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Barnes, Harry Elmer (15 June 1889–25 August 1968), historian and sociologist, was born on a farm near Auburn, New York, the son of William Henry Barnes, Jr., a farmer, teacher, and later a prison guard, and Lulu C. Short. After graduating from high school in 1906, Barnes spent several years as a construction laborer and principal of a two-room village school in Montezuma, a small canal town in central New York. From 1909 to 1913 he attended Syracuse University, from which he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history. From 1913 to 1915 Barnes was instructor in sociology and economics at Syracuse, which awarded him an M.A. for work on the development of social philosophy from Plato to Comte. From 1915 to 1917 he was a graduate student at Columbia University, during which time he held a fellowship that allowed him to research at Harrow University from fall 1916 through early spring 1917, and in the subsequent academic year he taught at Columbia and Barnard. In 1918 he received a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University; his dissertation focused on the history of the New Jersey prison system. In 1916 he married Grace Stone; they had one child. After divorcing Stone eleven years later, he married Jean Hutchison Newman in 1935....

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W. E. B. Du Bois Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1946. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42528).

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Du Bois, W. E. B. (23 February 1868–27 August 1963), African-American activist, historian, and sociologist, was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Mary Silvina Burghardt, a domestic worker, and Alfred Du Bois, a barber and itinerant laborer. In later life Du Bois made a close study of his family origins, weaving them rhetorically and conceptually—if not always accurately—into almost everything he wrote. Born in Haiti and descended from Bahamian mulatto slaves, Alfred Du Bois enlisted during the Civil War as a private in a New York regiment of the Union army but appears to have deserted shortly afterward. He also deserted the family less than two years after his son’s birth, leaving him to be reared by his mother and the extended Burghardt kin. Long resident in New England, the Burghardts descended from a freedman of Dutch slave origin who had fought briefly in the American Revolution. Under the care of his mother and her relatives, young Will Du Bois spent his entire childhood in that small western Massachusetts town, where probably fewer than two-score of the 4,000 inhabitants were African American. He received a classical, college preparatory education in Great Barrington’s racially integrated high school, from whence, in June 1884, he became the first African-American graduate. A precocious youth, Du Bois not only excelled in his high school studies but contributed numerous articles to two regional newspapers, the Springfield ...

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Fox, Dixon Ryan (07 December 1887–30 January 1945), historian and college president, was born in Potsdam, New York, the son of James Sylvester Fox, a seller of Vermont marble, and Julia Anna Dixon. He was graduated from Potsdam Normal School in 1907 and received an A.B. degree from Columbia University in 1911. He became teacher and principal at the Union District School in Thornwood, New York, while also enrolled in the master’s program at Columbia and tutoring in the Department of History....

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Lerner, Max (20 December 1902–05 June 1992), scholar, teacher, and newspaper columnist, was born Maxwell Alan Lerner near Minsk, Russia, the son of Benjamin Lerner, an itinerant scholar, and Bessie Podel. His father emigrated to the United States the next year, and Max followed with his mother and siblings in 1907. After brief jobs in New York and New Jersey, his father moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1913 and entered the dairying business....

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Lindeman, Eduard Christian (09 May 1885–13 April 1953), educator and writer, was born in St. Clair, Michigan, the son of Frederick Lindeman, a laborer, and Frederecka Johanna Von Piper. Lindeman’s parents died when he was young, and he worked as a manual laborer until the age of twenty-two, when he entered Michigan Agricultural College. He graduated in 1911, and the next year he married Hazel Charlotte Taft, the daughter of one of his professors; they had four daughters....

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Moore, Clement Clarke (15 July 1779–10 July 1863), scholar and poet, was born in New York City, the son of Benjamin Moore, a clergyman, and Charity Clarke. Moore graduated from Columbia in 1798 as class valedictorian.

Although Moore had prepared for the ministry, he was never ordained, preferring the life of the scholar, somewhat in the style of the traditional polemical divine, of anti-Jeffersonian bent. In 1804 he published ...

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Robinson, James Harvey (29 June 1863–16 February 1936), historian and educator, was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of James Harvey Robinson, a banker, and Latricia Maria Drake. Enjoying a comfortable youth, he was educated in the public schools of Bloomington and the Illinois State Normal School. Robinson early displayed a strong fascination with natural science, especially biology and astronomy. He interrupted his studies in 1882 to spend a year traveling through Europe. Upon his return home, Robinson worked in the family bank, but in 1884 he determined to follow his younger brother Benjamin to Harvard University. There he received his A.B. in 1887 after only three years of study and then earned his A.M. in 1888. While at Harvard, he came under the influence of ...

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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Wesley, Dorothy Porter (25 May 1905–17 December 1995), librarian and African-American historiographer, was born Dorothy Louise Burnett in Warrenton, Virginia, the daughter of Hayes J. Burnett, a physician, and Bertha (Ball) Burnett, a tennis player who was instrumental in the establishment of the New Jersey Tennis Association. She grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Montclair, New Jersey, where she attended racially mixed public schools. Upon completing high school she enrolled at Miner Normal School (later Miner Teachers College, which became part of the University of the District of Columbia) in 1923. While there a developing love of books led her away from a teaching career toward her ultimate life's work, beginning with a yearlong stint filling in for a librarian on sick leave at Miner in 1925. Realizing that she needed a college degree, she enrolled at nearby Howard University and earned a B.A. in 1928....