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Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time, he was the only African-American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....

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Daugherty, Harry Micajah (26 January 1860–12 October 1941), politician, was born in Washington Court House, Ohio, the son of John H. Daugherty, a farmer and merchant tailor, and Jane Draper. John Daugherty died of diphtheria when Harry was only four years of age, and Harry was weakened by the disease. The family struggled financially, and Harry learned to fend for himself, working in a series of odd jobs as a youth. Spurning his mother’s desire for him to become a Methodist minister, Daugherty instead chose law as a profession. Though he had not attended college, Daugherty enrolled at Michigan Law School and graduated in 1881. In 1884 he married Lucy Walker, and they had one son and one daughter....

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Henry, Aaron E. (02 July 1922–19 May 1997), civil rights activist, politician, and pharmacist, was born in Dublin, in the Mississippi Delta. His sharecropping parents, Ed and Mattie Henry, strove to educate Aaron and his sister and shield them from the hardships of farm and manual labor. They moved to neighboring Coahoma County so that Henry could attend the segregated Coahoma Agricultural High School. Indeed his political awakening began in high school, where a few earnest teachers bravely schooled their students on civics and civil rights. With the coaxing of one young educator, Aaron and his classmates joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as at-large members in 1941....

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Hooper, Samuel (03 February 1808–14 February 1875), merchant and legislator, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the son of John Hooper and Eunice Hooper. Through both his mother and his father, Samuel was descended from the early and influential settlers of Marblehead, and he carried on the family tradition in trade and shipping. As a boy he learned the business firsthand, sailing on his father’s ships to Europe, Russia, and the West Indies. In the counting room of the Marblehead Bank, of which his father was president, Hooper received his first lessons in finance. Although the family lived in a mansion, called the “Hooper House,” Hooper attended Marblehead common schools....

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Mills, Ogden Livingston (23 August 1884–11 October 1937), lawyer, legislator, and secretary of the treasury, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Ogden Mills, a business entrepreneur, and Ruth T. Livingston. His father’s family had made a fortune in California following the gold rush of 1849. Mills attended the Browning School in New York City and in 1901 was admitted to Harvard University, where he received his A.B. in 1905. He remained at Harvard to study law and was awarded the LL.B. in 1907. Admitted to the New York bar in 1908, he joined the important firm of Stetson, Jennings and Russell in New York City....

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Robinson, Joseph Taylor (26 August 1872–14 July 1937), general assemblyman, congressman, governor of Arkansas, and senator, was born on a farm near Lonoke, Arkansas, the son of James Madison Robinson, a physician and Baptist minister, and Matilda Jane Swaim. With almost no formal schooling, Robinson passed the Arkansas teacher’s examination in 1889 and began teaching in rural schools near Lonoke. He later attended the Industrial University of Arkansas (now the University of Arkansas) at Fayetteville for two years, returned to Lonoke, and studied law with Judge Thomas C. Trimble. He attended the University of Virginia School of Law and received his law degree in 1895. By 1897 he had formed a law practice with Judge Trimble. In 1896 he married Ewilda Gertrude Miller; they had no children....

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Stevens, Thaddeus (04 April 1792–11 August 1868), congressman, was born in Danville, Vermont, the son of Joshua Stevens, a cobbler and land surveyor, and Sarah Morrill. Born into a poor frontier family and abandoned by his father, Stevens also had a clubfoot, leading him to channel his energies into academic work and to develop a lifelong sympathy for the disadvantaged. Around 1807 Sarah Stevens moved her family to nearby Peacham, Vermont, where she worked at odd jobs to pay the town’s small school tuition for her children. “My mother was a very extraordinary woman,” Stevens later remarked, expressing an affection that bordered on reverence. “She worked day and night to educate me. I was feeble and lame in youth, and as I could not work on the farm, she concluded to give me an education” ( ...

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Taney, Roger Brooke (17 March 1777–12 October 1864), lawyer, politician, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of Michael Taney, a planter and politician, and Monica Brooke. The Taneys had been slaveholding planters since the first Taney arrived in Maryland in the 1660s, and at the time of Roger’s birth the family ranked among the most prestigious in the county. Originally Anglican, the Taneys had abandoned the English church for Catholicism well before the birth of Michael Taney, possibly in imitation of leading Maryland families....

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Williams, George Washington (16 October 1849–02 August 1891), soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war’s end, Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867, serving with the Tenth Cavalry, an all-black unit, at Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory. Williams was discharged for disability the following year after being shot through the left lung under circumstances that were never fully explained....