Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unsung Heroes

Unsung heroes are all around us making substantive and (publicly) unrecognized contributions to individuals and extended communities.

Unsung heroes care for ailing parents, friends, relatives and neighbors; they make the lives of sick and disabled as gracious, normal and stress-free as possible; they advocate selflessly to make the lives of others less fortunate more bearable; they struggle to defend themselves and their friends against bullies of all shapes, sizes and numbers. They are people we so often take for granted and shouldn't and whom our students and kids should learn about and learn from.

From: lifestyle.yahoo.co.nz
Here are posts and lists of just a few unsung heroes:
  •  Unsung Heroes in Science:
    • http://www.scienceheroes.com/  is an AWESOME site for kids OF ALL AGES celebrating, listing and measuring scientists by how many lives they've saved.  This is an excellent resource . Some of their unsung heroes include Karl Landsteiner who figured out there were four types of blood (A,B,AB, and O); Edward Jenner who developed the the first vaccine (for smallpox), Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering who worked worked during the depression for no pay to create a vaccine for whooping cough and many, many more.  For an article describing this link, please read Washington Post blog (5/4/2010) "Web site celebrates often unknown scientists who saved lives"
    • Larry Bock of in the Huffington Post blog includes descriptions of awards and honorees "In Praise of Unsung Heroes in Science" (5/16/13). They include molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin responsible for work that led to understanding the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid; Charles Drew renowned African-American physician and surgeon who overcame barriers of racism to poneer blood transfusion and develop the blood bank; Fazlur Khan a structural engineer whose works include the John Hancock Center in Chicago.
    • An unsung hero of genetic science : Dr. Oswald Avery and his group at the Rockefeller Institute who in 1943 identified a "transforming principle" - a stringy white substance deoxyribose nucleic acid, which in 1950 became widely know as DNA.
  • Unsung American Heroes 
  • Time magazine's list of unsung heroes for Black History Month .  PBS also has a list of Unsung Heroes in African American History along with teaching ideas for students grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. This PBS link also has outstanding online resources and lesson plans.
  • Maria Popva at brainpickings.com has a list of Five Unsung Heroes Who Shaped Modern Life. What is so super about this post is that in addition to a brief description of why the following five individuals were selected, she includes biographical references for all those interested in reading more, be it for school projects or for independent research,
  • BBC News Magazine discusses "The Heroes Britain accidentally Forgot" in this post.
  • Tolerance.org's "Teaching Tolerance :A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center" has posted "Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement" that includes lesson ideas for grades 9-12 along with resources to help students:
    •   identify and understand various civil rights cases;
    • investigate the stories behind the cases;
    • recognize qualities individuals must have to be successful leaders of a social movement;
    • identify women other than Rosa Parks who made important contributions to the Civil Rights Movement;
  • Great American History.net has a post by Gordon Leidner (which appeared in the Washington Times Civil War Page, Saturday May3, 1977)  "Battle of Shiloh affected by insubordinate officer" It also has suggestions for further reading.
  • While there has been a good amount of attention given to unsung heroes of the holocaust, here are a few links:
    •  The Guardian Observer has a post by Martin Gilbert (Saturday, 1/21/2006) "Salute those unsung heroes of the holocaust" detailing the work and risks undertaken by British citizens such as Jane Haining, a Scottish missionary who protested as her Jewish students attending her girls' home in Budapest were taken; Randolph Churchill (son of Winston Churchill) who volunteered to parachute behind German lines in Yugoslavia and on return trips to the UK after flying military supplies to Yugoslavia, return with Jews fleeing in search of a safe haven; and Sergeant Charles Coward and his colleagues who as a British POW in a camp near Auschwitz collected papers of Belgian and French civilian forced laborers who died and smuggled them to Jews in Auschwitz who were then smuggled out of the camp - saving hundreds of condemned Jews.
    • The Telegraph also has an impressive and descriptive list of "The remarkable stories of Britain's Heroes of the Holocaust"
    • Catholic.org has a post (2/11/2007) of "Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust" worth looking at.
  • See this link for a discussion and kids' reading suggestions for All kinds of heroes.
  • See this link for a discussion on our modern-day anti heroes.
These lists and articles go on and on but some might argue that once recognized, they are no longer unsung.  So after looking at the list below of unsung fictional and non-fictional characters available as great summer reads for kids, please leave your own lists and commendations of the unsung heroes in your life, community or  family history.

Photo by Christy Yip found at https://www.pachamama.org/news/may-photo-of-the-month-your-unsung-heroes Caption: “As I walk up the steps of the Embarcadero BART station during my morning commute, I can hear the soaring jazz notes from Don Cunningham’s clarinet. He is there every morning without fail, playing for the thousands of people who pass through the station, lifting our spirits. Thank you, Don, for sharing your art and helping me start each morning on a beautiful note.”

  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Nimura is about a fifth grade girl, Barbara wrestling with social and personal issues.  It is about her struggle to become her own hero.  A MUST read for all ages. (Grades 5+)
  • Laika by Nick Abadzis is about the story of two unsung heroes, Laika the first dog (and sentient being) to go into pace and her Russian trainer.
  • Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm. The first Babymouse book, Babymouse Queen of the World! is about a mouse who must chose between sure popularity and her all time best friend...and the fun continues in numerous volumes from there. (All ages although targeted for girls grad 5+).  Here is a trailer for Book 1:
  • The Silence of our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell is about Jack, a white male reporter living in Texas during the Civil Rights Movement who must make career and life choices while trying to do the 'right' thing as a man and as a parent. It is a powerful story about the pull of friendship and commitment to family values and is based on a true story that happened to one of the authors father in 1967. (Grades 5+)
  • Rust by Royden Lepp is a four book series.  Two are already published. In this fictional story there are several unsung heroes - two brothers who are struggling to keep up the family farm while their father is 'away' at war; their neighbor a returned soldier now old man who has answers to important questions they are only beginning to ask, and Jet, an AIrobot with a past.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry is about a dystopian society that eliminates pain and suffering by transferring it all to a "giver." In this book, Jonas learns that he is to be the next Giver.
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes tells the story of Johnny Tremain a silversmith apprentice in Colonial Boston who suffers a debilitating accident and finds himself working for The Observer, a Whig publication.  Johny meets and interacts with historical leaders including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Doctor Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, James Otis, Jr., Governor Thomas Hutchinson, Thomas Gage and numerous members of the Sons of Liberty. Johnny is not only a revolutionary hero, he is a hero in his own right as he battles the physical and mental scars of physical disabilities and broken dreams. (Grades 5+)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is an autobiographical novel about her childhood and coming-of-age in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. It reflects: the contradictions between private and public life led by many, a country plagued by political upheaval, and the sacrifices made by so many. Recently it was banned from Chicago's seventh grade classrooms and libraries and is being "examined for use" in their eighth, ninth and tenth grades because of "powerful images of torture." The Chicago Teachers Union, the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are just a few of the many who have been outraged and spoken against these restrictions.  The book banning, the struggle against censorship AND the plight of Marjane are all excellent discussion points for unsung heroes.
  • Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco is a story about her great, great, grandfather Sheldon Curtis (Say) a white boy fighting for the Union who was wounded in a fierce battle and  found unconscious and left for dean on a battlefield/pasture in Georgia by Pinkus Aylee, a black boy also fighting for the Union. He took say to his mother, Moe but realizing that harboring two Union soldiers in Confederate territory was putting her at great risk, the realized they had to leave. (Picture book for all ages) Below is PART I of a youtube clip of Ms. Polacco who reads and explains the book to students:

 Here is the link for Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1OpdkanwMg

With Memorial Day just passing and summer approaching,  maybe now is a good time to think of and appreciate the unsung, unseen heroes. 

Thank you for your visit.

Please leave your appreciation and notes about your favorite unsung hero in the comments. Feel free to leave links and photos... which I will either add to this post or create a separate post (depending on the number of responses I receive).


  1. Interesting post! Thanks so much for linking up at Ms Mystery Case and taking the time to comment. Have a great week.

  2. Enjoyed this post. I think I would like to read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It would be interesting to read more about a fundamentalist Islamic culture.

    Royalegacy Reviews & More

  3. It's always a delight to visit your posts. I never know where the Letter will take us.
    Love this choice of Unsung Heroes.
    I have a few in my own life too.

  4. Note to self: come to this post in January when you're plotting Black History Month.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. Very good choice for U, Meryl! The Unsung Heroes are the best people among us. They often work as volunteers. Have a great week,Meryl!
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  6. The "unsung" heroes are usually the greatest!

    abcw team

  7. Unsung heroes make the world a better and more loving place :)
    Thanks for linking up for WW!

  8. Great idea for U this week.

  9. Utterly fabulous U! Very much enjoyed the WWII English tales, as stories from that time still have great resonance in the UK. I loved Persepolis and am adding the others to my reading list. Lovely U post!

  10. A couple of unsung heroes gave their lives here in my community less than a week ago when a local sheriff and a local game warden lost their live attempting to rescue people from flash flooding in our area.
    An Arkies Musings

  11. Very good post!
    We would love to have you come share/link via our WWHop: http://www.craftyspices.com/hops/wwhop
    Happy Wordless Wednesday!