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Andrews, Eliza Frances (10 August 1840–21 January 1931), author and educator, was born at Haywood Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the daughter of Garnett Andrews, a judge and planter, and Annulet Ball. After attending the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington, Georgia, Andrews, often known as “Fanny,” was, in 1857, one of the first students to receive an A.B. degree at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia....

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Bacon, Leonard Woolsey (01 January 1830–12 May 1907), minister and author, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Leonard Bacon, a minister, and Lucy Johnson. Bacon graduated from Yale College in 1850. Beginning in September of that year he accompanied his father on a year-long tour of Europe and the East. When he returned to the United States, Bacon spent two years at Andover Theological Seminary and one year at Yale Divinity School, graduating from the latter in 1854. He turned next to medical study and received a degree from Yale Medical School in 1856....

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Barzun, Jacques (30 November 1907–25 October 2012), historian, essayist, and cultural critic, was born Jacques-Henri-Louis-Roger Barzun in Créteil, near Paris, France, to Henri-Martin and Anne Rose Barzun. His father was a poet who, with other aspiring young writers, had founded a colony of artists called L’Abbaye after the dilapidated house they occupied in the small Parisian suburb. After moving to the nearby town of Passy, the Barzun family hosted a diverse group of musicians, painters, sculptors, and poets—...

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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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Brown, Sterling Allen (01 May 1901–13 January 1989), professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He was graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and notably with ...

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Davidson, Donald Grady (18 August 1893–25 April 1968), author and teacher, was born in Campbellsville, Tennessee, the son of William Bluford Davidson, a teacher and principal, and Elma Wells. The family followed the father—a cultivated man with a special interest in classical languages and literatures—from one small Tennessee community to another as he directed and taught at various schools. Family ties were close in this region, and the younger Davidson’s mind was shaped not only by his scholarly father but also by his musically talented mother, his maternal grandmother—who lived with the family and told him tales of the Federal occupation of middle Tennessee—and a number of granduncles who were Confederate veterans. Davidson attended several excellent preparatory schools and in 1909 began studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. After one year there, however, he encountered financial difficulties, and left the university to work as a schoolteacher in Cedar Hill and Mooresville, Tennessee, until he had saved enough money to return to Vanderbilt in 1914. He continued to finance his education by teaching English and German at Wallace University School in Nashville even while taking classes. Studying under ...

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Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98114).

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo (25 May 1803–27 April 1882), lecturer and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Emerson, a Congregational minister, and Ruth Haskins. Ralph was one of eight children. His father was a liberal, Concord-born minister of the First Church in Boston and active in the city’s intellectual and social life, being an editor of the ...

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Gerould, Katharine Fullerton (06 February 1879–27 July 1944), educator and author, was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Orphaned in infancy, she was adopted by her uncle, Reverend Bradford Morton Fullerton, and his wife, Julia M. Bell Fullerton. She began her education at Miss Folsom’s School and received her B.A. (1900) and M.A. (1901) from Radcliffe College. She held a faculty position in English at Bryn Mawr until 1910....

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Grimké, Charlotte Forten (17 August 1837–23 July 1914), educator, diarist, and essayist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Mary Virginia Wood and Robert Bridges Forten, who were free blacks. Her father, a mathematician, orator, and reformer, was the son of wealthy sailmaker ...

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Herrick, Robert Welch (26 April 1868–23 December 1938), writer and university professor, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Augustus Herrick, an attorney, and Harriet Peabody Emery. Both parents came from long-settled New England families. After growing up in genteel near-poverty, he managed in 1885 to enroll in Harvard University with the help of his uncle ...

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Hoffer, Eric (25 July 1902–20 May 1983), social philosopher and longshoreman, was born in the Bronx, New York, the only child of Alsatian immigrants whose names are unknown. He spoke German before he spoke English, and his English was heavily accented. Blinded by a fall when he was nine years old, his eyesight was inexplicably restored when he was fifteen. He never attended school....

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John Brinckerhoff Jackson. At Berkeley. Photograph by Jennifer Williams, 1981. Courtesy of Paul Groth.

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Jackson, John Brinckerhoff (25 September 1909–28 August 1996), essayist, cultural geographer, and interpreter of the American-built environment, was born in Dinard, France, the son of William Brinckerhoff Jackson, an independently wealthy attorney, and Alice Richardson Jackson, who later became an antiques buyer for Bonwit Teller department store in New York City. John's parents lived near Washington, D.C., and traveled widely. They divorced when he was four, and he then lived in Europe and the New York area with his mother and two siblings by her previous marriage. John's father paid for him to attend the best private boarding schools in the United States and Europe, including drawing classes near Fontainbleau and two years at Le Rosey in Switzerland. John also spent several summers on his uncle Percy Jackson's ranch in Wagon Mound, New Mexico. By his teenage years, John was fluent in French, German, and Spanish, and was adept at sketching as a method of recording built environments....

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Jordan, June Millicent (09 July 1936–14 June 2002), poet, essayist, professor, and activist, was born in New York City to Granville Ivanhoe Jordan and Mildred Fisher Jordan. Her Jamaican parents migrated to the United States during the interwar years, first settling in Harlem, where Jordan was born, and later moving to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. In the crucible of their immigrant striving—a rigorous itinerary of museums, planetariums, and symphonies; a precocious curriculum of ...

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Kirk, Russell Amos (19 October 1918–29 April 1994), political theorist, conservative writer, and lecturer, was born in Plymouth, Michigan, to Russell Andrew Kirk, a railroad engineer, and Marjorie Pierce Kirk. In his youth Russell spent a good deal of time conversing with his grandfather Frank Pierce, who stimulated his interest in better understanding the world around him. Equally influential to Russell’s intellectual development were his annual summer visits to his mother’s relatives in Mecosta, a small village in central Michigan. Dwelling on the lives of his ancestors, whose portraits donned the walls of his great-grandmother’s home, Russell developed an interest in history, especially connections between the past and the present....

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Miller, Kelly (18 July 1863–29 December 1939), educator and essayist, was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of Kelly Miller, a free black who served in the Confederate army, and Elizabeth Roberts, a slave. The sixth of ten children, Miller received his early education in one of the local primary schools established during Reconstruction and later attended the Fairfield Institute in Winnsboro from 1878 to 1880. Awarded a scholarship to Howard University, he completed the Preparatory Department’s three-year curriculum in Latin, Greek, and mathematics in two years (1880–1882), then attended the College Department at Howard from 1882 to 1886....

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More, Paul Elmer (12 December 1864–09 March 1937), essayist and philosopher, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Enoch Anson More, a brigadier general during the Civil War and a businessman, and Katharine Hay Elmer. Perhaps rebelling against his father’s rigid Presbyterianism, More studied German Romanticism and Oriental and classical languages and literatures, first at Washington University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1887 and an M.A. in 1892, and then at Harvard University, where he received a second M.A. in 1893. He tried university teaching at Bryn Mawr between 1895 and 1897, but the experience was not a happy one for either him or his students. More “retired” from academia at the ripe age of thirty-three, and, in a gesture reminiscent of ...

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John F. X. O’Conor Courtesy of John D. Alexander.

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O’Conor, John F. X. (01 August 1852–31 January 1920), clergyman, writer, and educator, was born John Francis Xavier O’Conor in New York City, the son of Daniel O’Conor, a builder, and Jane Lake O’Conor. Educated in New York City, he excelled in philosophy and in 1872 won the medal for the natural sciences at St. Francis Xavier College. He graduated with a B.A. that year. On 9 October 1872 he entered the Society of Jesus at Sault au Récollet, Canada. He continued his literary studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Roehampton, England (1874–1876), and pursued philosophy in the Jesuit College at the University of Louvain, Belgium (1876–1879). He began his academic career teaching classical and modern rhetoric and oratory at Manresa, West Park, New York (1879–1881), classical and Anglo-American poetry at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1881–1883), and French at Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts (1883–1884). During his theological studies at Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Archbishop (later Cardinal) ...