Charles Eastman (1858-1939), born Hakadah, later named Ohíye S’a to mark a life passage, was a Sioux Dakota Santee (Eastern Dakota) physician, writer, national speaker, and an activist for Native American rights.
His maternal grandfather was Seth Eastman (1808-1875), who served in the U.S. Army as an illustrator / painter of Indian life. In 1830, while on assignment at Fort Snelling (MN), Seth Eastman married Wakan Inajin-win (Stands Sacred), the fifteen year old daughter of Cloud Man, a Dakota chief. When Eastman was reassigned, he declared his marriage ended, and abandoned his wife and baby daughter, Winona (“first daughter”; she was later renamed Wakantakawin, in the tradition of renaming during life passages, and later still also called Mary Nancy Eastman.)
In the late 1840s, Wakantakawin married Wak-anhdi Ota (Many Lightnings). In 1858, Charles Eastman’s mother died just a few months after giving birth to him, the youngest of five children. His birth name, Hakadah, means “pitiful last” (but would later change, by custom of marking life passages.)
When he was four, the Dakota War of 1862 broke out, and his paternal grandmother (Uncida) took the boy with her and his uncles as they fled to Canada to escape the violence.
He was separated from his father and siblings. His father was imprisoned, and sentenced to death by hanging, but eventually released.
Now named Ohiyesa (“the winner”), Eastman reunited with his father and brother at age 15, when they traveled to Canada to locate him. His father and brother had converted, and adopted Jacob Eastman and John Eastman as their respective Christian names, using the surname from the maternal grandfather, the father in-law that Jacob Eastman had never met. When Ohiyesa himself converted, he took the name Charles Alexander.
Eastman attended Beloit and Knox colleges, and graduated from Dartmouth in 1887; he graduated from medical school at Boston University in 1889.
In 1890, as a physician, Eastman cared for the wounded at the Wounded Knee Massacre at the Lakota Reservation–an act for which he lost his job.
He then became an activist and legal representative for the Lakota people. He also established more than two dozen Boy Scout troops for young Native Americans.
Two of his best known works are:
- the autobiographical Memory of an Indian Boyhood, published in 1902, and
- Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, published in 1918
He is considered the first Native American author to write history from a Native American perspective.
Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was an American composer, pianist, and band leader of a jazz orchestra. His legal name was Edward Kennedy Ellington, but his mother installed in the value of grace, dignity, and manners, and his noble demeanor earned him the nickname “Duke.” him He was well known for his appearances at NYC’s famed Cotton Club. He produced more than one thousand lasting pieces of music.
You can listen to NPR’s discussion of Duke Ellington.
You can read about Ellington’s jazz suite, Such Sweet Thunder, which is based on the plays of William Shakespeare.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) was a Nobel Prize winning American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote in several genres, including novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and a play. He is known for work set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, MS, based on Lafayette County, MS, where he spent most of his life.
Faulkner won the Nobel Prize (click to read a transcript of or hear his speech) in 1949. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel, The Reivers (1962) were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels included three Faulkner works : The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), and Light in August (1932).
Click here for a short 1952 documentary about Faulkner, in which Faulkner participated.
Click here for a discussion of Faulkner and good writing.
Margot Fonteyn (1921-1991) was an English ballerina, who danced for her entire career with the Royal Ballet, eventually appointed by Queen Elizabeth II as Prima Ballerina Assoluta.
She debuted in the Nutcracker in 1934.
In 1955, she married Dr. Roberto Arias, a Panamanian diplomat to London. In 1959, she was arrested and briefly detained in Panama for helping Arias attempt to overthrow the existing Panamanian government (files released from the British government in 2010 indicate that she did know about and had some involvement in the coup attempt; you can watch clips from the press interviewing Fonteyn about her husband’s whereabouts.)
She was well known for her partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, which began when he defected to the West in 1961. Many had assumed she was nearing retirement, but with Nureyev, she danced for 18 more years. (You can see a documentary about the partnership here.)
In 1964, a rival Panamanian politician shot her husband, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
She retired in 1979, making only a couple of appearances on stage after that. She resided in Panama, caring for her husband. Her husband died in 1989; Fonteyn was diagnosed with cancer shortly after. She was destitute because of the money spent on her husband’s care; Nureyev paid for much of her treatment, and visited her often. She died in 1991.
For true ballet buffs: Fonteyn wore Freed of London Ballet Pointe shoes in size 4.
Click here to see Margot Fonteyn perform in the conclusion of Act II of Swan Lake as Odette (pre-Nureyev; her partner is Michael Somes). Click here to see a clip from Tony Palmer’s documentary Margot, showing Fonteyn and Nureyev in the Nutcracker. You can also see Fonteyn and Nureyev in a 1966 production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (Act 4), or watch an interview of Fonteyn from British TV.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (Hatorne) (1804-1864) was an American novelist and short story writer.
Hathorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His ancestors included John Hathorne, the only judge involved in the Salem witch trials who never repented about his actions. Hawthorne placed the “w” in his last name in order to distance himself from his ancestor.
Early in his career, he published a number of short stories which were collected in 1837 in the anthology Twice-Told Tales.
In 1841, Hawthorne was a founding member of Brook Farm, an agricultural collective; h0wever, disillusioned after realizing how much harsh work was required, and how little time would be left over during which to write, he left just a few months later.
In 1842 Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody. They would go on to have 3 children: 2 girls and a boy.
Peabody, a painter, came from a strongly Unitarian background; she and her sisters were well known in the Boston area. Her older sister Mary was the wife of Horace Mann, a U.S. House Representative and noted education reformer and advocate of public schooling. Her eldest sister, Elizabeth, opened the first English-language kindergarten in the United States, was active in the Transcendental Movement, and worked as an assistant teacher to Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May). Elizabeth’s home bookstore was the place where Margaret Fuller’s “conversations” took place–discussions among women meant to compensate for their lack of access to higher education. Hawthorne and his bride settled into the Old Manse in Concord, MA, the previous residence of Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Hawthorne’s best known work, the Scarlet Letter, was published in 1850–and was an instant best-seller in part because of the introduction, “The Custom-House,” which dealt with Hawthorne’s firing from his government custom-house position by opponents of his friend Franklin Pierce.
His second most famous work, The House of the Seven Gables, which deals with how the sins of a family can follow it through generations. The actual house was the Salehome of Hawthorne’s second cousin, Susannah Ingersoll, whom he would visit on occasion.
Hawthorne also served as U.S. consul in Liverpool, England, from 1853 to 1857.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s health was failing in the spring of 1864, and he traveled with an old college friend, former President Franklin Pierce, to New Hampshire. He died in a hotel in Plymouth, NH, in the company of Pierce.
Sophia moved to England in 1868 to be with her children; she died in 1877, and was buried in England, but she and her daughter Una were eventually reinterred in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery with Nathaniel.
Nathaniel and Sophia’s daughter, Rose (1851-1926), married George Lathrop, and assistant editor at The Atlantic. In the 1880s, after the death of their 5-year old son of diptheria, they both converted to Catholicism. However, based on George’s drinking problem, in 1895 Rose was given permission by the Catholic Church to live separately from her husband, who died soon later. Rose left behind her literary career to devote herself to caring for poor terminal cancer patients living in city tenements. She eventually opened a free home for such patients; in 1900 she took vows as a Dominican nun, and became Sister Mary Alphonsa. She founded a religious order, the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, later called the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. She herself, like her patients, lived in poverty, and depended on donations to make the project feasible. Today, her order operates three homes for those with incurable cancer. Mary Alphonsa has been nominated for Sainthood.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart