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Adams, John Quincy (1848-1922), newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican party activist  

Wilbert H. Ahern

Adams, John Quincy (04 May 1848–03 September 1922), newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return to Louisville, where he again engaged in teaching....

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Barber, Jesse Max (1878-1949), African-American journalist, dentist, and civil rights activist  

Ralph E. Luker

Barber, Jesse Max (05 July 1878–23 September 1949), African-American journalist, dentist, and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina, the son of Jesse Max Barber and Susan Crawford, former slaves. Barber studied in public schools for African-American students and at Friendship Institute in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he graduated as valedictorian. In 1901 he completed the normal school course for teachers at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and afterward entered Virginia Union University in Richmond. There Barber was president of the literary society and edited the ...

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Barrows, Samuel June (1845-1909), minister, reformer, and editor  

Leslie H. Fishel

Barrows, Samuel June (26 May 1845–21 April 1909), minister, reformer, and editor, was born in New York City, the son of Richard Barrows, a printer, and Jane Weekes. He was four when his father died and nine when his mother asked her husband’s cousin, printing-press innovator ...

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Blackwell, Henry Browne (1825-1909), social reformer, editor, and entrepreneur  

Debra Viles

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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Braden, Carl James (1914-1975), journalist and social justice activist  

Cynthia R. Poe

Braden, Carl James (1914–18 February 1975), journalist and social justice activist, was born in New Albany, Indiana, the son of James Braden, a railroadman and auto worker, and Elizabeth Braden. He attended Catholic schools in Louisville and was for two years a proseminary student at Mount Saint Francis College in Indiana. In 1930, at the age of sixteen, he left Mount Saint Francis for a job as a reporter for the ...

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Bruce, John Edward (1856-1924), journalist and historian  

David A. Canton

Bruce, John Edward (22 February 1856–07 August 1924), journalist and historian, was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859 Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce’s slaveholder, sold him to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, Bruce lived in Maryland until 1861 when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where Bruce lived until 1892. In 1865 Bruce’s mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where Bruce received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, where Bruce continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. Bruce married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. They had no children. In 1895 Bruce married Florence Adelaide Bishop, with whom he had one child....

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Burnham, Louis Everett (1915-1960), journalist, activist, and radical  

Erik S. McDuffie

Burnham, Louis Everett (29 September 1915–12 February 1960), journalist, activist, and radical, was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Charles Breechford Burnham, a building superintendent, and Louise St. Clair Williams Burnham, a hairdresser. His parents had emigrated from Barbados to the United States in search of a better livelihood, and they bought their own property in Harlem and began providing rooms for new Caribbean immigrants. Burnham attended New York City public schools and graduated from Townsend High School in 1932. In the fall of 1932 he enrolled in City College. He became actively involved in student political activities, serving as president of the Frederick Douglass Society and vice president of the student council. Affable, charismatic, and a powerful orator, he often spoke on campus about racial injustice, the threat of fascism to world peace, unemployment, and the plight of American youth. He graduated from City College in 1936....

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Cover Douglass, Frederick (February 1818–20 February 1895)
Frederick Douglass Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-19288).

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Douglass, Frederick (February 1818–20 February 1895), abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist  

Roy E. Finkenbine

Douglass, Frederick (February 1818–20 February 1895), abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, an enslaved person, and an unidentified white man. Although enslaved, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel ...

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Durham, John Stephens (1861-1919), diplomat, lawyer, and journalist  

Thomas M. Leonard

Durham, John Stephens (18 July 1861–16 October 1919), diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. A mulatto, Durham studied in the Philadelphia public schools, graduating from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876....

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Flower, Benjamin Orange (1858-1918), editor and social reformer  

Ralph E. Luker

Flower, Benjamin Orange (19 October 1858–24 December 1918), editor and social reformer, was born near Albion, Illinois, the son of Alfred Flower and Elizabeth Orange. Albion was founded in 1818 by Alfred Flower’s father, George Flower, an immigrant from England. Benjamin Orange Flower studied at a private school near Albion on the farm of his father, a Disciples of Christ minister. At eleven he had already compiled a self-illustrated primary schoolbook and a long moral novel. Later, young Flower moved with his family to Evansville, Indiana, where he attended high school. Intending to become a minister like his father and an older brother, George Edward Flower, Benjamin Orange Flower attended the Disciples of Christ’s School of the Bible at Kentucky University in Lexington. Changing theological perspectives, which ultimately led him to Unitarianism, sent Flower back to Albion, Illinois. There he won control of a local four-page newsletter, the ...

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Fortune, Timothy Thomas (1856-1928), militant newspaper editor  

William Seraile

Fortune, Timothy Thomas (03 October 1856–02 June 1928), militant newspaper editor, was born in Marianna, Florida, the son of Emanuel Fortune, a literate slave artisan, and Sarah Jane Moore, a slave. Fortune was raised amid tumultuous times in Reconstruction Florida. His father, one of two African Americans elected as delegates to the 1868 state’s constitutional convention and a member of the Florida House of Representatives, was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and had to flee the area for months in 1869. Thirteen-year-old Timothy became the man of the house in his father’s absence. “The constant fear, the stories of outrage …, the sign of his once high-spirited mother gradually breaking under the strain of anxiety—all these had a lasting influence on the sensitive and imaginative boy” (Thornbrough, p. 17)....

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Cover Fortune, Timothy Thomas (1856-1928)

Fortune, Timothy Thomas (1856-1928)  

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Timothy Thomas Fortune. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Hale, Edward Everett (1822-1909), author, reformer, and Unitarian minister  

Francis J. Bosha

Hale, Edward Everett (03 April 1822–10 June 1909), author, reformer, and Unitarian minister, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Hale, a journalist, and Sarah Preston Everett. His father was a nephew of revolutionary war hero Captain Nathan Hale, and his maternal uncle and namesake was the orator and statesman ...

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Cover Hale, Edward Everett (1822-1909)
Edward Everett Hale Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99518).

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Harman, Moses (1830-1910), free-thought and free-love journalist  

Louis J. Kern

Harman, Moses (12 October 1830–30 January 1910), free-thought and free-love journalist, was born in Pendleton County, Virginia (now West Va.), the son of Job Harman, a hardscrabble farmer and marginal land speculator, and Nancy (maiden name unknown). In pursuit of the main chance, the family relocated four times during Harman’s first ten years, and consequently his formal schooling was limited to a scant few months. Through sheer perseverance, he taught himself to read and by his sixteenth year had so mastered the rudiments that he was able to hire himself out as a teacher. At age eighteen, with the assistance of his family, and with money earned by tutoring his classmates, he entered Arcadia College in Iron County, Missouri, graduating in 1851. Just before the Civil War, he spent one semester of study at the St. Louis Normal School....

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Harrison, Hubert Henry (1883-1927), black intellectual and radical political activist  

Jeffrey B. Perry

Harrison, Hubert Henry (27 April 1883–17 December 1927), black intellectual and radical political activist, was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands), the son of William Adolphus Harrison and Cecilia Elizabeth Haines. Little is known of his father. His mother had at least three other children and, in 1889, married a laborer. Harrison received a primary education in St. Croix. In September 1900, after his mother died, he immigrated to New York City, where he worked low-paying jobs, attended evening high school, did some writing, editing, and lecturing, and read voraciously. In 1907 he obtained postal employment and moved to Harlem. The following year he taught at the White Rose Home, where he was deeply influenced by social worker Frances Reynolds Keyser, a future founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1909 he married Irene Louise Horton, with whom he had five children....

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Jackson, James Edward Jr. (29 Nov. 1914–1 Sept. 2007), communist, black freedom activist, and editor  

Sara E. Rzeszutek

Jackson, James Edward Jr., (29 Nov. 1914–1 Sept. 2007), communist, black freedom activist, and editor, was born to Clara Kersey Jackson and James E. Jackson, Sr., in Richmond, Virginia. His mother, one of the first women to graduate from Howard University, and father, Richmond’s only black pharmacist, raised Jackson and his sisters to be politically aware. Jackson, Sr. was well-regarded as a local leader, both for fighting segregation in the community and for his business success. Following his father’s influence, Jackson organized the first black troop in Virginia to be admitted to the Boy Scouts of America in ...

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Kaufmann, Peter (1800-1869), publisher and social reformer  

Loyd D. Easton

Kaufmann, Peter (03 October 1800–27 July 1869), publisher and social reformer, was born in Münstermaifeld near Koblenz, Germany, the illegitimate son of Johann Kaufmann, a cavalry officer and civil official, and Hulda (last name unknown). After graduation from the Gymnasium and two years at the University of Berlin attending Hegel’s lectures, Kaufmann emigrated to the United States around 1820. In spite of financial difficulties with his trade as tobacconist in Philadelphia, he married Catherine Wiltz in 1822 and fathered seven surviving children. He studied for the ministry part time but was never ordained. In that study he was particularly impressed by the ideas of Johannes Tauler, who emphasized the unity of man and God through love and Jesus’s sharing of poverty with the simple folk of his time. Kaufmann met ...

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Kellogg, Paul Underwood (30 September 1879–01 November 1958), editor and reformer  

Clarke A. Chambers

Kellogg, Paul Underwood (30 September 1879–01 November 1958), editor and reformer, was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the son of Frank Israel Kellogg, a businessman, and Mary Foster Underwood. After graduating from high school in 1897, Kellogg worked for the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, where he acquired a taste for reporting and learned diverse journalistic skills. In 1901 he entered Columbia University. The following year, while attending the Summer School of Philanthropy, sponsored by the New York Charity Organization Society (COS), his talents were spotted by ...