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Lorin Nails-Smoote

political and editorial cartoonist, was born Chesterfield Commodore in Racine, Wisconsin, the fourth of five children of Elizabeth “Bessie” Fite and Pascal “Pat” Commodore, a Creole laborer and model maker from Louisiana. One Commodore ancestor, Peter D. Thomas of Racine, a former slave, was the first elected black official in Wisconsin.

The family resided with Bessie Commodore's mother, Della, in her Racine boarding house until 1923 when the three girls and their parents moved to Chicago where Pat could pursue better employment opportunities. Chester, as he was known, remained with his grandmother and his older brother until 1927 when he joined his parents.

Commodore grew up in a culturally stimulating environment Because of its convenient proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee and because black entertainers in pre integration years were not allowed above the first floor of the Chicago and Milwaukee hotels where they appeared Della Fite s ...


Reidulf K. Molvaer

was an Ethiopian scholar and legendary wit, although very little is known about him with any great degree of certainty. Ethiopians are known by their own given name, followed by their father’s first name, but even that is not known with certainty: some sources give his father’s name as Gebre Mariyam, others as Desta Tegennye. His dates of birth and death are uncertain as well, variously given as 1804–1901, 1821–1905, and 1821–1915. Even his title, Aleqa, by which he is universally known (Aleqa Gebre Hanna seems of doubtful origin The title may refer to the head of a church or monastery or to a scholar in one of the four branches of learning in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Some think it was given to him by Empress Menen the wife of the later Emperor Menilek before she became empress However we do know that Gebre Hanna was ...


Timothy L. Jackson

editorial cartoonist and illustrator, was born Ahmed Samuel Milai in Washington, D.C.

During the 1930s Milai served as illustrator of Joel Augustus Rogers's black history comic titled Your History. Rogers's comic brouge4820ht readers of the black press information about the remarkable achievements of individuals throughout the African diaspora, which was conspicuously absent from elementary school history books across America. The fully illustrated Your History comic was presented in a style similar to that of the popular Ripley's Believe it or Not! feature. Although Milai worked in association with the Pittsburgh Courier, Your History also appeared in a number of other black press publications nationally.

On 31 July 1937 the Pittsburgh Courier debuted Milai's comic domestic family strip titled Bucky This weekly comic strip centered on an adolescent boy and his interaction with his parents schoolmates and the obligatory assortment of tough guys and bullies Over the ...


George Ogola

Kenyan novelist, actor, and newspaper humorist and cultural critic, was born in 24 October 1954 in Nyeri, Central Kenya, a place he immortalized in his newspaper column, “Whispers,” as “the slopes of Mount Kenya,” a literal reference to the region’s mountainous topography. He was Octavia Muthoni and Elijah Mutahi Wahome’s first child in a family of eight children (two girls and six boys). Mutahi attended Catholic schools, a life that graced his writings. Baptized Paul, a name he later dropped, Mutahi became an altar boy at his local church and later joined the seminary, in what should have led him to joining the Catholic priesthood. Despite being encouraged by his parents to train as a priest, Mutahi dropped out of the seminary in 1972 because he found the institution too strict for his liberal ideas Instead he joined Kirimara High School for his A level education the last two ...


Kofi Natambu

novelist and journalist, was born Charles Stevenson Wright in New Franklin, Missouri, the only child of Stevenson Wright, a laborer, and Dorothy Hughes, a homemaker. By the time he was four years old his parents had separated and his mother had died. After her death Wright's maternal grandparents raised him. Influenced by his grandfather's great passion for reading, Wright became a voracious reader of books and what he later called a “newspaper fanatic” (O'Brien). He attended public schools in New Franklin and Sedalia, Missouri, but dropped out of high school in his junior year, in part because of the segregated school's poor facilities and the general unavailability of books for the black students. Among Wright's most vivid teenage memories was reading an issue of Life magazine and being startled to see a feature on Black Boy, the novelist Richard Wright s autobiography The coincidence of ...


Joe Weixlmann

Charles Stevenson Wright was born and raised west of Columbia, Missouri, in the small town of New Franklin. Upon his release from the army in 1954, he wrote “No Regrets,” an unpublished novel about an affair between a black beatnik from New York City's East Village and an upper-class white girl. Not until the 1960s would Wright begin publishing the blackly humorous, passionately idiosyncratic books that add tragic clarity to the nightmare of contemporary African American existence.

In The Messenger (1963), Wright drew so extensively upon his life that fact and fiction often blur. Realistically narrated in the first person by a fair-skinned black Manhattanite named Charles Stevenson the novel dramatizes the isolation and alienation of persons who fall prey to America s social economic and racial caste systems Stevenson a New York City messenger constantly finds himself on the edges of power yet is utterly ...