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Blackwell, Henry Browne (04 May 1825–07 September 1909), social reformer, editor, and entrepreneur, was born in Bristol, England, the son of Samuel Blackwell, a sugar refiner and antislavery reformer, and Hannah Lane. After business reversals the family moved in 1832 to New York, where their household became a haven for abolitionists, women’s rights advocates, and self-emancipated slaves. In 1838 the debt-ridden Blackwells moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. When his father died a few months later, thirteen-year-old Henry went to work to support the family, initially as a clerk in a flour mill. In 1845 he joined the two illiterate millers as a partner, and two years later his brother made him a partner in a hardware firm. Within a few years the enterprising Henry (“Harry” to his friends) had his finger in many economic pies—among them an agricultural publishing firm, land speculation, and sugar beet production (perhaps after his father, who had sought an alternative to slave-based sugar cane). At the same time Harry moved to the forefront of women’s rights agitation and abolitionism....

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Burns, Eveline M. (16 March 1900–2 Sept. 1985), economist and Social Security expert, was born Eveline Mabel Richardson in London, the daughter of Frederick Haig Richardson and Eveline Faulkner. Her mother died of complications from her birth, and her father, who administered an office in London that sold silver flatware, remarried the next year. She characterized her father as a very conservative man who aimed to control his household. He did not encourage secondary education; he did not think women should work; he did not approve of government provision of services. Viewing her subsequent life choices, it is clear that Eveline did not let her father control her or her political views....

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Carse, Matilda Bradley (19 November 1835–03 June 1917), temperance worker, editor, and entrepreneur, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the daughter of John Bradley and Catherine Cleland, Scottish merchants whose ancestors had migrated to Ireland in the seventeenth century. Educated in Ireland, Carse emigrated in 1858 to Chicago. In 1861 she married Thomas Carse, a railroad manager with whom she had three sons. After her husband’s death in 1870, her youngest son was killed by a drunken drayman, propelling Carse into the temperance cause just as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organizing. She devoted much of the rest of her life to business and volunteer activities related to that organization....

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Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (26 October 1885–17 April 1952), politician and businessman, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Robert Reed Church, Sr., a banker and businessman, and Anna Sue Wright, a school principal. The wealth and prestige of his father afforded young Church opportunities not available to most African-American children of his day. After attending a parochial school in Memphis and Oberlin Academy in Oberlin, Ohio, Church studied at Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago, Illinois, and then enrolled in the Packard School of Business in New York City. He completed the business course and worked on Wall Street for several years before returning to Memphis in 1909 to help his father in the management of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and other family enterprises. In 1911 he married Sara Paroda Johnson, a schoolteacher; they had one child....

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Cone, Moses Herman (29 June 1857–08 December 1908), textile entrepreneur, was born in Jonesboro, Tennessee, the son of Herman Kahn, a Jewish wholesale grocery merchant, and Helen Guggenheimer. Cone’s father was born in Bavaria, and his mother, though born in Virginia, was of German heritage. When Cone’s father moved to the United States, the family name was changed to Cone. Cone was the eldest of thirteen children and spent his formative years in Jonesboro, where his father owned a grocery store. The family moved in 1870 to Baltimore, Maryland, where Cone attended the public schools....

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Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....

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Henry George. Oil on wood, 1888, by George de Forest Brush. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. Boris Chaliapin ©2008 Estate of Helcia Chaliapin.

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George, Henry (02 September 1839–29 October 1897), economist and reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Samuel Henry George, a book publisher, and Catherine Pratt Vallance. George was raised in an atmosphere of daily religious exercises and serious reading. His father was a vestryman in the Protestant Episcopal church who, after a career as a dry-goods merchant and customs-house clerk, published books for the church and its related tract societies....

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Kerr, James Hutchison (30 August 1837–10 June 1919), educator, entrepreneur, and progressive, was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Alexander Kerr, a farmer, and Eliza Jane Hutchison. He was educated in local rural public schools, and at age fourteen when the regular teacher at his school became ill, Kerr was named the teacher to finish the academic year. Beginning in the fall of 1852, at age fifteen, Kerr spent a year at the John Turner Seminary in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and during the next two years he completed the civil engineering course at New London Academy in Pennsylvania. Following his graduation in 1854, he spent four months as an assistant railroad engineer before returning as a half‐day assistant teacher at the New London Academy. In the 1855–1856 academic year he studied mining, chemistry, metallurgy, and geology at Westminster College in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, and also served as a part‐time teacher. In 1857 he operated a tea and spice business in Rochester, New York, and he studied the natural sciences, including geology and paleontology, at the local university. From September 1859 to May 1861 he was the principal of Franklinville Academy in rural Cattaraugus County, New York, and during the summer months he studied geology in New York, New England, Canada, and the American West....

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Lamb, Theodore Lafayette (11 April 1927–06 September 1984), southern liberal, advertising executive, and lawyer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Foster Lamb, a butcher, and Theodosia Braswell. Lamb’s father owned a small farm near Alexander, outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, where Lamb grew up. After attending the local one-room school, he hitchhiked into Little Rock, where he attended high school and served as class president. In 1944 he took classes at both Little Rock Junior College and Louisiana State University before enlisting in the army. He was sent to Yale University and trained as a Japanese linguist. He then served from 1944 to 1947 as a second lieutenant in the army’s 441st Counterintelligence Corps. He returned to Yale under the GI Bill and graduated in 1950....

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Moore, Amzie (23 September 1911–01 February 1982), Mississippi civil rights activist and entrepreneur, was born on the Wilkins plantation near Greenwood, Mississippi, the eldest son of black sharecroppers (names unknown). Although his grandfather, a former slave, had acquired some land after the Civil War, his descendants lived in poverty and lost the land during the economic hardships following World War I. Amzie’s parents tried their luck at a plantation in the Mississippi River Valley, but after their separation around 1922, Amzie, his mother, and his two siblings moved to Grenada County to work on a farm....

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Nearing, Scott (06 August 1883–24 August 1983), economist and social reformer, was born in Morris Run, Pennsylvania, the son of Louis Nearing, an engineer, and Minnie Zabriskie. During his youth, a central influence on Nearing’s life was his grandfather, Winfield Scott Nearing, the superintendent of the Morris Run Coal Mining Company. His grandfather embodied the contradictions of the elite in their exercise of authority for the benefit of the common good as well as their abuse of power for preserving wealth and status. Nearing attended the University of Pennsylvania beginning in 1901, earning a doctorate in economics from the university’s Wharton School in 1909 under the tutelage of progressive economist Simon Nelson Patten. Between 1906 and 1915 Nearing became involved in progressive social causes in Philadelphia, serving as secretary of the Pennsylvania Child Labor Committee while teaching sociology at Temple University and economics at Swarthmore College and at the Wharton School. Beginning in 1913 he taught at the Rand School in New York City and lectured on social science at the Chautauqau, New York, summer school. During this time he spent his summers and weekends at Arden, Delaware, a single-tax community based on ...

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Pettiford, William Reuben (20 January 1847–21 September 1914), pastor, banker, and race leader, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, the son of William Pettiford and Matilda (maiden name unknown), farmers. Pettiford, a free black, spent his early years laboring on the family farm. He received a rudimentary education at home and then attended Marion Normal School and was employed from 1877 to 1880 as a teacher and financial agent at Selma Institute (now Selma University). In 1869 he married Mary Jane Farley, who died that same year. In 1873 he married Jennie Powell, who died in September 1874. In 1880 he married Della Boyd, with whom he had three children. She outlived him....

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Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1812?–1904), legendary African-American woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately $45,000....

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Riis, Mary Phillips (29 April 1877–04 August 1967), financier and social welfare reformer, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Richard F. Phillips, a cotton broker and later president of the Cotton Exchange in St. Louis, and Lina Rensch. She was educated in England and France but held no college degree. She moved to New York and was acting in small parts on Broadway when, at the age of twenty-six, she met the social reformer ...

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Walker, Maggie L. (15 July 1867–15 December 1934), educator, social activist, and bank president, was born Maggie Lena Draper in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Elizabeth Draper, a former slave, and Eccles Cuthbert, an Irish-American journalist. Her natural parents could not marry. (The Virginia law prohibiting the marriage of mixed-race couples was overturned in 1967, a century after Maggie's birth.) In 1868 Elizabeth Draper married William Mitchell, a mulatto butler who, like herself, was employed by the wealthy abolitionist and Union spy ...

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Whipper, William (1804?–09 March 1876), businessman and moral reformer, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of a white merchant and his black domestic servant. Very little is known about Whipper’s early life or education. In the 1820s he moved to Philadelphia, where he worked as a steam scourer. In March 1834 he opened a free labor and temperance grocery store next door to the Bethel Church in Philadelphia. Whipper supported the temperance movement. He condemned liquor for its destructive effect on Africa and believed that alcohol consumption induced Africans into selling their brothers and sisters to slave traders. As a supporter of the antislavery movement, he also kept a supply of abolitionist books and pamphlets on hand for customers....

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White, Eartha Mary Magdalene (08 November 1876–18 January 1974), social welfare and community leader and businesswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Mollie Chapman, a former slave, and an unnamed prominent white man. She was adopted shortly after birth by freed slaves Lafayette White, a drayman and Civil War veteran, and Clara English, a domestic and cook. Lafayette White died when Eartha was five. Throughout her childhood Clara made Eartha feel as though God had chosen her for a special mission. Listening to stories of hardships that Clara endured as a slave and watching her mother’s humanitarian contributions to Jacksonville’s “Black Bottom” community convinced Eartha White that she too would someday make a difference in the African-American community....