American author and supporter of socialism (a system of social organization in which the government owns and manages the distribution and production of goods) Jack London wrote popular adventure stories and social tracts (pamphlets) based on unusual personal experiences. At their best, his works are powerful and moving stories.
The sentimental (appealing to the emotions) poems of the American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made him an extremely popular author at home and in other countries in the nineteenth century.
African American boxer Joe Louis was world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1948. He defended his title twenty times in four years.
American filmmaker George Lucas created some of the most profitable movies in history, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Lucas is also responsible for many new developments in filmmaking, especially involving special effects.
Patrice Lumumba was the first prime minister of the Republic of the Congo. He was a leading figure in the Congo as that country established its independence from Belgium, which had controlled the Congo since the late nineteenth century.
The German reformer (one who works to change outdated practices and beliefs) Martin Luther was the first and greatest figure in the sixteenth-century Reformation. An author of commentaries on Scripture (sacred writings), theology (the study of religion), and priestly abuses, a hymnologist (writer of hymns [sacred songs]), and a preacher, from his own time to the present he has been a symbol of Protestantism (group of Christian faiths that do not believe in the supremacy of the pope, but in the absolute authority of the Bible).
American general Douglas MacArthur attained widespread fame through his military activities in the Pacific region during World War II (1939–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). His military conquests were sometimes inspiring and other times highly criticized.
The Italian author and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for The Prince, in which he voiced his political philosophy.
Dolley Madison was the much-admired wife of the fourth U.S. president, James Madison (1751–1836).
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was one of the principal founders of America's republican form of government. As a Founding Father he helped plan and approve the U.S.
Singer, dancer, and actress Madonna is a sensational self-promoter who drove herself to stardom on the pop music charts, in concert halls, on film, and in music videos.
While in the service of Spain, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan led the first European voyage of discovery to circumnavigate (travel around) the globe. His voyage provided clear proof that the Earth is round.
Najib Mahfuz is Egypt's most famous novelist and the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Norman Mailer, American author, film producer, and director, wrote The Naked and the Dead, one of the most famous American novels about World War II (1939–45; a war in which Germany, Italy, and Japan fought against Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States). Only in his later political journalism did he reach that level of achievement again.
Bernard Malamud is considered one of the most prominent figures in Jewish American literature, a movement that began in the 1930s and is known for its combination of tragic and comic elements.
African American civil rights leader Malcolm X was a major twentieth-century spokesman for black nationalism. Unlike many other African American leaders of this time, who supported nonviolent methods, Malcolm X believed in using more aggressive measures in the fight for civil rights.
Playwright, screenwriter (a person who writes scripts for movies), and director David Mamet is known for his accurate use of American vernacular (the normal spoken form of a language), through which he explores the relationship between language and behavior.
Nelson Mandela is a South African leader who spent years in prison for opposing apartheid, the policy by which the races were separated and whites were given power over blacks in South Africa. Upon his release from prison, Mandela became the first president of a black-majority-ruled South Africa in which apartheid was officially ended.
The works of the French painter Édouard Manet influenced many other artists; their modern subject matter and more natural, less precise style were seen as revolutionary.
Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. She works to improve the lives of Native Americans by helping them receive better education and health care and urges them to preserve and take pride in their traditions.
Baseball player Mickey Mantle (known as "the Mick") won four home-run championships, a Triple Crown (highest batting average, most home runs, and most RBIs [runs batted in] in one season), and three Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards during his eighteen-year career with the New York Yankees.
Mao Zedong was a Chinese statesman whose status as a revolutionary in world history is probably next only to that of Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924). More than anyone else in recent history, Mao Zedong helped to reshape the social and political structures of his ancient and heavily populated country.
Boxer Rocky Marciano held the heavyweight boxing title for four years during the 1950s. He is the only boxing champion to ever retire undefeated.
Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos began his career in politics with the murder of Julio Nalundasan in 1935, and ended it after the murder of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983.
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180) was a Stoic philosopher. Stoicism was a complex philosophy that advised people to find happiness by living in harmony with the universe and by doing their part to better the world—without worries about fate or about things they were unable to control.
M arie Antoinette was the queen of France at the outbreak of the French Revolution (1787–99). Her extravagant lifestyle, which included lavish parties and expensive clothes and jewelry, made her unpopular with most French citizens.
The Roman politician and general Mark Antony was the chief rival of another prominent Roman politician, Octavian (63 B.C.E.–14 C. E.), seeking leadership of the Roman Empire.
Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights lawyer, solicitor general, and the first African American to serve as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.