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A. G. Gaston, 8 September 1963. Outside of his home in Birmingham, Ala., the same day it was torched in protest of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Parks, Henry Green, Jr. (29 September 1916–24 April 1989), business executive, entrepreneur, and civic leader, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Henry Green Parks, Sr. His mother’s name is unknown, but both of his parents are known to have worked as domestic laborers. Seeking a better life, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when Parks was six months old. There Parks’s father found work as a hotel bartender and later as a wine steward in a private club. Because both of Parks’s parents worked long hours, the family did not spend a lot of time together. Henry spent most of his time with his paternal grandmother, whom he described as “very religious.” The example that his father set for him was one of diligence, perseverance, risk-taking, and making hard choices. All of these attributes were evident in Parks’s life....

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Seligman, Joseph (22 November 1819–25 April 1880), merchant, investment banker, and New York civic leader, was born in Baiersdorf, Bavaria, the son of David Seligman and Fanny Steinhardt. Joseph, who excelled in literature and in the classics, graduated from the Erlangen Gymnasium and started to study medicine. Resentful of the economic and sociopolitical restrictions against Jews in the Germanies, he decided against a career in medicine and against one in the wool-weaving business of his father and in 1837 made the long journey on the ship ...