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Adamson, Joy (20 January 1910–03 January 1980), writer and conservationist, was born Friederike Viktoria Gessner in Troppau, Austria, the daughter of Victor Gessner, a civil servant, and Traute Greipel. Before her first marriage, to automobile company official Viktor von Klarwill in 1935, Adamson studied piano and took courses in other arts, including sculpture. She made her first trip to Kenya in 1936, to investigate that country as a possible new home for herself and her husband, whose Jewish background made him eager to leave Austria at this time of Nazi advance. During this trip she became involved with Peter Bally, a Swiss botanist whom she married in 1938 after becoming divorced from von Klarwill in 1937....

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Medgar Evers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109400).

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Evers, Medgar (02 July 1925–12 June 1963), civil rights activist, was born Medgar Wiley Evers in Decatur, Mississippi, the son of James Evers, a sawmill worker, and Jessie Wright, a domestic worker. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in the invasion of Normandy and the French campaign. After the war ended Evers returned to Mississippi, where he attended Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, a segregated land-grant institution, from which he graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. While at Alcorn he met a nursing student, Myrlie Beasley, whom he married in 1951; the couple had three children....

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Hampton, Fred (30 August 1948–04 December 1969), black power and civil rights activist, was born Frederick Allen Hampton in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of three children born to Francis and Iberia Hampton, who had left Haynesville, Louisiana, in the 1930s in search of economic and social opportunities and moved to Argo, Illinois, where they both eventually secured employment at the Corn Products Refining Company. In 1951 the Hamptons moved to Blue Island, Illinois, and stayed for seven years before moving to Maywood, Illinois, in 1958....

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116776).

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King, Martin Luther, Jr. (15 January 1929–04 April 1968), Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was born Michael King, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Michael King ( Martin Luther King) and Alberta Williams. Born to a family with deep roots in the African-American Baptist church and in the Atlanta black community, the younger King spent his first twelve years in the home on Auburn Avenue that his parents shared with his maternal grandparents. A block away, also on Auburn, was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, had served as pastor since 1894. Under Williams’s leadership, Ebenezer had grown from a small congregation without a building to become one of Atlanta’s prominent African-American churches. After Williams’s death in 1931, his son-in-law became Ebenezer’s new pastor and gradually established himself as a major figure in state and national Baptist groups. In 1934 the elder King, following the request of his own dying father, changed his name and that of his son to Martin Luther King....

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Lovejoy, Elijah Parish (09 November 1802–07 November 1837), abolitionist editor and preacher, was born near Albion, Maine, the son of Daniel Lovejoy, a Congregational preacher and farmer, and Elizabeth Pattee. Lovejoy graduated from Waterville (now Colby) College in 1826 and a year later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he conducted a private school and edited the ...

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Malcolm X Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115058).

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Malcolm X (19 May 1925–21 February 1965), African-American religious and political leader, also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Earl Little and Louise (also Louisa) Norton, both activists in the Universal Negro Improvement Association established by ...

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Milk, Harvey (22 May 1930–27 November 1978), politician and gay rights activist, was born Harvey Bernard Milk in Woodmere, Long Island, New York, the son of William Milk and Minerva Karns. His father operated a department store in Woodmere that was founded in 1882 by his grandfather, Morris Milk (originally Milch), a Lithuanian immigrant. Before she married his father, Milk’s mother was an early feminist activist who joined the Yoemanettes, a group agitating for the inclusion of women in the U.S. Navy during World War I....

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Moore, Harry Tyson (18 November 1905–25 December 1951), educator and civil rights activist, was born in Houston, Florida, the son of S. Johnny Moore, a farmer and store owner, and Rosalea Alberta Tyson, an insurance agent. An African American, Moore grew up in rural, northern Florida when racial segregation was in full force. After attending public schools in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, in 1925 Moore graduated from Florida Memorial College in Live Oak with an A.A. degree. (Not until 1951 did he receive a B.S. degree from Bethune Cookman College.) In 1926 Moore began his teaching career at Cocoa Junior High School in Cocoa, Florida. As a public school teacher, he knew firsthand that a separate school system shortchanged black students and faculty in providing unequal facilities and financial resources. In 1926 Moore married Harriette Vyda Simms; they had two children....

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Randolph, Benjamin Franklin (1820?– October 1868), African-American political leader in Reconstruction South Carolina, was born free in Kentucky, the child of mixed-race parents whose names are unknown. As a child, Randolph’s family moved to Ohio where he was educated in local schools. In 1854 he entered Oberlin College’s preparatory department, before attending the college from 1857 to 1862. At Oberlin, Randolph received instruction both in the liberal arts and at the college’s theological seminary. Soon after graduation he was ordained as a Methodist Episcopal minister. During the Civil War Randolph served as a chaplain in the Twenty-sixth Colored Infantry, which was dispatched to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1864....