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Andrews, Eliza Frances (10 August 1840–21 January 1931), author and educator, was born at Haywood Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the daughter of Garnett Andrews, a judge and planter, and Annulet Ball. After attending the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington, Georgia, Andrews, often known as “Fanny,” was, in 1857, one of the first students to receive an A.B. degree at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia....

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Bonner, Marita Odette (16 June 1898–06 December 1971), educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, she applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school faculty adviser and was one of the few African-American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, she won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a B.A. in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930, when she married William Almy Occomy, a Brown graduate. The couple moved to Chicago, where they raised three children....

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Brown, Sterling Allen (01 May 1901–13 January 1989), professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He was graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and notably with ...

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Davidson, Donald Grady (18 August 1893–25 April 1968), author and teacher, was born in Campbellsville, Tennessee, the son of William Bluford Davidson, a teacher and principal, and Elma Wells. The family followed the father—a cultivated man with a special interest in classical languages and literatures—from one small Tennessee community to another as he directed and taught at various schools. Family ties were close in this region, and the younger Davidson’s mind was shaped not only by his scholarly father but also by his musically talented mother, his maternal grandmother—who lived with the family and told him tales of the Federal occupation of middle Tennessee—and a number of granduncles who were Confederate veterans. Davidson attended several excellent preparatory schools and in 1909 began studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. After one year there, however, he encountered financial difficulties, and left the university to work as a schoolteacher in Cedar Hill and Mooresville, Tennessee, until he had saved enough money to return to Vanderbilt in 1914. He continued to finance his education by teaching English and German at Wallace University School in Nashville even while taking classes. Studying under ...

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Gerould, Katharine Fullerton (06 February 1879–27 July 1944), educator and author, was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Orphaned in infancy, she was adopted by her uncle, Reverend Bradford Morton Fullerton, and his wife, Julia M. Bell Fullerton. She began her education at Miss Folsom’s School and received her B.A. (1900) and M.A. (1901) from Radcliffe College. She held a faculty position in English at Bryn Mawr until 1910....

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Grimké, Charlotte Forten (17 August 1837–23 July 1914), educator, diarist, and essayist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Mary Virginia Wood and Robert Bridges Forten, who were free blacks. Her father, a mathematician, orator, and reformer, was the son of wealthy sailmaker ...

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Herrick, Robert Welch (26 April 1868–23 December 1938), writer and university professor, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Augustus Herrick, an attorney, and Harriet Peabody Emery. Both parents came from long-settled New England families. After growing up in genteel near-poverty, he managed in 1885 to enroll in Harvard University with the help of his uncle ...

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Jordan, June Millicent (09 July 1936–14 June 2002), poet, essayist, professor, and activist, was born in New York City to Granville Ivanhoe Jordan and Mildred Fisher Jordan. Her Jamaican parents migrated to the United States during the interwar years, first settling in Harlem, where Jordan was born, and later moving to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. In the crucible of their immigrant striving—a rigorous itinerary of museums, planetariums, and symphonies; a precocious curriculum of ...

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Miller, Kelly (18 July 1863–29 December 1939), educator and essayist, was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of Kelly Miller, a free black who served in the Confederate army, and Elizabeth Roberts, a slave. The sixth of ten children, Miller received his early education in one of the local primary schools established during Reconstruction and later attended the Fairfield Institute in Winnsboro from 1878 to 1880. Awarded a scholarship to Howard University, he completed the Preparatory Department’s three-year curriculum in Latin, Greek, and mathematics in two years (1880–1882), then attended the College Department at Howard from 1882 to 1886....

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John F. X. O’Conor Courtesy of John D. Alexander.

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O’Conor, John F. X. (01 August 1852–31 January 1920), clergyman, writer, and educator, was born John Francis Xavier O’Conor in New York City, the son of Daniel O’Conor, a builder, and Jane Lake O’Conor. Educated in New York City, he excelled in philosophy and in 1872 won the medal for the natural sciences at St. Francis Xavier College. He graduated with a B.A. that year. On 9 October 1872 he entered the Society of Jesus at Sault au Récollet, Canada. He continued his literary studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Roehampton, England (1874–1876), and pursued philosophy in the Jesuit College at the University of Louvain, Belgium (1876–1879). He began his academic career teaching classical and modern rhetoric and oratory at Manresa, West Park, New York (1879–1881), classical and Anglo-American poetry at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1881–1883), and French at Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts (1883–1884). During his theological studies at Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Archbishop (later Cardinal) ...

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Plato, Ann (1820–?), writer and teacher, was probably born in Hartford, Connecticut. Her parentage and birth date are unknown, though it is likely that she was related to the Plato family prominent in Hartford's nineteenth-century black community. Little is known of her childhood; she was probably educated at home, at church, and in some of the schools sporadically set up by and for Hartford's African Americans in the 1830s. She was a member of the Talcott Street Congregational Church, and through church activities, she was exposed to the uplift thinking of the Reverend Amos Beeman, the Reverend Hosea Easton, the Hartford activist James Mars, and later the Reverend James Pennington. She would also have watched the Amistad case unfold....

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Tolson, Melvin Beaunorus (06 February 1900–29 August 1966), poet, teacher, and essayist, was born in Moberly, Missouri, the son of Alonzo Tolson, an itinerant Methodist minister, and Lera Ann Hurt, a seamstress. Some sources list his year of birth as 1898. Although his father’s occupation required frequent moves to various towns in Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas, young Tolson’s childhood was a happy one, relatively unscathed by the various forms of racial prejudice that many African Americans faced during the early twentieth century. After a brief stint at Fisk University following his graduation from high school in 1918, Tolson enrolled in 1919 at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and theology in 1923. In 1922 he married Ruth Southall, and together they raised four children. Tolson in 1931 entered a graduate program in comparative literature at Columbia University, though he was not overly concerned with the formal aspects of applying for the degree; it was not until 1940 that he was finally awarded the master of arts degree....