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Ahn, Chang-ho (1878–10 March 1938), Korean nationalist, was born near P’yŏngyang, Korea, into a well-to-do farming family. His father was An Hŭng-guk; his mother’s identity is not known. Ahn reached young adulthood at the turn of the century, a time when the independence of Korea was threatened by weakness from within and aggression from without. Moving to the capital, Seoul, Ahn enrolled in a Western-style high school operated by American Presbyterian missionaries, converted to Christianity, and joined the Independence Club—a reformist organization that was active between 1896 and 1898. In 1902 Ahn left Korea and went to San Francisco, where he enrolled as an adult student in high school. Almost immediately he formed the Ch’inmokhoe (Association to Cultivate Friendship) to assist fellow Korean expatriates in finding employment and to mediate disputes within the small Korean community. In 1904 he formed the Kongnip Hyŏphoe (Cooperative Association), the first Korean political association on the U.S. mainland. After Japan established a protectorate over Korea in 1905, Ahn resolved to return to Korea and managed to do so two years later. In Korea he formed an organization called the Sinminhoe (New People’s Association), a secret society dedicated to the cause of freeing Korea from Japanese control....

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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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Beissel, Johann Conrad (01 March 1692–06 July 1768), religious leader, was born in Eberbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the son of Matthias Beissel, a baker, and Anna (maiden name unknown). He was baptized George Konrad Beissel. His alcoholic father died two months before his birth; his mother died when he was eight or nine. Conrad Beissel was raised by his older brothers and sisters. Possibly because of recent French depredation of the area where they lived, his family was very poor. Conrad was undernourished and remained comparatively small. According to tradition, he performed remarkably well during his brief attendance at his parish school. Nevertheless, he was largely self-educated. While still a youth, Beissel was apprenticed to a master baker, who also was a capable fiddler who taught Beissel to play the violin. Beissel became a popular performer and played at weddings, country dances, and other joyful occasions. He enjoyed the notoriety and attention, especially from women....

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Bimeler, Joseph Michael (1778–27 August 1853), Separatist and communitarian leader, was probably born in Württemberg, Germany, where he worked as a weaver. Little is known about his parents or his early years. He was self-educated and taught in Munich among a group of Pietist dissenters called Separatists. As the name suggests, these devout Protestants called for withdrawal from the official, state-supported Lutheran churches. A group of radical Pietists, including Bimeler, congregated in Württemberg between 1803 and 1805 under the mystical leadership of Barbara Grübermann. Their refusal to permit their children to be baptized, attend clergy-controlled schools, or serve in the military led to severe civil as well as ecclesiastical penalties, which forced them frequently to relocate....

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Blackstone, William E. (06 October 1841–1935), Christian Zionist and author, was born in Adams, New York, the son of Andrew Blackstone, a tinsmith, and Sally (maiden name unknown). Born into a devout Methodist family, he had an evangelical conversion experience at the age of ten while attending a local Methodist revival meeting. He remained a Methodist for the rest of his life, although he criticized the denomination for the liberal or “modernist” direction it had taken by the turn of the twentieth century. Though he became a leading spokesperson for American fundamentalism and Zionism, Blackstone received no formal education or training. Rejected by the Union army on account of frailness, Blackstone spent the Civil War working for the Christian Commission, a missionary agency designed to provide spiritual counsel and medical aid to northern soldiers. He married Sarah Louis Smith in 1866; they had three children....

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Edward Wilmot Blyden. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-1944).

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Blyden, Edward Wilmot (03 August 1832–12 February 1912), advocate of Pan Africanism, was born on the island of St. Thomas, part of the present-day Virgin Islands, the son of Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. The family lived in a predominantly Jewish, English-speaking community in the capital, Charlotte-Amalie. Blyden went to the local primary school but also received private tutoring from his father. In 1842 the Blydens left St. Thomas for Porto Bello, Venezuela, where Blyden showed his facility for learning foreign languages. By 1844 the family had returned home to St. Thomas. Blyden attended school only in the morning, and in the afternoons he served a five-year apprenticeship as a tailor. In 1845 the Blyden family met the Reverend John P. Knox, a famous white American minister who had assumed pastorship of the Dutch Reformed Church in St. Thomas, where the Blydens were members. Knox quickly became Blyden’s mentor and encouraged his academic studies and oratorical skills. Because of Knox’s influence, Blyden decided to become a clergyman, an aspiration his parents supported....

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Briggs, Cyril Valentine (28 May 1888–18 October 1966), journalist, Pan-Africanist, black nationalist, and Communist, was born in Nevis, West Indies, now part of St. Kitts–Nevis. His mother, Marian Huggins, was black, while his father, Louis E. Briggs, a plantation owner, was white. He graduated from the Ebenezer Wesleyan school in 1904. As a youth he worked as a library assistant and later as a reporter for the ...

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Brisbane, Albert (22 August 1809–01 May 1890), utopian socialist, was born in Batavia, New York, the son of James Brisbane, a merchant and landowner, and Mary Stevens. His father, a former agent of the Holland Land Company, amassed a fortune in real estate; his mother was an amateur scholar....

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Brooke, Abraham (1806–08 March 1867), physician and radical reformer, was born at Sandy Spring, Maryland, the son of Samuel Brooke and Sarah Garrigues, farmers. The Brooke family had been leading Quakers in Maryland for several generations, and Abraham attended Quaker schools at Sandy Spring before entering medical college in Baltimore. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Lukens, a fellow Quaker from Sandy Spring; they had three children. When the Hicksite-Orthodox schism took place among Quakers, the Brookes, like most Maryland Friends, sided with the Hicksite group....

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Thomas Campbell. Clockwise from top: T. Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, and Walter Scott. Engraving by John Chester Buttre, 1885. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (Card no. 98508288/PP).

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Campbell, Thomas (01 February 1763–04 January 1854), one of the early leaders of the Restoration movement in American Protestantism, was born in County Down, Ireland, the son of Archibald Campbell, a soldier, and Alice McNally. Little is known about Campbell’s early life, but from a young age he was pious and studious. His father had converted from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism, but Thomas joined the Seceder branch of the Presbyterian church as a young man. After teaching Latin and Greek near his home town, Thomas was allowed to attend the University of Glasgow, where he studied for the Presbyterian ministry. Following the normal three-year theological program, he received special training provided by the Antiburgher faction of the Seceder Presbyterian church. When his formal education was completed, he returned to Ireland, where he taught at Ballymena in County Antrim. There he married Jane Corneigle, probably in 1787. They had ten children, two of whom died in infancy. In 1798 he accepted the pastorate of Ahorey Church and also began an academy at Rich Hill....

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Collins, John Anderson (1810–1879), abolitionist and social reformer, was born in Manchester, Vermont. Little is known of his early years. He attended Middlebury College, then left to enter Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Caught up in the enthusiasm of the early abolitionist movement, Collins left the seminary and became general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, conducting lecture tours in the late 1830s. He became a loyal lieutenant of abolitionist ...

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Crummell, Alexander (03 March 1819–10 September 1898), clergyman, activist, and Pan-Africanist, was born in New York City, the son of Charity Hicks, a freeborn woman of Long Island, New York, and Boston Crummell, an African of the Temne people, probably from the region that is now Sierra Leone. Boston Crummell had been captured and brought to the United States as a youth. The circumstances of his emancipation are not clear, but it is said that he simply refused to serve his New York owners any longer after reaching adulthood. Boston Crummell established a small oyster house in the African Quarter of New York. Alexander Crummell received his basic education at the African Free School in Manhattan. In 1835 he traveled to Canaan, New Hampshire, along with his friends Thomas Sidney and ...

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Cuffe, Paul (17 January 1759–07 September 1817), entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist, was born Paul Slocum on Cuttyhunk Island near New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of Coffe Slocum, a freedman from West Africa, and Ruth Moses, a Wampanoag Native American. Cuffe moved with his family from insular Cuttyhunk and Martha’s Vineyard to mainland Dartmouth, a bustling maritime community. After his father’s death, Cuffe shipped out on local vessels bound for the Caribbean. He was twice jailed, once in New York during the American Revolution, when the British blockade captured the vessel he was on, and later in Massachusetts, when Dartmouth selectmen ordered him and his older brother John confined for tax evasion. Unable to vote because of their color, they had unsuccessfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature not to tax them....

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Martin Robison Delany. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Delany, Martin Robison (06 May 1812–24 January 1885), black nationalist, was born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), the son of Samuel Delany, a slave, and Pati Peace, a free black seamstress. In 1822 his mother moved the family to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to avoid punishment for violating state law after whites discovered that she had taught her five children to read and write. In 1823 Samuel joined the family after he had, with his wife’s assistance, purchased his freedom. In 1832 Martin Delany moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the next year began an apprenticeship with Andrew N. McDowell, a local white doctor. In 1843 he married Catherine Richards. The couple had seven children, whom Delany proudly named after famous blacks. After being rejected by a number of medical schools, he entered Harvard Medical School in 1850 but was dismissed under the pressure of student protests....

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John Alexander Dowie. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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Dowie, John Alexander (25 May 1847–09 March 1907), religious sectarian, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of John Murray Dowie, a tailor and lay preacher, and Ann Macfarlane-McHardie. Early years in the family were marked by poverty, piety, and illness. A move to Australia in 1860 alleviated conditions somewhat, and young Dowie became successful in the dry goods business. In 1868, however, he decided to enter the ministry and studied at the University of Edinburgh for two years. Upon returning to Australia he was ordained minister of the Congregational church in Alma in May 1870. In 1876 he married Jane Dowie, a cousin whose family was initially quite opposed to the union; they had two children. Over the next few years Dowie held pastorates in Sydney and one of its suburbs, Newtown. However, in 1878 he decided that it was wrong for ministers to be salaried, and so he turned to independent evangelistic work. This proved to be so successful that he was soon able to build a large nondenominational tabernacle in Melbourne....