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Albert C. Barnes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 102 P&P).

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Dennis J. Comey. Photograph by Zamsky Studio, used by permission of Sarony Studios Inc. Courtesy of Francis F. Burch.

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Comey, Dennis J. (26 May 1896–14 October 1987), Roman Catholic clergyman and labor arbitrator, was born Dennis Joseph Comey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Dennis Joseph Comey, an iron worker at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and Catherine Veronica Reagan Comey; the parents had been farmers who emigrated from Timoleague, County Cork, Ireland. The oldest of thirteen children, he excelled in studies and athletics at St. Joseph's College Preparatory School in Philadelphia. On 30 July 1914 he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, New York, and continued his classical studies. He earned his A.B. (1920), M.A. (1921), and Ph.D. (1929) in philosophy from Woodstock College, Maryland; he first taught Latin at Boston College High School (1921–1922) and then Latin, Greek, Spanish, and rhetoric at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1922–1925). He pursued theological studies at Woodstock College, where he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 20 June 1928. A year's concentration on ascetical theology at St. Beuno's College, Wales, preceded his solemn profession of his Jesuit vows in Rome, Italy, on 15 August 1931. In 1931 the Gregorian University in Rome named him a doctor of theology and in 1932 ...

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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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Johnson, Edward Austin (23 November 1860–24 July 1944), educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School (1883–1885) and then in Raleigh at the Washington School (1885–1891). While teaching in Raleigh he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891. He joined the faculty shortly after graduation and became dean of the law school at Shaw two years later. He acquired a reputation as a highly capable lawyer, successfully arguing many cases before the North Carolina Supreme Court....

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Laws, Samuel Spahr (23 March 1824–09 January 1921), educator, businessman, and inventor, was born in Ohio County, Virginia, the son of James and Rachel Laws. Laws worked in a tool shop in rural Virginia as a young man before matriculating at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1844. He was valedictorian of the class of 1848. He graduated from Princeton University's seminary in 1851 and accepted an offer to serve as leader of a St. Louis, Missouri, Presbyterian congregation. In 1854 the rectors of Westminster College, a newly formed Presbyterian school in Fulton, Missouri, hired him as a math instructor; he was appointed president of the college a year later. In 1860 he married Ann Marie Broadwell, the daughter of William Broadwell, who later became chief of the Cotton Bureau for the Confederate States of America's trans-Mississippi department....

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Miller, Lewis (24 July 1829–17 February 1899), educator, religious leader, and industrialist, was born in Greentown, Ohio, the third son of John Miller and Mary Elizabeth York Miller, farmers. Miller's mother died soon after his birth. In 1830 his father married Elizabeth Tawney Aultman, a widow with two children, who bore six more children and brought a fervent Methodism to the household. An enthusiastic reader, Lewis Miller relished his little time spent in the local school. The demands of farming frustrated his desire for extensive formal education. By age sixteen Miller occasionally taught school but perceived little opportunity for advancement in the profession without additional schooling. He learned the plaster trade, which offered shorter hours than farming, and devoted the extra time to personal studies....

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Albert Shanker. President of the United Federation of Teachers, holding a report from mediators to Mayor Robert Wagner that helped to stop a strike threatened by teachers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Shanker, Albert (14 September 1928–22 February 1997), teacher and union leader, was born in New York City, the son of Morris Shanker, a union newspaper deliveryman and a former rabbinical student from Poland, and Mamie Burko Shanker, a sewing-machine operator. The son of immigrants whose first language was Yiddish, Shanker grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Queens, where he learned the benefits of trade unionism from his parents and the effects of prejudice from neighbors of predominantly Irish and Italian extraction. He attended local public schools and entered the University of Illinois in Urbana after graduating from Manhattan's prestigious Stuyvesant High School. While attending Illinois, Shanker became politically active by joining the Young People's Socialist League and picketing segregated restaurants and movie theaters in the community....

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Turner, James Milton (22 August 1839?–01 November 1915), educator and diplomat, was born a slave in St. Louis County, Missouri, the son of John Turner, a free black farrier, and Hannah Turner, the slave of Aaron and Theodosia Young, formerly of Kentucky. Mother and son were freed by Theodosia Young on 12 March 1844. Educated in clandestinely operated schools in St. Louis, in defiance of Missouri law, Turner was sent by his parents to preparatory school at Oberlin College in Ohio during the mid-1850s. He remained there for no more than two years and returned to St. Louis during the late 1850s. He worked as a porter until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the war effort as a body servant to Colonel Madison Miller, a Union officer....

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Booker T. Washington. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-25624).

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Washington, Booker T. (05 April 1856?–14 November 1915), educator and race leader, was born on the plantation of James Burroughs, near Hale’s Ford in Franklin County, Virginia, the son of an unknown white father and Jane, a slave cook owned by Burroughs. Washington was never certain of the date of his birth and showed little interest in who his father might have been. His mother gave him his first and middle names, Booker Taliaferro; he took his last name in 1870 from his stepfather, Washington Ferguson, a slave whom his mother had married. In his autobiography ...

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Whittaker, Johnson Chesnut (23 August 1858–14 January 1931), military cadet and educator, was born one of a set of twins, on the plantation of James Chesnut, Sr., near Camden, South Carolina, the son of James Whitaker, a freedman, and Maria J. (maiden name unknown), a slave. His twin brother died from an accident at the age of thirteen....