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The First Sentence

“The opening sentence should be like an arrow shot from a bow: it will shoot through the entire text.” The late biographer Henry Mayer, a generous man, once gave me this advice. I’d approached him after a reading for his biography of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and when I asked him a question he offered to meet me for coffee.

Just beginning my own biography of civil rights icon Eleanor Holmes Norton, I was floundering, awash in data. Already I’d interviewed a dozen of her colleagues and family, pored through dusty boxes of newspaper clippings and legal briefs.  Read More 

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