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Berkman, Alexander (21 November 1870–28 June 1936), anarchist and political author, was born Ovsei Osipovich Berkman in Vilnius, Lithuania, part of the Russian Empire, the son of Joseph Schmidt Berkman and Yetta Natanson. His father was a wealthy leather wholesaler for the shoe industry in St. Petersburg. His mother was the older sister of Maxim Natanson, a leader of the People’s Will terrorist organization, responsible for the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881. Berkman remained intellectually favorable to the radical political agendas of Russian Nihilist groups throughout his life. He admired those men and women who sacrificed their lives to the principle of equality for all....

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Chambers, Whittaker (01 April 1901–09 July 1961), magazine editor and anti-Communist, was born Jay Vivian Chambers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jay Chambers, a staff artist on the New York World, and Laha Whittaker, an actress. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, then settled in Lynbrook on Long Island’s south shore. The family home was spartan and contentious, and his parents separated around 1908. It was at this time that he took the name David Whittaker. After graduating from high school, Chambers, now calling himself Charles Adams, and a friend obtained work for four months as day laborers in Washington, D.C. They then unsuccessfully sought employment in New Orleans. Late in 1919 Chambers returned to Lynbrook, agreeing to work at his father’s advertising firm in New York City. Now known as Whittaker Chambers, he also enrolled at Columbia University. Discarding the conservative Republicanism of his parents and influenced by a cadre of young intellectuals, he was attracted to Marxism. As editor in chief of the ...

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Cohn, Roy (20 February 1927–02 August 1986), anti-Communist crusader, powerbroker, and attorney, was born Roy Marcus Cohn in New York City, the son of Al Cohn, a state judge and Democratic party figure, and Dora Marcus. Dora’s father, Sam Marcus, had founded the Bank of United States, which served a largely Jewish, immigrant clientele. The bank failed during the Great Depression, and the trial of Dora’s brother Bernie Marcus for fraud was one of the formative influences of Roy’s childhood. Al Cohn was the son of a pushcart peddler, had attended law school at night, and used his political influence in the Bronx, as well as Dora’s money, to gain a position as a state trial court judge and later a seat on the intermediate state appellate court. Roy was educated at the Horace Mann School. He had an undistinguished career as an undergraduate at Columbia College and was only admitted to Columbia Law School because of the dearth of students caused by World War II and his father’s political influence. Roy did, however, finish both college and law school in three and a half years and, at age twenty, was too young to enter the bar. He spent a year as a clerk/typist for the U.S. attorney for New York and was promoted to assistant U.S. attorney after his twenty-first birthday....

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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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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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Villa, Pancho (05 June 1878–20 July 1923), Mexican revolutionary leader, was born Doroteo Arango in Río Grande, state of Durango, the son of Agustín Arango and Micaela Arámbula, tenant farmers. After his father’s death (or disappearance), Villa’s family moved to Rancho Gogojito, about thirty-five miles north of Durango City. There they worked as sharecroppers for the wealthy López Negrete family....

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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....