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Coughlin, Charles Edward (25 October 1891–27 October 1979), Catholic priest, radio personality, and political insurgent, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the son of Thomas Coughlin and Amelia Mahoney, devout Catholics of Irish descent. Thomas Coughlin was the sexton of the Catholic cathedral in Hamilton; Amelia attended mass daily and dreamed of seeing her only child enter the priesthood. Throughout his youth Charles was surrounded by the institutions of the church. His family lived on the cathedral grounds, and he attended local parish schools. At age twelve he entered St. Michael’s, a secondary school and college run by the Basilian order and intended to prepare young boys to enter the clergy. Coughlin remained at St. Michael’s through college and in 1911 entered St. Basil’s Seminary to begin formal training for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1916, at the age of twenty-three. After teaching at Basilian schools in Canada for seven years, Coughlin left the order in 1923 and moved to Michigan to become a parish priest. Three years later he was assigned to a new parish in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, where he spent the rest of his life. He named his church the Shrine of the Little Flower, for the recently canonized Ste. Thérèse....

Article

Russell, Clayton (1910–1981), minister and political activist, was born in Los Angeles, California. Primarily educated in Los Angeles area schools, Russell also studied theology in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the early 1930s at the nation’s International College. Russell later remarked that his experiences studying abroad profoundly influenced his thinking about the plight of fellow African Americans in the United States. Foremost among his overseas memories was a visit to prewar Germany, where the Los Angeles cleric witnessed firsthand the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) party and its racist ideology. The eventual Nazi political triumph in Germany made him keenly aware of what a German victory in the Second World War would mean for American blacks....

Article

Weil, Gertrude (11 Dec. 1879–30 May 1971), activist for women’s suffrage, social welfare, Zionism, and civil rights, was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Henry Weil and Mina Rosenthal. Weil’s father and grandparents were antebellum Jewish immigrants from rural Württemberg and Bavaria. Settling in a southern mill and market town, they rose from peddlers to prosperous storekeepers to prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Family wealth allowed Weil the autonomy to pursue a career of public service. Weil’s parents set examples of civic engagement, notably her mother who joined women emerging from domesticity and religious societies into civic organizations. After attending local public schools, the sixteen-year-old Weil was sent by her progressive parents to the coeducational Horace Mann School in New York. In ...