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Bruce, William Cabell (12 March 1860–09 May 1946), author, municipal politician, reformer, and U.S. senator, was born at “Staunton Hill,” his father’s plantation, in Charlotte County, Virginia, the son of Charles Bruce, a planter, Virginia state senator, and captain during the Civil War, and Sarah Alexander Seddon, both members of established, affluent families in Virginia. Although the Bruce family lost much of their wealth during the Civil War, William still grew up surrounded by maids, servants, tailors, and tutors. Bruce’s mother, a devout Christian, instilled in William strong religious beliefs that influenced his character throughout his formative years....

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W. E. B. Du Bois Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1946. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42528).

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Du Bois, W. E. B. (23 February 1868–27 August 1963), African-American activist, historian, and sociologist, was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Mary Silvina Burghardt, a domestic worker, and Alfred Du Bois, a barber and itinerant laborer. In later life Du Bois made a close study of his family origins, weaving them rhetorically and conceptually—if not always accurately—into almost everything he wrote. Born in Haiti and descended from Bahamian mulatto slaves, Alfred Du Bois enlisted during the Civil War as a private in a New York regiment of the Union army but appears to have deserted shortly afterward. He also deserted the family less than two years after his son’s birth, leaving him to be reared by his mother and the extended Burghardt kin. Long resident in New England, the Burghardts descended from a freedman of Dutch slave origin who had fought briefly in the American Revolution. Under the care of his mother and her relatives, young Will Du Bois spent his entire childhood in that small western Massachusetts town, where probably fewer than two-score of the 4,000 inhabitants were African American. He received a classical, college preparatory education in Great Barrington’s racially integrated high school, from whence, in June 1884, he became the first African-American graduate. A precocious youth, Du Bois not only excelled in his high school studies but contributed numerous articles to two regional newspapers, the Springfield ...

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Garfield, Harry Augustus (11 October 1863–12 December 1942), lawyer, educator, and public official, was born in Hiram, Ohio, the son of James A. Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, and Lucretia Rudolph (Lucretia Rudolph Garfield). A witness to the fatal shooting of his father in 1881, Garfield grappled with the implications of that tragedy for the rest of his life. He earned a B.A. at Williams College, 1881–1885, and after teaching briefly at St. Paul’s, a private school for boys, he studied law at Columbia University, 1886–1887, and in England at Oxford University and the Inns of Court, 1887–1888. In the latter year he married Belle H. Mason; they had four children....

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Robert Morss Lovett. Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G39-T-5691-019).

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Lovett, Robert Morss (25 December 1870–08 February 1956), educator, writer, and reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Augustus Sidney Lovett, an insurance broker, and Elizabeth Russell. Lovett grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston and then went to Harvard, where he graduated at the head of his class with an A.B. in English in 1892....

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Marcuse, Herbert (19 July 1898–29 July 1979), author, professor, and political activist, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Carl Marcuse, a prosperous Jewish merchant, and Gertrud Kreslawsky, the daughter of a wealthy German factory owner. Marcuse studied at the Mommsen Gymnasium in Berlin before World War I and served with the German army in the war. Transferred to Berlin early in 1918, he observed and sympathized with the German revolution that drove Kaiser Wilhelm II out of Germany and established a Social Democratic government....

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Prichard, Edward Fretwell, Jr. (21 January 1915–23 December 1984), lawyer, public official, and educational reformer, was born in Paris, Kentucky, the son of E. F. Prichard, a horse-breeder, beer distributor, and sometime politician, and Aileen Power. A precocious boy and voracious reader, young Prichard skipped grades and spent his afternoons not at the playground but at the Bourbon County courthouse soaking up Kentucky legal and political lore....

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Salvemini, Gaetano (08 September 1873–06 September 1957), historian and anti-Fascist activist, was born in the southern Italian town of Molfetta (Apulia, Bari province) in an extended family of small farmers and fishermen. He was the son of Ilarione Salvemini, a member of the ...

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Terkel, Studs (16 May 1912–31 Oct. 2008), oral historian, radio broadcaster, and political activist, was born Louis Terkel in the Bronx, New York. He was the third son of Samuel Terkel, a tailor, and Anna (Annie) Finkel, a seamstress, who had immigrated from Russia in ...