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Adams, John Quincy (04 May 1848–03 September 1922), newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return to Louisville, where he again engaged in teaching....

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Bailey, Gamaliel (03 December 1807–05 June 1859), antislavery journalist and political organizer, was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, the son of Gamaliel Bailey, Sr., a silversmith and Methodist minister, and Sarah Page. As the son of a minister, Bailey enjoyed educational advantages and an early association with evangelical Christianity. Following the relocation of his family to Philadelphia in 1816, Bailey joined with several other adolescents in forming a literary debating society, which stimulated his lifelong interest in literature. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1828, but medicine was never his main interest, and he ceased to practice it by the early 1840s....

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Edward W. Bok. In the background are, from left to right, Senators George H. Moses, James Reed, and T. H. Caraway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103937).

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Bradwell, Myra Colby (12 February 1831–14 February 1894), publisher and political activist, was born in Manchester, Vermont, the daughter of Eben Colby and Abigail Willey. She spent her childhood in Vermont and western New York, and when she was twelve, her family moved to Illinois. She attended local schools in Wisconsin and Illinois and became a schoolteacher. In 1852 she married ...

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Burnham, Louis Everett (29 September 1915–12 February 1960), journalist, activist, and radical, was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Charles Breechford Burnham, a building superintendent, and Louise St. Clair Williams Burnham, a hairdresser. His parents had emigrated from Barbados to the United States in search of a better livelihood, and they bought their own property in Harlem and began providing rooms for new Caribbean immigrants. Burnham attended New York City public schools and graduated from Townsend High School in 1932. In the fall of 1932 he enrolled in City College. He became actively involved in student political activities, serving as president of the Frederick Douglass Society and vice president of the student council. Affable, charismatic, and a powerful orator, he often spoke on campus about racial injustice, the threat of fascism to world peace, unemployment, and the plight of American youth. He graduated from City College in 1936....

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Copley, Ira Clifton (25 October 1864–02 November 1947), newspaper publisher, congressman, public utilities executive, and philanthropist, was born in Copley Township, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Ira Birdsall Copley and Ellen Madeline Whiting, farmers. When Copley was two he was struck with scarlet fever, which left him blind. When he was three, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he received treatment for his eyes. Even with the care of an eye specialist, his complete blindness lasted five years. With the move to Aurora, his father and his mother’s brother assumed ownership of the Aurora Illinois Gas Light Company, the beginning of a large utility company that Ira would one day manage....

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Crothers, Thomas Davison (21 September 1842–12 January 1918), pioneer physician in the medical treatment of inebriety, temperance advocate, and editor, was born in West Charlton, New York, the son of Robert Crothers and Electra Smith. Members of Crothers’s family had taught surgery and medicine at Edinburgh University since the eighteenth century, and, with this influence, after attending the Fort Edward Seminary, he enrolled in Albany Medical College in 1862. With the outbreak of the Civil War Crothers signed on as a medical cadet at the Ira Harris Military College. Awarded his M.D. in 1865, Crothers continued his studies at Long Island College Hospital until he began his medical practice in West Galway, New York, in 1866. Four years later Crothers left West Galway for Albany, where, at his alma mater, he became assistant to the chair of the practice of medicine, lecturer on hygiene, and instructor in physical diagnosis. In 1875 he married Sarah Walton; the couple had no children. He also took a new position in Binghamton, New York, home of the nation’s first hospital for inebriates, the New York State Inebriate Asylum. There Crothers received his formal introduction to the medical treatment of inebriety. In 1878 he established his own private inebriate asylum in Hartford, Connecticut, the Walnut Hill Asylum (known after 1880 as the Walnut Lodge Hospital)....

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Durham, John Stephens (18 July 1861–16 October 1919), diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. A mulatto, Durham studied in the Philadelphia public schools, graduating from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876....

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Sara Bard Field. Gelatin silver print, 1927, by Johan Hagemeyer. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Field, Sara Bard (01 September 1882–15 June 1974), suffragist, social reformer, and poet, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of George Bard Field, a purchasing agent for a wholesale food company, and Annie Jenkins. In an interview, Field recalled her father as a staunch Baptist whose “puritanism spread like a cloak over everybody, a dark cloak” (Fry, 1979). While in high school, Field attended classes at the University of Michigan with an older sister. She hoped to enroll after her high school graduation, but her father, afraid that further education would damage her faith, refused to support her through college. Field married Albert Ehrgott, an older Baptist minister and family friend, in 1900; they had two children....

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Griffith Browne, Mattie (01 January 1825?–25 May 1906), antislavery writer and women's suffrage activist, was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Griffith. Her father was a tavern-keeper and farmer. Various estimates have been made of her correct birth year, but no exact date has been established. Mattie and her older sister, Catherine, were orphaned in childhood, losing first their mother and then their father in 1830....

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Harrison, Hubert Henry (27 April 1883–17 December 1927), black intellectual and radical political activist, was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands), the son of William Adolphus Harrison and Cecilia Elizabeth Haines. Little is known of his father. His mother had at least three other children and, in 1889, married a laborer. Harrison received a primary education in St. Croix. In September 1900, after his mother died, he immigrated to New York City, where he worked low-paying jobs, attended evening high school, did some writing, editing, and lecturing, and read voraciously. In 1907 he obtained postal employment and moved to Harlem. The following year he taught at the White Rose Home, where he was deeply influenced by social worker Frances Reynolds Keyser, a future founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1909 he married Irene Louise Horton, with whom he had five children....

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Jackson, James Edward Jr., (29 Nov. 1914–1 Sept. 2007), communist, black freedom activist, and editor, was born to Clara Kersey Jackson and James E. Jackson, Sr., in Richmond, Virginia. His mother, one of the first women to graduate from Howard University, and father, Richmond’s only black pharmacist, raised Jackson and his sisters to be politically aware. Jackson, Sr. was well-regarded as a local leader, both for fighting segregation in the community and for his business success. Following his father’s influence, Jackson organized the first black troop in Virginia to be admitted to the Boy Scouts of America in ...

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Jones, Claudia (21 February 1915–25 December 1964), Communist, journalist, and feminist, was born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch in Trinidad, the daughter of Sybil Cumberbatch and Charles Bertram Cumberbatch. Jones's mother came from a family of landowners, while her father's family owned hotels. Claudia spent her first eight years in Trinidad while the colony experienced major political, social, and economic upheavals. In 1922 Claudia's parents migrated to New York, and she and her sisters arrived in February 1924. They came, Claudia explained three decades later in a letter to American Communist Party head ...

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Laidlaw, Harriet Burton (16 Dec. 1873–25 Jan. 1949), suffragist, essayist, and social reformer, was born Harriet Davenport Wright Burton in Albany, New York, the oldest of three children and only daughter of George Davidson Burton, a bank teller, and Alice Davenport Wright. After her father’s death in ...

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Anne Martin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112008).

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Martin, Anne Henrietta (30 September 1875–15 April 1951), suffragist and feminist essayist, was born in Empire City, Nevada, the daughter of William O’Hara Martin, a state senator, merchant, and Reno bank president, and Louise Stadtmuller. She attended Bishop Whitaker’s School for Girls in Reno, then the University of Nevada (1892–1894), where she received a B.A. in history. After a second B.A. in 1896 and an M.A. in history in 1897, both from Stanford University, she founded the history department at the University of Nevada and headed it until 1899. From 1899 to 1901 she continued her studies at Chase School of Art, Columbia University, and the Universities of Leipzig and London; she then lectured in art history at Nevada until 1903....

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McFarland, J. Horace (24 September 1859–02 October 1948), printer, civic reformer, and rosarian, was born John Horace McFarland in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, the son of George Fisher McFarland, a schoolteacher, and Adeline Dellicher Griesemer. Following the Civil War, the family moved to Harrisburg, where Horace’s father bought and operated the Riverside Nurseries, a large property along the Susquehanna River. When he was sixteen, McFarland started setting type for the ...

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).