Janusz Korczak and his children

“He told the orphans they were going out into the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”

Janusz Korczak portrait, taken circa 1930
Janusz Korczak, circa 1930

Then he walked with them, “his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots.”

Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Warsaw before the war started. Then in 1940 his orphanage was forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. Janusz went with the children.

He had opportunities to leave the ghetto. The resistance wanted to help him escape. He chose to stay, to be with the children, to be with them to the end, to that day in early August of 1942, when he had to convince the SS men to let him go with the children to Treblinka, an extermination camp.

“I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.”

This was Janusz Korczak.

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“Janusz Korczak and his children” sources: Portrait taken in Warsaw, Poland, circa 1930 – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Miedzynarodowe Stowarzyszenie im. Janusza Korczaka / Wikimedia Commons / “He told the orphans…” quote: Jerzy Waldorff, Władysław Szpilman, The Pianist. Page 96. / “I exist not be…” quote: Warsaw Ghetto Memoirs of Janusz Korczak / “His head bent…” quote: Ghetto eyewitness, Joshua Perle – Nick Shepley (7 December 2015). Hitler, Stalin and the Destruction of Poland: Explaining History. Andrews UK Limited. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-78333-143-7 / 

Hazel Lee, WASP pilot during WWII

Hazel Lee loved to swim, and play handball, and play cards, and cook. And she loved to fly planes.

About flying, her sister described the love of aviation for Hazel as she “enjoyed the danger and doing something that was new to Chinese girls.”

Hazel Lee, in her pilot gear, leaning on the wing of a plane and smoking a cigarette
Hazel Lee, 1932

During WWII, the U.S. didn’t have enough male pilots. So the Women Airforce Service Pilots was created.

Hazel was invited to join. And the young woman, born to Chinese parents in Portland, Oregon accepted, even though WASP pilots were not officially considered part of the military and thus received no military benefits.

Her attitude towards work was described well by a fellow pilot — “I’ll take and deliver anything.”

Calm and fearless, she had a great attitude and a sense of humor. And she loved to play pranks. She “used her lipstick to inscribe Chinese characters on the tail of her plane and the planes of her fellow pilots. One lucky fellow who happened to be a bit on the chubby side, had his plane dubbed (unknown to him) ‘Fat Ass.’”

On November 23rd, 1944, flying in bad weather in North Dakota, she crashed with another plane upon landing. She suffered severe burns and two days later she passed away.

Of the 38 female pilots to die during WWII, Hazel was the last one.

“Hazel Lee, WASP pilot during WWII” sources:

United States Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia


Click here to read a snapshot biography of WASP Director, Jackie Cochran.

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The last words of Sophie Scholl

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

– Sophie Scholl

These were the last words of Sophie Scholl, a 21 year old college student at the University of Munich and member of the non violent White Rose group, who were dedicated to passive resistance against the Nazi government. She was executed for passing out leaflets about the resistance.

A mini biography of Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.'” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

Biography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Early years and marriage

Born in Manhattan in 1884, Eleanor Roosevelt suffered much trauma in her early years. At two, she was with her parents aboard a ship that crashed. Everyone survived but the event left Eleanor fearful of ships and seawater. A few years later, when Eleanor was eight, her mother and a younger brother died from diphtheria. Less than two years after that, her father also passed away after a seizure shortly after a fall. Eleanor was just shy of her tenth birthday at the time.

After her parents passed away, Eleanor went to live with her grandmother. She continued suffering from the traumas and also dealt with worries about her looks. But in these years, Eleanor began to find space for joy. She fell in love with field hockey. So much so that as she reflected on life, she remarked that her happiest day was when she made her high school field hockey team. And Eleanor’s self-confidence began growing with support from the school headmistress, who was known for being a great educator and teaching women to be independent. As a result, Eleanor thrived and was beloved in school.

It was also during these years that love came into Eleanor’s life. In 1902, she met Franklin D. Roosevelt while on a train ride. A romance blossomed, and they became engaged the following year. Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, walked her down the aisle when she and Franklin married.

Eleanor Roosevelt in her wedding dress, 1905
Eleanor Roosevelt in her wedding dress, 1905

Political Life & Later Years

Eleanor’s husband became a politician. And while his career grew in stature, eventually becoming President, Eleanor’s role as a public figure grew as well. “I think I have a good deal of my Uncle Theodore in me, because I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on,” she would say.

Balancing work with raising six children, as First Lady, Eleanor played an active role in her husband’s presidency, serving as his eyes and ears around the country. Working tirelessly, a day in her life could consist of travel to give multiple speeches while writing an article for a paper and letters to friends and associates. She used her platform for social progress, becoming known for adamantly standing up for equality, including disobeying segregation laws in the South. The rules needed to change is how Eleanor lived and opportunities for disadvantaged people needed to be created.

After her husband’s death in 1945, Eleanor stayed active in public life, serving as a delegate to the United Nations and chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights. Instrumental in drafting a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she worked hard to promote its adoption.

Eleanor believed in a better world, or in her words, a world in which “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” She passed away in 1962.


  • If you enjoyed this snapshot biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation. Visit our Patreon page to donate. Your support is much appreciated.
  • Story updated on March 16th, 2023.

“A mini biography of Eleanor Roosevelt” sources:

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.'” – “As quoted in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1944; 1948) by Dale Carnegie; though Roosevelt has sometimes been credited with the originating the expression, ‘Damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ is set in quote marks, indicating she herself was quoting a common expression in saying this. Actually, this saying was coined back even earlier, 1836, by evangelist Lorenzo Dow in his sermons”- Eleanor Roosevelt Wikiquote / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, NAID: 195393 / Wikimedia Commons / Photograph taken circa 1932 – Eleanor Roosevelt, -1962. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2004670795/> / Wikimedia Commons

Susie King Taylor quote about sympathy during war


“It seems strange how our aversion to seeing suffering is overcome in war, how we are able to see the most sickening sights, such as men with their limbs blown off and mangled by the deadly shells, without a shudder; and instead of turning away, how we hurry to assist in alleviating their pain, bind up their wounds, and press the cool water to their parched lips, with feelings only of sympathy and pity.”

– Susie King Taylor, nurse during the U.S. Civil War

Susie King Taylor
Susie King Taylor

“Susie King Taylor quote about sympathy during war” sources: Susie King Taylor, known as the first African American Army nurse. [Boston: published by the author, 1902 from a photograph taken between 1862 and 1866] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018663038/>.


Click here to read our Snapshot Biography of Susie King Taylor.

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WWII hero Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes once wrote, “There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”

She was a playwright and a poet, and she was a Special Operations Executive (SOE) paratrooper, one “of 37 Jewish parachutists of Mandate Palestine parachuted by the British Army into Yugoslavia during the Second World War to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.”

She was only in her early 20s then.

And so it was on March 14, 1944 that she was parachuted into Yugoslavia. At the Hungarian border she was arrested by Hungarian gendarmes, “who found her British military transmitter, used to communicate with the SOE and other partisans.

Hannah was taken to a prison, stripped, tied to a chair, then whipped and clubbed for three days. She lost several teeth as a result of the beating. The guards wanted to know the code for her transmitter so they could find out who the parachutists were and trap others. Transferred to a Budapest prison, Szenes was repeatedly interrogated and cruelly tortured, but she only revealed her name and refused to provide the transmitter code.”

She was tried for treason on October 28th, 1944 and executed by firing squad on November 7th, 1944.

Three years prior, she wrote:
“To die,
so young to die.
No, no, not I,
I love the warm sunny skies,
light, song, shining eyes,
I want no war, no battle cry,
No, no, not I.”

Sources: Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary / Hannah Senesh memorial center via Israel Free Image Collection Project / Wikimedia Commons/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Szenes

Joyce Bryant sings for first time on a dare

She was a teenager visiting cousins in Los Angeles. They went to a local club where an impromptu singalong began. On a dare she got up on stage to sing. Soon she was the only one singing. The club owner offered her $25 to stay on stage. She needed the money to get home so she continued to perform.

This was the beginning of what would become a legendary career for Joyce Bryant. She became a top nightclub performer, famous for her voice and for her look.

But she also used her position to fight for civil rights, becoming the first African American to perform in many places around the U.S.

Joyce tired of the nightclub scene by her late 20s and so she walked away from her lucrative career. Eventually though she came back. But this time under her own rules as a classical vocalist. And just like her previous music career, she found success.

Joyce Bryant

“Joyce Bryant sings for first time on a dare” sources: http://www.joycebryant.net/#!__intro/joyce-bryant, http://www.50shadesofblack.com/blog/meeting-legendary-joyce-bryant#.V41dRRYycpE= and “Joyce Bryant’s Best Kept Secrets”. Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 7 (21): 59–61. March 31, 1955. ISSN 0021-5996 / Photograph of Joyce taken in 1953 – Van Vechten, Carl, photographer. Portrait of Joyce Bryant. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2004662641/>.


Click here to read a snapshot biography of another singer, Billie Holiday.

If you enjoyed this snapshot biography of Joyce Bryant, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a contribution. Visit our Patreon page to contribute. Your support is much appreciated.

The Loving Family

The Loving Family Story:

“Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, That the State…prepare a form whereon the racial composition of any individual, as Caucasian, Negro, Mongolian, American Indian, Asiatic Indian, Malay…may be certified by such individual…

“It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white…“

So declared Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which forbade marriage between interracial couples. Anti-interracial marriage laws were nothing new in Virginia, the state had some form of them in effect since the time of slavery (1600s). But this particular act was a direct consequence of the American eugenics movement of the early 1900s, which hoped to “improve the inborn qualities of a race” by way of immigration restrictions, anti-interracial marriage laws, forced sterilization, and even euthanasia programs to remove “defective genetic attributes” from the reproductive pool. It was this Racial Integrity Act of 1924 that Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia, brought down with their famous court case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967, and with it helped put an end to state sponsored implementation of white supremacy.

Mildred Jeter, a skinny girl of African American and Native American descent, was born in 1939, six years after Richard Loving, who was of English and Irish ancestry. They both lived in Caroline County, Virginia, a place much friendlier towards racial mixing than other Southern communities of the time.

Mildred met Richard when she was eleven and he seventeen. She went to an all-black school, and he, having left his all-white high school after only a year, made a living as a construction worker. What started as a friendship eventually blossomed into love, and after Mildred became pregnant at age eighteen, they decided to get married.

Marrying in their home state of Virginia was impossible, so Mildred and Richard drove 90 miles north to Washington D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. Upon returning home the Lovings lived in peace for just a few weeks until in the middle of the night their house was raided by the local sheriff along with two deputies acting on a tip. The sheriff barged into the Loving’s bedroom at 2AM demanding to know of Richard,

“Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?”

“I am his wife,” Mildred answered.

Their marriage certificate hung on the wall.

“That’s no good here,” the sheriff proclaimed.

Loving Family Washington D.C. Marriage Certificate
Loving Family Washington D.C. Marriage Certificate

The Lovings were taken to jail. Richard was allowed to post bail the following day, but Mildred, despite being pregnant, was held longer. The Lovings were charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a felony crime carrying a one to five year jail term. During the hearing the presiding judge, Judge Leon Bazile, stated,

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The Lovings pled guilty to breaking Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law and were given the minimum one year sentence. With the ruling came the stipulation that their sentence would be suspended if they left Virginia and did not return together for twenty five years. The Lovings agreed. They moved to Washington D.C., had three children, and lived there for five years, until the isolation from family and friends, as well as financial hardship, made them long to return to Virginia.

The year was 1963, and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Mildred, inspired by the movement, got in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union who agreed to take on the Lovings’ case and help them return home. There was only one problem, since the Lovings had pled guilty to breaking Virginia law, they had no right to appeal the original ruling. So they contacted Judge Leon Bazile and asked him to void his verdict on the basis that Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He declined. The Lovings appealed, and the case went to Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals, but that court upheld Judge Bazile’s decision, stating that Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law didn’t in fact violate the Fourteenth Amendment because both whites and non-whites were punished equally for the crime of interracial marriage.

But the Lovings didn’t give up. They appealed the Virginia court’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. The court, at the time headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren who also presided over Brown v. Board of Education, examined the case and overturned Virginia court’s decision.

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’”, Warren stated, “fundamental to our very existence and survival… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes…is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Interracial marriage was declared legal in Virginia and in the US as a whole. The Lovings, now legally married, were finally able to live in peace at home in Virginia.

Of Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law in general, Justice Potter Stewart and Justice William O. Douglas, two of the associate Justices who were part of the Supreme Court’s ruling, stated,

“There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.”

Loving v. Virginia became one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most important cases. The Lovings were hailed as heroes by their community and the country at large.

But when asked about their accomplishments in a Life magazine interview, Richard Loving humbly said,

“We have thought about other people, but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”


If you enjoyed this story about the Loving Family, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation. Visit our Patreon page to donate. Your support is much appreciated.

“The Loving Family” sources:

  • Eugenics in the United States – Wikipedia.
  • “improve the inborn qualities of a race”: EUGENICS: ITS DEFINITION, SCOPE, AND AIMS. By Francis Galton. THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY, Volume X; July, 1904; Number 1.
  • “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” — Judge Leon Bazile in Caroline County Court, 1958 – “Judge Leon M. Bazile, Indictment for Felony,” Library of Virginia, accessed October 6, 2022, https://lva.omeka.net/items/show/54.
  • Loving v. Virginia – Wikipedia.
  • Was Loving v. Virginia Really About Love? By Osagie K. Obasogie. The Atlantic. June 12th, 2017.
  • Chief Justice Earl Warren quote: Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), U.S. Supreme Court Justia
  • “We have thought about other people,” Mr. Loving said in an interview with Life magazine in 1966, “but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/06/us/06loving.html
  • Mildred and Richard Loving – Wikipedia.
  • Loving family Washington D.C. marriage certificate – National Archives, NAID: 17412479

Jim Thorpe wins gold at 1912 Olympics

It’s the 1912 summer Olympics in Stockholm. Jim Thorpe, a Native American from Oklahoma, represents the U.S. in four track and field events, the most important of which is the decathlon. The decathlon, a set of ten events made up of sprints, jumps, throws, hurdles, vaults, and a distance run, determines the greatest athlete in the world.

Sport has always been an important part of Jim’s life. He swam and rode horses by age three. And in his teen years, Jim was the star football player of his small college for Native Americans. He led them to a National Championship twice.

Jim Thorpe wearing mismatched running shoes at the 1912 Olympics
Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics

“I was never content unless I was trying my skill in some game against my fellow playmates or testing my endurance and wits against some member of the animal kingdom,” he said.

His talent for sport extended well beyond the football field. He competed in more than twenty sports, including figure skating, lacrosse, handball, tennis, and boxing. He even won an intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship. This diversity made the decathlon a perfect event for him.

The decathlon started well for Jim. He developed a nice lead after the first day. Then on the morning of day two, as Jim prepped for competition, he noticed that his track shoes were missing. To this day, the shoes are presumed to have been stolen.

Getting a pair of track shoes wasn’t easy. There wasn’t a store one could walk into and purchase shoes. Track shoes were custom made. So he and his track coach went looking for a discarded pair. His coach found a right shoe and a left one. They were different styles, different sizes, but this was the best option given time constraints. One shoe fit fine, the other was too big. So Jim put on two pairs of socks to fit into the big shoe.

Jim came in first place wearing these track shoes. And he didn’t just win; he dominated, winning by a margin of about 700 points. His margin of victory has only been surpassed one time to date.

As the legend goes, upon receiving his gold medal from King Gustav of Sweden, the King said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Jim, humble as always, reportedly replied, “Thanks, King.”

Jim returned home to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York. He was a hero and officially the greatest athlete in the world.


If you enjoyed this story about Jim Thorpe, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a contribution. Visit our Patreon page to contribute. Your support is much appreciated.

Click here to read another Historical Snapshots short story about an Olympian – Wilma Rudolph.

“Jim Thorpe wins gold at 1912 Olympics” sources:

Jim Thorpe – Wikipedia / Photograph of Jim taken at the 1912 Olympics – Wikimedia Commons / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, S/NPG.80.62

To cite:

Jim Thorpe wins gold at 1912 Olympics.” Historical Snapshots.

Chuck Taylor and the rise of Converse

Chuck Taylor sneakers have been a staple of fashion for years. But how did they become popular?

You can say the historical record started in 1908 when 47 year old Marquis Mills Converse, a well groomed and lifelong respected manager started his own company, Converse Shoes. They made rubber soled shoes for winter first. Then in 1915 sneakers for tennis players, and in 1917 the company introduced the All-Star basketball shoe.

Chuck Taylor sneaker ad, 1920
Converse advertisement, 1920

During this time, a basketball player at Columbus High in Indiana by the name of Chuck Taylor fell in love with the All-Star basketball shoe. Chuck was a lanky kid with a prominent nose and insightful eyes. By most accounts he was a good basketball player at best. But he was likable and he understood the footwear needs of basketball players. He was also a gifted salesman who knew how to pitch himself and his ideas. In 1921 Converse hired Chuck Taylor after he arrived unannouced at their Chicago office.

With his drive and passion, Converse introduced the Chuck Taylor sneaker. Soon after, it was the shoe to wear for basketball players. And in 1936 the sneakers became the official shoe for the US basketball team in the Olympics.

Then “during WWII, Taylor became a fitness consultant for the US military. GIs were soon doing calisthenics while wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers that had become the official sneaker of the US Armed Forces (Wikipedia).”

In the 1950’s, sneakers extended beyond sportswear and became the norm for daily wear. Much of this was the result of James Dean and his love for the Jack Purcell’s, a sneaker designed by a former world badminton champion (and which was later acquired by Converse). The Jack Purcell sneakers were similar to Chuck Taylor’s, but appealed to a different segment of society. These sneakers were prominent in the rebellious rock culture of the time, broadening the overall appeal of sneakers.

Stories such as the rise of sneakers as a cultural norm remind me of the Harriet Tubman quote, “All dreams begin with a dreamer.” Chuck Taylor wasn’t the only reason sneakers became popular, but he was certainly the catalyst to usher in the change. And as a result, more than 600 million pairs of Chuck Taylor’s have been sold.

“Chuck Taylor and the rise of Converse” sources:

Chuck Taylor advertisement published in American Legion Weekly magazine, vol. 2, no. 1 (Jan. 2, 1920), pg. 29 – Wikimedia Commons


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