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Ahn, Chang-ho (1878–10 March 1938), Korean nationalist, was born near P’yŏngyang, Korea, into a well-to-do farming family. His father was An Hŭng-guk; his mother’s identity is not known. Ahn reached young adulthood at the turn of the century, a time when the independence of Korea was threatened by weakness from within and aggression from without. Moving to the capital, Seoul, Ahn enrolled in a Western-style high school operated by American Presbyterian missionaries, converted to Christianity, and joined the Independence Club—a reformist organization that was active between 1896 and 1898. In 1902 Ahn left Korea and went to San Francisco, where he enrolled as an adult student in high school. Almost immediately he formed the Ch’inmokhoe (Association to Cultivate Friendship) to assist fellow Korean expatriates in finding employment and to mediate disputes within the small Korean community. In 1904 he formed the Kongnip Hyŏphoe (Cooperative Association), the first Korean political association on the U.S. mainland. After Japan established a protectorate over Korea in 1905, Ahn resolved to return to Korea and managed to do so two years later. In Korea he formed an organization called the Sinminhoe (New People’s Association), a secret society dedicated to the cause of freeing Korea from Japanese control....

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Ballard, Edna Anne Wheeler (25 June 1886–10 February 1971), and Guy Warren Ballard (28 July 1878–29 December 1939), controversial founders of the "I Am" movement, controversial founders of the “I Am” movement, were born, respectively, in Burlington, Iowa, and Newton, Kansas. Edna was the daughter of Edward G. Wheeler, reportedly a railway clerk, and Anna Hewitt Pearce; Guy the son of a farmer, Josephus Ballard, and Phebe Jane Leigh. “I Am” was a religious movement that grew at a phenomenal rate in the 1930s, became the subject of a celebrated fraud case and a landmark freedom of religion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s, and has since held a modest but continuing place in American spiritual life....

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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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Beissel, Johann Conrad (01 March 1692–06 July 1768), religious leader, was born in Eberbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the son of Matthias Beissel, a baker, and Anna (maiden name unknown). He was baptized George Konrad Beissel. His alcoholic father died two months before his birth; his mother died when he was eight or nine. Conrad Beissel was raised by his older brothers and sisters. Possibly because of recent French depredation of the area where they lived, his family was very poor. Conrad was undernourished and remained comparatively small. According to tradition, he performed remarkably well during his brief attendance at his parish school. Nevertheless, he was largely self-educated. While still a youth, Beissel was apprenticed to a master baker, who also was a capable fiddler who taught Beissel to play the violin. Beissel became a popular performer and played at weddings, country dances, and other joyful occasions. He enjoyed the notoriety and attention, especially from women....

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Bimeler, Joseph Michael (1778–27 August 1853), Separatist and communitarian leader, was probably born in Württemberg, Germany, where he worked as a weaver. Little is known about his parents or his early years. He was self-educated and taught in Munich among a group of Pietist dissenters called Separatists. As the name suggests, these devout Protestants called for withdrawal from the official, state-supported Lutheran churches. A group of radical Pietists, including Bimeler, congregated in Württemberg between 1803 and 1805 under the mystical leadership of Barbara Grübermann. Their refusal to permit their children to be baptized, attend clergy-controlled schools, or serve in the military led to severe civil as well as ecclesiastical penalties, which forced them frequently to relocate....

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Blackstone, William E. (06 October 1841–1935), Christian Zionist and author, was born in Adams, New York, the son of Andrew Blackstone, a tinsmith, and Sally (maiden name unknown). Born into a devout Methodist family, he had an evangelical conversion experience at the age of ten while attending a local Methodist revival meeting. He remained a Methodist for the rest of his life, although he criticized the denomination for the liberal or “modernist” direction it had taken by the turn of the twentieth century. Though he became a leading spokesperson for American fundamentalism and Zionism, Blackstone received no formal education or training. Rejected by the Union army on account of frailness, Blackstone spent the Civil War working for the Christian Commission, a missionary agency designed to provide spiritual counsel and medical aid to northern soldiers. He married Sarah Louis Smith in 1866; they had three children....

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Blyden, Edward Wilmot (03 August 1832–12 February 1912), advocate of Pan Africanism, was born on the island of St. Thomas, part of the present-day Virgin Islands, the son of Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. The family lived in a predominantly Jewish, English-speaking community in the capital, Charlotte-Amalie. Blyden went to the local primary school but also received private tutoring from his father. In 1842 the Blydens left St. Thomas for Porto Bello, Venezuela, where Blyden showed his facility for learning foreign languages. By 1844 the family had returned home to St. Thomas. Blyden attended school only in the morning, and in the afternoons he served a five-year apprenticeship as a tailor. In 1845 the Blyden family met the Reverend John P. Knox, a famous white American minister who had assumed pastorship of the Dutch Reformed Church in St. Thomas, where the Blydens were members. Knox quickly became Blyden’s mentor and encouraged his academic studies and oratorical skills. Because of Knox’s influence, Blyden decided to become a clergyman, an aspiration his parents supported....

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Edward Wilmot Blyden. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-1944).

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Briggs, Cyril Valentine (28 May 1888–18 October 1966), journalist, Pan-Africanist, black nationalist, and Communist, was born in Nevis, West Indies, now part of St. Kitts–Nevis. His mother, Marian Huggins, was black, while his father, Louis E. Briggs, a plantation owner, was white. He graduated from the Ebenezer Wesleyan school in 1904. As a youth he worked as a library assistant and later as a reporter for the ...