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Bellanca, August (14 March 1885–13 November 1969), trade union and political activist, was born in Sciacca, Sicily, Italy. His father was a farmer and a baker, but little else is known of his parents or his childhood in Sicily. Bellanca attended elementary school in Sciacca and went to work at age sixteen, when he was apprenticed to a tailor and a barber in Sciacca. Some time between 1900 and 1905, he immigrated to the United States and worked as a cigar maker in Tampa, Florida, and San Francisco, California, until he moved to the Northeast. Bellanca helped found the Brotherhood of Tailors, which became an important dissident group in the United Garment Workers of America (UGWA), a conservative affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Bellanca’s own immigrant background enabled him to become an organizing force among the garment workers, a group composed primarily of Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants who maintained their roots in ethnic communities and cultures....

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Drury, Victor S. (24 February 1825–21 January 1918), labor leader and political radical, was born in France. Little is known of his life before he participated in the overthrow of Louis-Philippe in 1848, except that he was a fresco painter. Drury was a delegate to the (First) International Working Men’s Association in 1864, where he witnessed debates between Karl Marx and anarchist followers of Auguste Blanqui and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. In 1867 Drury emigrated to New York City and organized French-speaking sections of the International. He contributed articles to the radical journals ...

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Dunn, Robert Williams (01 June 1895–22 January 1977), labor organizer, economic researcher, and political activist, was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the son of a lawyer. Little is known about his early life. He graduated from Yale University in 1918.

Throughout his career, Dunn perceived labor issues and the rights of workers and their unions as closely related to the right to free speech. From 1918 to 1920 he worked in New England for the Amalgamated Textile Workers Unions as organizer and researcher. In 1920, during the aftermath of the Palmer Raids, he founded the New England Civil Liberties Union in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1923 he and ...

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Foner, Morris Moe (03 August 1915–10 January 2002), labor leader and political activist, was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the third child of Abraham Foner, a seltzer delivery man, and Mary Smith Foner; both were Jewish immigrants from Bielsk, Russia (now Poland)....

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Haywood, William Dudley (04 February 1869–18 May 1928), labor leader and political radical, known as “Big Bill,” was born William Richard Haywood in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of William Dudley Haywood, an itinerant worker, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). The senior Haywood died when his son was three years old. Four years later Elizabeth married a hard-rock miner (name unknown). Haywood changed his middle name from Richard to Dudley in 1878. He received a rudimentary education and began working as a youngster at the odd jobs available in a small mining camp or in Salt Lake City, where his family occasionally lived. At the age of fifteen he became a miner, and that remained his primary occupation until 1901, when he became a full-time union official....

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Jackson, Gardner (10 September 1896–17 April 1965), newspaperman, public official, and liberal gadfly, also known as “Pat,” was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the son of William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker and railroad magnate, and Helen Banfield. In the Jackson family, affluence mingled with sympathy for the oppressed: Jackson’s father was a Quaker, and his mother was the niece of his father’s late and revered second wife, ...

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Wendell Phillips. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10319).

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Phillips, Wendell (29 November 1811–02 February 1884), orator, abolitionist, and women's rights and labor advocate, orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Phillips, a well-to-do politician and philanthropist, and Sarah Walley. The youngest of eleven children, Wendell received strict and loving attention from both of his parents. From the first he was trained to see himself as a great leader, committed to addressing the great moral and political questions of his age. This drive for leadership was compounded by his early discovery that he possessed extraordinary gifts as an orator. Athletic, handsome, and intelligent, he impressed teachers and classmates alike with his unusual capacity to express himself and to influence others with eloquent speaking. After attending the Boston Latin School, he graduated from Harvard in 1831 and obtained a Harvard law degree in 1833. For the next three years Phillips resided in and around Boston as he attempted, halfheartedly, to establish a legal practice, a career for which he felt no great enthusiasm. Instead he yearned to pursue a vocation worthy of his august legacy. That vocation, finally, was the cause of abolitionism, which he discovered through the process of courtship and marriage....

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Tenayuca, Emma (21 December 1916–23 July 1999), labor organizer, community activist, school teacher, was born in San Antonio, Texas, the first daughter of eleven children born to Sam Tenayuca and Benita Hernandez Zepeda. Her parents had eleven children and to relieve their economic burden, the maternal grandparents raised some of the children, including Emma. Her grandfather worked as a carpenter and followed politics. Tenayuca developed an early understanding of transnational politics when, at age seven, she was taken to the ...