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Andrews, Regina (21 May 1901–05 February 1993), librarian and dramatist, was born Regina M. Anderson in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, Illinois, to Margaret Simons Anderson, a clubwoman and ceramics artist, and William Grant Anderson, an attorney. Regina grew up in an upper-middle-class family because of her father’s success as a defense attorney, which earned him the nickname “Habeas Corpus.” Her views about race were no doubt shaped by her father’s fighting for racial justice for his clients and his collaboration with the antilynching advocate ...

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Ardrey, Robert (16 October 1908–14 January 1980), anthropologist, playwright, and novelist, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Robert Lesley Ardrey, an editor and publisher, and Marie Haswell. Ardrey earned a Ph.D. in the natural and social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1930. After taking a writing course taught by ...

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Bonner, Marita Odette (16 June 1898–06 December 1971), educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, she applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school faculty adviser and was one of the few African-American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, she won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a B.A. in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930, when she married William Almy Occomy, a Brown graduate. The couple moved to Chicago, where they raised three children....

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Burk, John Daly (1776?–?11 Apr. 1808), editor, historian, and dramatist, was born in Ireland, arriving in America at the age of twenty. His parents’ names are unknown. He was a student at Trinity College in Dublin, but he was dismissed for “deism and republicanism” and eventually forced to leave Ireland, presumably because of political difficulties. Legend has it that a woman named Miss Daly gave him her female attire to help him escape from the British, hence the use of Daly in his name....

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Da Ponte, Lorenzo (10 March 1749–17 August 1838), poet, librettist, and libertine, was born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda (near Venice), Italy, the son of Geremia Conegliano, a tanner and dealer in leather, and Rachele Pincherle. Following the death of his wife in about 1754, Geremia Conegliano wished to marry a Roman Catholic woman and so, together with his three living sons, converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1763. As was customary at the time, the new converts took the surname of the current bishop of Ceneda, Monsignor Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Emanuele, the eldest son, took the prelate’s first name. His conversion and the bishop’s patronage enabled young Lorenzo to receive an excellent education, especially in the Latin and Italian languages, at the episcopal seminary in Ceneda and later at the seminary in the nearby town of Portugruaro. He progressed so rapidly that he became an instructor at the latter institution in 1770, professor of languages in 1771, and vice rector in 1772. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1773, a career decision he was soon to regret....

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Gordin, Jacob (01 May 1853–11 June 1909), playwright and teacher, was born in Mirgorod, Ukraine, the son of Yekhiel Mikhel Ha-Levi Gordin, a prosperous merchant, and Ida (maiden name unknown). Gordin received both a secular education and a grounding in traditional Jewish studies. Most of his early jobs were as a Russian-language journalist, at which he made a name for himself for his vignettes of Jewish life. He may also have worked in the Russian theater. He married Anna Itskowitz in 1872; they had eleven children....

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Leonard, William Ellery (25 January 1876–02 May 1944), philologist, poet, and dramatist, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend William James Leonard and Martha Whitcomb. Named after the famous Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), he dropped Channing by the time he reached college. Reverend Leonard, himself a native of Plainfield, had been a Baptist minister in Chicago but suddenly resigned his pastorate when he could no longer accept the religious beliefs of his congregation. At the time of Ellery’s birth he was editor of the ...

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Mackay, Constance D’Arcy (1887–21 August 1966), playwright, director, and educator, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the only child of Robert S. Mackay, a realtor, and Anne D'Arcy. Mackay lived with her parents in Minnesota until she was fifteen; she traveled extensively in Europe during her childhood and was educated in both public and private schools. In 1903 Mackay enrolled as a special student (a student that is not working toward a degree or plans to graduate) at Boston University. Mackay's years at the college were productive. Between 1903 and 1905, she penned the first commencement play ever produced at the college, ...

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Moody, William Vaughn (08 July 1869–17 October 1910), poet, playwright, and educator, was born in Spencer, Indiana, the son of Francis Burdette Moody and Henriette Emily Stoy. Prior to Will’s birth, Burdette Moody was captain and part-owner of two Mississippi riverboats, one of which was confiscated by the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War. Never recovering from this financial setback, “Captain Moody” dutifully abandoned the freedom and adventure of the river to work the rest of his life as a secretary in the Stoy family’s ironworks at New Albany, Indiana, where Will spent his childhood. Henriette, an accomplished artist but an invalid for much of her life, nourished Will’s interest in the arts and encouraged his devotion to Methodism. From this environment, Will developed a respect for the Protestant ethic, which later warred with his humanistic values and devotion to freedom....

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Pollock, Channing (04 March 1880–17 August 1946), playwright, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Alexander Lyon Pollock, an employee of the U.S. Weather Bureau, and Verona Larkin. Pollock’s early schooling took place in Omaha and Salt Lake City, where his father worked as a newspaper editor and publisher. He also went to the Untergymnasium in Prague, while visiting his father’s relatives, the elder Pollock having emigrated in the 1870s from Austria. He had tutors in San Salvador, where his father served as U.S. consul, dying of yellow fever. Enrolled in Bethel Military Academy, Warrenton, Virginia, he grew impatient to work as a writer. Already at school at eight, he had written and acted in ...