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Bacon, Leonard (26 May 1887–01 January 1954), poet, literary critic, and teacher, was born in Solvay, New York, the son of Nathaniel Terry Bacon, a chemical engineer, and Helen Hazard. Bacon led a sheltered life at his mother’s familial estate in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. His parents enrolled him in 1898 in St. George’s at Newport, where he spent seven years preparing to matriculate at Yale, following in the footsteps not only of his father but of some twenty other relatives. Bacon gives candid insight into his college years, remembering colleagues and professors in an amiable light though remarking that “with the exception of English and German, I think we were not particularly well taught, or rather that the conception of teaching was poor” ( ...

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Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston (29 March 1831–10 March 1919), author and teacher, was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Henry Huddleston and Mary Singleton. When Barr was young, her family moved often, according to her father’s assignment as a Methodist minister. Although her early education was frequently interrupted by relocations, returns on the Reverend Huddleston’s investments allowed Barr to attend the best private schools wherever the church sent the family. Furthermore, reading sophisticated books and treatises to her father reinforced her formal schooling and contributed to an excellent early education. This childhood security ended abruptly in 1847, when a family friend absconded to Australia with the Reverend Huddleston’s fortune, and Barr had to earn her own living as a “second teacher” at a school in Downham Market. Soon the family’s monetary situation improved and enabled Barr, in 1849, to attend Normal School in Glasgow to learn the Stowe teaching method, with its emphasis on moral training, lifelong learning, and understanding rather than rote learning. Marriage, in 1850, to Robert Barr, a prosperous young Scottish wool merchant, ended her teacher-training program. Nevertheless, teaching, on a formal or informal basis, was an important part of Barr’s life for the next twenty years....

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Bates, Katharine Lee (12 August 1859–28 March 1929), educator and writer, was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Bates, a Congregational minister, and Cornelia Frances Lee, a former schoolteacher. When Bates was less than a month old, her father died, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. They remained in Falmouth for a dozen years, then moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, which would be Bates’s home and professional base for the rest of her life. Although the family was unusually education-minded—Bates’s paternal grandfather had been president of Middlebury College, and her mother had graduated from Mount Holyoke Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College)—poverty prevented her older brothers from continuing their schooling. Because they contributed to the family’s income, however, Bates was able to complete high school and to enroll in the newly established Wellesley College, from which she received her B.A. in 1880....

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Beach, Joseph Warren (14 January 1880–13 August 1957), educator, literary critic, and poet, was born in Gloversville, New York, the son of Eugene Beach, a physician, and Sarah Jessup Warren. After graduating from a public high school there, he attended the University of Minnesota, where his uncle Cyrus Northrop was president. He earned his B.A. in English in 1900 and moved on to Harvard University, where he received his M.A. in 1902 and his Ph.D. in 1907, both in English. At Harvard Beach studied under philosopher ...

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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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Campbell, James Edwin (28 September 1867–26 January 1896), African-American poet and educator, was born in Pomeroy, Ohio, the son of James Campbell, a laborer, and Lethia Stark. He graduated from the Pomeroy Academy, having completed the course in Latin and German, in 1884. Entering teaching, Campbell spent the next two years in schools near Gallipolis, Ohio, and also in Rutland, Ohio, where he was offered a position as principal of the white schools, an offer he declined....

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Clifton, Lucille (27 June 1936–13 February 2010), (27 June 1936–13 Feb. 2010), poet, author of children’s books, memoirist, and college professor, was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York. Her parents, Thelma Moore Sayles and Samuel Louis Sayles, moved north during the Great Migration, Thelma coming from Georgia and Samuel from Virginia. Strong-willed and proud of his family roots going back to Dahomey, Africa, Samuel Sayles was a steelworker and widower who had a daughter by his first wife. In 1937, a year after Lucille’s birth, he fathered a third daughter by a neighbor woman. He and Thelma Sayles, a laborer turned homemaker, then had a son in 1938. The family moved to nearby Buffalo when Lucille was a young child. Although neither parent had attended school for more than a few years, both were avid readers. Her father was a storyteller, and Thelma Sayles enjoyed writing poems. Their daughter frequently told the story of sharing one of her early free-verse poems with her mother, who responded, “Baby, that ain’t no poem!,” and proceeded to show her daughter how to write rhymed, metrical verse....

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Coffin, Robert Peter Tristram (18 March 1892–20 January 1955), poet and teacher, was born in Brunswick, Maine, the son of James William Coffin, a farmer, and Alice Mary Coombs. Robert spent his early years living on various islands off the coast of Maine, where often the nearest neighbor was two or more miles away. While his father created working farms out of this wilderness, the ten Coffin children learned far more than a formal education under the tutelage of their mother; they were taught to adapt the rugged surroundings to their needs, whether in collecting berries and fish for preserves or steaming oak strips over a boiling kettle to bend boat ribs. These early lessons instilled in Coffin a love of Maine and its wilderness that would later reemerge, meshed with a strong New England Puritanism, as the foundation of much of his literary work....

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Conkling, Grace Walcott Hazard (07 February 1878–15 November 1958), poet and English professor, was born in New York City, the daughter of Christopher Grant, a Presbyterian minister, and Frances Post Hazard. In 1899 Conkling graduated with a bachelor of letters degree from Smith College, where she returned to teach English in 1914. First, she taught English, Latin, and Greek at Graham School in New York for a year (1901–1902) and then traveled to Europe, where she studied music at the University of Heidelberg in 1902–1903 and languages in Paris during 1903–1904. In 1905 she married Roscoe Platt Conkling, with whom she had two children. The Conklings lived for nearly five years in Mexico. Their daughter Hilda became known as a child prodigy after her mother had two collections of her poetry published, ...

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Creeley, Robert White (21 May 1926–30 March 2005), poet and prose writer, was born Robert White Creeley in Arlington, Massachusetts, to Dr. Oscar Slade Creeley and Genevieve Jules Creeley. His childhood was marked by two tragedies, the loss of an eye in an accident and the death of his father, both by age five. His father had been a successful physician and ran a clinic, but his death at the onset of the Great Depression left Robert and his sister, Helen, to be raised in greatly reduced circumstances by their mother, who worked as a nurse, and other female relatives. In later life Creeley attributed an uncertainty about “manliness” to the dearth of male role models in his household; and to his family’s resolute puritanism he attributed both an early confusion toward sexuality and a sense of moral responsibility. As a teenager he attended Holderness School, a prep school in New Hampshire, and then entered Harvard in 1943. After a difficult year as a student he left to join the American Field Service as an ambulance driver in India and Southeast Asia, returning to Harvard following the war but leaving just short of a degree....

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Da Ponte, Lorenzo (10 March 1749–17 August 1838), poet, librettist, and libertine, was born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda (near Venice), Italy, the son of Geremia Conegliano, a tanner and dealer in leather, and Rachele Pincherle. Following the death of his wife in about 1754, Geremia Conegliano wished to marry a Roman Catholic woman and so, together with his three living sons, converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1763. As was customary at the time, the new converts took the surname of the current bishop of Ceneda, Monsignor Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Emanuele, the eldest son, took the prelate’s first name. His conversion and the bishop’s patronage enabled young Lorenzo to receive an excellent education, especially in the Latin and Italian languages, at the episcopal seminary in Ceneda and later at the seminary in the nearby town of Portugruaro. He progressed so rapidly that he became an instructor at the latter institution in 1770, professor of languages in 1771, and vice rector in 1772. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1773, a career decision he was soon to regret....

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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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Davies, Samuel (03 November 1723–04 February 1761), Presbyterian minister, author, and educator, was born in the Welsh Tract in Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, the son of David Davies (whose family name appears also as David and Davis) and Martha Thomas, farmers. After his mother shifted her allegiance from the Baptists to the Presbyterians, Davies enrolled at the classical academy conducted by the Reverend Samuel Blair at Fagg’s Manor, Pennsylvania. Blair, one of America’s best teachers of the mid-eighteenth century, trained Davies thoroughly in the classics, initiated him into the experiential piety of revivalistic Calvinism, and prepared him for the Presbyterian ministry. Shortly after Davies finished his study with Blair, he was licensed by the New Side (or revivalistic) Presbytery of New Castle on 30 July 1746. Later that year he married Sarah Kirkpatrick, who died giving birth on 15 September 1747....

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Dawson, William (1704–20 July 1752), educator and poet, was born in Aspatia, Cumberland County, England, the son of William Dawson. His mother’s name is not recorded. Although little is known about his parentage and circumstances, his family was comfortable enough to send him at age fifteen to Queen’s College, Oxford. He received his B.A. in 1725 and his M.A. in 1728. After taking holy orders in 1729, Dawson emigrated to Williamsburg, perhaps at the instigation of William Stith, a Virginian from a wealthy and powerful family who was also a student at Queen’s College and whose sister, Mary Randolph Stith, Dawson married sometime before 1734. Dawson served first as tutor, then as professor of moral philosophy at the College of William and Mary. Personable, talented, and well connected, Dawson won the approbation and support of ...

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Engle, Paul (12 Oct. 1908–22 March 1991), poet, literary critic, and educator, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Thomas Allen, a horse trader, and Evelyn (Reinheimer) Engle. He was educated at local schools, helped his father in the livery stable, and worked as a newsboy selling papers on the streets, a carrier boy, a chauffeur, a gardener, and, for many years, a drugstore clerk. He began writing poetry at Washington High School and was elected class poet. At Coe College in Cedar Rapids, he studied English literature, American history, and languages, and was awarded a B.A. in ...

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Jessie Redmon Fauset. Oil on canvas, 1945, by Laura Wheeler Waring. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation.

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Fauset, Jessie Redmon (27 April 1882–30 April 1961), writer, editor, and teacher, was born outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Camden County, New Jersey, the daughter of Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Annie Seamon. Fauset was probably the first black woman at Cornell University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in classical and modern languages in 1905. She taught briefly in Baltimore before accepting a job teaching French and Latin at the famed all-black M Street (later Dunbar) High School in Washington, D.C. While teaching, Fauset completed an M.A. in French at the University of Pennsylvania (1919)....

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Allen Ginsberg, late 1960s. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-119239).

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Ginsberg, Allen (03 June 1926–06 April 1997), poet, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the younger son of Louis Ginsberg, a high school English teacher and and Naomi Levy Ginsberg. Ginsberg grew up with his older brother Eugene in a household shadowed by his mother's mental illness; she suffered from recurrent epileptic seizures and paranoia. An active member of the Communist Party–USA, Naomi Ginsberg took her sons to meetings of the radical left dedicated to the cause of international Communism during the Great Depression of the 1930s....

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Grimké, Angelina Weld (27 February 1880–10 June 1958), poet and teacher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Archibald Henry Grimké, an attorney and diplomat, and Sarah E. Stanley. Grimké’s parents separated when she was very young, and she, an only child, was raised by her father. Her mother’s absence undoubtedly contributed to Grimké’s reverential treatment of maternal themes in her poetry, short stories, and especially her only published play, ...