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Article

Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Robson Cruz

Brazilian Candomblé high priestess (or Iyalorisha), also known as Ọyafunmi (her initiatic name), was born Olga Francisca Régis in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, to Mateus Cassiano dos Reis and Etelvina Francisca Régis (Ogunlona), members of a family of Candomblé Ketu priests and priestesses. She was the fifth high priestess of the Ile Maroialaji terreiro (Ile Ọmọ Aro Alaji, or the House of the Children of Alaji of the Aro clan). The terreiro was founded in the early nineteenth century by Otampe Ojaro (Maria do Rosário Régis) and Baba Alaji (João Porfírio Régis), both of whom belonged to the Ọja Aro clan—one of the five clans from which the king of Ketu is chosen.

According to the terreiro’s oral account, Otampe Ojaro and her twin sister, Obokô Mixobi—allegedly granddaughters of the Alaketu (ruler of the Yoruba kingdom of Ketu) Akebiowu (1780–1795 were abducted in a ...

Article

Malca Chall

Albrier, Frances Mary (21 September 1898–21 August 1987), civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of her mother when Frances was three, she and her baby sister were reared by her paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their 55-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Frances attended Tuskegee Institute, where she studied botany under George Washington Carver who also advised her grandfather on productive farming techniques In 1917 she enrolled at Howard University studying nursing and social work In 1920 following the death of her grandmother she left college and moved to Berkeley California to join her father and stepmother Two years later she married William Albert Jackson they had three children Jackson died ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

Article

Sadie Mossell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a prominent black Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Mossell, was the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner Tanner, edited the first black scholarly journal in the United States, the A.M.E. Church Review.

Mossell received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921. She worked as an actuary in North Carolina, then left to marry Raymond Pace Alexander, a graduate of Harvard Law School. With her husband's encouragement, she returned to the University of Pennsylvania, earning her law degree in 1927. The two entered law practice together. Their civil rights work began in 1935 when husband and wife fought to end racial segregation in Philadelphia The Alexanders visited segregated city theaters hotels and restaurants to demand rightful admittance under law and agitated for ...

Article

Nancy Elizabeth Fitch

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (03 January 1898–01 November 1989), economist and lawyer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Aaron Mossell, an attorney and the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Mary Tanner. While a young girl her father abandoned the family, and she was raised by her mother with the assistance of relatives.

Alexander received her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania With her Ph D in economics awarded in 1921 she became the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in economics and among the first three African American women to receive a doctorate in any field in the United States Her doctoral dissertation The Standard of Living among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia was a thorough social survey investigating spending patterns from 1916 to 1918 of African American migrant families newly arrived from the South ...

Article

Lia B. Epperson

attorney and civil rights activist, was born Sadie Tanner Mossell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children of Aaron Albert Mossell Jr., an attorney, and Mary Louise Tanner. In 1899 Mossell's father deserted the family and fled to Wales. During elementary school Sadie and her mother divided their time between Mossell's grandparents' home in Philadelphia and an aunt and uncle's home on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. When her mother returned to Pennsylvania, Mossell remained under the care of her aunt and uncle in Washington until she graduated from M Street High School.

Mossell entered the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1915 and majored in education Her years as a student in an institution with so few women students and even fewer African Americans were extremely challenging Yet with her family s financial and emotional support she prospered academically and graduated ...

Article

Alexander, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Economics, in a 1981 interview provided this advice for young black men and women: “Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the best that you can make out of what you are. The very best.”

Sadie Tanner Mossell was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, had been the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, was a well-known author, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the editor of the country’s first African American scholarly journal, the African Methodist Episcopal Review. The famous painter Henry Ossawa Tanner was her uncle At the turn of the century the Tanner home was a gathering place and intellectual center ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

cabaret and vaudeville singer and performer, was born Eliza May (or Mae) Alix in Chicago, Illinois, to Rossetta (or Rasetta) Hayes and Ernest Alix; her parents’ occupations are not known. When Alix was a teenager, her mother remarried; it is not known if Alix's father died or if her parents divorced. Alix lived with her mother; stepfather, Arthur Davis; older sister, Josephine Alix; and younger stepsister, Ellen Davis, in Chicago.

Alix probably began her career singing and performing in chorus lines and local shows. By the early 1920s, she had already established a modest local name for herself when jazz clarinetist and bandleader Jimmie Noone took notice of her in 1921 She continued her collaboration with Noone s Apex Club Orchestra for a series of recordings for Vocalion Records in the late 1920s and early 1930s including recordings of My Daddy Rocks Me and Birmingham Bertha a song ...

Article

crystal am nelson

photographer, was born Winifred Hall in Jamaica. She moved at age eighteen to New York City, where she enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP), which was founded in 1910. Other notable black graduates of NYIP include Ernest Cole, South Africa's first known black photojournalist, and Matthew Lewis Jr., who won the Pulitzer Prize for his portfolio of silver gelatin and color photography, a first in Pulitzer history, in 1975.

While completing her photography studies, Allen apprenticed with Harlem-based photographer William Woodard in his studio Woodard Studio After Allen graduated sometime between the late 1920s and the early 1930s the precise date is unknown Woodard relocated to Chicago allowing Allen to take over his studio and rename it Winifred Hall Allen Photography Studio While operating her studio Allen also taught at the Mwalimu School of African culture and language which was founded in ...

Article

Felipe Ventegeat

was born in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 29 June 1920 to Justo Allende and Alejandrina Rosario. She was one of five children. She would go on to achieve an eighth grade education. Throughout her life, she would mother a total of six children; four of her own and two adoptive children, or hijos de crianza as is the common term in Puerto Rico Allende married Santos Garay gave birth to her first son Juan Elias Garay and went to live with the Garay family in the countryside When Allende s mother Alejandrina learned that life was not going well for Allende Alejandrina removed her daughter and grandson from the Garay home and brought them back to San Juan Soon thereafter Allende divorced Garay Allende would not marry again Later she would meet Felipe Ventegeat Sr with whom she would have her second son Felipe Ventegeat Tragically when ...

Article

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

was born Phyllis Byam Shand on 24 October 1908 in Roseau, Dominica, to a well-established white family whose roots in the Caribbean dated back to the seventeenth century. Her father, Francis Shand, Dominica’s Crown Attorney, belonged to a family of former planters who traced their roots in the Caribbean to the 1640s. Her mother, Elfreda, was the daughter of Sir Henry Alfred Alford Nicholls, a well-known doctor and botanist. Educated privately in a family with a deep commitment to public service, in 1954 Allfrey would join the black labor union leader Christopher Loblack in founding the Dominica Labour Party (DLP).

Allfrey grew up in Roseau Dominica s capital at a time when island society was deeply segregated racially and economically An acute observer of social mores she would capture in her fiction and poetry the impact of this segregation on interpersonal relationships and on the access of her black and ...

Article

Ivette Romero

was born Doralina de la Caridad Alonso y Pérez de Corcho in Recreo (Máximo Gómez), Matanzas, Cuba, on 22 December 1910. Alonso was a multifaceted writer who published more than twenty titles and who wrote numerous scripts for radio and television for many years. Her corpus of work is of great historical and literary significance because it spans over six decades of the twentieth century, from the moment she published her first poem “Amor” in 1936. Alonso witnessed and wrote about the complexities of Cuban reality before the appearance of Fidel Castro and others who defied the government of Fulgencio Batista, during the revolutionary armed struggle, and after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Her life and work were dedicated to challenging all inequalities, particularly, racial discrimination.

As a journalist, she wrote for the literary magazine Bohemia documenting important historic benchmarks such as the Bay of Pigs ...

Article

Sarah Mosher

was born on 22 April 1910 in the city of Fort-de-France in the French Overseas Department of Martinique. Born into an upper-middle-class, bourgeois mulatto family, Alpha’s childhood was one of considerable socioeconomic privilege and ease. The names and occupations of Jenny Alpha’s parents are not listed in any written sources. During her youth, she knew the writer and founder of the Negritude movement, Aimé Césaire, who attended school with her brothers in Fort-de-France. Her father, who was known for his passion for the stage, introduced his daughter to the theater arts at a young age.

In 1929 at the age of 19 Alpha moved to Paris to study history and geography at the Sorbonne with the ultimate goal of becoming a teacher She soon left her studies however to pursue a career as an actress in classical theater But her skin color in addition to the political tensions between ...

Article

Nancy Raquel Mirabal

was born Melba Haydez Alvarado Mejias on 15 August 1919 in Oriente, Cuba. On 19 May 1936, at age 16, Alvarado migrated to New York City with her mother, Mariana Mejias Alvarado, and five younger siblings to reunite with her father, Luis Alvarado, who had left Cuba to escape the oppressive regime of President Gerardo Machado. Alvarado, who never married, made her home in the Bronx. For over sixty years she has directed and organized El Club Cubano Inter-americano (CCI), one of the longest running and most important Afro-Cuban clubs in New York. She is the only woman to be elected president of the CCI twice, in 1957 and 1972. She has also served the organization in a number of leadership capacities, including in public relations, as secretary and treasurer, and as president of the CCI’s Comité de Damas (Women’s Club).

Founded on 17 September 1945 in ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Algerian writer, was the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished, illiterate Berber peasant woman. A Muslim by birth, she converted to Christianity, produced one of the first, if not the first, autobiographies written by an Algerian woman, became a naturalized French citizen, and raised two children who became well-known French literati: Marguerite Taos Amrouche (known as Taos Amrouche), a poet, singer, and novelist, and Jean Amrouche, a writer and poet. But the circumstances of her early life were unpromising at best.

Amrouche was born in a remote village in the rugged mountains of Kabylia in northeastern Algeria in 1882 When the villagers discovered that Fadhma s mother Aïni was pregnant out of wedlock they attempted to kill her as an adulteress as custom cruelly dictated But plucky Aïni placed herself under the protection of the local French colonial magistrate and laid charges against fellow villagers including male family members thus ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

Article

John Burdick

The worship of Anastacia began in Brazil in the early 1970s The devotion to her centers upon a striking portrait of a young black woman with piercing blue eyes wearing a face iron an iron face mask that slaves were made to wear as a form of punishment Legend has it that Anastacia was tortured with the face iron when she refused to submit to the lust of her master Legend also has it that before she died she forgave her master and cured his child of a fatal disease Although the Catholic Church denounces the devotion to her as superstition at best and heresy at worst millions of Brazilians of all colors are deeply devoted to this woman whom they regard as possessing in death unparalleled supernatural powers Many of her devotees carry a small medallion of her image around their neck others keep a card with her ...