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Casal, Lourdes (5 Apr. 1938–1 Feb. 1981), poet, literary critic, social psychologist, and political activist, was born Lourdes Emilia Irene de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of two professional parents, Pedro Casal, a doctor in medicine and a dentist, and Emilia Valdés, an elementary school teacher. Of mixed heritage, Casal’s family included black, white, and Chinese ancestry....

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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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Gonzales, Rodolfo “Corky” (18 June 1928–12 Apr. 2005), boxer, activist, and poet, was born in Denver, Colorado, to Federico and Indalesia Gonzales, the youngest of eight children. Gonzales’s nickname came from his uncle, who would chide the young Rodolfo for “always popping off like a cork” every time the boy was involved in an altercation. The name stuck and would come to reflect Gonzales’s life as a social activist....

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825–20 February 1911), political activist and author, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of free parents. She was orphaned at an early age and raised by an aunt. She attended a school for free blacks, which was run by her uncle, the Reverend William Watkins. Her formal education ended at age thirteen. Harper became a nursemaid and found additional employment as a seamstress, needlecraft teacher, and traveling abolitionist lecturer. She also lectured in support of woman suffrage. She later became a schoolteacher in Ohio and Pennsylvania....

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Lebron, Lolita (19 November 1919–01 August 2010), Puerto Rican nationalist, political activist, and poet, was born Dolores Lebrón Soto in Lares, Puerto Rico, one of five children of Gonzalo Lebrón Bernal and Rafaela Soto Luciano. Gonzalo Lebrón worked as a coffee plantation foreman. He and his family were ...

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Paley, Grace (11 Dec. 1922–22 Aug. 2007), short story writer, poet, antiwar activist, and feminist, was born Grace Goodside in the Bronx, the third child of Isaac Goodside and Manya Ridnyik. Grace was the baby of the family; her sister Jeanne and brother Victor were respectively fourteen and sixteen years older. Her parents, both Socialist activists, anglicized their name from Gutseit when they emigrated from the Ukraine in ...

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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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Viereck, George Sylvester (31 December 1884–18 March 1962), poet, writer, and propagandist, was born in Munich, Germany, the son of Louis Viereck, a Social Democratic politician, and Laura Viereck. His parents were first cousins. Late in 1896 Viereck moved to New York City, where his father was a journalist. In 1906 he received his B.A. from the College of the City of New York. In September 1915 Viereck married Margaret “Gretchen” Edith Hein; they had two children, one of whom—Peter Viereck—also became a famous poet....