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Andrew, John Albion (31 May 1818–30 October 1867), reformer, antislavery advocate, and Civil War governor of Massachusetts, was born in Windham, Maine, the son of Jonathan Andrew, a farmer and general store owner, and Nancy Green Pierce, a schoolteacher. Educated at private academies and then at Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1837, Andrews learned early about the evils of slavery and the religious necessity to oppose it. One of his contemporaries at Bowdoin was ...

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Benezet, Anthony (31 January 1713–03 May 1784), abolitionist, educator, and reformer, was born in San Quentin, Picardy, France, to Jean Étienne Benezet and Judith de la Méjenelle, wealthy Huguenots. Because of increasing religious persecution, his family fled to Rotterdam in 1715, remaining there briefly before traveling to London where they spent the next sixteen years. It was here that Benezet may have attended a Quaker school and began his lifelong association with the Quakers. After emigrating with his family to Philadelphia in 1731, Benezet worked briefly as a merchant with his brothers and became a member of the Society of Friends. He married Joyce Marriott, a Quaker minister in 1736; neither of the couple’s two children survived to their first birthdays....

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Bird, Francis William (22 October 1809–23 May 1894), radical reformer and antislavery politician, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of George Bird, a paper mill superintendent, and Martha C. Newell. Bird graduated from Brown College in 1831. He took an active interest in the welfare of his hometown of East Walpole, Massachusetts, where he continued the family paper manufacturing business. Bird lost his first wife and infant daughter to illness after one year of marriage. He married Abby Frances Newell in 1843; they had at least two children....

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Bloss, William Clough (19 January 1795–18 April 1863), abolitionist and reformer, was born in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Bloss, a Connecticut farmer who served in the American Revolution, and Amy Wentworth Kennedy. Bloss obtained his education through the common schools prior to his family’s 1816 move to the town of Brighton, New York, on what was then the outskirts of Rochester. At some point between 1816 and 1823 Bloss taught briefly in Maryland and South Carolina where he acquired, he would later claim, his lifelong hatred for the institution of slavery. Returning to Rochester in 1823, he built a brick tavern on the edge of the Erie Canal and that same year married Mary Bangs Blossom, with whom he had six children....

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Burleigh, Charles Calistus (03 November 1810–13 June 1878), antislavery lecturer and reformer, was born in Plainfield, Connecticut, the son of Rinaldo Burleigh, a farmer and educator, and Lydia Bradford. Burleigh came from a family that was passionately committed to antislavery and other moral reforms. His father was the first president of the Windham County Antislavery Society, his sister taught at ...

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Chace, Elizabeth Buffum (09 December 1806–12 December 1899), antislavery activist and reformer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Arnold Buffum, the first president of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and Rebecca Gould. Elizabeth Buffum’s Quaker ancestry stretched back for many generations. Married in 1828 to a Quaker textile manufacturer, Samuel Buffington Chace of Fall River, Massachusetts, she gave birth to ten children during the years 1830 to 1852. The oldest five children died of scarlet fever and other diseases before the younger five were born....

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Chapman, Maria Weston (26 July 1806–12 July 1885), abolitionist and reformer, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of Warren Weston and Anne Bates. Maria Weston was educated in England, where she lived with the family of her uncle Joshua Bates. She returned to the United States in 1828 to become the principal of the newly founded ...

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Collins, John Anderson (1810–1879), abolitionist and social reformer, was born in Manchester, Vermont. Little is known of his early years. He attended Middlebury College, then left to enter Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Caught up in the enthusiasm of the early abolitionist movement, Collins left the seminary and became general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, conducting lecture tours in the late 1830s. He became a loyal lieutenant of abolitionist ...

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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Frederick Douglass Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-19288).

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Douglass, Frederick ( February 1818–20 February 1895), abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel ...

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Downing, George Thomas (30 December 1819–21 July 1903), abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father’s Oyster House was a gathering place for New York’s aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith’s school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists ...

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Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....

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Foster, Stephen Symonds (17 November 1809–08 September 1881), abolitionist and reformer, was born in Canterbury, New Hampshire, the son of Asa Foster and Sarah Morrill, farmers. Foster worked as a carpenter for a number of years and then in his early twenties decided to seek a career in the ministry. Entering Dartmouth College, he joined the lively reform movement on campus, developing an interest in abolitionism, serving a jail sentence for refusing to join the local militia, and helping to launch a successful drive to humanize New England’s prisons. He also began to question whether the church itself was living up to the highest standards of Christianity....

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Griffing, Josephine Sophia White (18 December 1814–18 February 1872), abolitionist, women's rights activist, and freedmen's aid reformer, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and freedmen’s aid reformer, was born in Hebron, Connecticut, the daughter of Joseph White and Sophia Waldo, farmers. Both parents were from prominent New England families. Though not much is known of Josephine’s childhood and education, she embarked on a life of public activism after her marriage in 1835 to Charles Stockman Spooner Griffing....

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Edward Everett Hale Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99518).

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Hale, Edward Everett (03 April 1822–10 June 1909), author, reformer, and Unitarian minister, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Hale, a journalist, and Sarah Preston Everett. His father was a nephew of revolutionary war hero Captain Nathan Hale, and his maternal uncle and namesake was the orator and statesman ...

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Malvin, John (1795–30 July 1880), abolitionist and political leader, was born in Dumfries, Prince William County, Virginia, the son of a slave father (name unknown) and a free Negro mother, Dalcus Malvin. By virtue of his mother’s status Malvin was born free. As a boy, he was apprenticed as a servant to a clerk of his father’s master; he later learned carpentry from his father. An elderly slave taught him to read, using the Bible as his primary text. Malvin became a Baptist preacher and later, after moving to Cincinnati, was licensed as a minister, although he never held a permanent position in a church....

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May, Samuel Joseph (12 September 1797–01 July 1871), Unitarian minister and radical reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph May, a merchant, and Dorothy Sewall. May graduated from Harvard College (1817) and Harvard Divinity School (1820) and filled pulpits in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In 1825 he married Lucretia Flagge Coffin, the daughter of a Boston merchant. Rearing their four children preoccupied his wife, but it also allowed her time to improve her French and learn Italian and promote the temperance cause....

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Remond, Charles Lenox (01 February 1810–22 December 1873), abolitionist and civil rights orator, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of John Remond and Nancy Lenox, prominent members of the African-American community of that town. His father, a native of Curaçao, was a successful hairdresser, caterer, and merchant. Charles attended Salem’s free African school for a time and was instructed by a private tutor in the Remond household. His parents exposed him to antislavery ideas, and abolitionists were frequent guests in their home. He crossed the paths of a number of fugitive slaves while growing up and by the age of seventeen considered himself an abolitionist. He had also developed considerable oratorical talent....