List of courageous people throughout history

A list of famous courageous people who have sacrificed their own comfort and freedom to stand up for principles of human dignity and liberty.

galileoGalileo Galilei (1564-1642) – Galileo was willing to challenge the orthodoxy of the church through his own scientific discoveries. This commitment to truth and science came despite personal threats to his well-being.

bonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) German Lutheran Pastor who was consistently outspoken in his criticism of Nazism in Germany. Preferring to stay in the country of his birth, he was eventually arrested and executed in Flossian concentration camp.

wiltold-pileckiWitold Pilecki (1901 – 1948) During WW2 Pilecki joined the underground Polish resistance. In 1943, he volunteered to smuggle himself into Auschwitz concentration camp so he could report on the holocaust to the allies. He then escaped Auschwitz and took part in the Warsaw uprising of 1944. In 1948, he was executed by the Stalinist secret police for retaining loyalty to the non-Communist Polish government.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) – Overcame the dual disability of deaf blindness to champion the deaf and help improve societies treatment of deaf people.

Moses After escaping from his slavery in Egypt, led his people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.

Jesus Christ (0 – 33 AD) Jesus stuck to the truth of his message, despite the consequences. On many occasions, he had the opportunity to escape or change his message. But, he felt the right thing to do was to suffer outer humiliation and pain in order to leave a legacy of spiritual truth.

jeffersonThomas Jefferson (1743-1826) A key figure in the American revolution and foremost author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson sought to challenge existing policies on religious tolerance, education and slavery.

garibaldiGiuseppe Garibaldi (1805-1872) – National hero of Italy. Garibaldi led a volunteer army in the Italian wars of Independence. He played a key role in uniting Italy and ending foreign rule. He also fought in Latin America and became known as ‘The Hero of Two Worlds’.

luther kingMartin Luther King (1929 – 1968) A symbol of the fight against racial discrimination. Martin Luther King passionately supported the civil rights movement, despite virulent opposition and discrimination in parts of America.

mandelaNelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) Nelson Mandela had the courage to fight against the unjust system of apartheid. For his political activities, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he was released to lead a free South Africa.

churchillWinston Churchill (1874 – 1965) In 1940, Britain stood, alone against Nazi Germany. Some in Britain wanted to seek a deal with Hitler, but Churchill wanted to fight on, and he inspired Britain through their darkest hour.

parksRosa Parks (1913-2005) Refused to give up seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and started a mass protest which led to the end of segregation on public transport.

socratesSocrates (469 BC–399 BC) – Greek philosopher. Socrates was willing to die for his beliefs. Arrested for his philosophic teachings, Socrates was willing to accept death rather than change his opinions and beliefs. It is said he calmly accepted his fate.

aliMuhammad Ali Refused to fight in Vietnam despite having the threat of public opprobrium and jail.

kolbeMaximilian Kolbe (1894-1941 )  A Polish Franciscan priest. During the Polish occupation, he was arrested twice by the Nazis but continued to offer shelter to Jews and Polish refugees. In 1941, he was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to death, showing great courage, faith and dignity.

orwellGeorge Orwell (1903 – 1950) – Went to fight in the Spanish civil war because of his sympathies for the Republican movement. Also, gave up his privileged up bringing to work as a ‘down and out’ worker in Paris and London.

gandhiMahatma Gandhi. (1869 – 1948) Leader of the non-violent movement for Indian independence. Gandhi led the influential Salt Tax protest and was jailed several times for his protests against British rule.

kyiAung San Suu Kyi – Leader of Burmese opposition party. Kept under house arrest for several years. She has always sought to fight for democratic principles in her country Burma.

tutuDesmond Tutu – Outspoken critic of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Leading figure in the reconciliation movement in the post-apartheid era.

dalia lamaDalai Lama – Spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. Led non-violent resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet.

earhartAmelia Earhart (1897 – 1937) – First female to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928. Disappeared whilst attempting to be the first female to circumnavigate the world.

Harriet_TubmanHarriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) Tubman escaped from slavery but returned on many dangerous missions to Maryland where she helped lead slaves to freedom. She also served as an agent and leader during the Civil War.

pankhurstEmmeline Pankhurst – Leading suffragette in the UK. Emmeline Pankhurst went to jail several times for her protests to gain women the vote.

Joan_of_arc_200Joan of Arc – Peasant girl who went to Dauphin of France to encourage him to fight English occupation. Led French army into battle.

avilaSt Teresa Avila – Founded many religious orders and wrote about mystical experiences at a time of the Spanish inquisition, when women rarely played any role in public life.

boudiccaBoudicca – d. 60AD (Also known as Boadicea) Leader of British revolt against Roman occupation.

cavellEdith Cavell – Nurse in Belgium during World War One. Arrested and executed for helping Allied servicemen escape back to England. Shortly before her execution, said ‘Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’

sansonOdette Sansom – British secret service agent during World War Two. She was captured, tortured and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, but she survived the war.

lincolnAbraham Lincoln – US president during American civil war. Later extended aims of civil war to ending slavery in America.

niemollarMartin Niemöller (1892 – 1984) Lutheran pastor and anti-nazi theologian. A founder of the Confessional church which sought to reject the Nazification of churches. He opposed the idea of Aryan supremacy. For his opposition to Nazi ideology, he was imprisoned in concentration camps until the end of the war.

schollSophie Scholl (1921-1943) German student who took part in the White Rose Resistance group who opposed Hitler and the Nazi Party. She was arrested in 1943 for distributing anti-war leaflets and was executed.

wilberforceWilliam Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) – A leader of the campaign against slavery in Britain. He lived to see the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act 1933, which was passed after overcoming opposition from interested parties.

Olaudah Equiano (1745 – 1797) – The first black African slave to write about his experience as a slave. His book ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘ played a pivotal role in turning public opinion in Britain against slavery.

dougalssFrederick Douglass (1818-1895) Douglass escaped slavery and became a leading figurehead in the anti-slavery movement in the US. His dazzling oratory and powerful writing impressed many people and helped to show the intellectual capacities of those held in slavery.

chiune-sugiharaChiune Sugihara (1900 – 1986) Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul to Lithuania during the Second World War. He helped several thousand Jews to escape from Lithuania by personally writing exit visas – despite the fact he was disobeying orders from Tokyo not to do so. It is estimated, because of Sugihara’s actions, 6,000 Jews were able to escape from Lithuania and avoid the holocaust.

tyndaleWilliam Tyndale (1494 – 1536) – Translated the Bible into English, which at the time was forbidden. For his controversial views and belief everyone should be able to read the Bible in their native tongue, he was later arrested and executed.

Leonard Cheshire – British pilot in RAF during World War Two. Made over 103 missions during six years of war. After war, set up charity for the disabled.

Malala Yousafzai (1997 – ) – Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for human rights, women’s rights and the right to education.

gorbachevMikhail Gorbachev (1931 – ) Gorbachev was willing to erode his own power base, though his policies of liberating the politics and economics of the Soviet Union. His policies invoked the ire of those who lost out, leading to his replacement in 1990.

MotherTeresaMother Teresa (1910 – 1997) Born in Albania, Mother Teresa left for India with virtually no money and devoted her life to serving the poor of Calcutta – overcoming poverty, disease and criticism. She expanded her mission to support the poor and disadvantaged across the world.

David_LivingstoneDavid Livingstone ( 1813 – 1872) Livingstone was a popular Victorian missionary who explored the continent of Africa when it was largely unknown. He was also active in the anti-slave movement within Africa, which made him unpopular with local slave traders.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Courageous People”, Oxford,, Updated 12th December 2016


Related pages

lincoln-abrahamPeople who fought for human /civil rights – People who campaigned for equality, civil rights and civil justice.


  • I find this sad that it doesn’t recognise the courageous stand of Hussain bin Ali who almost a billion people commemorate each year. “Hussain taught me how to achieve victory through oppression”- ghandi

  • Good

  • how bout vin deiesal

  • i wish that it had anne frank in there because she is sooooooo courageous.

    • She is on there

  • she had to deal with typhus and the consentration camps and no food, yet she still kept a possitive attitude to her life!

  • I cannot believe Sophie scholl died oh no

  • wow ! wonderful list of courageous people like other section of this site. the site rubbed of me to visit regularly.

  • this website really helped me get an A+ on my exam

  • Please include the name Of Abdul Sattar Edhi
    (chief of Edhi Foundation) in Pakistan

  • Could you consider entering Terry Fox of Canada?

  • old helen yeller

    • Courage people in history what do this m
      Really mean?

      • brave

  • Where is Alexander the Great? Charles XII of Sweden? Napoleon Bonaparte?

  • What about Victor Frankl?

  • Hellen keller

  • I am awesome and couragous

  • Being courageous is an amazing feeling

    • True.When i feel courageous, it gives me like a boost and it feels awesome. Everyone should be courageous.

  • I have to do public speaking about courage and this website gave me lots of ideas for people who are courageous. I need some other people if you can add more people

  • courage is everything to me and nae

  • it feels awesome to have courageous by your side.

  • it feels awesome to have courageous by your side at all times…………

  • courage is everything to me……

    • I know one man on earth who was the bravest of all he was the son of Prophet Mohammad PBUH Hussain a.s who sacrificed not only his life In the name of God and for the truth of God but his brothers, daughtets,and even his 6 month old baby Asger but never choose wrong over right and stayed on right path till he got killed

  • Awesome list. The next list sould contain some Mainland Africans too. Dedan Kimathi, Kwame Nkurumah, Haille Selasie, and proably, America’s Malcolm X.

  • Yuri Gagarin ! first man in space.

  • Malala Yousafzai is so cool I did a NHD project on her. She was shot by the Taliban when she was 14 and is still now a womens rights and education activist. If I met her that would be the best day of my life.

    • Do you have any NHD tips I’m doing it this year?

    • would you request someone for me to do with my NHD project on Taking a Stand

  • any ideas for taking a stand in history?

  • I have to don the National History Day project ,the theme is ” Taking a stand ”
    Please help me find some people to do this project on.
    -Thank you

    • Me too! Did you find someone?

    • I have it too! But my teacher is really strict and says we should do 7th grade project .do y’all have any request of people?

    • jake stringer is someone really good that i had previousley done my project on, search him up if dont already know him

    • same. i cant decide on topic, i was gonna do Todd beamer, who stopped the 9/11 plane from hitting the white house, but there are no survivors so it would be hard to do. i cant decide what do do.

    • ghandi, more like godeem

  • wow ccool intresting stuff

  • Woah all of us have it

  • hi i like coookies my name is jason for the replubic #DonaldTrump

  • eyo!!!!! i can’t choose my topic!!!!!

  • Does anyone know of any musicians that could possibly be done?

  • natinal history day is hard

  • I did but my teacher said that ” I can’t do ROSA PARKS but she might change her mind.

    • Sad to see that Risa Parks is still given credit for Claudette Colvin’s accomplishments. Maybe one day it will matter.

  • Need help choosing a topic for history day ughh need to choose someone who took a stand!!!can’t choose Rosa parks or MLKJ

  • my favorite was Jesus

  • Yes whatever you’re name is:-)

  • Agreed!! Completely!

  • Terry Fox should be one of those heroes.

  • These are men and women from all different eras who took a stand in what they truly whole heartedly believed in and actually made a difference in today’s world and in some cases even died for it! If professional athletes should believe in a coz, then they also should be active and do there part to help end any wrong doing in this country to help make it an even better place.
    I’m just saying, by simply kneeling on our country’s national anthem is not going to solve police brutality or any other issues in the country and if they were to form some type of activist group and somehow empower the people someway not only would I stand with them but, would also have made a powerful statement and improve this country once again!

  • When was this posted? It must of been a in 2015-2017! It helped me with my stand-up project!

  • Gandhi was not courageous. He was a puppet of British Empire who calmed down people of India & made them join the non-violent movement so that British could rule India in peace. He was the reason behind the killing of Bhagat Singh, separation of India & Pakistan. He was popular, he might be an extraordinary person unlike the people we see around but not a courageous person. The reason he was never beaten in a lathi charge in those days when all the other freedom fighters protested bravely and were often hit by the colonials is because he was a puppet, he was glorified to such an extent that he is called Mahatma. There are lot of people in the world who have done selfless work for the humanity, Gandhi was not the one.

  • where is Terry Fox????

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