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The twentieth century was shaped by scientists, leaders, civil rights workers, entertainers, and so many more. Here are some of the influential people who molded the century, including both the heroes and the villains.


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon | Pablo Picasso
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon | Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso
Spanish painter, draghtsman, and sculptor. Commonly known simply as Picasso, he is one of the most recognized figures in 20th-century art. He is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon(1907) and Guernica (1937), his portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Marilyn Monroe | Andy Worhal
Marilyn Monroe | Andy Worhal

Andy Warhol
Was one of the most important artists of pop art, which became extremely popular in the second half of the twentieth century. Andy Warhol's pop art was an early beggining to modernism in the art industry. Though he is best remembered for his paintings of Campbell's soup cans, he also created hundreds of other works including commercial advertisements and films.

Civil Rights Leaders

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that separation was inherently unequal, it took many brave people to stand up and challenge the status quo. By standing up for equal civil rights, these men and women confronted racism, endured violence, and changed the course of history.

Ralph Abernathy
Worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. to help lead the Civil Rights Movement from the Montgomery Bus Boycott until King's assassination. Upon King's death, Abernathy became president of the SCLC and continued working on the Civil Rights Movement.
Medgar Evers
Was the NAACP's first field secretary in Mississippi, which meant he was a leader of desegregation activities in the state. After receiving numerous death
threats, he was fatally shot in the back in his own driveway.

Stokely Carmichael
Was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He led the SNCC, popularized the term "Black Power," and later became the prime minister of the Black Panther Party.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
was a principal leader of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and became president of the SCLC. Celebrated in part for his oratory abilities, King's most famous speech, "I Have a Dream," was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King's accomplishments were cut short when he was assassinated in 1968.


Louis Armstrong
Although Louis Armstrong, "Satchmo," was born into extreme poverty, his life changed the day he picked up a cornet at age 12. Armstrong impressed the world with his trumpeting and singing skills, making Armstrong one of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century.
The Beatles
The Beatles

The Beatles

The Beatles shaped not only music but also an entire generation. The Beatles were mentioned in newspapers virtually every day throughout the early part of their career, and they were a part of the consciousness of nearly the entire world. People mimicked all that they did, including haircuts, clothing, and outlook.

Sidney Poiter
At a time when the Civil Rights Movement was just taking off, Sidney Poitier became known for being a black actor who took only strong, anti-stereotypical roles. In 1967, Poitier became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies in the Field.


The twentieth century saw a remarkable shift in the way that vast numbers of people lived, as a result of technological,medical, social, ideological, and political innovations. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage and became an influence on the lives of everyday people. War reached an unprecedented scale and level of sophistication; in the Second World War (1939-1945) alone, approximately 57 million people died, mainly due to massive improvements in weaponry.
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was crowned the person of the century, on the grounds that he was the preeminent scientist in a century dominated by science. Einstein is best known for his theories of special relativity and general relativity. Many scientists used his works to build off of and further increase in thier own inventiveness.

J.Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Manhattan Project, the U.S.'s attempt during World War II to create an atomic bomb. Oppenheimer's struggle after the war with the morality of building such a massively destructive weapon epitomized the moral dilemma that faced scientists who worked to create the atomic and hydrogen bombs.

World Leaders

Some were strong; others were weak. Some were good; others were bad.
external image thumbs-down.jpgAdolf Hitler Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a new order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in Europe. To achieve this, he pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum "living space" for the Aryan people; directing the resources of the state towards this goal. This included the rearmament of Germany, which culminated in 1939 when the Wehrmacht incaded Poland. In response, the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany, leading to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe.

external image thumbs%20down%20col.gifFidel Castro
In the late 1950s, Fidel Castro took control of Cuba by force and has remained its dictatorial leader for over four decades. As the leader of the only communist country in the Western Hemisphere, Castro has been the focus of international controversy. While some Cubans benefited from Castro's educational and land reforms, others suffered from the food shortages and lack of personal freedoms. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled Cuba to live in the United States.

external image No-Symbol.pngSaddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein was the ruthless dictator of iraq beggining in 1973. Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with a brutal hand. He used fear and terror to stay in power. He was known with international notoriety for torturing and murdering thousands of his own people. Hussein believes he ruled with an iron fist to keep his country, divided by ethnicity and religion, intact. However, his actions bespeak a tyrannical despot who stopped at nothing to punish those who opposed him.
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Winston Churchill
A british politicion known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, historian, writer, and artist. He is the only British Prime Minister who has ever received the Noble Prize in literature and the second person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.

external image checkmark.pngMikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev was the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union. He brought about massive economic, social, and political changes and helped bring an end to the Soviet Union and the Cold War.