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Ndeh Martin Sango

president of Cameroon, was born Paul Barthélemy Biya’a bi Mvondo on 13 February 1933, in the village of Mvomekaʾa (Meyomessala), in French Cameroon. Biya was from a peasant background; his parents, Etienne Mvondo Assam and Anastasie Eyenya Elle Mvondo, had little money. However, through hard work, determination, perseverance, and dedication to education, the younger Biya was able to forge his way to the top. His rise from a humble background indicates the importance of education in promoting upward mobility in post-World War II Cameroon.

Biya a Christian began his education at the age of seven at a Catholic mission school in Ndem some thirty miles from his home village At school his hardworking and devoted nature won the admiration of his tutor a French national who recommended him for admission into the prestigious Akono Junior Seminary There is no record of his life at the seminary but he eventually left for the ...

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Luis Gonçalves

Angolan doctor, writer, and first president of independent Angola from 1975 to 1979, was born António Agostinho Neto in Kaxicane, in the county of Icolo e Bengo, near Luanda. His father was a pastor of an American mission, and his mother was a teacher. He went to school in Luanda, where he finished high school in 1944. He then went to Portugal, where he studied medicine at the prestigious University of Coimbra. It is there that he started his anticolonial activities. In 1947 he was a founding member of the movement of young Angolan intellectuals, “Let’s Discover Angola.” In the following year he received a study grant from the American Methodists, and he transferred to the University of Lisbon.

In 1950 Neto was arrested in Lisbon by the Portuguese political police PIDE Polícia de Intervenção e Defesa do Estado while he was collecting signatures for the World ...

Article

Peter J. Duignan

fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother's name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Midwest. After his mother died in 1840 he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected the idea of going to Haiti and instead traveled to Liberia in 1846 just before an independent republic was installed there in July 1847, taking with him a stock of goods.

At the time of Roye s arrival the new republic faced a variety of ills The dominant Americo Liberians remained a small minority threatened ...

Article

Janet Vaillant

Senegalese poet, philosopher, politician, and first president of Senegal (1960–1980), was born in Joal, a small coastal town south of Dakar in what was then the French West African Federation, now Senegal. His father came from the Serer people and was successful in the peanut export trade. His mother, one of several wives, came from a small country village, where Senghor spent his early childhood. His father sent him away for education when he was seven, and at eight he entered a Catholic mission boarding school. A pious and academically gifted child, he excelled in his studies, gaining support from the missionaries to continue his education in Dakar. He also acquired a deep Catholic faith, from which came his conviction that peaceful solutions exist for the most difficult of problems and from which he drew sustenance throughout his life. In 1928 he went to Paris to continue his education ...

Article

David P. Johnson

Demonstrating a rare combination of intellectual, artistic, and political skill, Léopold Sédar Senghor towered over modern Senegal, unlike any other figure in that country’s history. Senghor’s quest to find an artistic and political synthesis between African and European ways of life inspired his lifelong record of creative achievement. Although as a youth he immersed himself in French culture, his ultimate inability to become “a black-skinned Frenchman” led him to cultivate his “Africanness.” He helped to define two of the key political and intellectual movements of twentieth-century Africa: African Socialism and Négritude.

Born in Ndjitor, Senegal, to a Serer father and a Fulani mother, Senghor strove to represent all of Senegal’s peoples in his writing and politics. He attended Roman Catholic mission schools in what was then French West Africa, and in 1922 entered the Collège Libermann a seminary in Dakar where he intended to study for the priesthood He ...

Article

Blake Whitaker

Southern Rhodesian politician and prime minister of Rhodesia from 11 November 1965 until 1 June 1979, was born in Southern Rhodesia on 19 April 1919. His father was the prominent farmer and rancher John Douglas Smith, MBE. His mother, Agnes Smith, MBE, was the daughter of Rhodesian miner Tom Hodgson. While seldom involved in politics, the family was heavily involved in civic and agricultural activities. As a young man, Smith was educated at the Chaplin School in Gwelo. While he enjoyed math and the sciences, he excelled in rugby and cricket. In 1938 he began studying for a bachelor’s degree in commerce at Rhodes University in South Africa. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II; from 1941 until 1945 he served in Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot During his service in North Africa a mechanical malfunction caused his Hawker Hurricane to ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and representative of Leopold II of Belgium’s efforts to build a Central African empire, was born with the name John Rowlands on 28 January 1841 in Denbigh, Wales. He came from an impoverished background. His mother, Elizabeth Parry, was nineteen years old and unmarried, and there is some debate over who his father may have been. While Stanley believed his father was an alcoholic named Rowlands, a lawyer named James Vaughan Horne may have actually been his father. In any event, his mother left Henry in the care of his grandfather, but his death in 1846 resulted in the boy’s placement in a workhouse for abandoned children and poor people. He only met his mother in 1850 Extremely bitter about his extended family s unwillingness to treat him as one of their own as well as the physical and psychological abuse he experienced in the workhouse Stanley graduated ...