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Ainslie, Hew (05 April 1792–11 March 1878), poet and construction consultant, was born at Bargeny Mains, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of George Ainslie, an employee of some consequence on the estate of Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton. Ainslie paid warm homage to his mother, whose name is not known, in his writings. Originally educated by a hired “dominie” at home, wirehaired Ainslie eventually moved on to the Ballantrae parish school and finally to Ayr Academy, where he completed his formal schooling at the age of fourteen. Certainly as important as his organized education was his home background colored by his father’s pride in the family’s past (the model of Sir Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor” was one of several notable ancestors) and his mother’s “teeming repertory” of Scottish songs and lore. Another influence was his father’s small personal library containing the writings of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, and other Scottish classics....

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Alsop, Richard (23 January 1761–20 August 1815), poet and businessman, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Richard Alsop, Sr., a merchant, and Mary Wright Alsop. When Alsop was fifteen, his father died, leaving his wife, Mary, a strict Episcopalian, in comfortable circumstances but with eight children. Alsop was a precocious reader and enjoyed impersonating heroes of Homer's ...

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Brooks, Walter Henderson (30 August 1851–06 July 1945), clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks’s father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia’s wealthiest citizens, including his wife’s owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife’s freedom in 1862 for $800. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working in hotels, boardinghouses, and restaurants. In his youth he acquired the doctrines that served as the foundation for his life’s work. He learned temperance from his pastor, the Reverend ...

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Arturo Giovannitti Right, with Joseph J. Ettor, center, and Joseph Caruso. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108488).

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Giovannitti, Arturo Massimo (07 January 1884–31 December 1959), poet, journalist, and labor leader, was born in Ripabottoni (Molise), Italy, the son of Domenico Giovannitti, a physician and pharmacist, and Adelaide Levante. Raised in a family of middle-class professionals in southern Italy, Arturo Giovannitti was educated at the Collegio Mario Pagano in Campobasso, the regional capital, where he first demonstrated his literary ability by winning a national contest for poetry. Rather than attend university in Italy, Giovannitti decided to “visit the world,” immigrating to Canada by himself at age sixteen or seventeen. Little is known about Giovannitti’s activities in Canada before he enrolled in a theological seminary affiliated with McGill University in Montreal and became a pastor’s assistant at a Presbyterian mission for Italians. His early attraction to Protestantism has never been adequately explained....

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Green, Joseph (1706–11 December 1780), poet and merchant, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Green and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Information about his parents’ employment could not be obtained. He was educated at the South Grammar School and entered Harvard College in 1722, graduating in 1726. Few details of his life have been preserved, but it is known that he was part of the prosperous Boston merchant class and was said to own the largest private library in New England. He was also a pew-holder in the First Church of Boston, a man of Loyalist political sympathies, and a noted wit. He married Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) after 1742, but there is no evidence of their having any children....

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Hammon, Jupiter (11 October 1711–?), poet and preacher, was born on the estate of Henry Lloyd on Long Island, New York, most probably the son of Lloyd’s slaves Opium, renowned for his frequent escape attempts, and Rose. Few records remain from Hammon’s early life, though correspondence of the Lloyd family indicates that in 1730 he suffered from a near-fatal case of gout. He was educated by Nehemiah Bull, a Harvard graduate, and Daniel Denton, a British missionary, on the Lloyd manor. Except for a brief period during the revolutionary war, when Joseph Lloyd removed the family to Hartford, Connecticut, Hammon lived his entire life on Long Island, in the Huntington area, serving the Lloyds as clerk and bookkeeper. There is no surviving indication that Hammon either married or had children. The precise date of his death and the location of his grave remain unknown, although it is known that he was alive in 1790 and had died by 1806....

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Horton, George Moses (1797?–1883?), poet, was born a slave in Northampton County, North Carolina, and grew up on a Chatham County plantation. He composed poems before teaching himself to read and, much later, learning to write. While selling vegetables in nearby Chapel Hill he also sold verses, often dictating to University of North Carolina students love lyrics ordered for girl friends. With fees from such commissions and from domestic work, he paid his second and third owners—son and grandson respectively of his original owner—to permit him to live mostly in Chapel Hill, where he became a legendary figure....

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Steendam, Jacob (1616–1672), merchant and poet, is believed to have been born in Enkhuizen, Holland, though his parentage is unknown. Much about his life is obscure. He grew up in Amsterdam and was a member of the Dutch Reformed church. In 1638 he was a member of the Segbloem, an institute of rhetoric, at Zegwaard, and much of his poetry reveals the influence of rhetorical training....

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Steere, Richard (1643–20 June 1721), colonial merchant and religious poet, was born in Chertsey, England, the son of Richard Steere, a leather worker, and Annis Springall. Educated in Latin and literature at the Free Grammar School at Kingston-upon-Thames, he was apprenticed in 1658 as a cordwainer in the city of London. Granted the freedom of the Company of Cordwainers in 1666, he seems to have engaged in foreign trade with Barbados and the Americas as early as this period. In London, Steere became a member of the General Baptists, a group persecuted after the Restoration....