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Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Charles Alexis Oswald Durand became an orphan at the age of two when an earthquake destroyed the city of Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti in 1842. Afterwards, Durand went to live with his grandmother in the frontier town of Ouanaminthe. Little is known of his first years of studies, but at age sixteen he was already working for his living as a tinsmith. While making pots and pans in the tiny village of Saint-Louis du Nord, he read and wrote his first verses. He was later offered a job as a primary school teacher.

Demesvar Delorme, a renowned politician and writer, assisted Durand in publishing his first books of poetry. Durand's reputation as a poet grew, particularly after the publication of “Choucoune” in 1883, which recounts how the narrator's beautiful black mistress is seduced by a white foreigner. Other works by Durand include Quatre nouveaux poèmes (1896 ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

The son of slaves, Juan Gualberto Gómez was born in Santa Ana, Cuba. His parents bought his freedom, a practice allowed through manumission laws in Cuba. He was educated under the tutelage of mulatto (of African and European descent) poet Antonio Medina y Céspedes at a local religious school that was known to be a refuge for black children. Sensing that his racial background would limit his opportunities in Cuba, Gómez left the island in 1869 for Paris, France, where he studied the art of cabinetmaking and, later, engineering. Poverty soon forced him to leave his studies and pursue a career in journalism, a profession that would provide him with an outlet for expressing his political and social views.

Gómez's stay in Paris was a formative experience in his life. He became acquainted with various eminent members of Cuba's expatriate community, including separatists such as Vicente Aguilera ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...

Article

Marveta Ryan

Poverty and racism forced Martín Morúa Delgado, born in Havana, Cuba, to a Spanish immigrant father and an ex-slave mother, to leave school at an early age and find work. He managed to educate himself, often by purchasing books with part of his salary. His experiences working in a barrel factory led him to become a labor activist. Besides organizing workers in several Cuban cities, Morúa made speeches and wrote newspaper and magazine articles on workers' rights, thus launching his career as a political leader and a journalist.

In the nineteenth century, paid readers read books aloud to factory workers while they engaged in nonmechanical tasks like rolling cigars. Even before slavery had been abolished, Morúa was the first man of African descent to become a professional reader in Cuba. He also became the first reader of color in New York, New York when he worked in ...

Article

Sanjay Mistry

The first Asian elected to the House of Commons. Dadabhai Naoroji was born in Bombay in 1825. The son of a Parsee priest, he was educated at Elphinstone Institute School and later became a teacher.

In 1855 Naoroji was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He became involved in politics and in 1867 helped to establish the East India Association. He was one of the first leaders of the Indian nationalist movement, who supported independence for India. He played an important role in establishing the Indian National Congress in 1865 and in 1886 was appointed President of the Indian National Congress.

Naoroji moved to England and joined the Liberal Party, and in July 1892 was successfully elected to Parliament where he represented Finsbury He therefore became the first Asian to be elected to the House of Commons Although he promised that his first duty would be to ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

Egyptian writer, was born in January 1872 to a landowning family in Lower Egypt. He attended a local traditional Islamic school (kuttab) and chose to go to the khedivial secondary school rather than to al-Azhar. Having read translated scholarly works, notably Darwin’s Origin of Species, he was admitted in 1889 to the Khedivial Law School, the alma mater of many of Egypt’s modern politicians and leaders. As a young student, he founded Egypt’s first law review, Majallat al-Tashriʿ (Legislative Review). He graduated in 1894, entered government service, and in 1897 began collaborating with the nationalist leader Mustafa Kamil, who had the support of Khedive ʿAbbas II. They advised him to go to Switzerland and acquire Swiss citizenship so that he would enjoy immunity as a journalist and would be able to criticize the British occupiers freely. However, in Geneva in 1897 he came under ...

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 ...