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Bell, James Madison (03 April 1826–1902), abolitionist, poet, and lecturer, was born in Gallipolis, Ohio. His parents’ identities are unknown. At age sixteen, in 1842, he moved to Cincinnati. While there, in 1848, he married Louisiana Sanderlin (or Sanderline), with whom he had several children, and also learned the plastering trade from his brother-in-law George Knight. Bell worked as a plasterer during the day and attended Cincinnati High School for Colored People at night. Founded in 1844 by Reverend Hiram S. Gilmore, the school had a connection to Oberlin College and was said to have given impetus to the sentiment found in ...

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Realf, Richard (14 June 1834–28 October 1878), Abolitionist and poet, was born in Framfield, Sussex County, England, the son of Richard Realf, a policeman, and Martha Highland. He was the fifth of eight children in what he described as a “very poor” family of “honest peasant ancestry,” and he “went to work in the fields at a very tender age.” His only formal education, a year or two at a village school beginning at the age of nine, was made possible through the assistance of a family friend. He began writing poetry at fifteen and two years later left home for Brighton, where he met Mrs. Parnell Stafford, a woman of considerable literary tastes and connections who “manifested a great liking for me,” Realf recalled; she employed him as her secretary, exposed him to Latin, French, and the classics, and introduced him to such luminaries as Lady Byron, the widow of the famous poet, and ...

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Whitfield, James Monroe (10 April 1822–23 April 1871), African-American poet, abolitionist, and emigrationist, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of parents whose names are unknown. Little else is known of his family except that he had a sister, a wife, two sons, and a daughter....

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Whittier, John Greenleaf (17 December 1807–07 September 1892), poet, abolitionist, and journalist, was born on his family’s homestead near Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of devout Quakers John Whittier and Abigail Hussey, farmers. Of slender build, Whittier was unsuited to heavy farm work, but the family’s impoverished circumstances required it. Over the years the hard work permanently impaired his health, and he was prone to chronic severe headaches and other ailments throughout his life. Although he received only a limited formal education, from stories told by members of his household he absorbed the local folklore and history of the Essex County region that would later inform his poetry. A zealous reader, he perused the limited family library, studying the Bible, various biographies, ...