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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, one of seven children of free black parents Peter Williams, a successful lumberman, and Flora Ann McKay, who taught her son to read at an early age. After the family moved to nearby Harnett County in 1867, his father engaged an educated white widow to tutor his children, in exchange for working on her farm. According to one account, within two years John Williams had “mastered Webster's blue back speller and other books”; by age sixteen, the avid reader was well versed in memoirs, history, and biographies (Powell, p. 210).

As a teenager, John entered the state normal training school at Fayetteville (now Fayetteville State University), where he graduated at the top of his class in 1880 Williams then became a schoolteacher holding teaching positions near his home in Lillington and in a number of ...