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Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

Article

Tomás Fernández Robaina's works include: Bibliografía de estudios afro-americanos (Bibliography of Afro-American Studies; 1969), La prosa de Guillén en defensa del negro cubano (The Prose of Guillén in Defense of the Black Cuban; 1982), Bibliografía de temas afrocubanos (Bibliography of Afro–Cuban Themes; 1986), Bibliografía de autores de ...

Article

Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

Article

Michael Flug

She was called “the Lieutenant” by some of her colleagues and a taskmaster by many of the young people who did their research at the Chicago Public Library branch she headed. Yet Vivian G. Harsh was revered by a generation of prominent black writers and scholars. She was eulogized as “the historian who never wrote,” yet she succeeded in building one of the most important research collections on black history and literature in the United States.

Vivian Gordon Harsh grew up in the world of Chicago’s Old Settlers, the tightly knit community of pioneer black families in the city. The year after she graduated from Wendell Phillips High School on Chicago’s South Side, Harsh began working for the only employer she would ever have, the Chicago Public Library. She started as a junior clerk in December 1909 rising slowly through the ranks during her first fifteen years of service ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Hoyte, Lenon (04 July 1905–01 August 1999), doll collector and art teacher was born Lenon Holder in New York City the oldest child of Moses Holder a carpenter and Rose Holder who sewed hats for infants for a Manhattan department store The family owned a house on 128th Street in Harlem and Hoyte attended public schools there It was a comfortable childhood but ironically the doll collector to be and her sister were forbidden to play with dolls when the younger girl after chewing on the hands of their dolls contracted lead poisoning Hoyte studied both art and education at the City College of New York earning a B S degree in 1937 and at Teacher s College of Columbia University She had private art teachers as well and she painted in media such as oil casein and watercolor In 1930 Hoyte was hired to teach in ...

Article

Richard Newman

Born into a middle-class family in Summerfield, Florida, Jean Blackwell Hutson was the second African American (following Zora Neale Hurston) to graduate from Barnard College, and the first to receive a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Library Service. She was married to Andy Razaf, the song lyricist who collaborated with Thomas “Fats” Waller, and then to John Hutson, a library security guard. Their adopted daughter, Jean, died in 1992.

Hutson joined the staff of the New York Public Library in 1936 and twelve years later was appointed head of its black collection, originally the private library of Afro–Puerto Rican bibliophile Arthur A. Schomburg, on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem Under her leadership the library s holdings grew from 15 000 books to its present collection of more than five million separately catalogued items including manuscripts music art photographs and ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

librarian. Hutson was born three months prematurely in Summerfield, Florida, the only child of Paul O. Blackwell, a commission merchant, and Sarah Myers Blackwell, an elementary school teacher. Moving with her mother to Baltimore at age four, young Jean suffered from allergies, anemia, and rheumatism. Precocious, she loved reading and graduated from high school as valedictorian at age fifteen. She enrolled at the University of Michigan, planning to study psychiatry, but the Great Depression intervened, and she transferred to Barnard College in New York City, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1935. In 1936 she was the first black person to earn a master of arts degree at the Columbia University School of Library Service, having decided on a more practical occupation with a shorter training period. In 1941 she also received teacher certification from Columbia.

Jean Blackwell worked briefly at a high school in ...

Article

Saundra Liggins

Sharon Bell Mathis's concern for the welfare of young people is evident in her career as a teacher and librarian, but closest to her heart is her role as author. Mathis explains that “I write to salute the strength in Black children and to say to them, ‘Stay strong, stay Black and stay alive’” (quoted in Something about the Author, vol. 3, 1987).

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mathis grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, where she attended parochial schools. Her parents, John Willie and Alice Mary Frazier Bell exposed her to a vast array of literary works and encouraged her to write poems stories and plays Despite her affinity for this work however Mathis decided not to pursue a career as an author believing that she would neither be able to make a living at it nor be as great a contributor ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

director of The Gambia National Library and author of the first Gambian Who’s Who, was born in Bathurst and attended the Methodist Girls’ High School. She worked at the General Post Office and later at the British Council. She pioneered library services in The Gambia, and she was one of the earliest professional librarians in black Africa. In 1957, she had a yearlong internship at the Ghana National Library Board, and did further studies in the United Kingdom, where she qualified as a chartered librarian in 1959. At the time, very few Gambian women were in professions outside the traditionally female jobs of teaching, nursing, and secretarial work.

Bishop John Daley of the Anglican Mission opened the first public library in Banjul in 1945; a year later, the British Council opened its library and reading room. When the British Council closed operations in 1963 it handed ...

Article

Courtney L. Young

pioneer of librarianship in African American history and studies in the United States. Born in Warrenton, Virginia, Dorothy Louise Burnett was the daughter of a doctor and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. She married James Porter in 1929; he died in 1970, and she married Charles H. Wesley in 1979.

Burnett received her AB from Howard in 1928 and received both her bachelor's (1931) and master's (1932) degrees in library science from Columbia University, where she was the first African American to earn a library degree. In 1930 she was appointed librarian for the Negro Collection at Howard University, and she served there as the African American studies librarian until 1973. The collection began with a 1914 gift from the minister and Howard alumnus Jesse E. Moorland three thousand items on African Americans and slavery known as A Library of ...

Article

SallyAnn H. Ferguson

In the introduction to Richard Newman's Black Access: A Bibliography of Afro-American Bibliographies (1984), Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley writes that her appointment in 1930 as “librarian in charge of the Negro Collection” at Howard University Library in Washington, D.C., was the turning point in her life. She had recently been one of the first two African Americans to receive the master's degree in library science from Columbia University. In accepting the Howard position, she brought the energy and intelligence necessary to make what would become the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center the renowned repository it is today. She has spent nearly six decades collecting, cataloging, and writing about the works of African Americans, Africans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans, West Indians, and people of African descent living in the Spanish-speaking countries of South America. Moreover, her own scholarly publications about African American culture and people provide further evidence of her resourcefulness.

In ...

Article

Rita B. Dandridge

A multitalented professional, Ann Allen Shockley has contributed to various fields, yet her contributions as writer remain invisible to much of America.

Born 21 June 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, Shockley is the only daughter of Henry and Bessie Lucas Allen, both social workers. To her parents and a devoted eighth-grade teacher, she has attributed her insatiable desire to read and write. She edited her junior high school newspaper, wrote short pieces in the Louisville Defender, and penned essays and short fiction for the Fisk Herald while an undergraduate at Fisk University (1944–1948)—all before her twenty-first birthday. These early pieces show Shockley's interest in social and cultural issues.

In 1949 Shockley began a weekly column called “Ebony Topics” for the Federalsburg Times (Md.). From 1950 to 1953 she penned a similar column for the Bridgeville News, in Bridgeville, Delaware, where she resided with her husband, William ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Henry Proctor Slaughter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Jane Smith and Charles Henry Slaughter. When he was six years old his father died, leaving his mother with two boys and a girl. He sold newspapers to help support his mother, and as he worked his way through school he became the main support of his family. After graduating as salutatorian from Central High School, he served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Louisville Champion. There he became associate editor with Horace Morris, who in 1894 was deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of Kentucky. Slaughter also began to write feature articles for local daily newspapers.

By 1893 Slaughter was foreman of Champion Publishing Company, and in 1894 he became associate editor of the Lexington Standard. Shortly afterward, as manager of the Standard he was described as making ...

Article

Alma Dawson

Smith was university librarian and William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The author of more than fifty publications, which include books, edited works, contributions to books, articles, and research reports, Smith has been most celebrated for her contributions to African American scholarship and to ethnic studies. In an interview, she indicated that her goal has “always been to develop and enhance black and ethnic studies librarianship.” The pursuit of this endeavor was made evident by the kind of publications and activities that she initiated, pursued, and developed during her professional career. Rich in resources, Fisk University provided Smith with the tools to educate others about the contributions of African Americans. However, Smith felt that one should enhance scholarship wherever one is located.

Jessie Carney was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, one of four children born to James Ampler Carney and Vesona ...

Article

Barbara McCaskill

and muse and confidante to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and literati. Anne Spencer was born inauspiciously on a Virginia plantation. Yet the combination of loving, though irreconcilable, parents and an unorthodox, isolated youth formed her extraordinary independence, introspection, and conviction.

Her father, Joel Cephus Bannister of African American white and Native American descent and her mother Sarah Louise Scales the mulatta daughter of a slaveholder separated when Spencer was six While her mother worked as an itinerant cook Spencer roomed with foster parents in Bramwell West Virginia where no other black children lived In insular and parochial Bramwell she was groomed for the African American bourgeoisie Her mother dressed her in the finest frocks she could afford and withheld her from an outlying school that enrolled working class children until she could attend Lynchburg s Virginia Seminary with socially suitable African American students Spencer entered the seminary at age eleven ...

Article

Dora Jean Ashe

Spencer, Anne (06 February 1882–27 July 1975), poet, librarian, and teacher, was born Annie Bethel Scales Bannister in Henry County, near Danville, Virginia, the daughter of Joel Cephus Bannister, a former slave and saloon owner, and Sarah Louise Scales. The only child of divorced parents, at the age of eleven Annie was sent to Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, where she excelled in literature and languages. After graduating in 1899 she taught for two years, then in 1901 married fellow student Edward Spencer and lived the rest of her life in Lynchburg.

Outwardly it was a pleasant life that Spencer spent with her husband, a postal worker, and their three children in a comfortable house built in part by Edward. For twenty years (1925–1945) Anne Spencer was a librarian and part-time teacher of literature and language at the all-black Dunbar High School, named for the poet Paul Laurence ...

Article

Historian and author of several hundred articles and books, Dorothy Porter Wesley is best known for her work as a librarian. At the age of twenty-five, she was the first to consolidate Howard University's materials by and about African Americans toward building the renowned Moorland-Spingarn Research Center; the rest of her life was spent organizing and making accessible the major archive of black history and culture.

Dorothy Burnett was born in Warrenton, Virginia, and educated in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and later at Howard University. She married James Amos Porter, the painter and historian, in 1929, and in 1932, she became the first African American woman to receive a master's degree in library sciences from Columbia University. She returned to Howard to serve as curator of the collection, a position she held until 1973 following her retirement and the death of her first husband ...

Article

Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley was the longtime librarian and curator of the Moorland-Spingarn Collection (now known as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center) at Howard University. Her tenure extended from 1930 to 1973 and encompassed the explosion of black history and culture that extended from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s through the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Porter Wesley assisted the many historians and other scholars who documented, researched, studied, and wrote about black history and culture, especially those associated with Howard University. These scholars included Alain LeRoy Locke, the first African American Rhodes scholar and an important contributor to the New Negro Movement, which became popularized as the Harlem Renaissance; the poet and literary scholar Sterling A. Brown; the artist and art historian James A. Porter, who was Porter Wesley’s husband; the political scientist and diplomat Ralph J. Bunche the sociologist E Franklin Frazier and the historians ...