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Adams, John Quincy (04 May 1848–03 September 1922), newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return to Louisville, where he again engaged in teaching....

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Bailey, Gamaliel (03 December 1807–05 June 1859), antislavery journalist and political organizer, was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, the son of Gamaliel Bailey, Sr., a silversmith and Methodist minister, and Sarah Page. As the son of a minister, Bailey enjoyed educational advantages and an early association with evangelical Christianity. Following the relocation of his family to Philadelphia in 1816, Bailey joined with several other adolescents in forming a literary debating society, which stimulated his lifelong interest in literature. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1828, but medicine was never his main interest, and he ceased to practice it by the early 1840s....

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Bradwell, Myra Colby (12 February 1831–14 February 1894), publisher and political activist, was born in Manchester, Vermont, the daughter of Eben Colby and Abigail Willey. She spent her childhood in Vermont and western New York, and when she was twelve, her family moved to Illinois. She attended local schools in Wisconsin and Illinois and became a schoolteacher. In 1852 she married ...

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Carter, Willis McGlascoe (3 Sept. 1852–23 Mar. 1902), educator, newspaper editor, and political activist, was born a slave in Albemarle County, Virginia, the oldest of eleven children born to Rhoda Carter, a slave owned by Ann Goodloe, a widow. His father, Samuel Carter, also a slave, lived on a nearby plantation. Willis Carter did not suffer the physical and emotional violence endured by most slaves. Goodloe likely allowed his parents to marry, and she did not prevent him from learning how to read and write, skills he had developed by the eve of the Civil War. Nevertheless, she did not free the Carter family upon her death in ...

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Colón, Jesús (20 January 1901–1974), writer and political and community activist, was born to working-class parents in rural Puerto Rico, whose names are not known. In A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches, a compilation of his autobiographical short essays written in English, Colón described his humble childhood in Cayey, a small farming town in a breathtaking mountain range, well known for producing hand-rolled cigars. Cigars were among the most important products for export of this territory acquired by the United States after a successful war against Spain in 1898. In 1917 Puerto Ricans became American citizens. The Puerto Rico of Colón's childhood memories appears free of American influence. His dearest childhood memories belong to the world of tobacco workers, male and female, who spent many hours rolling cigars while listening to the local and international news that a hired reader read aloud to them. According to Colón's memoirs, the reader included literary passages, such as Émile Zola's ...

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Dunbar-Nelson, Alice (19 July 1875–18 September 1935), poet, journalist, and political activist, was born Alice Ruth Moore in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Joseph Moore, a seaman, and Patricia Wright, a seamstress. Dunbar-Nelson graduated from Straight College (now Dillard University) and began her teaching career at a New Orleans elementary school in 1892....

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Eagleson, William Lewis (09 August 1835–22 June 1899), editor and political activist, was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri. The names of his parents and details about his early life are unknown. He married Elizabeth McKinney in 1865 in St. Louis; they had nine children. As a young man, he learned both printing and barbering, trades that he practiced intermittently throughout his life. In the 1870s, he settled in Fort Scott, Kansas, and started a newspaper, the ...

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Gray, James Harrison (17 May 1916–19 September 1986), newspaper publisher, broadcast executive, and politician, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the son of Lyman Gray, an attorney, and Clara (maiden name unknown). James Gray spent his childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his father served as district attorney. He received his A.B. in English from Dartmouth College in 1937, lettering in several sports and earning Phi Beta Kappa honors. After graduating Gray enrolled at the University of Heidelberg in Germany to study world history. While there in 1939 he contributed news articles about Nazi Germany to the ...

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Hapgood, Norman (28 March 1868–29 April 1937), journalist, critic, and reformer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a farm implement manufacturer, and Fanny Louise Powers. He grew up in wealth in Alton, Illinois. In 1890 he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University, where he was strongly influenced by Professor ...

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Jackson, Gardner (10 September 1896–17 April 1965), newspaperman, public official, and liberal gadfly, also known as “Pat,” was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the son of William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker and railroad magnate, and Helen Banfield. In the Jackson family, affluence mingled with sympathy for the oppressed: Jackson’s father was a Quaker, and his mother was the niece of his father’s late and revered second wife, ...

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La Follette, Belle Case (21 April 1859–18 August 1931), political activist and magazine editor, was born in Juneau County, Wisconsin, the daughter of Anson Case and Mary Nesbit, farmers. She attended the University of Wisconsin in 1875, taking a modern classical course. She became a member of the Laurean Literary Society and represented it at the junior oratory exhibition. At graduation in 1879 she won the Lewis Oratorical Prize for the best commencement oration. She taught high school near Madison for two years after graduation....

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Lash, Joseph P. (09 December 1909–22 August 1987), biographer, journalist, and political activist, was born in New York City, the son of Samuel Lash and Mary Avchin, grocery store owners. By the time Lash was eleven years old, the metropolitan press had dubbed him a “boy prodigy” because he had scored above college freshmen in the Binet-Simon intelligence test. While helping his Russian-Jewish immigrant parents operate their small store in their Columbia University neighborhood, Lash frequently waited on professors and students, acquiring—as he later recalled—“bookish and academic aspirations by sheer contact.” At De Witt Clinton High School, Lash displayed literary inclinations, winning a city-wide essay contest and serving as the student newspaper’s book review editor....

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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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Pleasants, John Hampden (04 January 1797–27 February 1846), journalist and political activist, was born in Goochland County, Virginia, the son of James Pleasants, a leading Virginia politician, and Susanna Rose. His father served in the Virginia General Assembly, in Congress, and as governor of the state. After attending and, in 1817, graduating from the College of William and Mary, he became a journalist. By 1822 he was the editor of the ...

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Pope, Generoso (01 April 1891–28 April 1950), businessman, newspaper publisher, and political power broker, was born in Pasquarielli (province of Benevento), Italy, the son of Fortunato Papa and Fortuna Covino, farmers. He completed his elementary education in local schools in Italy. After his mother’s death and father’s remarriage, Pope emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City in May 1906. He worked a number of unskilled construction jobs and in 1907 found employment in the Long Island sand pits. In 1911, after having been a driver and then foreman for the Manhattan Sand Company, he joined the newly formed Colonial Sand and Stone Company, rising to superintendent by 1914. He became an American citizen on 20 September 1915, and in June 1916 he married Catherine Richichi. They had three sons. He anglicized his last name at about this time....

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Ramírez, Sara Estela (1881–21 August 1910), poet, radical journalist, and political organizer, was born in Villa Progreso, Coahuila, Mexico. Little is known about her parents except that her mother died when Ramírez was two years old, and her father eventually immigrated to Laredo, Texas, to live with her. Ramírez attended public school in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and at seventeen years of age graduated from the teachers’ college, Ateneo Fuentes, in her home state of Coahuila. Upon receiving her teaching certificate, she immediately immigrated to Laredo to teach Spanish to Tex-Mex schoolchildren at the Seminario de Laredo. Although Ramírez studied English while in Laredo, she wrote in Spanish, and it was the Mexican proletariat to whom she remained devoted....

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Raynal, Guillaume-Thomas-François (12 April 1713–06 March 1796), journalist and radical propagandist, was born into an ancient bourgeois family in Saint-Geniez, France, the son of Guillaume Raynal and Catherine Girels. After studies at the Jesuit college of Rodez, he entered the Company of Jesus and successively taught humanities, eloquence, and theology at Pézenas, Clermont, and Toulouse. In spite of a heavy meridional accent, he was successful as a preacher. ...

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Thomas Ritchie. Engraving by J. R. Forrest of a picture by Thomas Sully, from the first half of the nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94114).

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Ritchie, Thomas (05 November 1778–03 July 1854), newspaper editor and Democratic party activist, was born in Tappahannock, Virginia, the son of Archibald Ritchie, a prominent immigrant Scots merchant, and Mary Roane, a member of one of Virginia’s leading legal and political dynasties. After a number of false starts in law and medicine, Ritchie became a schoolteacher and then a bookseller in Richmond. In 1807 he married the daughter of a doctor, Isabella Foushee, with whom he had seven daughters and five sons. Encouraged and supported by his Roane relations he agreed, as an avowed promoter of the Jeffersonian administration, to buy and edit a Richmond newspaper, the ...