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Brown, John (09 May 1800–02 December 1859), abolitionist, also known as Old Brown of Osawatomie, was born in Torrington, Connecticut, the son of Owen Brown, a tanner and farmer, and Ruth Mills. Brown believed that the American republic was to be God’s instrument for the return of Christ to earth and that, as the “embodiment of all that is evil,” slavery alone stood in the way. That millennial vision was a legacy of Brown’s formative years in Hudson, Ohio, as the first surviving son of pious “Squire” Brown, an early settler, prominent landowner, and zealous reformer. The father of sixteen children by two wives, Owen Brown claimed descent from Peter Browne of the ...

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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...

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Child, Lydia Maria Francis (11 February 1802–20 October 1880), author and abolitionist, was born in Medford, Massachusetts, the daughter of David Convers Francis, a baker, and Susannah Rand. Although her father’s business success allowed her older brother and intellectual mentor, Convers, to be educated at Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School, Lydia (who went by her middle name) received her education in a dame school and a local seminary. After the death of her mother in 1814, she was sent to live with her sister, Mary Francis Preston, in Norridgewock, Maine Territory. She remained with her sister until 1820 and during this period studied at a local academy preparing to become a teacher. Convers, continuing to oversee his younger sister’s intellectual development, introduced her to the works of Homer, Ben Johnson, John Milton, and Sir Walter Scott....

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Davis, Paulina Kellogg Wright (07 August 1813–24 August 1876), abolitionist, suffragist, and educator, was born in Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Kellogg and Polly Saxton. In 1817 the family moved to an undeveloped area near Niagara Falls. Davis’s enjoyment of the frontier’s exhilirating freedom ended with the deaths of her parents. In 1820 she went to live with a strict orthodox Presbyterian aunt in LeRoy, New York, where she was educated and attended church regularly....

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Douglass, Frederick ( February 1818–20 February 1895), abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel ...

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Equiano, Olaudah (1745–31 March 1797), sailor, abolitionist, and writer, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born in eastern Nigeria, the son of an Ibo village chief. When he was eleven, people from another Ibo village captured Equiano and his sister, beginning a six-month period during which he was separated from his sister and sold from one master to another until he reached the coast. There Equiano’s African masters sold him to white slave traders headed for Barbados. From Barbados he traveled to Virginia, where he was bought by Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel. During the spring 1757 voyage to England, Pascal gave Equiano the name Gustavus Vassa, which he used throughout his life, yet Equiano still included his African name on the title page of his autobiography....

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Gage, Frances Dana Barker (12 October 1808–10 November 1884), reformer, lecturer, and author, was born on a farm in Union Township, Washington County, Ohio, the daughter of Joseph Barker and Elizabeth Dana, farmers. The rugged conditions of farm life bred in her a hardiness and resourcefulness that served her well as an adult....

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Garrison, William Lloyd (10 December 1805–24 May 1879), editor, abolitionist leader, and religious reformer, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Abijah Garrison, a seaman, and Frances “Fanny” Lloyd, a housekeeper. The poverty, instability, and religiosity of Garrison’s childhood exerted a profound, lifelong influence on him, for his career was always shaped by his strong needs for public recognition, for self-vindication, and for expressing his spiritual zeal....

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Giddings, Joshua Reed (06 October 1795–27 May 1864), antislavery congressman, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joshua Giddings and Elizabeth Pease, farmers. At the age of ten he moved with his parents to Ashtabula County in Ohio’s Western Reserve, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1819 he married Laura Waters, with whom he had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Lacking virtually all formal education, Giddings nonetheless studied law with Elisha Whittlesey, later a U.S. representative, and established a successful practice. After losing his considerable investments in western lands in the panic of 1837 and becoming estranged from his former law partner, future U.S. Senator ...

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Grimké, Angelina Emily (20 February 1805–26 October 1879), abolitionist and women's rights activist, abolitionist and women’s rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Faucheraud Grimké, a planter and judge, and Mary Smith. A member of one of the wealthiest and most aristocratic families in Charleston, her father, who had been a captain in the American Revolution, traced his descent from the city’s earliest Huguenot and German settlers and held the post of senior associate, equivalent to chief justice, of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Her mother’s family had included two colonial governors. From an early age both Angelina and her older sister ...

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Grimké, Sarah Moore (26 November 1792–23 December 1873), abolitionist, writer-educator, and women's rights pioneer, abolitionist, writer-educator, and women’s rights pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Faucheraud Grimké, chief judge of the state supreme court, and Mary Smith. Sarah was educated by private tutors in subjects considered proper for well-bred southern girls—among them, French, watercolors, harpsichord, and embroidery. But from her older brother Thomas, a student at Yale, she learned Latin, Greek, mathematics, and geography. Raised in the upper classes of Charleston, Sarah gained firsthand experience with prosperity’s underside, African slavery. Her father “owned” several hundred slaves, some of whom she taught to read before he (and the law of the state) forbade it....

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Hale, Edward Everett (03 April 1822–10 June 1909), author, reformer, and Unitarian minister, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Hale, a journalist, and Sarah Preston Everett. His father was a nephew of revolutionary war hero Captain Nathan Hale, and his maternal uncle and namesake was the orator and statesman ...

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Haviland, Laura Smith (20 December 1808–20 April 1898), abolitionist and evangelist, was born in Leeds County, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Daniel Smith and Sene Blancher, farmers. She grew up in western New York State in a community of the Society of Friends and received several years of education in a Quaker school. In 1825 she married Charles Haviland, Jr.; they had eight children. In 1829 the young couple moved to Michigan Territory, where they joined her parents and siblings in establishing farms in the valley of the River Raisin (near present-day Adrian, Mich.) and living pious lives in a tightly knit extended family....

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Hopkins, Samuel (17 September 1721–20 December 1803), theologian and reformer, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Hopkins, a successful farmer and community leader in Waterbury, and Mary Judd. Timothy Hopkins served the town as a selectman, justice of the peace, and deputy to the Connecticut General Court. He also possessed the financial means to send Samuel to Yale College, from which he graduated in 1741....

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Hopper, Isaac Tatem (03 December 1771–07 May 1852), Quaker abolitionist and reformer, was born in Deptford township, near Woodbury, New Jersey, the son of Levi Hopper and Rachel Tatem, farmers. Educated in local schools, Isaac Hopper went to Philadelphia at sixteen to learn tailoring from an uncle, with whom he lived. He made his living there as a tailor and soon came to own his own shop....

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Jackson, James Caleb (28 March 1811–11 July 1895), abolitionist and physician, was born in Onondaga County, New York, the son of James Jackson, a physician, and Mary Ann Elderkin. Jackson studied at Manlius Academy, a preparatory school, until the death of his father in 1828. He then gave up plans for a college education and took up farming. Jackson married Lucretia E. Brewster in 1830; they had one child....

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Jenkins, David (1811–05 September 1877), editor and abolitionist, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of William Jenkins. It is not known whether his father was a white slaveholder or a free black, and his mother’s name is unknown. Jenkins received a sound education at the hands of a private tutor hired by his father. In 1837 he took up residence in Columbus, Ohio, employing himself as a house painter and glazier. Jenkins’s business acumen led to real estate investment and capital accumulation. The 1850 census for Franklin County, Ohio, records that Jenkins owned real estate valued at $1,500. The census also shows that he was married to Lucy Ann (maiden name unknown), a native of Virginia, and that they had one child....

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Lumry, Rufus (1799/1800–21 June 1862), abolitionist, circuit preacher, and church organizer, was born in Rensselaerville, New York. He was almost certainly the son of Andrew, a probably illiterate wagon driver whose patrilineal Huguenot ancestral surname was Lamoureux; his mother’s identity is unknown. The family moved to Albany around the time of the War of ...

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M’Clintock, Mary Ann Wilson (20 February 1800–21 May 1884), and Thomas M’Clintock (28 March 1792–19 March 1876), Quakers, abolitionists, and key organizers of the first Woman's Rights Convention, were Quakers, abolitionists, and key organizers of the first Woman’s Rights Convention. The location of Mary Ann Wilson’s birth is unknown; she was the daughter of John Pyle and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Thomas was born in Brandywine Hundred, Delaware, the son of Thomas M’Clintock and Mary Allen. Nothing more is known of their parents or their early education. Thomas and Mary Ann were married at the Burlington, New Jersey, Friends meetinghouse in 1820 and thereafter lived in Philadelphia, where Thomas had been working as a druggist since about 1814. They had five children....