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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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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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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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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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Simmons, Roscoe Conkling Murray (20 June 1878–27 April 1951), orator, politician, and writer, was born in Greenview, Mississippi, the son of Emory Simmons, a principal of a black school in Hollandale, Mississippi, and Willie Murray. He grew up in Aberdeen, Mississippi, and worked for a time as Ohio senator ...