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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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Davis, Benjamin Jefferson (08 September 1903–22 August 1964), Communist party leader, was born in Dawson, Georgia, the son of Benjamin Davis, Sr., a publisher and businessman, and Willa Porter. Davis was educated as a secondary-school student at Morehouse in Atlanta. He entered Amherst College in 1922 and graduated in 1925. At Amherst he starred on the football team and pursued lifelong interests in tennis and the violin. He then attended Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1928. He was a rarity—an African American from an affluent family in the Deep South; however, his wealth did not spare him from the indignities of racial segregation. While still a student at Amherst, he was arrested in Atlanta for sitting in the white section of a trolley car. Only the intervention of his influential father prevented him from being jailed. As he noted subsequently, it was the horror of Jim Crow—the complex of racial segregation, lynchings, and police brutality—that pushed him toward the political left....

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Dennis, Eugene (10 August 1905–31 January 1961), American Communist party leader, was born in Seattle, Washington, as Francis X. Waldron, Jr.; he was to adopt the name he came to be known by in 1935. His father, the son of Irish immigrants, gave his son his own name but little else. The senior Waldron was a railroad worker and ne’er-do-well investor who drank heavily. Dennis’s mother, Nora Veigs, of Norwegian immigrant stock, died when he was eleven. Dennis attended the University of Washington for a single semester, dropping out to support himself....

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Foster, William Z. (15 February 1881–01 September 1961), American Communist party leader, was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, the son of James Foster, an Irish immigrant who worked as a carriage washer and livery stableman, and Elizabeth McLaughlin, an English immigrant. Foster grew up in poverty in Philadelphia’s Irish-Catholic slums, where his family moved when he was six. His mother bore her husband twenty-three children, most of whom died in infancy. Elizabeth had hoped that Foster would grow up to become a priest. Instead, he dropped out of school at age ten to support himself with a series of menial jobs....

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Hall, Gus (08 October 1910–13 October 2000), Communist leader, was born Arvo Kusta Halberg in Iron, Minnesota, a small town near Hibbing on the Mesabi Range, the fifth of ten children of Matt Halberg and Susannah Halberg. Both parents were Finnish immigrants and before World War I had been members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Hall's father was a blacklisted miner and, like thousands of his fellow Finns, a charter member of the American Communist party. Gus left school after eighth grade to work in a logging camp in northeastern Minnesota; two years later, in 1927, he joined the Young Communist League and within a year had become an organizer for the YCL in the Upper Midwest....

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Winston, Henry (02 April 1911–13 December 1986), a leading figure in the Communist party of the United States for forty years, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the son of Joseph Winston, a sawmill worker, and Lucille (maiden name not known). Both of his parents were children of slaves....