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Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian statesman, prime minister, and writer, was born the son of Balambaras Endalkachew Abreqe, a respected warrior, and Weyzero Abonesh Tekle Maryam, in the district of Addis Addisgé, near Tegulet in northern Shewa, which had become prestigious during the reign of Emperor Menilek. His maternal uncle was one of that monarch’s principal noblemen, Ras Tesemma Nadew, later regent for Lij Iyasu. Mekonnen received a traditional Ethiopian church education, partly at the renowned church of Debre Libanos, and was an accomplished traditional church artist. He also learned French at the then new Menilek II school in Addis Ababa.

Joining the Ethiopian government service in 1916, Mekonnen held a number of different posts, including inspector of the Jibuti-Addis Ababa railway company, kentiba, or mayor, of Addis Ababa, deputy minister of the interior, and governor of Illubabor, with the title of dejazmach. In 1924 he accompanied Regent Tafari Makonnen the ...

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

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

Maxim Zabolotskikh

Ethiopian intellectual, politician, civil servant, diplomat, and writer, was born in June 1884 in Seyya Debr (Shewa, Ethiopia) to a family of Christianized Oromos.

Tekle grew up in his mother’s care until he was five. At the age of six he began to study in a church school. When his elder brother Gebre Sadiq moved to Harar to become a secretary of Ras Mekonnen, Tekle (nine at this time) went with him and continued his education there. He stayed in the household of Ras Mekonnen, where he was raised with other children, among whom was also Teferi (future Emperor Haile Selassie).

When the Italians invaded Ethiopia in 1895, both Tekle and Gebre Sadiq accompanied Ras Mekonnen to the front. Gebre Sadiq was killed, and Ras Mekonnen decided to do something special for his younger brother entrusting him to a member of the Russian Red Cross mission Count ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian politician, was born in Cairo on 18 February 1921. The son of a military officer, Ukasha graduated from the military academy in 1939, one of the first cohort to enroll after 1936, when Egypt gained independence from Britain. He went on to the staff college in 1945, where he met and became friends with Gamal Abd al-Nasser. Along with Nasser and other future founders of the Free Officers movement, he drew close to secret cells formed in the army by the Muslim Brothers. He graduated from the staff college in 1948 and served in the Palestine War, a formative experience for so many fellow junior officers. When Nasser and close colleagues formed a secret organization independent of the Brothers and other civilian forces, they turned to Ukasha to join them.

Although close to the movement s leaders Ukasha remained distant from the daily operations of the conspirators He resisted ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

The child of a washerwoman and a musician, José Manuel Valdés was born in Lima, Peru's capital city, when nearly half its population was black. Though his parents could not afford to educate him, his godparents and mother's employers stepped in, seeing to his early education at a prominent religious school. He would later become the first black writer to publish in Peru, both as a doctor and as a poet, as early as 1791.

After completing school, Valdés yearned to become a priest, but during the colonial period blacks were denied access to the priesthood by the Catholic Church, and he turned instead to medicine. He could have prospered as a romancista, a type of medical practitioner that required little training and was restricted to “external remedies.” In 1788 he took the more challenging route and pursued the title of latinista surgeon for ...