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Erastus Brooks. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109972).

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Brooks, Erastus (31 January 1815–25 November 1886), journalist and politician, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of the late James Brooks (c. 1788–1814), a commander of a privateer in the War of 1812 who had gone down with his ship, and Betsey Folsom. The financial problems caused by his father’s early death meant that Erastus had to begin work at age eight as a grocery store clerk in Boston. Ever enterprising, he used his pocket money to buy books and attend night school. He soon was placed in a printing office, where he learned to set type. Knowledge of this trade enabled him to earn enough money to attend classes at Brown University, although he did not complete the course of study. Eager to work for himself, he started his own newspaper, the ...

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Dabney, Wendell Phillips (04 November 1865–05 June 1952), journalist, political leader, and publisher, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of John Dabney, a caterer, and Elizabeth Foster. Dabney attended elementary and secondary school in Richmond. His childhood was characterized by rigorous inculcation of John Dabney’s religious and political views. His father, who had taught himself to read and write, instilled in his children the importance of religion as a vehicle for lessening racial oppression. John Dabney also passed on to his children his perception that Republicans helped African Americans and Democrats did not....

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Eisler, Gerhart (20 February 1897–21 March 1968), Communist journalist and politician, was born in Leipzig, Germany, the son of Rudolf Eisler, a philosopher, and Marie Ida Fischer. Eisler grew up in Vienna, Austria, where his father was an assistant professor without tenure (Privatdozent) at the university. The socialist sympathies of his parents, his own studies in anarchist and Marxist literature, writing for his school journal, and eventually his experiences as a young officer during World War I were all factors that influenced Eisler’s future. He was active in the revolution in November 1918 and joined the Communist party of German-Austria....

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A. Oakey Hall. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109931).

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Hall, Abraham Oakey (26 July 1826–07 October 1898), politician and journalist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Morgan James Hall, a wholesale merchant whose business was in New Orleans, and Elsie Lansing Oakey. In 1830 his father died of yellow fever and his mother moved to New York City, where she ran a boardinghouse. Relatives helped his mother finance his education, and Oakey (as he preferred to be called) graduated from New York University in 1844. He attended Harvard Law School for one term but decided that study in a law office would allow him to practice law sooner. Living with an uncle in New Orleans, he studied under noted states’ rights Democrats ...

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Holt, Rush Dew (19 June 1905–08 February 1955), politician and journalist, was born in Weston, West Virginia, the son of Mathew S. Holt, a physician and politician, and Chilela Dew. He grew up in comfortable circumstances in a politically active and nonconformist family. His mother was the first woman graduate of Salem College in Salem, West Virginia. His father, an outspoken socialist, pacifist, and atheist, was twice elected mayor of Weston. A precocious child, Rush read at age three and completed high school at fourteen. He attended West Virginia University and graduated from Salem College with a bachelor’s degree in 1924....

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Owen, Chandler (05 April 1889–02 November 1967), journalist and politician, was born in Warrenton, North Carolina; his parents’ names and occupations are unknown. He graduated in 1913 from Virginia Union University in Richmond, a school that taught its students to think of themselves as men, not as black men or as former slaves. Migrating to the North, where he lived for the remainder of his life, Owen enrolled in Columbia University and the New York School of Philanthropy, receiving one of the National Urban League’s first social work fellowships. In 1915 he met another southern transplant, ...

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Ruby, George T. (1841–31 October 1882), African-American politician and newspaperman, was born in New York City, the son of Ebenezer Ruby, a clergyman and farmer, and Jemima (maiden name unknown). The family moved to the vicinity of Portland, Maine, in 1851. Little is known about Ruby’s early life, although he claimed, and his later career supported his contention, to have received a liberal education....

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Ralph Waldo Tyler. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Tyler, Ralph Waldo (18 March 1860?–02 June 1921), African-American newspaperman and federal officeholder, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of James S. Tyler, a shopkeeper active in Republican party politics, and Maria McAfee. Tyler attended public schools in Columbus and studied for one year in Baldwin, Missouri. As a teenager and young man he worked as a coal shoveler, a teacher, a clerk for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and a letter carrier. In 1888 he began a seventeen-year association with the ...

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Zollicoffer, Felix Kirk (19 May 1812–19 January 1862), journalist and politician, was born in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of John Jacob Zollicoffer, a planter, and Martha Kirk. The boy grew up in comfortable circumstances but under firm parental discipline. He attended local schools and in 1833 had a term of classical studies at Jackson College, Columbia, Tennessee. An avid reader, he was largely self-taught....