaders while still troubled by their mistakes and differences. It’s not all or nothing. Who is missing? Hundreds of people of people that gave their time, their passion and, in some cases, their lives for a better America.

  2. A colleague wanted to see Latinas on this list — Dolores Huerta and Ema Tenayuca to name two. Lolita Lebron and Sandra Cisneros come to mind as well. To round out the list it would be good to include these people. But i am a fan of the list – just know there are lots more unsung heroes in our history. Thanks!!

    • Esther

      Dr. Hector P. Garcia was a major civil rights leader. He would have been a great addition to the list.

  3. Deetje Boler

    Upon a little study of the list, I see that there are living persons selected. In that case, I’d take Alex Cockburn over Toni Kushner any day of the week.

  4. Rob

    I did not see Jonus Salk on the list?

    His vaccine saved millions from a crippling polio, how can he not be considered to be in the top 100?

  5. dlwhite

    Pretty extensive list; an interesting list. Some of the inclusions and exclusions took my breath away. Michael Moore, Springsteen, Dylan, Baez, Billie Jean King and others GREAT Americans and you leave off the list Eisenhower, General George Marshall, Truman, Patton, MacArthur, Salk, even Kennedy?? Waters down the idea of greatness.

  6. John Marciano

    Regarding Johnson and the Hall of Justice, the fundamental issue remains the nature of the selection criteria for the Hall of Justice. LBJ committed war crimes during the Vietnam conflict; he belongs in a Nuremberg Tribunal courtroom not a Hall of Fame. The human toll from the war during his presidential watch was catastrophic.

    A Justice Hall of Fame must include an international dimension. Do domestic reforms trump millions of dead, injured and refugees? Are we to believe “American” lives and reforms are more important than millions of Vietnamese, in keeping with the critique of historian David Stannard and others that there are “worthy” and “unworthy” victims? What if those slaughtered were Bosnian, Polish, or Jewish: would socialists and other readers believe that Johnson deserved to be in the Hall?

    By definition, war criminals can’t be included in a Hall of Justice, and the disagreement on Johnson is not simply part of a stimulating and worthwhile dialogue: it goes to the heart of this important and needed book. As our late friend Howard Zinn put it, “We can reasonably conclude that how we think is not just mildly interesting, not just a subject for intellectual debate, but a matter of life and death.”

  7. Kate Kiefling

    Chris Hedges, Jim Wallis, Occypy Wall Street Movement? Up and coming perhaps?

  8. Harvey B.

    William Kunstler, America’s most courageous civil rights lawyer in the U.S.
    No one has come close to filling his shoes since his death.

  9. Monica


  10. tom kennedy

    I would include Herbert Marcuse

  11. No Hemingway? However, the arts are fairly well represented here.

  12. Jim mcdonagh

    Earl Warren is one of the people that caused todays crisis in the US . the Warren report was a high crime and conspiracy. He does not belong on this list, nor does Jessie Jackson an obvious fraud who caused a lot of unneccessary resistance to civil rights, because of his poalarizing personality. Ted Kennedy is a poor choice ,he was a drunk ans a womanizer as well as a moral coward, who moved the Democratic party far to the right. I never considered Betty Friedan as apositive force for feminists , her hatred of men over road most of her thought.

  13. Michael Westmoreland-White

    I don’t think LBJ should’ve been included because of Vietnam. I DO think Dolores Huerta should’ve made the list.

  14. No Harry Truman, or Hubert Humphrey? Or George Meany?

  15. A fascinating list. There are some names I’m not familiar with and want to learn about. Other first impressions:

    I agree with the astonishment of the commenters above who argue that those who ordered gross war crimes (LBJ) can not justifiably be included. Also in this category is Theodore Roosevelt, whose racism and war crimes in the Philippines should not be whitewashed (see

    Other choices above are sort of strange: Henry Wallace? Really? Paul Wellstone was a decent Senator, but that’s not saying much, and doesn’t lift him anywhere close to one of the “greatest.”

    I don’t think I saw any asian-americans in this list. What about George Hirabayashi, for example, or Frank Emi, both of whom, in their own nonviolent ways, led resistance to the interment of Japanese-Americans and to conscription?

    I would have loved to see Barbara Deming on this list, a lesbian-feminist civil rights, feminist, and peace activist, and a brilliant nonviolence theorist (see

  16. Steve Diamond

    Mario Savio.

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