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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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Carleton, Will (21 October 1845–18 December 1912), poet, lecturer, and editor, was born William McKendree Carleton in Hudson, Michigan, the son of John Hancock Carleton, a pioneer farmer, and Celestia Elvira Smith. An earnest, sensitive lad with an early passion for reading, he began writing poetry in his diary in his early teens....

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Fine, Benjamin (01 September 1905–16 May 1975), educational author, editor, and lecturer and school administrator, was born in New York City but was raised on a farm in Attleboro, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Fine and Rebecca Goldin, farmers. From his early youth Fine was rigorously active and would remain so for the rest of his life. He walked miles to get the school bus (good for later story enhancement), milked the cows, and did the farm chores, thus confirming philosopher ...

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Waisbrooker, Lois (21 February 1826–03 October 1909), author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women's rights, and free love, author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women’s rights, and free love, was born Adeline Eliza Nichols in Catherine, New York, the daughter of Grandissen Nichols and Caroline Reed. Waisbrooker remembered her parents as “poor, uneducated, hard-working people,” her father supporting the family as a day laborer and her mother dying prematurely after bearing seven children. Her early education was meager as the family moved frequently among the rural districts of western New York. She married at a young age to a man named Fuller (first name unknown), and upon his death in the late 1840s she was left the sole support of their two small children. After an unsuccessful attempt to support them through domestic service, poverty and illness forced her to give up her children to other families. “Finally,” she recalled, “I added enough to the little store of education I received in childhood to enable me to meet the requirements of a country school” ( ...

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Warner, Charles Dudley (12 September 1829–20 October 1900), author and editor, was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, the son of Justus Warner and Sylvia Hitchcock, farmers. In 1837, three years after her husband died, Sylvia Warner took her two sons to a guardian in Charlemont, Massachusetts, and, in 1841, on to her brother in Cazenovia, New York. Warner attended classes at the Oneida Conference Seminary in Cazenovia, enrolled at Hamilton College, and graduated in 1851 with a B.A. While still a student he published articles in the ...