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Douglas, Emily Taft (10 April 1899–28 January 1994), congresswoman and social activist, was born Emily Taft in Chicago, the daughter of Lorado Taft, a prominent American sculptor and a professor at the University of Chicago, and Ada Bartlett Taft. Her father was a distant cousin of President ...

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Lowenstein, Allard Kenneth (16 January 1929–14 March 1980), lawyer, congressman, and political agitator, was born Allard Augustus Lowenstein in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Gabriel Abraham Lowenstein, a medical school teacher who turned restaurateur, and Augusta Goldberg. Lowenstein later chose Kenneth to replace Augustus, his given middle name. Only a year old when his mother died he was not told at first that his stepmother was not his birth mother, which he discovered when he was thirteen. In 1945 Lowenstein graduated from Horace Mann School in New York City and four years later graduated from the University of North Carolina. At North Carolina he succeeded in ending the practice of pairing Jewish students as roommates and gained them access to campus fraternities, and when the student state legislature met in Chapel Hill in December 1945 he got a resolution passed opening it up to black participation. Becoming a powerful personality on campus, Lowenstein found a hero and friend in the school’s president, ...

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Mercer, Charles Fenton (16 June 1778–04 May 1858), U.S. congressman and colonizationist, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of James Mercer, a jurist and planter, and Eleanor Dick. Fenton was raised at “Marlborough,” his grandfather’s extensive plantation on the Rappahannock River. Slaves performed all work on the estate, which reinforced the child’s perception that he held a privileged position in society. Although Mercer later came to loathe slavery in the abstract, a small number of slaves worked his farm and acted as servants throughout his long life....

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Owen, Robert Dale (09 November 1801–24 June 1877), reformer and congressman, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Robert Owen, an industrialist and social reformer, and Ann Caroline Dale. Owen’s early life was spent in New Lanark, Scotland, where his father managed the textile mills of his maternal grandfather. At the age of thirteen he toured factories that employed child laborers and from eighteen to twenty-two attended a progressive school in Hofwyl, Switzerland. These experiences stirred in him an early interest in social reform and confirmed for him his father’s conviction that education offered the potential for overcoming social divisions that were based on class, economic status, and gender. He returned to New Lanark to help teach workers’ children and to write ...