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Gerald Ford Biography

Quick Facts

Gerald Ford
Lawyer, U.S. Vice President, 
U.S. Representative, U.S. President
Birth Date 
July 14, 1913
Death Date 
December 26, 2006
University of Michigan Law School, 
Yale Law School (Yale University)
Place of Birth 
Omaha, Nebraska
Place of Death 
Rancho Mirage, California
Full Name
Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr.
Leslie Lynch King Jr.
Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States following Richard Nixon's resignation, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal


Gerald Ford was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. A star college football player, he served in the Navy during WWII. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1948, Ford represented Michigan's 5th District for nearly 25 years before suddenly finding himself at the crossroads of history. He was elevated to vice president, and then became the 38th U.S. president due to Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal and subsequent resignation. Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election. He died in California in 2006.

Early Life

Gerald R. Ford Jr. was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska, but kept neither his name nor his hometown for long. In just weeks, he was whisked away by his mother, Dorothy Ayer Gardner, to her parents' home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A plucky woman who would not tolerate abuse, she divorced his father, Leslie Lynch King Sr., within the year, and less than three years later, was married to Gerald Rudolff Ford, a local paint company salesman, from whence "Jerry" Jr. got his name—although it was not made legal until he was 22 years old.

Growing up in Grand Rapids, in the close-knit family with three younger brothers, Jerry Ford was not even aware of the existence of his biological father until he was 17. He became a local sports hero as captain of his high school football team and an avid Eagle Scout. His athletic prowess as a Wolverine at the University of Michigan eared him the designation of Most Valuable Player.

But instead of taking up a professional football career as offered by both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, Ford opted to take his economics degree to Yale University, where he attended law school and also worked as a football and boxing coach.

Early Political Career

Ford got his first taste of political life in 1940 as a volunteer for Wendell Wilkie's presidential campaign, attending the Republican Convention that year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A year later, he graduated from Yale Law School in the top third of his class, and then returned home to Grand Rapids to work in a law firm, putting his toe in the water of local politics.

However, WWII intervened, and Ford enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. He returned to civilian life in 1946, having earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal, and quickly resumed his law practice and civic activities.

In August 1947, Ford met his future wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Warren, through mutual friends. A former model and dancer with Martha Graham's company in New York City, the recent divorcee had recently returned home to Grand Rapids and was employed as department store fashion coordinator, while also teaching dance to handicapped children.

Less than a year later, Ford decided to run for Congress to represent his Michigan district (District 5). He and Betty were married in October 1948, a few weeks before his sweeping victory, which would sweep both newlyweds away to Washington, D.C. for the next 30 years.

Declining a suggestion to run for the Senate in 1954, Ford's long career as a congressman encompassed work on foreign policy, the military, spending, the space program and the Warren Commission.

Although he served as House minority leader, Ford's ambition to be speaker of the House seemed out of reach and, thusly, the congressman was contemplating retirement following his 13th term in the House concluded in 1976. The changing political atmosphere of the '70s would dictate otherwise, however.

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned under allegations of income tax evasion and bribery. Two days later, President Richard Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to take his place, under the provisions of the Constitution's 25th Amendment, and in two months, Ford was sworn in as the country's 40th vice president.

U.S. Presidency

Over the ensuing months, investigations into Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal sped up, culminating with Nixon's resignation on August 8, 1974. One day later, on August 9, 1974, Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States.

The following month, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon—a move that hung like a shadow over Ford's longstanding reputation for integrity. That same month, Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer, and subsequently underwent a radical mastectomy.

Ford's early presidency marked a state of tumult for the nation, with downfalls including a seriously ailing economy (and an almost bankrupt New York City), an essential defeat in the Vietnam War, rocky foreign relations and an energy crisis. In addition to that, around this time, two assassination attempts, by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were made on Ford's life.

Following in Nixon's footsteps with China, Ford was the first U.S. president to visit Japan, but he is often remembered as clumsy, ironic given his athletic prowess, due to several trips, falls and gaffes that were immortalized in parody by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live.
Challenged by fellow Republican Ronald Reagan during his campaign for re-election in 1976, Ford eked out the nomination only to be defeated by Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.

Death and Legacy

Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006, at home in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 93—the oldest any president has lived to date. Named in his honor are a presidential library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a museum in Grand Rapids, but both are eclipsed in renown by the Betty Ford Rehabilitation Clinic in California.

Richard Nixon Biography

Quick Facts

Richard Nixon
U.S. President
Birth Date 
January 9, 1913
Death Date 
April 22, 1994
Whittier College, Duke University School of Law
Place of Birth  
Yorba Linda, California
Place of Death 
New York, New York
Full Name
Richard Milhous Nixon
Richard Nixon was the 37th U.S. president and the only commander-in-chief to resign from his position, after the 1970s Watergate scandal.


Born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, Richard Nixon was a Republican congressman who served as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nixon ran for president in 1960 but lost to charismatic Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy. Undeterred, Nixon return to the race eight years later and won the White House by a solid margin. In 1974, he resigned rather than be impeached for covering up illegal activities of party members in the Watergate affair. He died on April 22, 1994, at age 81, in New York City.

Early Life and Military Service

Born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, Richard Milhous Nixon was the second of five children born to Frank Nixon and Hannah Milhouse Nixon. His father was a service station owner and grocer, who also owned a small lemon farm in Yorba Linda. His mother was a Quaker who exerted a strong influence on her son. Richard Nixon's early life was hard, as he characterized by saying, "We were poor, but the glory of it was we didn't know it." The family experienced tragedy twice early in Richard's life: His younger brother died in 1925 after a short illness, and in 1933, his older brother, whom he greatly admired, died of tuberculosis.

Richard Nixon attended Fullerton High School but later transferred to Whittier High School, where he ran for student body president (but lost to a more popular student). Nixon graduated high school second in his class and was offered a scholarship to Harvard, but his family couldn't afford the travel and living expenses. Instead of Harvard, Nixon attended local Whittier College, a Quaker institution, where he earned a reputation as a formidable debater, a standout in college drama productions and a successful athlete. Upon graduation from Whittier in 1934, Nixon received a full scholarship to Duke University Law School in Durham, N.C. After graduation, Nixon returned to the town of Whittier to practice law at Kroop & Bewley. He soon met Thelma Catherine ("Pat") Ryan, a teacher and amateur actress, after the two were cast in the same play at a local community theater. The couple married in 1940 and went on to have two daughters, Tricia and Julie.

A career as a small-town lawyer was not enough for a man with Nixon's ambition, so in August 1942, he and Pat moved to Washington, D.C., where he took a job in Franklin Roosevelt's Office of Price Administration. He soon became disillusioned with the New Deal's big-government programs and bureaucratic red tape, though, and left the public service realm for the U.S. Navy (despite his an exemption from military service as a Quaker and in his job with OPA). Serving as an aviation ground officer in the Pacific, Nixon saw no combat, but he returned to the United States with two service stars and several commendations. He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant commander before resigning his commission in January 1946.

U.S. Congress

Following his return to civilian life, Nixon was approached by a group of Whittier Republicans who encouraged him to run for Congress. Nixon would be up against five-term liberal Democratic Jerry Voorhis, but he took on the challenge head-on. Nixon's campaign exploited notions about Voorhis's alleged communist sympathies, a tactic that would recur throughout his political life, and it worked, helping Nixon win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1946. During his first term, Nixon was assigned to the Select Committee on Foreign Aid and went to Europe to report on the newly enacted Marshall Plan. There he quickly established a reputation as an internationalist in foreign policy.

As a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) from 1948 to 1950, he took a leading role in the investigation of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official with a previously stellar reputation. While many believed Hiss, Nixon took the allegations that Hiss was spying for the Soviet Union to heart. In dramatic testimony before the committee, Hiss vehemently denied the charge and refuted claims made by his accuser, Whittaker Chambers. Nixon brought Hiss to the witness stand, and under stinging cross-examination, Hiss admitted that he had known Chambers, but under a different name. This brought Hiss a perjury charge and five years in prison, while Nixon's hostile questioning of Hiss during the committee hearings went a long way toward cementing his national reputation as a fervent anti-Communist.

In 1950, Nixon successfully ran for the United States Senate against Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas. She had been an outspoken opponent of the anti-Communist scare and the actions of HUAC. Employing his previous (successful) campaign tactics, Nixon's campaign staff distributed flyers on pink paper unfairly distorting Douglas's voting record as left-wing. For his efforts, The Independent Review, a small Southern California newspaper, nicknamed Nixon "Tricky Dick," a derogatory nickname that would remain with him for the rest of this life.

Vice Presidency

Richard Nixon's fervent anti-Communist reputation earned him the notice of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Republican Party, who believed he could draw valuable support in the West. And at the Republican convention in 1952, Nixon won the nomination as vice president. Two months before the November election, the New York Post reported that Nixon had a secret "slush fund" provided by campaign donors for his personal use, and some within Eisenhower's campaign called for removing Nixon from the ticket.

Realizing that he might not win without Nixon, Eisenhower was willing to give Nixon a chance to clear himself. On September 23, 1952, Nixon delivered a nationally televised address in which he acknowledged the existence of the fund but denied that any of it had been used improperly. He turned the speech back on his political enemies, claiming that unlike the wives of so many Democratic politicians, his wife, Pat, did not own a fur coat but only "a respectable Republican cloth coat." The speech was perhaps best remembered for its conclusion in which Nixon admitted accepting one political gift: a cocker spaniel that his 6-year-old daughter, Tricia, had named "Checkers." Although Nixon initially thought that the speech had failed, the public responded to what became known as the "Checkers Speech." Nonetheless, the experience embedded a deep distrust of mainstream media in Nixon, who would one day be at the receiving end of much worse from reporters. The Checkers Speech aside, the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket defeated the Democratic candidates, Adlai E. Stevenson and John Sparkman, and Richard Nixon avoided a full-on political disaster.

Between 1955 and 1957, Eisenhower suffered a series of illnesses, including a heart attack and a stroke. Although Nixon held little formal power as vice president, perhaps out of necessity, he expanded the office to an important and prominent post during his two terms. As president of the Senate, he helped ensure the passage of Eisenhower approved bills, such as the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. And while the president was incapacitated, Nixon was called on to chair several high-level meetings, though real power lay in a close circle of Eisenhower advisers. The health scares prompted Eisenhower to formalize an agreement with Nixon on the powers and responsibilities of the vice president in the event of presidential disability; the agreement was accepted by later administrations until the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1967.

Initially, Nixon's efforts to promote American foreign policy met with mixed results, as he undertook many high-profile foreign trips of goodwill to garner support for American policies during the Cold War. On one such trip go Caracas, Venezuela, Nixon's motorcade was attacked by anti-American protesters, who pelted his limousine with rocks and bottles. Nixon came out unscathed and remained calm and collected during the incident. In July 1959, Nixon was sent by President Eisenhower to Moscow for the opening of the American National Exhibition. On July 24, while touring the exhibits with Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, Nixon stopped at a model of an American kitchen and engaged Khrushchev in an impromptu debate. In a friendly yet determined way, both men argued the merits of capitalism and communism, respectively, as it affected the average American and Soviet housewife. While the exchange (later dubbed the "Kitchen Debate") had little bearing on the U.S./Soviet rivalry, Nixon gained popularity for standing up to the "Soviet bully," as Khrushchev was sometimes characterized, and greatly improved his chances for receiving the Republican presidential nomination in 1960.

Running for the Presidency

Richard Nixon launched his bid for the presidency in early 1960, facing little opposition in the Republican primaries. His democratic opponent was Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Nixon campaigned on his experience, but Kennedy brought a new vitality to the election and called for a new generation of leadership, criticizing the Eisenhower administration for endangering U.S. national security. Besides defending the administration during the campaign, Nixon advocated for a series of selective tax cuts that would become a core doctrine of Republican economic policy going forward.

The 1960 presidential campaign proved to be historic in the use of television for advertisements, news interviews and policy debates, something that would play right into Kennedy's youthful hands. Four debates were scheduled between Nixon and Kennedy, and Nixon had his work cut out for himself from the beginning. During the process, he was recovering from the flu and appeared tired, and then when he arrived at the TV studio, Nixon chose to wear little TV makeup, fearing the press would accuse him of trying to upstage Kennedy's tan, crisp look. Though he had shaved, Nixon's "five o'clock shadow" appeared through the cameras, and his gray suit blended in to the studio's gray background in contrast to Kennedy's tailored dark suit. Also, Nixon was still sweating out his illness, and his perspiration under the hot studio lights was picked up by the cameras in close-ups as he responded to questions. In short, he never looked half as healthy, young or vibrant as Kennedy. In to show the power of the new visual medium, post-debate polls indicated that while many TV viewers believed Kennedy had won the debates, radio listeners indicated that they thought Nixon had won.
In November 1960, Richard Nixon narrowly lost the presidential election, by only 120,000 votes. The Electoral College showed a wider victory for Kennedy, who received 303 votes to Nixon's 219.

Though there were some charges of voter fraud in Texas and Illinois and legal papers were filed, subsequent court rulings showed that Kennedy had a greater number of electoral votes even after recounts. Not wanting to cause a Constitutional crisis, Nixon halted further investigations, later receiving praise for his dignity and professionalism in the face of defeat and suspicion that possible voter fraud had cost him the presidency.

 Following the election, Nixon returned with his family to California, where he practiced law and wrote a book, Six Crises, which documented his political life as a congressman, senator and vice president. In 1962, various Republican leaders encouraged Nixon to run against incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Brown. Nixon was at first reluctant to get into another political battle so soon after his disappointing defeat to Kennedy, but eventually he decided to run. The campaign did not go well for Nixon, with some observers questioning his sincerity to be governor of California and accusing him of making the election a stepping stone back into national politics. Others felt he just wasn't enthusiastic enough. He lost to Brown by a substantial margin, and many political experts characterized the defeat as the end of Richard Nixon's political career. He himself said as much, blaming the media for his defeat and lamenting, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore..."
After the California election, Nixon moved his family to New York City, where he continued to practice law and quietly but effectively remade himself as America's "senior statesman." With his calm, conservative voice, Nixon presented a sharp contrast to the escalating war in Vietnam and the growing antiwar protests. He cultivated support from the Republican base, which respected his knowledge of politics and international affairs. He also wrote a farsighted article for Foreign Affairs magazine entitled "Asia After Vietnam," which enhanced his reputation.

U.S. President

Yet, Nixon agonized over whether to reenter politics and go for another run at the presidency. He consulted friends and respected leaders such as the Reverend Billy Graham for advice. Finally, he formally announced his candidacy for president of the United States on February 1, 1968. Nixon's campaign received an unexpected boost when on March 31, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek another term.

By 1968, the nation was openly struggling over the war in Vietnam, not only on college campuses but in mainstream media. In February, newscaster Walter Cronkite took an almost unprecedented (for him) position, offering commentary on his recent trip to Vietnam, stating that he felt victory was not possible and that the war would end in a stalemate. President Lyndon Johnson lamented, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the nation." As the antiwar protest continued, Nixon's campaign stayed above the fray, portraying him as a figure of stability and appealing to what he referred to as the "silent majority" of social conservatives who were the steady foundation of the American public.

 Nixon was able to construct a coalition of Southern and Western conservatives during the campaign. In exchange for their support, he promised to appoint "strict constructionists" to the federal judiciary and selected a running mate acceptable to the South, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew. The two waged an immensely effective media campaign with well-orchestrated commercials and public appearances. They attacked Democrats for the nation's high crime rate and a perceived surrender of nuclear superiority to the Soviets. For a time, the Democrats still held the high ground in the polls, but the assassination of presidential contender Robert Kennedy and a self-destructive nominating convention in Chicago, where Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated, weakened their chances. During the entire election campaign, Nixon portrayed a "calm amidst the storm" persona, promising a "peace with honor" conclusion to the war in Vietnam, a restoration of America's preeminence over the Soviets and a return to conservative values.

In a three-way race between Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon won the election by nearly 500,000 votes. He was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States on January 20, 1969.

Domestic Policies

Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck once called politics "the art of the possible." But a more pragmatic description was offered by U.S. economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who said politics "consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." Nixon became well-versed in walking a narrow line, as, in one particular issue, he needed to appease the Southern partners in his election coalition and address Court-ordered busing to reduce segregation. He offered a practical solution he called "New Federalism": locally controlled desegregation. Across the South, the Nixon administration established biracial committees to plan and implement school desegregation. The program was well accepted by the states, and by the end of 1970 only about 18 percent of black children in the South were attending all-black schools, down from 70 percent in 1968.

As president, Nixon also increased the number of female appointments in his administration, despite opposition from many in his administration. He created a Presidential Task Force on Women's Rights, requested that the Department of Justice bring sex-discrimination suits against blatant violators and ordered the Department of Labor to add sex discrimination guidelines to all federal contracts.

Some of President Nixon's well-intentioned domestic policies under New Federalism clashed with the Democrat-controlled Congress and were fraught with unintended consequences. A case in point was the Family Assistance Plan. The program called for replacing bureaucratically administered programs such as Aid to Families With Dependent Children, Food Stamps and Medicaid with direct cash payments to those in need, including single-parent families and the working poor. Conservatives disliked the plan for guaranteeing an annual income to people who didn't work; the labor movement saw it as a threat to the minimum wage; and federal caseworkers saw the program as a threat to their jobs. Many Americans complained that adding the working poor to Welfare would expand the program rather than reduce it.

Though initially not showing much interest in environmental concerns, after the 1970 Earth Day, with millions of demonstrations across the country, President Nixon sensed a political opportunity and a need. He pushed for the Clean Air Act of 1970 and established two new agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency. Keeping true to his New Federalism principles of less government and fiscal responsibility, Nixon insisted that all environmental proposals meet the cost-benefit standards of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1972, he vetoed the Clean Water Act (which he generally supported) because Congress had boosted its cost to $18 billion. Congress overrode his veto, and in retaliation, Nixon used his presidential powers to impound half the money.

Richard Nixon often adopted a stance of confrontation rather than of conciliation and compromise. In his ambition to push through his agenda, he sought to consolidate power within the presidency and took the attitude that the executive branch was exempt from many of the checks and balances imposed by the Constitution. This attitude would later turn on him during the Watergate scandal.

Foreign Affairs

Though achieving some success in domestic politics, most of President Nixon's first term was dominated by foreign affairs and, most notably, the Vietnam War. His administration successfully negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), designed to deter the Soviet Union from launching a first strike. Nixon also reestablished American influence in the Middle East and pressured allies to take more responsibility for their own defense.

With the assistance of his brilliant but taciturn national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, Nixon was able to achieve détente with China and the Soviet Union, playing one off against the other. Since the mid-1960s, tensions between China and its main ally, the USSR, had increased, causing a breach in their relationship by 1969. Nixon sensed an opportunity to shift the Cold War balance of power toward the West, and he sent secret messages to Chinese officials to open a dialogue.

In December 1970, Nixon reduced trade restrictions against China, and in 1971, Chinese officials invited the American table tennis team to China for a demonstration/competition, later dubbed "ping-pong diplomacy." Then, in February 1972, President Nixon and his wife, Pat, traveled to China, where he engaged in direct talks with Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader. The visit ushered in a new era of Chinese-American relations and pressured the Soviet Union to agree to better relations with the United States.

In Latin America, the Nixon administration continued the long-standing policy of supporting autocratic dictatorships in lieu of socialist democracies. Most notably, he authorized clandestine operations to undermine the coalition government of Chile's Marxist president, Salvador Allende, after he nationalized American-owned mining companies. Nixon restricted Chile's access to international economic assistance, discouraged private investment, increased aid to the Chilean military and funneled covert payments to Allende opposition groups. In September 1973, Allende was overthrown in a military coup, establishing Chilean army general Augusto Pinochet as dictator.
But the foremost issue on Nixon's plate was Vietnam. When he took office, 300 American soldiers were dying per week in Vietnam. The Johnson administration had escalated the war to involve over 500,000 American troops and expanded operations from the defense of South Vietnam to bombing attacks in North Vietnam. By 1969, when Nixon assumed the presidency, the United States was spending between $60 and $80 million per day on the war. Nixon faced the decision of either escalating the war further to secure South Vietnam from communism or withdrawing forces to end involvement in an increasingly unpopular war.

Nixon proposed a controversial strategy of withdrawing American troops from South Vietnam while carrying out Air Force bombings and army special-ops operations against enemy positions in Laos and Cambodia, both of which were officially neutral at the time. He established what became known as the Nixon Doctrine (also called "Vietnamization"), replacing American troops with Vietnamese soldiers. From 1969 to 1972, troop withdrawals were estimated to be 405,000 soldiers. While Nixon's campaign promise in 1968 was to draw down the size of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the bombings of North Vietnam and incursions into Laos and Cambodia created a political firestorm. When Nixon made a televised speech announcing the movement of U.S. troops into Cambodia to disrupt so-called North Vietnamese sanctuaries, young people across the country erupted in protest, and student strikes temporarily closed more than 500 universities, colleges and high schools.

Beyond all the strife, the war in Vietnam had caused domestic inflation to grow to nearly 6 percent by 1970. To address the problem, Nixon initially tried to restrict federal spending, but beginning in 1971, his budget proposals contained deficits of several billion dollars, the largest in American history up to that time. Though defense spending was cut almost in half, government spending on benefits to American citizens rose from a little over 6 percent to nearly 9 percent. Food aid and public assistance escalated from $6.6 billion to $9.1 billion. To control increasing inflation and unemployment, Nixon imposed temporary wage and price controls, which achieved marginal success, but by the end of 1972, inflation returned with a vengeance, reaching 8.8 percent in 1973 and 12.2 percent in 1974.

Watergate and Other Scandals

With the war in Vietnam winding down, Nixon defeated his Democratic challenger, liberal senator George McGovern, in a landslide victory, receiving almost 20 million more popular votes and winning the Electoral College vote 520 to 17. Nixon looked invincible in his victory. It seems odd, in retrospect, that his re-election campaign, the Committee to Re-Elect the President (also known as CREEP) was so concerned about Democrats opposition that it reverted to political sabotage and covert espionage. Public opinion polls during the campaign indicated President Nixon had an overwhelming lead. The entry of independent candidate George Wallace ensured some Democratic support would be taken from McGovern in the South, and for most of the American public, Senator McGovern's policies were just too extreme.

During the campaign in June 1972, rumors began to circulate about White House involvement in a seemingly isolated burglary of the Democratic National Election Headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Initially, Nixon downplayed the coverage of the scandal as politics as usual, but by 1973, the investigation (initiated by two cub-reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) had mushroomed into a full-scale inquest. White House officials denied the press's reporting as biased and misleading, but the FBI eventually confirmed that Nixon aids had attempted to sabotage the Democrats during the election, and many resigned in the face of criminal prosecution.

A Senate committee under Senator Sam Ervin soon began to hold hearings. Eventually, White House counsel John Dean gave evidence that the scandal went all the way to the White House, including a Nixon order to cover up of the scandal. Nixon continued to declare his innocence, though, repeatedly denying previous knowledge about the campaign sabotage and claiming to have learned about the cover-up in early 1973.

Nixon responded directly to the nation by staging an emotional televised press conference in November 1973, during which he famously declared, "I'm not a crook." Claiming executive privilege, Nixon nevertheless refused to release potentially damning material, including White House tape recordings that allegedly revealed details of CREEP's plans to sabotage political opponents and disrupt the FBI's investigation. Facing increased political pressure, Nixon released 1,200 pages of transcripts of conversations between him and White House aides but still refused to release all of the recordings.

The House Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, opened impeachment hearings against the president in May 1974. In July, the Supreme Court denied Nixon's claim of executive privilege and ruled that all tape recordings must be released to the special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski. Once the recordings were released, it didn't take long for Nixon's house of cards to teeter: One of the secret recordings confirmed the allegations of the cover-up, indicating that Nixon was looped in from the beginning.

In late July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee passed the first of three articles of impeachment against Nixon, charging obstruction of justice. Upon the threat of a likely post-impeachment conviction, Richard Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford, whom Nixon had appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew resigned his office amid charges of bribery, extortion and tax evasion during his tenure as governor of Maryland. Nixon was pardoned by President Ford on September 8, 1974.

Retirement and Death

After his resignation, Richard Nixon retired with his wife to the seclusion of his estate in San Clemente, California, where he spent several months distraught and disoriented. Gradually he regrouped, and by 1977 he began forming a public-relations comeback. In August, Nixon met with British commentator David Frost for a series of interviews during which Nixon sent mixed messages of contrition and pride, while never admitting any wrong-doing. While the interviews were met with mixed reviews, they were watched by many and positively contributed to Nixon's public image.

In 1978, Nixon published RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, an intensely personal examination of his life, public career and White House years; the book became a best-seller. He also authored several books on international affairs and American foreign policy, modestly rehabilitating his public reputation and earning him a role as an elder foreign-policy expert.
On June 22, 1993, Pat Nixon died of lung cancer. Nixon took the loss hard, and on April 22, 1994, just 10 months after his wife's death, Richard Nixon died of a massive stroke in New York City. President Bill Clinton was joined by four former presidents to pay homage to the 37th president. His body lay in repose in the Nixon Library lobby, and an estimated 50,000 people waited in a heavy rain for up to 18 hours to file past the casket and pay their last respects. He was buried beside his wife at his birthplace, in Yorba Linda, California.

Sojourner Truth Biography

Quick Facts

Sojourner Truth
Women's Rights Activist, Civil Rights Activist
Birth Date
c. 1797
Death Date 
November 26, 1883
Place of Birth 
Swartekill, Ulster County, New York
Place of Death 
Battle Creek, Michigan
Isabella Baumfree
Sojourner Truth is best known for her extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?" delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851.


Born in New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?" was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention.

Born Into Slavery

Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth's date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea.

The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel's estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.

After the colonel's death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as "Belle" at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time.

Becoming a Wife and Mother

Around 1815, Truth fell in love with a slave named Robert from a neighboring farm. The two had a daughter, Diana. Robert's owner forbade the relationship, since Diana and any subsequent children produced by the union would be the property of John Dumont rather than himself. Robert and Sojourner Truth never saw each other again. In 1817, Dumont compelled Truth to marry an older slave named Thomas. Their marriage produced a son, Peter, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Sophia.

Early Years of Freedom

The state of New York, which had begun to negotiate the abolition of slavery in 1799, emancipated all slaves on July 4, 1827. The shift did not come soon enough for Truth. After John Dumont reneged on a promise to emancipate Truth in late 1826, she escaped to freedom with her infant daughter, Sophia. Her other daughter and son stayed behind. Shortly after her escape, Truth learned that her son Peter, then 5 years old, had been illegally sold to a man in Alabama. She took the issue to court and eventually secured Peter's return from the South. The case was one of the first in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in a United States court.

Sojourner Truth's early years of freedom were marked by several strange hardships. Having converted to Christianity, Truth moved with her son Peter to New York City in 1829, where she worked as a housekeeper for Christian evangelist Elijah Pierson. She then moved on to the home of Robert Matthews, also known as Prophet Matthias, for whom she also worked as a domestic.

Matthews had a growing reputation as a con man and a cult leader. Shortly after Truth changed households, Elijah Pierson died. Robert Matthews was accused of poisoning Pierson in order to benefit from his personal fortune, and the Folgers, a couple who were members of his cult, attempted to implicate Truth in the crime. In the absence of adequate evidence, Matthews was acquitted. Having become a favorite subject of the penny press, he subsequently moved west. In 1835 Truth brought a slander suit against the Folgers and won.

After Truth's successful rescue of her son, Peter, from slavery in Alabama, the boy stayed with his mother until 1839. At that time, Peter took a job on a whaling ship called the Zone of Nantucket. Truth received three letters from her son between 1840 and 1841. When the ship returned to port in 1842, however, Peter was not on board. Truth never heard from him again.

Fighting for Abolition and Women's Rights

On June 1, 1843, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth, devoting her life to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women's rights and pacifism. Members lived together on 500 acres as a self-sufficient community. Truth met a number of leading abolitionists at Northampton, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles.

Although the Northampton community disbanded in 1846, Sojourner Truth's career as an activist and reformer was just beginning. In 1850 her memoirs were published under the title The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Truth dictated her recollections to a friend, Olive Gilbert, since she could not read or write, and William Lloyd Garrison wrote the book's preface. That same year, Truth spoke at the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. She soon began touring regularly with abolitionist George Thompson, speaking to large crowds on the subjects of slavery and human rights. She was one of several escaped slaves, along with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, to rise to prominence as an abolitionist leader and a testament to the humanity of enslaved people.

In May of 1851, Truth delivered a speech at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron. The extemporaneous speech, recorded by several observers, would come to be known as "Ain't I a Woman?" The first version of the speech, published a month later by Marius Robinson, editor of Ohio newspaper The Anti-Slavery Bugle, did not include the question "Ain't I a woman?" even once. Robinson had attended the convention and recorded Truth's words himself. The famous phrase would appear in print 12 years later, as the refrain of a Southern-tinged version of the speech. It is unlikely that Sojourner Truth, a native of New York whose first language was Dutch, would have spoken in this Southern idiom.

Truth continued to tour Ohio from 1851 to 1853, working closely with Robinson to publicize the antislavery movement in the state. As Truth's reputation grew and the abolition movement gained momentum, she drew increasingly larger and more hospitable audiences. Even in abolitionist circles, some of Truth's opinions were considered radical. She sought political equality for all women, and chastised the abolitionist community for failing to seek civil rights for black women as well as men. She openly expressed concern that the movement would fizzle after achieving victories for black men, leaving both white and black women without suffrage and other key political rights.

Advocacy During the Civil War

Sojourner Truth put her reputation to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. In 1864, Truth was called to Washington, D.C., to contribute to the National Freedman's Relief Association. On at least one occasion, Truth met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln about her beliefs and her experience.

True to her broad reform ideals, Truth continued to agitate for change even after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, Truth attempted to force the desegregation of streetcars in Washington by riding in cars designated for whites. A major project of her later life was the movement to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She argued that ownership of private property, and particularly land, would give African Americans self-sufficiency and free them from a kind of indentured servitude to wealthy landowners. Although Truth pursued this goal forcefully for many years, she was unable to sway Congress.

Death and Legacy

Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883. She is buried alongside her family at Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery. Until old age intervened, Truth continued to speak passionately on the subjects of women's rights, universal suffrage and prison reform. She was also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, testifying before the Michigan state legislature against the practice. She also championed prison reform in Michigan and across the country. While always controversial, Truth was embraced by a community of reformers including Amy Post, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony—friends with whom she collaborated until the end of her life.

Truth is remembered as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and an early advocate of women's rights. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage. Abolition was one of the few causes that Truth was able to see realized in her lifetime. Her fear that abolitionism would falter before achieving equality for women proved prophetic.
The Constitutional Amendment barring suffrage discrimination based on sex was not ratified until 1920, nearly four decades after Sojourner Truth's death.

Frederick Douglass Biography

Quick Facts

Frederick Douglass
Civil Rights Activist
Birth Date
c. February, 1818
Death Date 
February 20, 1895
Place of Birth 
Tuckahoe, Maryland
Place of Death  
Washington, D.C.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and eminent human rights leader in the abolition movement, was the first black citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.


Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland. He became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish home rule. Among Douglass’ writings are several autobiographies eloquently describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War.

Life in Slavery

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, around 1818. The exact year and date of Douglass' birth are unknown, though later in life he chose to celebrate it on February 14. Douglass lived with his maternal grandmother, Betty Bailey. At a young age, Douglass was selected in live in the home of the plantation owners, one of whom may have been his father. His mother, an intermittent presence in his life, died when he was around 10.

Frederick Douglass was eventually sent to the Baltimore home of Hugh Ald. It was there that Douglass first acquired the skills that would vault him to national celebrity. Defying a ban on teaching slaves to read and write, Hugh Auld’s wife Sophia taught Douglass the alphabet when he was around 12. When Hugh Auld forbade his wife’s lessons, Douglass continued to learn from white children and others in the neighborhood.

It was through reading that Douglass’ ideological opposition to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers avidly, and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights.

Douglass shared his newfound knowledge with other enslaved people. Hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly church service.

Interest was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. Although Freeland did not interfere with the lessons, other local slave owners were less understanding. Armed with clubs and stones, they dispersed the congregation permanently.

With Douglass moving between the Aulds, he was later made to work for Edward Covey, who had a reputation as a "slave-breaker.” Covey’s constant abuse did nearly break the 16-year-old Douglass psychologically. Eventually, however, Douglass fought back, in a scene rendered powerfully in his first autobiography. After losing a physical confrontation with Douglass, Covey never beat him again.

Freedom and Abolitionism

Frederick Douglass tried to escape from slavery twice before he succeeded. He was assisted in his final attempt by Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore with whom Douglass had fallen in love. On September 3, 1838, Douglass boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland. Anna Murray had provided him with some of her savings and a sailor's uniform. He carried identification papers obtained from a free black seaman. Douglass made his way to the safe house of abolitionist David Ruggles in New York in less than 24 hours.

Once he had arrived, Douglass sent for Murray to meet him in New York. They married on September 15, 1838, adopting the married name of Johnson to disguise Douglass’ identity. Anna and Frederick settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which had a thriving free black community. There, they adopted Douglass as their married name. Frederick Douglass joined a black church and regularly attended abolitionist meetings. He also subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal The Liberator.

Eventually Douglass was asked to tell his story at abolitionist meetings, after which he became a regular anti-slavery lecturer. William Lloyd Garrison was impressed with Douglass’ strength and rhetorical skill, and wrote of him in The Liberator. Several days after the story ran, Douglass delivered his first speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket. Crowds were not always hospitable to Douglass. While participating in an 1843 lecture tour through the Midwest, Douglass was chased and beaten by an angry mob before being rescued by a local Quaker family.

At the urging of William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass wrote and published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. The book was a bestseller in the United States and was translated into several European languages. Although the book garnered Douglass many fans, some critics expressed doubt that a former slave with no formal education could have produced such elegant prose. Douglass published three versions of his autobiography during his lifetime, revising and expanding on his work each time. My Bondage and My Freedom appeared in 1855. In 1881, Douglass published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which he revised in 1892.

Fame had its drawbacks for a runaway slave. Following the publication of his autobiography, Douglass departed for Ireland to evade recapture. Douglass set sail for Liverpool on August 16, 1845, arriving in Ireland as the Irish Potato Famine was beginning. He remained in Ireland and Britain for two years, speaking to large crowds on the evils of slavery. During this time, Douglass’ British supporters gathered funds to purchase his legal freedom. In 1847, Douglass returned to the United States a free man.

Upon his return, Douglass produced some abolitionist newspapers: The North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass' Paper, Douglass' Monthly and New National Era. The motto of The North Star was "Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."

In addition to abolition, Douglass became an outspoken supporter of women’s rights. In 1848, he was the only African American to attend the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked the assembly to pass a resolution stating the goal of women's suffrage.

Many attendees opposed the idea. Douglass stood and spoke eloquently in favor, arguing that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. The resolution passed. Douglass would later come into conflict with women’s rights activists for supporting the Fifteenth Amendment, which banned suffrage discrimination based on race while upholding sex-based restrictions.

Civil War and Reconstruction

By the time of the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the country. He used his status to influence the role of African Americans in the war and their status in the country. In 1863, Douglass conferred with President Abraham Lincoln regarding the treatment of black soldiers, and with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage.

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, declared the freedom of all slaves in Confederate territory. Despite this victory, Douglass supported John C. Frémont over Lincoln in the 1864 election, citing his disappointment that Lincoln did not publicly endorse suffrage for black freedmen. Slavery everywhere in the United States was subsequently outlawed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Frederick Douglass was appointed to several political positions following the war. He served as president of the Freedman's Savings Bank and as chargé d'affaires for the Dominican Republic. After two years, he resigned from his ambassadorship over objections to the particulars of U.S. government policy. He was later appointed minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti, a post he held between 1889 and 1891.

Douglass became the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States, as Victoria Woodhull's running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872. Nominated without his knowledge or consent, Douglass never campaigned. Nonetheless, his nomination marked the first time that an African American appeared on a presidential ballot.

In 1877, Douglass visited his former owner, Thomas Auld. Douglass had met with Auld's daughter, Amanda Auld Sears, years before. The visit held personal significance for Douglass, although some criticized him for reconciling with Auld.

Family Life and Death

Frederick and Anna Douglass had five children: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Redmond, and Annie. Annie died at the age of 10. Charles and Rosetta assisted their father in the production of his newspaper The North Star. Anna Douglass remained a loyal supporter of Frederick's public work, despite marital strife caused by his relationships with several other women.

After Anna’s death, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York. Pitts was the daughter of Gideon Pitts Jr., an abolitionist colleague. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Helen Pitts worked on a radical feminist publication and shared many of Douglass’ moral principles.
 Their marriage caused considerable controversy, since Pitts was both white and nearly 20 years younger than Douglass. Douglass’ children were especially displeased with the relationship.
Frederick Douglass and Helen Pitts remained married until Douglass’ death, 11 years later. On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. Shortly after returning home, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

Harriet Tubman Biography

Quick Facts

Harriet Tubman
Civil Rights Activist
Birth Date
c. 1820
Death Date 
March 10, 1913
Place of Birth 
Dorchester County, Maryland
Place of Death 
Auburn, New York
Araminta Harriet Ross
Harriet Tubman escaped slavery to become a leading abolitionist. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad.


Harriet Tubman was an American bondwoman who escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. She was born in Maryland in 1820, and successfully escaped in 1849. Yet she returned many times to rescue both family members and non-relatives from the plantation system. She led hundreds to freedom in the North as the most famous "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, an elaborate secret network of safe houses organized for that purpose.

Early Life

Harriet Tubman was born to enslaved parents in Dorchester County, Maryland, and originally named Araminta Harriet Ross. Her mother, Harriet “Rit” Green, was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess. Her father, Ben Ross, was owned by Anthony Thompson, who eventually married Mary Brodess. Araminta, or “Minty,” was one of nine children born to Rit and Ben between 1808 and 1832. While the year of Araminta’s birth is unknown, it probably occurred between 1820 and 1825.

Minty’s early life was full of hardship. Mary Brodess’ son Edward sold three of her sisters to distant plantations, severing the family. When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son, Moses, Rit successfully resisted the further fracturing of her family, setting a powerful example for her young daughter.

Physical violence was a part of daily life for Tubman and her family. The violence she suffered early in life caused permanent physical injuries. Harriet later recounted a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast. She carried the scars for the rest of her life. The most severe injury occurred when Tubman was an adolescent. Sent to a dry-goods store for supplies, she encountered a slave who had left the fields without permission. The man’s overseer demanded that Tubman help restrain the runaway. When Harriet refused, the overseer threw a two-pound weight that struck her in the head. Tubman endured seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life. She also experienced intense dream states, which she classified as religious experiences.

The line between freedom and slavery was hazy for Tubman and her family. Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben, was freed from slavery at the age of 45, as stipulated in the will of a previous owner.

Nonetheless, Ben had few options but to continue working as a timber estimator and foreman for his former owners. Although similar manumission stipulations applied to Rit and her children, the individuals who owned the family chose not to free them. Despite his free status, Ben had little power to challenge their decision.

By the time Harriet reached adulthood, around half of the African-American people on the eastern shore of Maryland were free. It was not unusual for a family to include both free and enslaved people, as did Tubman’s immediate family. In 1844, Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman.

Little is known about John Tubman or his marriage to Harriet. Any children they might have had would have been considered enslaved, since the mother’s status dictated that of any offspring. Araminta changed her name to Harriet around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.

Escape from Slavery and Abolitionism

Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849, fleeing to Philadelphia. Tubman decided to escape following a bout of illness and the death of her owner in 1849. Tubman feared that her family would be further severed, and feared for own her fate as a sickly slave of low economic value. She initially left Maryland with two of her brothers, Ben and Henry, on September 17, 1849. A notice published in the Cambridge Democrat offered a $300 reward for the return of Araminta (Minty), Harry and Ben. Once they had left, Tubman’s brothers had second thoughts and returned to the plantation. Harriet had no plans to remain in bondage. Seeing her brothers safely home, she soon set off alone for Pennsylvania.

Tubman made use of the network known as the Underground Railroad to travel nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia. She crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled later: “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Rather than remaining in the safety of the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue her family and others living in slavery. In December 1850, Tubman received a warning that her niece Kessiah was going to be sold, along with her two young children. Kessiah’s husband, a free black man named John Bowley, made the winning bid for his wife at an auction in Baltimore. Harriet then helped the entire family make the journey to Philadelphia. This was the first of many trips by Tubman, who earned the nickname “Moses” for her leadership. Over time, she was able to guide her parents, several siblings and about 60 others to freedom. One family member who declined to make the journey was Harriet’s husband, John, who preferred to stay in Maryland with his new wife.

The dynamics of escaping slavery changed in 1850, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. This law stated that escaped slaves could be captured in the North and returned to slavery, leading to the abduction of former slaves and free blacks living in Free States. Law enforcement officials in the North were compelled to aid in the capture of slaves, regardless of their personal principles. In response to the law, Tubman re-routed the Underground Railroad to Canada, which prohibited slavery categorically.

In December 1851, Tubman guided a group of 11 fugitives northward. There is evidence to suggest that the party stopped at the home of abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.

In April 1858, Tubman was introduced to the abolitionist John Brown, who advocated the use of violence to disrupt and destroy the institution of slavery. Tubman shared Brown’s goals and at least tolerated his methods. Tubman claimed to have had a prophetic vision of Brown before they met.

When Brown began recruiting supporters for an attack on slaveholders at Harper’s Ferry, he turned to “General Tubman” for help. After Brown’s subsequent execution, Tubman praised him as a martyr.

Harriet Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

Later Life

In early 1859, abolitionist Senator William H. Seward sold Tubman a small piece of land on the outskirts of Auburn, New York. The land in Auburn became a haven for Tubman’s family and friends. Tubman spent the years following the war on this property, tending to her family and others who had taken up residence there. In 1869, she married a Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis. In 1874, Harriet and Nelson adopted a baby girl named Gertie.

Despite Harriet’s fame and reputation, she was never financially secure. Tubman’s friends and supporters were able to raise some funds to support her. One admirer, Sarah H. Bradford, wrote a biography entitled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, with the proceeds going to Tubman and her family. Harriet continued to give freely in spite of her economic woes. In 1903, she donated a parcel of her land to the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Auburn. The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged opened on this site in 1908.

As Tubman aged, the head injuries sustained early in her life became more painful and disruptive. She underwent brain surgery at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital to alleviate the pains and "buzzing" she experienced regularly. Tubman was eventually admitted into the rest home named in her honor. Surrounded by friends and family members, Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia in 1913.

Harriet Tubman, widely known and well-respected while she was alive, became an American icon in the years after she died. A survey at the end of the 20th century named her as one of the most famous civilians in American history before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. She continues to inspire generations of Americans struggling for civil rights with her bravery and bold action.
When she died, Tubman was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn. The city commemorated her life with a plaque on the courthouse. Tubman was celebrated in many other ways throughout the nation in the 20th century. Dozens of schools were named in her honor, and both the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn and the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge serve as monuments to her life.

The Abuja Declaration

The Abuja Declaration is the name frequently given to the communiqué issued after the Islam in Africa conference held in Abuja, Nigeria between 24 and 28 November 1989. The conference was organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (at that time called the Organisation of Islamic Conference) and it agreed to set up the Islam in Africa Organisation (IAO).


The declaration was to the effect that Muslims should unite throughout Africa, the curricula at "various educational establishments" should conform to Muslim ideas, the education of women should be attended to, the teaching of Arabic should be encouraged, and Muslims should support economic relations with Islamic areas worldwide. It noted that Muslims in Africa had been deprived of rights to be governed under sharia law and they should strengthen their struggle to reinstate it.
 The Islam in Africa Organisation (nl) was formally established in July 1991, also in Abuja and it has stated its objectives.


John Chesworth (director of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at St Paul's United Theological College, Limuru, Kenya) and John Azumah (senior research fellow, Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre, Ghana) have reviewed the proceedings at the conference. On the decision to set up the IAO, Heather Deegan (senior lecturer in Comparative Politics, Middlesex University) has commented "More recently Islam has adopted a liberating posture, presenting itself as a religion which will rest countries from their neocolonial dependencies and ignoring the fact that it too was a conquering and colonising force in Africa over the longue durée." The East African Centre for Law and Justice reports the declaration verbatim but goes on to quote two other objectives which it says were omitted from the IAO website. It also severely criticises what it regards as the real objectives of the IAO.Raphael O Duru(Project Director, Voice Your Vote Nigeria, Nigeria)  

Alternative declaration

In 1990 another declaration was promulgated purporting to be from the 1989 conference and which Frans Wijsen (professor of World Christianity and Interreligious Relations at Radboud University Nijmegen) regards as a forgery because it does not correspond with declarations made at the conference. Regarding Africa, it said, amongst other things, that only Muslims should be appointed to strategic posts, non-Muslim religions should be eradicated, Nigeria should become a Federal Islamic Sultanate, and western law should be replaced with sharia. Wijsen regards this as indicating a more militant aspect of Islam in Africa and comments that some aspects directly conflict with official Islamic teaching.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Albert Einstein Biography

 Quick Facts
Albert Einstein
Physicist, Scientist
Birth Date 
March 14, 1879
Death Date 
April 18, 1955
Luitpold Gymnasium, Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule 
(Swiss Federal Polytechnic School)
Place of Birth 
Ulm, Württemberg, Germany
Place of Death 
Princeton, New Jersey
 Albert Einstein: Einstein's name and wild-haired image has become a popular representation of genius in the modern world.
Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist who developed the theory of relativity. He is considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century.


Born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1879, Albert Einstein developed the special and general theories of relativity. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Einstein is generally considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century. He died on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Early Life

Born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Albert Einstein grew up in a secular, middle-class Jewish family. His father, Hermann Einstein, was a salesman and engineer who, with his brother, founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment in Munich, Germany. His mother, the former Pauline Koch, ran the family household. Einstein had one sister, Maja, born two years after him.

Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich. He enjoyed classical music and played the violin. However, he felt alienated and struggled with the rigid Prussian education he received there. He also experienced a speech difficulty, a slow cadence in his speaking where he’d pause to consider what to say next. In later years, Einstein would write about two events that had a marked effect on his childhood. One was an encounter with a compass at age five, where he marveled at the invisible forces that turned the needle. The other was at age 12, when he discovered a book of geometry which he read over and over.

In 1889, the Einstein family invited a poor Polish medical student, Max Talmud to come to their house for Thursday evening meals. Talmud became an informal tutor to young Albert, introducing him to higher mathematics and philosophy. One of the books Talmud shared with Albert was a children’s science book in which the author imagined riding alongside electricity that was traveling inside a telegraph wire. Einstein began to wonder what a light beam would look like if you could run alongside it at the same speed. If light were a wave, then the light beam should appear stationary, like a frozen wave. Yet, in reality, the light beam is moving. This paradox led him to write his first "scientific paper" at age 16, "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields." This question of the relative speed to the stationary observer and the observer moving with the light was a question that would dominate his thinking for the next 10 years.

In 1894, Hermann Einstein’s company failed to get an important contract to electrify the city of Munich and he was forced to move his family to Milan, Italy. Albert was left at a relative's boarding house in Munich to finish his education at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Faced with military duty when he turned of age, Albert allegedly withdrew from school, using a doctor’s note to excuse himself and claim nervous exhaustion, making his way to Milan to join his parents. His parents sympathized with his feelings, but were concerned about the enormous problems that he would face as a school dropout and draft dodger with no employable skills.

Fortunately, Einstein was able to apply directly to the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (Swiss Federal Polytechnic School) in Zürich, Switzerland. Lacking the equivalent of a high school diploma, he failed much of the entrance exam but got exceptional marks in mathematics and physics. Because of this, he was admitted to the school provided he complete his formal schooling first. He went to a special high school run by Jost Winteler in Aarau, Switzerland, and graduated in 1896 at age 17. He became lifelong friends with the Winteler family, with whom he had been boarding, and fell in love with Wintelers' daughter, Marie. At this time, Einstein renounced his German citizenship to avoid military service and enrolled at the Zurich school.

Marriage and Family

Einstein would recall that his years in Zurich were some of the happiest of his life. He met many students who would become loyal friends, such as Marcel Grossmann, a mathematician, and Michele Besso, with whom he enjoyed lengthy conversations about space and time. He also met his future wife, Mileva Maric, a fellow physics student from Serbia.

After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute, Albert Einstein faced a series of life crises over the next few years. Because he liked to study on his own, he cut classes and earned the animosity of some of his professors. One in particular, Heinrich Weber, wrote a letter of recommendation at Einstein’s request that led to him being turned down for every academic position that he applied to after graduation. Meanwhile, Einstein's relationship with Maric deepened, but his parents vehemently opposed the relationship citing her Serbian background and Eastern Orthodox Christian religion. Einstein defied his parents and continued to see Maric. In January, 1902, the couple had a daughter,
 Lieserl, who either died of sickness or was given up for adoption—the facts are unkown.

At this point, Albert Einstein probably reached the lowest point in his life. He could not marry Maric and support a family without a job, and his father's business had gone bankrupt. Desperate and unemployed, Einstein took lowly jobs tutoring children, but he was unable to hold on to any of them.

A turning point came later in 1902, when the father of his lifelong friend, Marcel Grossman, recommended him for a position as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern, Switzerland. About this time, Einstein’s father became seriously ill and just before he died, gave his blessing for him to marry. With a small but steady income, Einstein married Maric on Jan. 6, 1903. In May, 1904 they had their first son, Hans Albert. Their second son, Eduard, were born in 1910.

Miracle Year

At the patent office, Albert Einstein evaluated patent applications for electromagnetic devices. He quickly mastered the job, leaving him time to ponder on the transmission of electrical signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization, an interest he had been cultivating for several years. While at the polytechnic school he had studied Scottish physicist James Maxwell's electromagnetic theories which describe the nature of light, and discovered a fact unknown to Maxwell himself, that the speed of light remained constant. However, this violated Isaac Newton's laws of motion because there is no absolute velocity in Newton's theory. This insight led Einstein to formulate the principle of relativity.

In 1905—often called Einstein's "miracle year"—he submitted a paper for his doctorate and had four papers published in the Annalen der Physik, one of the best known physics journals. The four papers—the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of matter and energy—would alter the course of modern physics and bring him to the attention of the academic world. In his paper on matter and energy, Einstein deduced the well-known equation E=mc2, suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy, foreshadowing the development of nuclear power. There have been claims that Einstein and his wife, Maric, collaborated on his celebrated 1905 papers, but historians of physics who have studied the issue find no evidence that she made any substantive contributions. In fact, in the papers, Einstein only credits his conversations with Michele Besso in developing relativity.

At first, Einstein's 1905 papers were ignored by the physics community. This began to change when he received the attention of Max Planck, perhaps the most influential physicist of his generation and founder of quantum theory. With Planck’s complimentary comments and his experiments that confirmed his theories, Einstein was invited to lecture at international meetings and he rose rapidly in the academic world. He was offered a series of positions at increasingly prestigious institutions, including the University of Zürich, the University of Prague, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and finally the University of Berlin, where he served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1913 to 1933.

As his fame spread, Einstein's marriage fell apart. His constant travel and intense study of his work, the arguments about their children and the family’s meager finances led Einstein to the conclusion that his marriage was over. Einstein began an affair with a cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, whom he later married. He finally divorced Mileva in 1919 and as a settlement agreed to give her the money he might receive if he ever won a Nobel Prize.

Theory of Relativity

In November, 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity, which he considered his masterpiece. He was convinced that general relativity was correct because of its mathematical beauty and because it accurately predicted the perihelion of Mercury's orbit around the sun, which fell short in Newton’s theory. General relativity theory also predicted a measurable deflection of light around the sun when a planet or another sun oribited near the sun. That prediction was confirmed in observations by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington during the solar eclipse of 1919. In 1921, Albert Einstein received word that he had received the Nobel Prize for Physics. Because relativity was still considered controversial, Einstein received the award for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

In the 1920s, Einstein launched the new science of cosmology. His equations predicted that the universe is dynamic, ever expanding or contracting. This contradicted the prevailing view that the universe was static, a view that Einstein held earlier and was a guiding factor in his development of the general theory of relativity. But his later calculations in the general theory indicated that the universe could be expanding or contracting. In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble found that the universe was indeed expanding, thereby confirming Einstein's work. In 1930, during a visit to the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, Einstein met with Hubble and declared the cosmological constant, his original theory of the static size and shape of the universe, to be his "greatest blunder."

While Einstein was touring much of the world speaking on his theories in the 1920s, the Nazis were rising to power under the leadership of Adolph Hitler. Einstein’s theories on relativity became a convenient target for Nazi propaganda. In 1931, the Nazi’s enlisted other physicists to denounce Einstein and his theories as "Jewish physics." At this time, Einstein learned that the new German government, now in full control by the Nazi party, had passed a law barring Jews from holding any official position, including teaching at universities. Einstein also learned that his name was on a list of assassination targets, and a Nazi organization published a magazine with Einstein's picture and the caption "Not Yet Hanged" on the cover.

Move to the United States

In December, 1932, Einstein decided to leave Germany forever. He took a position a the newly formed Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, which soon became a Mecca for physicists from around the world. It was here that he would spend the rest of his career trying to develop a unified field theory—an all-embracing theory that would unify the forces of the universe, and thereby the laws of physics, into one framework—and refute the accepted interpretation of quantum physics. Other European scientists also fled various countries threatened by Nazi takeover and came to the United States. Some of these scientists knew of Nazi plans to develop an atomic weapon. For a time, their warnings to Washington, D.C. went unheeded.

In the summer of 1939, Einstein, along with another scientist, Leo Szilard, was persuaded to write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to alert him of the possibility of a Nazi bomb. President Roosevelt could not risk the possibility that Germany might develop an atomic bomb first. The letter is believed to be the key factor that motivated the United States to investigate the development of nuclear weapons. Roosevelt invited Einstein to meet with him and soon after the United States initiated the Manhattan Project.
Not long after he began his career at the Institute in New Jersey, Albert Einstein expressed an appreciation for the "meritocracy" of the United States and the right people had to think what they pleased—something he didn’t enjoy as a young man in Europe. In 1935, Albert Einstein was granted permanent residency in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. As the Manhattan Project moved from drawing board to testing and development at Los Alamos, New Mexico, many of his colleagues were asked to develop the first atomic bomb, but Einstein was not one of them.

According to several researchers who examined FBI files over the years, the reason was the U.S. government didn't trust Einstein's lifelong association with peace and socialist organizations. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover went so far as to recommend that Einstein be kept out of America by the Alien Exclusion Act, but he was overruled by the U.S. State Department. Instead, during the war, Einstein helped the U.S. Navy evaluate designs for future weapons systems and contributed to the war effort by auctioning off priceless personal manuscripts. One example was a handwritten copy of his 1905 paper on special relativity which sold for $6.5 million, and is now located in the Library of Congress.

On August 6, 1945, while on vacation, Einstein heard the news that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. He soon became involved in an international effort to try to bring the atomic bomb under control, and in 1946, he formed the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists with physicist Leo Szilard. In 1947, in an article that he wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, Einstein argued that the United States should not try to monopolize the atomic bomb, but instead should supply the United Nations with nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of maintaining a deterrent. At this time, Einstein also became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He corresponded with civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois and actively campaigned for the rights of African Americans.

After the war, Einstein continued to work on many key aspects of the theory of general relativity, such as wormholes, the possibility of time travel, the existence of black holes, and the creation of the universe. However, he became increasingly isolated from the rest of the physics community. With the huge developments in unraveling the secrets of atoms and molecules, spurred on by the development to the atomic bomb, the majority of scientists were working on the quantum theory, not relativity.

Another reason for Einstein's detachment from his colleagues was his obsession with discovering his unified field theory. In the 1930s, Einstein engaged in a series of historic private debates with Niels Bohr, the originator of the Bohr atomic model. In a series of "thought experiments," Einstein tried to find logical inconsistencies in the quantum theory, but was unsuccessful. However, in his later years, he stopped opposing quantum theory and tried to incorporate it, along with light and gravity, into the larger unified field theory he was developing.

In the last decade of his life, Einstein withdrew from public life, rarely traveling far and confining himself to long walks around Princeton with close associates, whom he engaged in deep conversations about politics, religion, physics and his unified field theory.

Final Years

On April 17, 1955, while working on a speech he was preparing to commemorate Israel's seventh anniversary, Einstein suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm and experienced internal bleeding. He was taken to the University Medical Center at Princeton for treatment, but refused surgery, believing that he had lived his life and was content to accept his fate. "I want to go when I want," he stated at the time. "It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." Einstein died at the university medical center early the next morning—April 18, 1955—at the age of 76.
During the autopsy, Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed Einstein's brain, seemingly without the permission of his family, for preservation and future study by doctors of neuroscience. His remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered in an undisclosed location. After decades of study, Einstein's brain is now located at the Princeton University Medical Center.

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