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JOHN SILAS REED was born in Portland, Oregon, to a middle-class family. His bourgeois origins gave no indication of the role he would play in two of the 20th century's most landmark revolutions. He matriculated at Harvard University, where he joined literary magazines in 1908. Here, the talents he would use in progressive thought were honed before an appreciative, yet discriminating audience. He joined the Harvard Lampoon and Monthly, becoming acquainted with the young poet Alan Seeger. Seeger's social consciousness and desire to fight oppression would lead him and other Harvard students to join the French Foreign Legion in 1914 to help defend against the German invasion in World War I.

After graduating from Harvard in June 1910, Reed took a tour through Europe, which was ...

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