A common misconception about folk heroes is that they have to be good people. Generally, you’ll see people questioning if we should call a criminal a folk hero at all. This is a misunderstanding. Modern folk heroes come in all packages, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Folk heroes are merely people who have tapped into the social consciousness, garnering newspaper headlines because of something they’ve done whether good or bad. Most of the time folk heroes are everyday people with little to no power but somehow upset the system or take matters into their own hands. Their actions only make us more curious about who they are. Want to see who made our list? Here are 25 Modern Day Folk Heroes We Want To Know.
Edith Macefield became an instant folk hero reminiscent of the Pixar film Up when she refused $1 million dollars to give up her house. Gentrification and developers were building all around her house and wanted her land to completed their dominance in the area, but Macefield refused to leave. Since they couldn’t force her out, they built around her house. Many cheered her on and her story spread through the news.
Australian bandit and folk hero Ned Kelly is perhaps one of the most famous next to Jesse James and, maybe, even Robin Hood. He stood as an example of poor Irish settlers in Australia who were oppressed and discriminated against by the government. After a violent shootout with police, Kelly was arrested. He wrote a long letter protesting the injustice against Irish settlers. Despite protests, Kelly and his letter were ignored by authorities. Before he was hanged, he said, “Such is life.”
During World War II, Herman Perry was one of many African American soldiers mistreated and sent to work on a futile road in China. 750 African Americans were sent to work on the grueling project while overseed by 50 white officers. The conditions were abysmal and Perry eventually snapped and killed a white officer. Perry evaded his prison and escaped into the Burmese jungle where he lived with the Naga people and even got married to one of their girls and had a child. However, the military caught wind of his whereabouts, and eventually, he was apprehended and executed.
Internet folk hero, hacker, and co-founder of Reddit, Aaron Swartz put on many hats, but of them, making the internet a more just, fair, and free place was at the very top. He championed Creative Commons and helped to make the internet an open ecosystem for knowledge. In 2011, however, Swartz had 13 felony charges against him for hacking into MIT’s archives and stealing 5 million articles. Before the trial, he committed suicide at the age of 26.
Billy the Kid
Orphaned as a teenager, Billy the Kid fell in with a bad crowd and turned to crime. He was arrested for stealing laundry but escaped the jail by shimmying up a chimney. Taking on his infamous nickname, he became a ranch hand, gambler, and gang member. Robbing banks wasn’t really his thing and instead, he became famous for his gunfighting. With an easy-going demeanor, The Kid killed many men in his short lifetime. He was killed at the age of 21 by Sheriff Pat Garrett. His legend spread with the rise of dime novels, television shows, and films.
Photo: 25. Ben Tesch, Edith Macefield’s house, CC BY 2.0, 24. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 23. Murderpedia (Fair Use: No Free Images Available), 22. Fred Benenson – User: Mecredis, Aaron Swartz profile, CC BY 2.0, 21. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 20. Murderpedia (Fair Use: No Free Images Available), 19. Chester Harding (1792 – 1866), David Crockett, CC BY 2.0, 18. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 17. Murderpedia (Fair Use: No Free Images Available), 16. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 15. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 14. South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za, Nelson Mandela-2008 (edit), CC BY 2.0, 13. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 12. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 11. Murderpedia (Fair Use: No Free Images Available), 10. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 9. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 8. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 7. DFID – UK Department for International Development, Malala Yousafzai 2015, CC BY 2.0, 6. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 5. piddix via flickr. CC BY 2.0, 4. English: Hamid Mir, Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden, CC BY-SA 3.0, 3. Cali500, Colton Harris Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, 2. https://www.youtube.com/user/TheWikiLeaksChannel, Edward Snowden 2013-10-9 (1) (cropped), CC BY 3.0, 1. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain)