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Abbot, Gorham Dummer (03 September 1807–03 August 1874), educator of women and clergyman, was born in Brunswick, Maine, the son of “Squire” Jacob Abbot, a land trustee and sometime merchant, and his wife and second cousin, Betsey Abbot. Gorham Abbot grew up in the nearby town of Hallowell and, like his four brothers, graduated from Bowdoin College (A.B., 1826; A.M., 1829) and studied at Andover Theological Seminary. All of the Abbot brothers became teachers and clergymen, the two eldest, ...

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Allen, William G. (1820–?), abolitionist and educator, was born in Virginia, the son of a Welshman and a free mulatto mother. After the death of both parents when he was young, Allen was adopted by a free African-American family in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Allen soon caught the eye of the Reverend William Hall, a New Yorker who conducted a black elementary school in Norfolk. Hall wrote ...

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Alston, Melvin Ovenus (07 October 1911–30 December 1985), educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. Of middle-class background in terms of an African-American family in the urban South in the 1920s, he grew up in a house that his family owned, free of any mortgage. After attending Norfolk’s segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated from Virginia State College (B.S., 1935), honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship, and began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church....

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Benezet, Anthony (31 January 1713–03 May 1784), abolitionist, educator, and reformer, was born in San Quentin, Picardy, France, to Jean Étienne Benezet and Judith de la Méjenelle, wealthy Huguenots. Because of increasing religious persecution, his family fled to Rotterdam in 1715, remaining there briefly before traveling to London where they spent the next sixteen years. It was here that Benezet may have attended a Quaker school and began his lifelong association with the Quakers. After emigrating with his family to Philadelphia in 1731, Benezet worked briefly as a merchant with his brothers and became a member of the Society of Friends. He married Joyce Marriott, a Quaker minister in 1736; neither of the couple’s two children survived to their first birthdays....

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Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina....

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Clark, Peter Humphries (1829–21 June 1925), educator, politician, and civil rights leader, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Michael Clark, a barber, and his wife (name unknown). Clark was the product of a complex, mixed racial ancestry that provided the basis for a lifelong struggle to find a place for himself in both the white and African-American worlds. The oral tradition of Peter Clark’s family and of the Cincinnati African-American community contends that Michael Clark was the son of explorer ...

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Cook, George William (07 January 1855–20 August 1931), educator and civil rights leader, was born a slave in Winchester, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown. In May 1862 the Cook family, which included seven children, became war refugees after the Union capture of Winchester. The family eventually settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where young George Cook’s most important early experience as a free person was working as a servant for David D. Mumma, a Pennsylvania state legislator. Permitted to use the Mumma family library, Cook developed the ambition to seek higher education, which would have remained beyond his grasp except for several fortunate events. After he moved to New York in 1871, Cook learned of Howard University from the Reverend ...

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de Schweinitz, Karl (26 November 1887–20 April 1975), social worker and educator, was born in Northfield, Minnesota, the son of Paul Robert de Schweinitz, a clergyman, and Mary Catherine Daniel. After attending Nazareth Hall and the Moravian Parochial School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, de Schweinitz received bachelor’s degrees from Moravian College in 1906 and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907. He spent two years as a reporter, first for the ...

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Dillard, James Hardy (24 October 1856–02 August 1940), educator and promoter of racial harmony, was born in Nansemond County, Virginia, the son of James Dillard and Sarah Brownrigg Cross, planters. Dillard spent most of his early years on the family’s plantation with its over three hundred slaves. At the age of twelve he was sent to school in Norfolk. He enrolled in Washington and Lee University in 1873 where he excelled in history and received a master’s degree in 1876 and a bachelor of laws in 1877. Although Dillard considered building a legal practice, his parents’ poverty in the aftermath of the Civil War forced him to accept the principalship of the Rodman School in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1877 in order to immediately assist his family. Five years later he married Mary Harmanson and accepted an administrative position at Norfolk Academy....

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Elliott, John Lovejoy (02 December 1868–12 April 1942), social reformer and teacher, was born in Princeton, Illinois, the son of Isaac Hughes Elliott and Elizabeth Denham, farmers. His education in a one-room schoolhouse was supplemented by instruction from his mother, the stepdaughter of abolitionist ...

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Emerson, George Barrell (12 September 1797–04 March 1881), educator and environmentalist, was born in Wells, Maine, the son of Samuel Emerson and Sarah Barrell, farmers. His father was also a physician and encouraged him to study Latin grammar and texts. Similar to the sons of many nineteenth-century yeoman farmers, Emerson attended school only during the winter months and worked the farm during the planting and harvesting seasons. By working the farm, he developed an early interest in plants, shrubs, and trees....

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James Farmer Photograph by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (U.S. News and World Report Collection: LC-U9-11814).

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Farmer, James (12 January 1920–09 July 1999), founder and national director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), civil rights activist, and educator, founder and national director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), civil rights activist, and educator, was born James Leonard Farmer, Jr., in Marshall, Texas, the son of James Leonard Farmer (known as “J. Leonard”), a Methodist minister and the son of ex-slaves, and Pearl Houston Farmer, who had been a teacher. Farmer's father, who earned a doctorate of religion from Boston University, was one of the first blacks in Texas to hold a Ph.D. When Farmer was six months old the family, which included an older sister, moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where his father had accepted teaching and administrative posts at Rust College. Able to read, write, and count by the age of four and a half, Farmer was accepted into the first grade. The family soon moved again, as Professor Farmer joined the department of religion and philosophy at Samuel Houston College in Austin, Texas....

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Goucher, John Franklin (07 June 1845–19 July 1922), philanthropist and educator, was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Goucher, a doctor, and Eleanor Townsend. Goucher was raised in a devout Methodist household, the youngest of four children. Religion was a sustaining and motivating force throughout his life. Another important influence was a meeting with President-elect ...

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Green, Beriah (24 March 1795–04 May 1874), abolitionist clergyman and educator, was born in Preston, Connecticut, the son of Beriah Green, a farmer and furniture maker, and Elizabeth Smith. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1819 and later attended Andover Seminary. In 1821 he married Marcia Deming; they had two children....

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Hay, Harry (07 April 1912–24 October 2002), gay rights pioneer, was born Henry Hay, Jr., in Worthing, Sussex, England, to wealthy American parents, Henry Hay, Sr., and Margaret Neall. His father worked as a manager for mining companies, forcing the family to relocate frequently. The Hays moved to Chuquicamata, Chile, in 1914, then settled in Los Angeles, California, in 1919. Harry (as he was known) attended Los Angeles public schools and spent summers working on relatives’ ranches in California and Nevada. At age fourteen, Harry experienced his first sexual encounter with another man and realized he was gay (he had seen the word “homosexual” in a book several years earlier). Harry Hay attended Stanford University from 1930 to 1932, where he participated in the campus’s clandestine gay social scene and even told many classmates he was gay—an audacious declaration at a time when gay people usually did not publicly reveal their sexual identities....

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Kerr, James Hutchison (30 August 1837–10 June 1919), educator, entrepreneur, and progressive, was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Alexander Kerr, a farmer, and Eliza Jane Hutchison. He was educated in local rural public schools, and at age fourteen when the regular teacher at his school became ill, Kerr was named the teacher to finish the academic year. Beginning in the fall of 1852, at age fifteen, Kerr spent a year at the John Turner Seminary in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and during the next two years he completed the civil engineering course at New London Academy in Pennsylvania. Following his graduation in 1854, he spent four months as an assistant railroad engineer before returning as a half‐day assistant teacher at the New London Academy. In the 1855–1856 academic year he studied mining, chemistry, metallurgy, and geology at Westminster College in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, and also served as a part‐time teacher. In 1857 he operated a tea and spice business in Rochester, New York, and he studied the natural sciences, including geology and paleontology, at the local university. From September 1859 to May 1861 he was the principal of Franklinville Academy in rural Cattaraugus County, New York, and during the summer months he studied geology in New York, New England, Canada, and the American West....

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Langston, Charles Henry (1817–14 December 1892), abolitionist, temperance advocate, and educator, was born in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Captain Ralph Quarles, a white plantation owner, and Lucy Langston, Quarles’s slave whom he manumitted and with whom he maintained an open relationship. Langston and his brothers were educated by Quarles in their youth. After the death of their parents in 1834 the Langston children were taken by William Gooch, a friend of Quarles and Lucy Langston, to Chillicothe, Ohio, where they were reunited with their half brother and two half sisters, the children of Lucy Langston who were born before her involvement with Quarles. Langston and his brothers took with them to Ohio considerable money bequeathed to them by Quarles. In 1835 Langston and his brother Gideon became the first African Americans enrolled in the preparatory department of Oberlin Collegiate Institute, then a hotbed of abolitionism. After leaving the preparatory department in 1836, Langston worked as a teacher at black schools in Chillicothe and Columbus, Ohio. He reenrolled in the Oberlin preparatory department in 1841 and studied there until the spring of 1843....

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Lanusse, Armand (1812–16 March 1868), writer, civil rights activist, and educator, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nothing is known of his personal life except that he married and had five children, four sons and a daughter. A brother, Numa Lanusse, also displayed considerable literary talent until his death at the age of twenty-six in a riding accident....

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Lee, Porter Raymond (21 December 1879–08 March 1939), social worker and teacher, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Reuben Porter Lee, a banker, and Jennie Blanchard. He obtained his first experience in social service working at Westminster House, a Buffalo settlement, while he was still in high school. This plus a college course in the methods of modern philanthropy led him to pursue a career in social work. After graduating from Cornell University in 1903 he attended a summer institute at the New York School of Philanthropy, then the only center in the country providing professional social work training. That fall he began work as assistant secretary of the Charity Organization Society (COS) of Buffalo. He later described the six years he spent there under the supervision of secretary Frederick Almy as “the most important single factor” in his education. He married Ethel Hepburn Pollock in 1905; they would have five children....