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Baraka, Amiri (7 Oct. 1934–9 Jan. 2014), poet, playwright, writer, and political activist, was born Everett Leroy Jones in the segregated Kenney Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey. He was the son of Coyt Leroy Jones, a postal supervisor who migrated from Hartsville, South Carolina, and Anna Lois Jones, a social worker who migrated from Alabama and was educated at Tuskegee Institute and Fisk University. Jones graduated from Barringer High School; he then attended Rutgers University and Howard University, but did not earn a degree. While at Howard he changed his name to LeRoi Jones....

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Bork, Robert H. (1 Mar. 1927–19 Dec. 2012), conservative legal theorist, Solicitor General of the United States, federal appellate judge, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Harry Philip Bork, a purchasing agent for a steel company, and Elizabeth Kunkle, an English teacher. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut in ...

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Boyle, Sarah Patton (9 May 1906–20 Feb. 1994), civil rights activist and writer, was born Sarah Lindsay Patton in Lindsay, Virginia, to Janie Stringfellow Patton and Robert Williams Patton, both descendants of the Virginian slaveholding elite. Her father, an Episcopal minister, was a racial moderate by the standards of his time, but the young Patty, as Sarah was always referred to, was more influenced by her mother’s segregationist views. Patty, who had undiagnosed dyslexia, was educated at home before studying painting at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C., from ...

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Bracken, Peg (25 Feb. 1918–20 Oct. 2007), humorist, book author, and food writer, was born Ruth Eleanor Bracken in Filer, Idaho to John Lewis and Ruth McQuesten Bracken. She had one brother, Jack. She grew up in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from Antioch College in ...

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Cabeza De Baca, Fabiola (16 May 1894–Oct. 1991), educator, activist, and writer, was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico to Graciano Cabeza de Baca and Indalecia Delgado. The family traced their ancestry back to the Spanish conqueror Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Baca. Fabiola’s family on both maternal and paternal sides was prominent and elite in New Mexico. In ...

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Cabrera, Lydia (20 May 1900–19 Sept. 1991), Cuban writer and anthropologist, was born in Havana, Cuba. (Even though 1899 is sometimes listed as her birth year, Cabrera always gave the date listed here). Her parents were Raimundo Cabrera Bosch, a lawyer, jurist, writer, and politician, and Elisa Marcaida Casanova. Lydia Cabrera was the youngest of eight siblings. Her interaction with her family’s Afro-Cuban servants (especially her nanny and her seamstress) and the stories she heard as a child are often cited as the foundation for her future career as a writer and transcriber of Afro-Cuban folk tales....

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Dee, Ruby (27 Oct. 1922–11 June 2014), actor, author, and civil rights activist, was born Ruby Anne Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, to Edward Nathaniel Wallace, who held various positions with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Gladys Hightower. When the unstable Gladys left the family, her father married Emma Amelia Benson, a former teacher....

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Grove, Andrew Steven (2 Sept. 1936–21 Mar, 2016), business leader, technologist, and author, was born András István Gróf in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of an assimilated Jewish couple: George Gróf, a dairy merchant, and Maria Gróf. At age four the child was hospitalized with scarlet fever, which damaged his ears. In school he had to sit directly in front of the teacher because of his impaired hearing. In ...

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Levyson, Sidney Maurice (10 June 1899–15 Dec. 1967), social activist and writer under the name Stanley Stein, was born in Gonzalez, Texas, to Albert Levyson, a pharmacist, and Bella Stein Levyson. Albert Levyson was a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Prussia who had settled in Texas in the mid-nineteenth century; his wife, also Jewish, had been born in Prussia. An only child, Sidney spent his early childhood in Gonzalez before moving with his parents to the heavily German community of Boerne, northwest of San Antonio, at the age of six. The Levysons lived in an apartment behind the family drugstore, in a building that also included a doctor’s office. The doctor befriended Sidney and often took him on house calls. One patient in particular intrigued him: a heavily veiled woman who lived in rural seclusion and was whispered about by the neighbors. Only years later did he learn that the woman was afflicted with leprosy....

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Moulton, Richard Green (5 May 1849–15 Aug. 1924), professor, lecturer, and author, was born in Preston, England, the youngest son of James Egan Moulton and Catherine (Fiddian) Moulton. His father was a prominent Methodist minister with four sons, two of whom became ministers: Rev. William Fiddian Moulton, who authored a concordance to the Greek New Testament and was an editor of the Revised Version of the Bible, and Rev. John Egan Moulton, who became a Methodist missionary to Australia. Another brother, James Fletcher Moulton, was a lawyer, judge, scientist, and member of Parliament, with a life peerage as Baron Moulton....

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Reyher, Rebecca Hourwich (21 January 1897–9 January 1987), suffragist, pacifist, and author, was born Rebecca Hourwich in New York City. She was the daughter of Isaac Hourwich, a Russian attorney who immigrated to the United States during the early 1890s and became a prominent economist and presidential advisor, and Lisa Jaffe Hourwich, who came to the United States with her family from Ukraine at the age of twenty-six and attended law school but never practiced law, a frustration that Hourwich noted as a girl growing up in Washington, D.C. The family was Jewish, though they all identified as secular agnostics....

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Portrait of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, between 1916 and 1919 by Harris and Ewing

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

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Rich, Louise Dickinson (14 June 1903–9 Apr. 1991), writer, was born Sarah Louise Dickinson in Huntington, Massachusetts, to James Henry Dickinson, a journalist whose family tree included the poet Emily Dickinson, and Florence Stewart Dickinson. When she was two, the family, which included a younger sister, moved to Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where her father became the owner and editor of the local weekly newspaper, the ...

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Smith, Jane Norman (15 Feb. 1874–2 Sept. 1953), suffragist, feminist, and writer, was born Jennie Jane Norman in Montclair, New Jersey to Thomas James and Sophia (Speer) Norman. A note in her papers describes her father in these words: “Thomas James Norman ran away from home and went to sea. That is why he is listed as a sailor.” By the ...

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Trahey, Jane (19 Nov. 1923–22 Apr. 2000), advertising executive and writer, was born Esther Jane Trahey in Chicago to Irish immigrants David J. Trahey and the former Margaret Hennessey. Her father died when she was young, and her mother raised her two daughters on his pension. She credits her mother with encouraging her to further her education and become self-sufficient. Trahey said, “I came out of grammar school with drive” (“Never Plain Jane,” p. 3). Educated in local Catholic schools, Trahey graduated from Mundelein College in ...

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Vidal, Gore (3 Oct. 1925–31 July 2012), novelist, essayist, screenwriter, journalist, and cultural provocateur, was born Eugene Luther Vidal, Jr. at the Cadet Hospital at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. He was the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal, an All-American football player and pilot who was then a flying instructor and assistant football coach at West Point, and Nina Kay Gore, a socialite and the daughter of ...

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Wojnarowicz, David (14 Sept. 1954–22 July 1992), artist, filmmaker, writer, and activist was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, the third child of Edward Wojnarowicz, a merchant seamen from Michigan, and Dolores McGuinness, a receptionist from Australia. Wojnarowicz’s childhood was marred by violence and instability. Following his parents’ divorce at the age of three, Wojnarowicz and his two older siblings, Pat and Steven, were placed in a boarding home by their mother in ...