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Anderson, Matthew (25 January 1845–11 January 1928), Presbyterian pastor, educator, and social reformer, was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the son of Timothy Anderson and Mary Croog. One of fourteen children, he was raised in the comforts of a rural, middle-class home, less than thirty miles from historic Gettysburg. On a typical day of his youth, he faced the physical demands of farm life and experienced the movement back and forth between two cultures. One, dominated by commerce and materialism, was uncharacteristically open to the Andersons, who owned lumber mills and real estate at a time when most black Americans were dehumanized and disenfranchised by chattel slavery. The other was a culture defined by close family ties and Presbyterian piety. At home Matthew heard Bible stories and dramatic tales of runaway slaves; indeed, religious piety and the pursuit of racial freedom were dominant themes in his life. These early experiences inspired Anderson so deeply that, by the time he left Greencastle in 1863, he had decided on the ministry as his vocation. Study at Oberlin College was the first step toward serving his religious faith, his racial group, and his vision of social justice....

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Blanchard, Jonathan (19 January 1811–14 May 1892), educator and social reformer, was born in the township of Rockingham, Vermont, the son of Jonathan Blanchard, Sr., a farmer, and Polly Lovell. The relatively comfortable circumstances of Jonathan’s upbringing on what he remembered as his father’s “large stock farm” left him with an enduring affinity for rural life, though his ambitions for public life drew him away from farming. He taught district school to finance his education at an academy near his home and enrolled in 1828 at Middlebury College, Vermont, where he received a B.A. in 1832....

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Blaustein, David (05 May 1866–26 August 1912), rabbi, educator, and social worker, was born in Lida, Russian Poland, the son of Isaiah Blaustein and Sarah Natzkovsky. The family was of humble means, and David was eight years old when his father died. Nine years later he ran away from home to the Prussian town of Memel in order to obtain an education. He then journeyed to Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he enrolled in a Jewish teacher’s preparatory school under the leadership of Dr. Fabian Feilchenfeld. His intention was to be a cantor-shochet-teacher to the German Jews, but Bismarck’s ban on Russian Jews in Germany forced him to emigrate to America....

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Farrand, Livingston (14 June 1867–08 November 1939), university president and public health advocate, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Samuel Ashbel Farrand, an educator, and Louise Wilson. His father was headmaster of Newark Academy, and Livingston’s older brother succeeded his father when he retired. Farrand attended Newark Academy and then matriculated at nearby Princeton. After graduating in 1888, he entered Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he earned his M.D. in 1891. Farrand was not drawn to medicine, however, so he decided to take a few years of additional study abroad to find his métier. A year in Cambridge and then a year in Berlin convinced him that his true calling lay in the nascent field of psychology. By studying the physiological aspects of psychology—at the time his particular interest—he could make use of his medical education....

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Fox, Dixon Ryan (07 December 1887–30 January 1945), historian and college president, was born in Potsdam, New York, the son of James Sylvester Fox, a seller of Vermont marble, and Julia Anna Dixon. He was graduated from Potsdam Normal School in 1907 and received an A.B. degree from Columbia University in 1911. He became teacher and principal at the Union District School in Thornwood, New York, while also enrolled in the master’s program at Columbia and tutoring in the Department of History....

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Holland, Annie Welthy Daughtry (1871–06 January 1934), educator and promoter of public education for blacks, was born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, on land adjacent to the Welthy (also spelled Wealthy) plantation, the daughter of Sarah Daughtry and J. W. Barnes. (Her parentage, incorrectly reported in some earlier sources, has been confirmed by her death certificate; see Littlefield, pp. 569–70.) Her grandfather Friday Daughtry had been born and raised a slave but during the 1860s was freed by the Welthy family. Annie had been named after Annie Welthy of the Welthy plantation. Sometime between 1872 and 1879 her mother divorced her father. Her mother later remarried, and the family moved to Southhampton County, Virginia. In 1880 Friday Daughtry brought Annie back to Isle of Wight, where she lived with her grandmother, Lucinda, and worked on the farm while studying at the county school. In 1883, at the age of eleven, she enrolled as an eighth-grade student at Hampton Institute, an agricultural and industrial school for blacks founded in 1868 at nearby Hampton, Virginia. To help pay for her second year of study she spent the summer of 1884 in New York working for a wealthy white family. She had to leave school before the end of the following summer, however, owing to a bout with malaria, which made her unable to work, as well as her grandfather’s financial troubles; failing health had made it difficult for him to continue to pay her tuition. She then returned to Isle of Wight where for two years after taking the teachers examination and receiving a second-grade certificate, she taught in the county elementary school. In 1888 she left her teaching post and went to work in New York but soon returned because of the illness of her grandmother. Just before her grandmother died in 1888, she married Willis B. Holland, a Hampton graduate and educator; they would have at least one child, a daughter....

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Benjamin Elijah Mays. Gelatin silver print, 1949, by Griffith J. Davis. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation and Mrs. Gilbert Harrison.

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Mays, Benjamin Elijah (1 Aug. 1894 or 1895–28 March 1984), educator, college president, and civil rights activist, was born near Rambo (now Epworth), South Carolina, the son of Hezekiah Mays and Louvenia Carter, tenant farmers who had been enslaved. Benjamin, the youngest of eight children, grew up in the rural South when whites segregated and disfranchised African Americans by law (he himself was not allowed to vote until 1945, when he was fifty-one years old). His first childhood memory was the 1898 Phoenix Riot in South Carolina where, he recalled, white vigilantes murdered his cousin....

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Meiklejohn, Alexander (03 February 1872–16 December 1964), educator and civil libertarian, was born in Rochdale, England, the son of James Meiklejohn, a Scottish textile worker, and Elizabeth France. After his family migrated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1880, Meiklejohn attended local schools and Brown University (1889–1893). He took a Ph.D. in philosophy at Cornell University (1897) and returned to his alma mater as an assistant professor that fall. He married Nannine LaVilla in 1902, and they had four children. Meiklejohn served as dean at Brown (1901–1912), concentrating on matters of student life and discipline, before being selected president of Amherst College in 1912....

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Oxnam, Garfield Bromley (14 August 1891–12 March 1963), Methodist bishop, ecumenical leader, and social reformer, was born in Sonora, California, the son of Thomas Henry Oxnam, a Cornish immigrant mining engineer, and Mary Ann “Mamie” Jobe. His father’s religious enthusiasm found expression as a Methodist lay minister and his mother’s intense piety suffused the Oxnam home in Los Angeles, assuredly influencing his teenage decision to pledge his life to Christ. Forced to leave high school because of his father’s ill health and financial reverses, Oxnam both clerked and attended a business school before entering the University of Southern California, then a Methodist institution. At USC he earned solid grades, athletic renown, and repute as a campus leader....

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Sanchez, George Isidore (04 October 1906–05 April 1972), educator and civil rights leader, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory, the son of Telesfor Sanchez, a miner, and Juliana Sanchez. According to Sanchez’s correspondence, both parents descended from colonial settlers. The family’s financial situation varied with the economy, and in 1913 the family moved to Jerome, Arizona, where the mining industry was booming. For the first year or two, Sanchez attended boarding school in Prescott, Arizona, until a school was opened for miners’ children in Jerome. Sanchez’s remembrances of his school days in Jerome were happy ones; he often referred to his teachers and his education as “A-One.”...

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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William James Simmons. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90544).

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Simmons, William James (26 June 1849–30 October 1890), Baptist leader, educator, and race advocate, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of enslaved parents, Edward Simmons and Esther (maiden name unknown). During his youth, Simmons’s mother escaped slavery with him and two of his siblings, relocating in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Simmons’s uncle, Alexander Tardieu (or Tardiff), a shoemaker, became a father for the children and a protector and provider for the fugitive slave family. He moved them among the cities of Philadelphia, Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Chester, Pennsylvania, constantly eluding persistent “slave catchers,” before permanently taking residence in Bordentown, New Jersey. While Simmons never received formal elementary or secondary school education, his uncle made a point of teaching the children to read and write. As a youth Simmons served as an assistant to a white dentist in Bordentown. At the age of fifteen he joined the Union army, participating in a number of major battles in Virginia and finding himself at Appomattox in 1865. After the war, Simmons once again worked briefly as a dental assistant. He converted and affiliated with the white Baptist church in Bordentown in 1867, announced his call to the ministry, and ventured to college with the financial support of church friends....

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Charles Richard Van Hise Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115321).

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Van Hise, Charles Richard (29 May 1857–19 November 1918), geologist, conservationist, and university president, was born near Fulton, in southern Wisconsin, the son of William Henry Van Hise, a farmer and storekeeper, and Mary Goodrich. The family moved to nearby Evansville in 1870. In 1874 Van Hise entered the University of Wisconsin, beginning a lifelong association with this institution. He received four degrees, bachelor of metallurgical engineering (1879), B.S. (1880), M.S. (1882), and in 1892 the first Ph.D. awarded at the University of Wisconsin. In 1879 he joined the faculty as an instructor. Two years later he married Alice Ring, also of Evansville; they had three children....