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Campbell, Tunis Gulic (01 April 1812–04 December 1891), abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined with ...

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Salmon P. Chase. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1747).

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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...

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Cassius Marcellus Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109862).

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (17 April 1823–11 July 1915), businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager, Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men’s literary society, and, like his brother ...

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Grinnell, Josiah Bushnell (22 December 1821–31 March 1891), preacher, reformer, and politician, was born in New Haven, Vermont, the son of Myron Grinnell, a farmer and schoolteacher, and Catherine Hastings. Grinnell’s father died in 1831. Grinnell’s guardian pressured him to take up farming, but instead he taught primary school to pay for his own additional education. In 1842 he enrolled at Oneida Institute, New York, where the instructors were radical abolitionists. It was, Grinnell believed, “the home of freedom” (Grinnell, p. 30). In the summer and fall of 1844 he distributed religious materials in Wisconsin for the American Tract Society and was a correspondent for ...

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Charles Sumner. Lithograph by Henry Schile, 1874. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-89586).

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Sumner, Charles (06 January 1811–11 March 1874), politician and reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Pinckney Sumner, a lawyer and sheriff, and Relief Jacob. Raised in a middle-class family committed to humanitarian reform, at age fifteen Sumner entered Harvard, where he excelled in literature and history. Following graduation in 1830, he enrolled in the Harvard Law School, revealing his love of learning and study more than a desire to become a practicing attorney. In fact, he regarded a lawyer “as one of the veriest wretches in the world.”...