Animated drawing of hidden figures. Includes two women and two men and a baby

Hidden Figures: People You’ve Probably Never Heard About

Hidden Figures is a series of stories about interesting historical figures you’ve probably never heard of.

The Power of Stories

When we tell stories instead of facts they are at least 22 times more memorable. That’s because evolution has hardwired our brains for storytelling. You might be surprised to hear that our brains actually become more active when we tell and listen to stories, because our whole brain is working. It’s challenging to find bite-sized video content online about inspirational people. One study found that 34% of educators are struggling to find time to search for videos, and another that educators spend up to seven hours each week searching for additional instructional resources. That’s insane!!

That’s one of the reasons why Untold was created. To harness the power of storytelling and take it into not just the history class, but across the curriculum.

Hidden Figures

The series Hidden Figures has been created with the educator in mind. This series tells stories. Stories of people who have done amazing things, but for some reason are not widely know. From the story of the Robin Hood of Harlem, Stephanie St. Claire, AKA Madame Queenie, Good Samaritan Bob Fletcher, Mexican-American journalist Jovita-Idar, Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe and inventor of the home security system Marie Van Brittan Brown.

Let’s Hear From The Production Team

Our production team enjoyed creating this series so much!

The team included: Producer, Zoe Lack, Script Writer, Lee Henry, Lead Animator, Barbara Cipollone and Sound Engineer, Kevin Gillen. Here’s what Lead Animator. Barbara Cipollone had to say about being involved in the series:

“Working on Hidden Figures has been a real honour for me. I have really enjoyed and found it amazing to have the chance to tell through drawings the stories of people that have played such an important role in history but have been unknown for different reasons. Like discovering there was an Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr, who helped invent the wifi, or that was a 15 year old kid, Claudette Colvin, first defied segregation laws by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in 1955, made me work on this project with a special passion and involvement.”

Using Hidden Figures in the Classroom

To make it easier for you to use the videos we’ve created, I’ve created a list of the season 1 and 2 Hidden Figures videos. I’ve also included the video themes so that you can easily find videos that suit the needs or your curriculum.

Hidden Figures is an ongoing project, and this year we’ll be producing, you guessed it, a season 3. We’re still debating on who to include in this season. But as you can imagine there are some really good contenders.

Season 1

Season 1 was created in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Driving Force Institute. At the moment these videos are being released on a weekly basis. Here is the link to check out the ones that have been released. The full list of videos and video themes is below.

Season 1Themes
Marie Van Brittan Brownwomen’s history, STEM, black history, 1960s, innovation
Stephanie St. Clair, AKA Madame Queeniewomen’s history, black history, 1920s, prohibition, social justice, community activism, education, Harlem renaissance
Bob FletcherWorld War II, Japanese internment, good deeds, racism
Jovita Idarwomen’s history, Mexican-American stories, racism, journalism, social justice
Frances Oldham Kelseywomen’s history, STEM, scientist, thalidomide, drugs, whistleblower
Nellie Blywomen’s history investigative journalism, travel, mental asylum
Hedy Lamarwomen’s history, Golden Age of Hollywood, STEM, World War II, innovation, sexism
Jim ThorpeNative American history, sport, Olympian, early 20th century
Claudette Colvinwomen’s history, black history, segregation, Jim Crow, Civil rights
John Rollin RidgeNative American, novelist, journalist, social justice, racism, Gold Rush, Cherokee Inidians, Treaty of Echota, Trail of Tears, outlaw, slavery
Bayard RustinLGBTQ+ rights, civil rights, black history, Quaker, Civil Rights Act, activist
Barbara Jordanwomen’s history, black history, public speaking, politics, multiple sclerosis, Richard NIxon’s impeachment, activist
Season 2

Season 2 is currently in production. For this season we have collaborated with the New York Historical Society and Driving Force Institute. 

All videos tell the story of women who have done amazing things in American history and form part of their Women and The American Story (WAMS) and the New York Historical Society student historian internship programme. What’s special about these videos, is that the teen leaders who were part of this initiative, co-produced the videos. Due for release later this year, here are the wonderful ladies that will feature. 

Season 2Themes
Chien-Shiung Wuwomen’s history, World War II, Manhattan Project,Asian-American, STEM, scientist, racism, Nobel Prize
Elizabeth Freemanwomen’s history, black history, abolitionist,slavery, American Revolution, patriot, freedom
Emma Tenayucawomen’s history, latina history, labor activist, Great Depression, racial inequalities, injustice, unionism, public speaking, Communism, FBI, 
Ida B. Wellswomen’s history,black history,  journalist, anti-lunching activist, Civil War, slavery, Reconstruction, 
Lorenda Holmeswomen’s history, American Revolution, loyalist spy, torture, 
Malitzenwomen’s history, Aztec & Mayan empires, Cortes, interpreter, slavery, Spanish conquest, mixed race children
Thomas(ine) Hallwomen’s history, colonial Virginia, LGBTQ+, gender non-conformist,gender norms
Zitkala-Sawomen’s history, Native American history, advocate, activist, civil rights,author, educator, Sioux Indians,Native Americans’ US citizenship

Over To You

Now it’s time for you to explore the first season of Hidden Figures from our series Untold. A free collection of short, compelling history videos and animations designed to shine a light on the stories that don’t make it into the classroom.

For more information about Untold visit the website at

Videos About Artifacts Bring History To Life

Artifacts bring history to life because they help develop key historical skills.

“Artifacts engage students physically, emotionally and intellectually. [They] require the application and practice of twenty-first century skills. […] Transcend the limitation of language, age, gender and discipline [and] tell stories. Discovering and telling the stories of objects helps students assimilate data into an orderly pattern. Our minds recognize and remember patterns. Artifacts engage students in effective learning. In other words…Artifacts Teach.”

William Virden, University of Northern Colorado

The Museum Of Artifacts That Made America

As a former secondary history teacher, I regularly used replicated and real artifacts in my history class.  I used artifact boxes from museums, recreated archaeological dig on campus and even mummified a chicken. To tell you the truth, I took the study of material culture, real and fake a bit further than most of my colleagues. And, I blame my background in archaeology for this. It paved the way for a love of artifacts and a desire to use material objects in my history classes as much as I could.

Unfortunately, we don’t have collections of artifacts to send to schools. But we’ve created the next best thing: a growing collection of bite-sized videos called the Museum of Artifacts That Made America. This series tells the untold stories of artifacts that have played a significant role in American history. It explains the historical relevance and detail of the object and provides its significance and context.

From the first video game to a chapstick spying device to the cotton gin. Series 1 titles include: The A7L Space, Suit, the Negro Baseball League, DJ Kool Herc’s Turntables, Hamilton’s Writing Desk, the Chapstick spying device, The Stature of Liberty, The Skidi Star Chart, the Cotton Gin and the Harvard Printing Press, Five-Shot Colt Patterson, The First Video Game (Tennis for Two), Keds, Windshield Wiper, The Ruby Laser and Abraham Lincoln’s Top Hat.

Let’s Hear From The Production Team

Our production team enjoyed creating this series so much! The team included: Producer, Zoe Lack, Script Writer, Lee Henry, Lead Animator, Dan McGarrigle and Sound Engineer, Kevin Gillen.

“I’m really proud to have worked on the American artifacts series. It was a fun and rewarding challenge to try and visualize and bring humor to these stories of American ingenuity. I even learned a few things that surprised me, like using a chap stick as a spy device during the Watergate scandal or how the first tennis video game was created on an oscilloscope. I hope viewers get as much enjoyment watching them as I did in creating them.”

Dan McGarrigle, Lead Animator

Using Artifacts Videos In The Classroom

Understanding the origins and significance of artifacts is so very very important. We take material objects for granted. But when we delve deeper it can be surprising what can be discovered. In fact, one of the most interesting class discussions I’ve ever had, was one we had about toilets. Yep, I said it, toilets. The discussion started in ancient Rome, moved to the development of the modern toilet, toilet habits, hygiene, social norms, disease and finally toilet humor. The students were engaged and interested and learnt so much that day.

But enough about me, here are three activities for you to use when using the Artifacts That Made America in your classroom.

Activity 1: Things You Didn’t Know

Use this activity before watching the video.

  1. Divide the students into 5 or 6 groups. Assign the group themes or topics. Either provide groups with a series of images, videos, still and articles about their topic, or give them some classroom research time to do some research. For example: if you were using the Chapstick spying device video, your five themes could be: The Cold War, President Nixon’s presidency, Watergate, Cold War Espionage, Key events in the 1970s.
  2. Using their assigned resources, each group will develop a list of five ‘things they didn’t know’ about their assigned topic. To create their lists, students can use large sheets of paper and markers or post it notes.
  3. When groups finish creating their lists, ask each group to share their five facts. Ask groups to provide evidence as to why the facts they chose are important to know.
  4. Combine each group’s list of five ‘things you didn’t know’ to create a collaborative list of Things You Didn’t Know. These can be displayed somewhere in the classroom, on post-it notes or digitally using a tool like Trello.
  5. This activity can be extended to incorporate less or more groups. But make sure that each group shares 5 things to the class.

Activity 2: A-E-I-O-U

Use this activity during and after watching the video.

  1. Explain the activity to the students before watching the video. They will watch the video, without taking notes and will be required to fill in an A-E-I-O-U chart afterwards. Tell the students that they’ll watch the video twice.
  2. Show the students the A-E-I-O-U chart and answer questions they may have about it.
  3. Watch the video, but do not let students take notes. 
  4. Once the video has finished, ask the students to fill in their A-E-I-O-U charts individually, in partners or groups.
  5. Watch the video one more time, and allow students to further add to their chart.
  6. Get students to share what they learned, and discuss the questions that have been posed as a class.

Activity 3: A History Of [Your Town/City] In 30 Artifacts

This one has been inspired by a New York Historical Society teen project in 2012, which was in turn inspired A History of the World in 100 Objects. Get each student to choose an artifact that reveals a piece of your town or city’s history and write a story about it. When pieced together, the artifacts tell the story of the town/city’s history and demonstrate the important role artifacts have in telling that story.

Over To You

Now it’s time for you to explore the first season of Artifacts That Changed America. from our series Untold. A free collection of short, compelling history videos and animations designed to shine a light on the stories that don’t make it into the classroom.

For more information about Untold visit the website at

Untold: Stories You Won’t Learn About In A Textbook

Stories you won’t learn about in a textbook

Watch the first two Untold episodes here

Perhaps now, more than ever, our history is a vital and very present part of the world around us. So it’s hugely important that young people feel a part of that conversation and can see themselves reflected in our shared past.

Untold is a free collection of short, compelling, history videos and animations designed to engage new audiences in a new conversation and

  • shine a light on the stories that don’t always make it into the classroom
  • and question what we think we know about those that do.

Not everything worth knowing exists inside the cover of our history textbooks. Untold is here to fill in the gaps and bring new stories to life.

This is a project of the Driving Force Institute for Public Engagement. Produced and distributed by Makematic with the USC Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education

Untold will feature three series which is broken down below.

America Explained

Easy-to-understand, descriptive videos that will break down complex topics and events from throughout America’s history from both sides and offer a present parallel for your students to extrapolate on. Topics will range from Impeachment to the NRA to Global Warming to even How Prostitution Built The Wild West and much, much more!

The Significance of 1619 is now live and it delves into the three significant & infamous events that forever defined America as we know it. These include the establishment of the Virginia General Assembly, the arrival of Englishwomen, and the first officially documented trading of African slaves from Angola.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Nikole Hannah-Jones who wrote the New York Times’ 1619 Project examines the impact of 1619 in further detail and relates it back to America’s own historical and cultural development. You can watch this now in 1619: The Legacy of Slavery in America.

The Museum of Artifacts That Made America

This series takes place in a fully, virtual reality, fantasy museum of real historical American objects! Each film explains the historical relevance and detail of the object, whilst providing an informative context.

Did you know? Hip hop was born in the Bronx of New York City back in the 1970s? Now a staple of mainstream music but back then, this pioneering work was thanks to DJ Kool Herc’s Turntable. You can find out more about how they came to be as the first video to be released for our Artifacts That Made America series.

Hidden Histories

A series of full-frame animations that tell the stories of important historical Americans whose stories are not widely known. The viewer will learn about each icon’s life and major achievements and the impact they had on American society.

One example is Jovita Idar, the story of a Mexican-American teacher turned journalist who used her voice to speak out about oppression and discrimination facing her people. We hope you’ll watch this fascinating tale of bravery and freedom of speech!

For more information about Untold visit the website at

Follow the Untold social media page on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @UntoldEdu, for video updates and additional resources

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