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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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King, Martin Luther, Jr. (15 January 1929–04 April 1968), Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was born Michael King, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Michael King ( Martin Luther King) and Alberta Williams. Born to a family with deep roots in the African-American Baptist church and in the Atlanta black community, the younger King spent his first twelve years in the home on Auburn Avenue that his parents shared with his maternal grandparents. A block away, also on Auburn, was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, had served as pastor since 1894. Under Williams’s leadership, Ebenezer had grown from a small congregation without a building to become one of Atlanta’s prominent African-American churches. After Williams’s death in 1931, his son-in-law became Ebenezer’s new pastor and gradually established himself as a major figure in state and national Baptist groups. In 1934 the elder King, following the request of his own dying father, changed his name and that of his son to Martin Luther King....

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Malcolm X (19 May 1925–21 February 1965), African-American religious and political leader, also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Earl Little and Louise (also Louisa) Norton, both activists in the Universal Negro Improvement Association established by ...

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Murray, Pauli (20 November 1910–01 July 1985), lawyer, writer, and minister, was born Anna Pauline Murray in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Henry Murray, a public school teacher, and Agnes Fitzgerald, a nurse. Triracial, she had African, European, and Native American ancestry. Her parents both died when she was a child (her mother had a cerebral hemorrhage in March 1914; her father was murdered in a state hospital in June 1923), and she grew up from age three in North Carolina with her maternal grandparents and her mother’s oldest sister, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a public school teacher who adopted her....

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Pike, Albert (29 December 1809–02 April 1891), lawyer, soldier, and Masonic scholar, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. The boy was torn between his father, whose irreverence and drinking scandalized neighbors, and his mother, who read the Bible to her only son daily and planned on his entering the ministry. In 1813, seeking to supplement his income by farming, Benjamin Pike moved the family to Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1825 Albert was sent to live with his uncle, a teacher at Framingham Academy, who soon learned that Pike had a prodigious memory that enabled him to digest large volumes and recall their contents at will; the boy learned Hebrew, Latin, and Greek almost effortlessly. Eight months after his arrival in Framingham, Pike passed the entrance examination for Harvard College. He could not afford the tuition, however, so, instead of enrolling at Harvard, he taught common school at Gloucester. The following year Harvard agreed to admit him as a junior, but school officials insisted that he pay the first two years’ tuition. Outraged, Pike abandoned his dreams of a formal education....

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Smith, Joseph (23 December 1805–27 June 1844), founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormon Church, was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, the son of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack, farmers. Joseph Smith was notable among religious figures for claiming to receive revelations and to translate ancient religious texts. Mormons consider these writings, published as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon, as scripture on a par with the Bible and think of Smith as a prophet in the biblical tradition. Smith did not consider himself to be either a reformer or the founder of a new religion. In his own eyes, he was restoring the Christian gospel as taught by Jesus and the first apostles. Nothing in Joseph Smith’s background prepared him to write scriptures or to head a religious movement. His parents were poor New England farmers who began life with a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont, but lost it in 1803 after a commercial venture failed. When Joseph Smith, Jr., was born two years later, the Smith family lived on a farm rented from a relative. In 1816 they migrated to Palmyra, New York, and in 1818 purchased 100 acres in Farmington (later Manchester) a few miles south of Palmyra village. For the first time in fourteen years they owned land of their own....