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Amory, Cleveland (02 September 1917–14 October 1998), writer and animal rights advocate, was born in Nahant, Massachusetts, the son of Robert Amory, a textile manufacturer, and his wife, Leonore Cobb Amory. Both parents were descendants of long-established upper-class families in Boston, where Cleveland grew up in a privileged household. He was educated at private schools, including Milton Academy, and enrolled at Harvard in 1935. After graduating four years later, he worked briefly as a reporter for the ...

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Austin, Mary Hunter (09 September 1868–13 August 1934), writer, was born in Carlinville, Illinois, the daughter of George Hunter, an attorney, and Susannah Savilla Graham. Throughout her earliest years, Austin’s father, who was her sole source of literary and personal support, suffered from ill health owing to a malarial fever contracted during his Civil War service. After the deaths of her father and sister, which occurred when she was ten years old, Austin led a lonely life in a home where her mother’s emotional energy was devoted to her eldest son. Writing became the solitary child’s means of expression. She studied art and majored in science at Blackburn College, receiving her B.S. in 1888. Although her first twenty years were spent in the Midwest, Austin dedicated much of her life as a writer to the culture and landscape of the Southwest. In 1888 she moved with her mother and siblings to California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the family established a desert homestead and she taught school. In 1891 she married Stafford Wallace Austin; they had a daughter the following year. Her daughter was severely retarded, and Austin was eventually forced to commit her to an institution, where she died in 1918....

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Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923....

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Bunche, Ralph Johnson (07 August 1904–09 December 1971), scholar and diplomat, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family’s last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in political science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California at Los Angeles or UCLA). He graduated summa cum laude and served as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1928, then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his Ph.D. at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris; they had three children. Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching his dissertation and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in February 1934....

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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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William L. O’Neill

Eastman, Max (04 January 1883–25 March 1969), writer, was born Max Forrester Eastman in Canandaigua, New York, the son of Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Ford, both ordained ministers of the Congregational church. From the age of eleven to eighteen he lived in Elmira, New York, where his mother was associate pastor of Park Church. He graduated from Williams College in 1905, and from 1907 to 1910 he studied philosophy under ...

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Mencken, H. L. (12 September 1880–29 January 1956), author, editor, and journalist, was born Henry Louis Mencken in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of August Mencken, a cigar manufacturer, and Anna Abhau. Having emigrated from Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, the Menckens and Abhaus had quickly adapted to life in the United States, and they provided a home more Victorian than German-American for their four children. Henry Mencken, the eldest, did attend a private German school for his earliest education, but he completed his formal education at Baltimore Polytechnic, a high school primarily responsible for producing engineers and technicians....

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Mitford, Jessica (11 September 1917–23 July 1996), writer and social critic, was born at Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, England, the daughter of David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman Mitford (the second Lord Redesdale) and Sydney Bowles Mitford. Since her parents felt that girls did not need to go to school, they tutored their six daughters at home but dispatched their one son to Eton. While her pro-Nazi sister, Unity, decorated their sitting room with swastikas and fasces, Jessica Mitford retaliated by scratching hammers and sickles in the windows with a diamond ring. In 1937 she eloped with Esmond Romilly, her second cousin and a nephew of Winston Churchill. After the couple briefly supported the Loyalist guerrillas in Spain, they were married in Bayonne, France. Home again in England, they worked for an advertising agency in London until 1939 then traveled to the United States and held a variety of jobs. Jessica Mitford became a union organizer, tended bar in a Miami restaurant, and clerked in a dress shop in Washington, D.C....

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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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Smith, Lillian Eugenia (12 December 1897–28 September 1966), essayist, novelist, and social critic, was born in Jasper, Florida, the daughter of Anne Hester Simpson and Calvin Warren Smith, a prominent businessman and civic leader. The relative economic and social security of her childhood, richly re-created in her ...

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Tocqueville, Alexis de (29 July 1805–16 April 1859), French political theorist, historian, and statesman, was born Alexis-Charles-Henri-Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville in Paris, the son of Hervé-Louis-François-Jean Bonaventure Clérel and Louise-Madeleine Le Peletier Rosanbo, from an aristocratic and politically active Norman family. Tocqueville’s father became a prefect with the restored Bourbon government after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Charles X made him a peer of France in 1827. His family furnished the requisite background for Tocqueville’s own government service. Having studied law, Tocqueville became an assistant magistrate....

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Wright, Frances (06 September 1795–13 December 1852), reformer and author, was born in Dundee, Scotland, the daughter of James Wright, a linen merchant, and Camilla Campbell. Wright’s father was an ardent supporter of Thomas Paine, and although “Fanny” was younger than three when her parents died, she later remarked on “a somewhat singular coincidence in views between a father and daughter, separated by death when the first had not reached the age of twenty-nine, and when the latter was in infancy” (Eckhardt, pp. 5–6). After her parents’ death, she and her siblings were parceled out to various relatives, and Wright went to live with her aunt and maternal grandfather in England. She and her sister Camilla were reunited in Dawlish around 1806, only to suffer the death of their brother and their grandfather three years later....