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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Eisler, Gerhart (20 February 1897–21 March 1968), Communist journalist and politician, was born in Leipzig, Germany, the son of Rudolf Eisler, a philosopher, and Marie Ida Fischer. Eisler grew up in Vienna, Austria, where his father was an assistant professor without tenure (Privatdozent) at the university. The socialist sympathies of his parents, his own studies in anarchist and Marxist literature, writing for his school journal, and eventually his experiences as a young officer during World War I were all factors that influenced Eisler’s future. He was active in the revolution in November 1918 and joined the Communist party of German-Austria....

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Gray, James Harrison (17 May 1916–19 September 1986), newspaper publisher, broadcast executive, and politician, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the son of Lyman Gray, an attorney, and Clara (maiden name unknown). James Gray spent his childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his father served as district attorney. He received his A.B. in English from Dartmouth College in 1937, lettering in several sports and earning Phi Beta Kappa honors. After graduating Gray enrolled at the University of Heidelberg in Germany to study world history. While there in 1939 he contributed news articles about Nazi Germany to the ...

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Hapgood, Norman (28 March 1868–29 April 1937), journalist, critic, and reformer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a farm implement manufacturer, and Fanny Louise Powers. He grew up in wealth in Alton, Illinois. In 1890 he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University, where he was strongly influenced by Professor ...

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Mankiewicz, Frank (16 May 1924–23 Oct. 2014), political advisor, journalist, and broadcast and public relations executive, was born Frank Fabian Mankiewicz in New York City, one of three children of Herman Mankiewicz, a drama critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker...

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Robins, Elizabeth (06 August 1862–08 May 1952), actress, author, and suffragist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of Charles Ephraim Robins, a financier who later became a metallurgist, and Hannah Mariah Crow. After a move to Staten Island, New York, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain his failing business interests, Robins’s father was forced by severe financial difficulties to make a desperate move to Colorado to mine for metals, leaving his family in the care of his wife. In 1872, after the deterioration of her mother’s mental faculties and subsequent removal to an asylum, Elizabeth Robins and her five younger siblings were sent to live with their paternal grandmother, Jane Hussey Robins, in Zanesville, Ohio. This distinguished albeit impoverished side of the family provided Robins with a stable and refined atmosphere, enabling her to receive a superior education at the Putnam Seminary for Young Ladies in Zanesville, from which she graduated in 1880. As she developed strong interests in acting and writing, her performances and essays won praise from fellow students and teachers....

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Walton, Lester A. (20 April 1882–16 October 1965), diplomat, journalist, civil rights activist, and theater producer, was born Lester Aglar Walton in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Benjamin A. Walton, Sr., and Olive May Camphor Walton. After graduation from Sumner High School, Walton began his career as a journalist at the ...

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Weisgal, Meyer Wolfe (10 November 1894–29 September 1977), journalist, theater producer, and Zionist executive, was born in Kikol, Poland, the son of Solomon Weisgal, hasan (Jewish religious cantor), and Lea Friedman. He received a talmudic education in Poland before emigrating with his family to the United States in 1906 and settling in New York City. He served as a private in the U.S. Army in 1918. In 1923 he married Shirley Hirshfeld; the couple had three children....

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Wojnarowicz, David (14 Sept. 1954–22 July 1992), artist, filmmaker, writer, and activist was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, the third child of Edward Wojnarowicz, a merchant seamen from Michigan, and Dolores McGuinness, a receptionist from Australia. Wojnarowicz’s childhood was marred by violence and instability. Following his parents’ divorce at the age of three, Wojnarowicz and his two older siblings, Pat and Steven, were placed in a boarding home by their mother in ...