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Hine, Lewis Wickes (26 September 1874–04 November 1940), photographer, was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Douglas Hine, the operator of a coffee shop, and Sarah Hayes. Hine left Oshkosh after graduating from high school and working at a variety of menial jobs. In 1900 he enrolled at the University of Chicago for one year. In 1901 he began teaching nature study in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, upon the invitation of recently appointed superintendent Frank A. Manny, formerly a professor at the Oshkosh State Normal School. Within three years Hine was in touch with key figures in New York’s reform community, including ...

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John Mercer Langston. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Langston, John Mercer (14 December 1829–15 November 1897), African-American political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part–Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles’s will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839, however, when a court hearing, concluding that his guardian’s impending move to slave-state Missouri would imperil the boy’s freedom and inheritance, forced him to leave the family. Subsequently, he boarded in four different homes, white and black, in Chillicothe and Cincinnati, worked as a farmhand and bootblack, intermittently attended privately funded black schools since blacks were barred from public schools for whites, and in August 1841 was caught up in the violent white rioting against blacks and white abolitionists in Cincinnati....

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Pratt, Daniel (20 July 1799–13 May 1873), industrialist and community builder, was born in Temple, New Hampshire, the son of Edward Pratt and Asenath Flint, farmers. Pratt attended school until 1815, when he was apprenticed to carpenter John Putnam. With Putnam’s bankruptcy in 1819, Pratt followed the Yankee immigration to the South, spending two years in Savannah, Georgia, before moving to the state capital at Milledgeville, where he built a number of plantation houses and cotton barges. In 1827 Pratt married Esther Ticknor, with whom he had three children, of which only one lived to adulthood....

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Jacob A. Riis Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113814).

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Riis, Jacob August (03 May 1849–26 May 1914), journalist and social reformer, was born in Ribe, Denmark, the son of Niels Edward Riis, a Latin teacher, and Carolina Lundholm. After studying in his father’s school, Riis was apprenticed for four years to a carpenter in Copenhagen. Unable to find steady employment and spurned by Elisabeth Gortz, the young woman who in 1876 would marry him, Riis emigrated in 1870 to the United States. For the rest of his life he regularly compared the sociability and the close relationships of life in Ribe with the impersonality and harsh precariousness of American urban life....