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Lanier, Sidney (03 February 1842–07 September 1881), poet and musician, was born Sidney Clopton Lanier in Macon, Georgia, the son of Robert Sampson Lanier, a lawyer, and Mary Jane Anderson. Early in life, Lanier showed remarkable love and aptitude for music, but this talent was encouraged only as a social grace, for the southern genteel tradition looked with disfavor upon a man’s following the arts as a profession. After he graduated in 1860 from Oglethorpe University in Milledgeville, Georgia, his family assumed he would follow his father’s example and practice law. Lanier intended instead to follow a scholar’s life in Europe, but this dream was cut short by the Civil War. In 1861 he joined the Macon Volunteers, serving in the signal corps and then on a blockade runner until his capture; while imprisoned at a federal camp at Point Lookout, Maryland, he contracted the tuberculosis that eventually killed him....

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Scott-Heron, Gilbert (1 April 1949–27 May 2011), poet, songwriter, singer, and pianist, was born in Chicago, the son of Gilbert Saint Elmo Heron, a Jamaican-born soccer player, and Robert Jamison Scott, a librarian. (His mother Bobbie Scott was named Robert, after her father, despite the gender implications.) His parents’ relationship was contentious and soon disintegrated. His father returned to his own family in Detroit in ...