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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Black, Shirley Temple (23 April 1928–10 February 2014), child actor and diplomat, was born Shirley Jane Temple in Santa Monica, California, the third child and only daughter of George Temple, a banker, and Gertrude Krieger Temple. Shirley's mother had longed for a baby girl, and from the moment of her birth she became her mother's "pet project." Gertrude enrolled her in Ethel Meglin's nearby dance studio when Shirley was three years old, and, beginning in December 1931, Shirley joined other Meglin dance studio children in the Baby Burlesks series made by Educational Films Corporation, where she lampooned such stars as ...

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Douglas, Helen Gahagan (25 November 1900–28 June 1980), actress and politician, was born in Boonton, New Jersey, the daughter of Walter Hamer Gahagan, a civil and contracting engineer, and Lillian Rose Mussen. In 1905 the family moved to an exclusive neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Helen’s authoritarian father made all the family decisions; her mother stressed education and the religious values of the Episcopal church. She also had a penchant for the opera and took Helen to every performance of the Metropolitan Opera. As a child Helen often staged dramatic presentations atop her father’s billiard table for siblings and friends. Although bright, she was a poor student and dreamed of being an actress, a career choice neither parent found acceptable....

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Hays, Will H. (05 November 1879–07 March 1954), motion picture industry official, lawyer, and politician, was born William Harrison Hays in Sullivan, Indiana, the son of John T. Hays, an attorney, and Mary Cain. He graduated from Indiana’s all-male Wabash College in 1900 and privately studied law. Upon passing the Indiana bar, Hays opened a law office in Sullivan and became city attorney. He moved through a variety of political offices in Indiana before he was named chairman of the Republican National Committee in June 1918. When ...

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Reagan, Nancy Davis (6 July 1921–Mar. 6, 2016), actress and first lady, was born Anne Frances Robbins in New York City, the only child of Kenneth Seymour Robbins, a car salesman who abandoned his family, and Edith Luckett Robbins, an actress. While her mother performed in a touring company, the child was raised by an aunt and uncle in Bethesda, Maryland. In ...

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Sagan, Carl (09 November 1934–20 December 1996), space scientist, author, science popularizer, TV personality, and antinuclear weapons activist, was born Carl Edward Sagan in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Rachel Molly Gruber Sagan and garment industry worker Samuel Sagan, an immigrant from the Ukraine. Carl Sagan's Jewish background encouraged him “to ask questions early,” as he later observed (Davidson, p. 57); so did his mother's skeptical, sometimes acidic personality. At age five, he became interested in astronomy when he read in a library book that the stars are distant versions of our sun. His interest in science soared when his parents took him to the New York World's Fair of 1939–1940, which offered an optimistic and (as he later acknowledged) “extremely technocratic” view of the future (Davidson, p. 14)....

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Schine, G. David (11 September 1927–19 June 1996), government official and businessman, was born Gerard David Schine, the son of J. Myer Morris Schine, millionaire owner of radio stations, movie theaters, and hotels, and Hildegarde Feldman Schine. After graduating from Harvard in 1949, Schine was appointed by his father to be president of his own company, Schine Hotels Inc....

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Terkel, Studs (16 May 1912–31 Oct. 2008), oral historian, radio broadcaster, and political activist, was born Louis Terkel in the Bronx, New York. He was the third son of Samuel Terkel, a tailor, and Anna (Annie) Finkel, a seamstress, who had immigrated from Russia in ...

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Winslow, Rose (Ruza Wenclawksa) (15 Dec. 1889–?), suffragist, labor activist, and actor, was born Ruza Wenclawska in Calvaris, Poland, then part of the Suwalki province in Tsarist Russia. The family immigrated to the United States when she was five, settled in Pittsburgh, and her father worked in a nearby mine. During these years the family changed its name to Winslow, and she now went by Rose. By ...

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Young, Owen D. (27 October 1874–11 July 1962), lawyer, business leader, and public servant, was born in Van Hornesville, New York, the son of Jacob Smith Young and Ida Brandow, farmers. Enrolling in St. Lawrence University in 1890, he graduated in 1894. In 1896 he graduated from Boston University Law School cum laude, completing the three-year program in two years. From 1896 to 1903 Young taught evening classes in common-law pleading at the law school....