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Johnson, Eunice W. (4 Apr. 1916–3 Jan. 2010), fashion show producer and director, publishing company executive, and philanthropist, was born Eunice Walker, one of five children to Nathaniel Walker and Ethel McAlpine Walker in Selma, Alabama. Her father was a prominent physician in Selma, while her mother was a high school principal, who additionally taught art and education courses at Selma University, a private historically African American Bible college. Her maternal grandfather, Rev. Dr. William H. McAlpine, was the university’s co-founder and its second president, as well as the first president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (...

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Mumford, Lewis (09 October 1895–26 January 1990), urban historian and cultural critic, was born in Flushing, New York, the illegitimate son of Lewis Charles Mack, a Jewish businessman from New Jersey, and Elvina Conradina Baron Mumford, a German Protestant. Mumford never knew his father, learning his identity only in 1942. He grew up in a lower middle-class environment in Manhattan and in 1912 graduated from Stuyvesant High School, where he was chiefly interested in science and technology. New York’s museums and libraries contributed much to his education. Beginning in 1912 Mumford studied at City College, Columbia University, New York University, and the New School for Social Research. He earned enough credits for a degree but never graduated. Between 1914 and 1918 Mumford suffered from what he then regarded as incipient tuberculosis but which he later believed to have been a thyroid problem. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1919. Having begun his career as a freelance writer, Mumford joined the staff of ...

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Norton, Charles Eliot (16 November 1827–21 October 1908), scholar and critic, was born at “Shady Hill,” his family’s estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Andrews Norton, biblical scholar and man of letters, and Catharine Eliot, daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant. Charles grew up in an academic household frequented by ...

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Jacob A. Riis Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113814).

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Riis, Jacob August (03 May 1849–26 May 1914), journalist and social reformer, was born in Ribe, Denmark, the son of Niels Edward Riis, a Latin teacher, and Carolina Lundholm. After studying in his father’s school, Riis was apprenticed for four years to a carpenter in Copenhagen. Unable to find steady employment and spurned by Elisabeth Gortz, the young woman who in 1876 would marry him, Riis emigrated in 1870 to the United States. For the rest of his life he regularly compared the sociability and the close relationships of life in Ribe with the impersonality and harsh precariousness of American urban life....

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Wallace, Lila Bell Acheson (25 December 1889–08 May 1984), cofounder and co-owner of the Reader's Digest and philanthropist, cofounder and co-owner of the Reader’s Digest and philanthropist, was born in Virden, Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of T. Davis Acheson and Mary E. Huston. After Lila’s father completed his theological studies and became a Presbyterian minister, the family moved to the United States and became U.S. citizens. They lived in various small towns in the Midwest and West....