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Bailey, Gamaliel (03 December 1807–05 June 1859), antislavery journalist and political organizer, was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, the son of Gamaliel Bailey, Sr., a silversmith and Methodist minister, and Sarah Page. As the son of a minister, Bailey enjoyed educational advantages and an early association with evangelical Christianity. Following the relocation of his family to Philadelphia in 1816, Bailey joined with several other adolescents in forming a literary debating society, which stimulated his lifelong interest in literature. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1828, but medicine was never his main interest, and he ceased to practice it by the early 1840s....

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Bell, Philip Alexander (1808–24 April 1889), abolitionist and journalist, was born in New York City (of unknown parents) and received his education there at the African Free School. He married Rebecca Elizabeth Fenwick, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, in 1832 (number of children unknown). Bell established his reputation as a civic leader in the early 1830s by participating in a wide range of activities in New York City’s African-American community. He was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, served as New York’s first subscription agent for ...

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Henry Walton Bibb. Lithograph on paper, 1847, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Bibb, Henry Walton (10 May 1815–1854), author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South; later, as a free man, his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States. But such early instability also made the young Bibb both self-sufficient and resourceful, two characteristics that were useful against the day-to-day assault of slavery: “The only weapon of self defense that I could use successfully,” he wrote, “was that of deception.”...

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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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Everett, Robert (02 January 1791–25 February 1875), Congregational minister, publisher, and reformer, was born in Gronant, North Wales, the son of Lewis Everett and Jane Parry. The manager of a lead mine, Lewis Everett was also a Congregational lay preacher who raised his eleven children in a deeply religious atmosphere. Having decided at eighteen to enter the ministry, Robert studied theology at the Independent College at Wrexham and in 1815 was ordained pastor of the Swan Lane Welsh Congregational Church at Denbigh....

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William Lloyd Garrison. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-27876).

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Garrison, William Lloyd (10 December 1805–24 May 1879), editor, abolitionist leader, and religious reformer, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Abijah Garrison, a seaman, and Frances “Fanny” Lloyd, a housekeeper. The poverty, instability, and religiosity of Garrison’s childhood exerted a profound, lifelong influence on him, for his career was always shaped by his strong needs for public recognition, for self-vindication, and for expressing his spiritual zeal....

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Gay, Sydney Howard (22 May 1814–25 June 1888), journalist and abolitionist, was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, the son of Ebenezer Gay, a politician and banker, and Mary Alleyne Otis. He was taught respect for his New England heritage and had a sense of civic duty that he found both burdensome and inspiring in later life. Gay’s father—a prominent local figure who had great expectations of his children—announced to Gay while Gay was still young that he would enter the legal profession and set him on an appropriate course of study at Hingham’s Derby Academy....

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Goodell, William (25 October 1792–14 February 1878), religious reformer, was born in Coventry, New York, the son of Frederick Goodell and Rhoda Guernsey. Goodell’s parents were Connecticut natives who became pioneer settlers in upper New York State. During his childhood Goodell suffered a “crippling disease” that kept him bedridden for several years; this confinement resulted in his cultivating a lifelong interest in religious reading and writing. After the death of his parents, Goodell went to live in Pomfret, Connecticut, with his paternal grandmother, a convert of evangelist ...

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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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Hamilton, Thomas (26 April 1823–29 May 1865), journalist and antislavery activist, was born in New York City, the son of William Hamilton, a carpenter and community leader who participated in the rising abolitionist and black convention movements of the early 1830s. His mother’s name and occupation are not known. Although young Thomas gained a rudimentary education in the city’s African Free Schools and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the primary influence on his career choice seems to have been growing up in the Hamilton household, where he was introduced to abolitionism and the reform press at an early age. A few months after his father’s death in 1836, he went to work as a carrier for the ...

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Haven, Gilbert (19 September 1821–03 January 1880), Methodist bishop, editor, and abolitionist, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of “Squire” Gilbert Haven, a bookkeeper and clerk, and Hannah Burrill. Young Gilbert attended local schools and then Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, for two terms in 1839. After he worked in Boston in clothing and carpet businesses, he did another term at Wilbraham to prepare for entering Wesleyan University in 1842....

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Hildreth, Richard (28 June 1807–11 July 1865), journalist, antislavery activist, philosopher, and historian, was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, the son of Hosea Hildreth, a Congregational (later Unitarian) minister and educator, and Sarah McLeod Hildreth. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. After graduating from Harvard in 1826, he spent a year teaching school in Concord, Massachusetts. This experience inspired his earliest historical writing, ...

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David Jenkins. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Jenkins, David (1811–05 September 1877), editor and abolitionist, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of William Jenkins. It is not known whether his father was a white slaveholder or a free black, and his mother’s name is unknown. Jenkins received a sound education at the hands of a private tutor hired by his father. In 1837 he took up residence in Columbus, Ohio, employing himself as a house painter and glazier. Jenkins’s business acumen led to real estate investment and capital accumulation. The 1850 census for Franklin County, Ohio, records that Jenkins owned real estate valued at $1,500. The census also shows that he was married to Lucy Ann (maiden name unknown), a native of Virginia, and that they had one child....

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Johnson, Oliver (27 December 1809–10 December 1889), reformer and journalist, was born in Peacham, Vermont, the son of Ziba Johnson and Sally Lincoln, farmers. After an elementary school education, Johnson apprenticed as a printer in the office of the Montpelier Vermont Watchman, edited by Ezekiel P. Walton....

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Leavitt, Joshua (08 September 1794–16 January 1873), reformer and newspaper editor, was born in Heath, Massachusetts, the son of Roger Leavitt, a businessman, and Chloe Maxwell. Joshua was raised in a Congregationalist and Federalist household. His father, the wealthiest resident of Heath, held numerous public offices and was active in various reform causes. Joshua attended Yale College between 1810 and 1814. He then taught school in Hartford until 1817, when he began to study law in Northampton, Massachusetts. From 1819 until 1823 Leavitt practiced law in Heath and in Putney, Vermont. In 1820 he married Sarah Williams; they had six children....