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philosopher, pioneer of Islamic reformist thought, pan-Islamic nationalist as well as a staunch opponent of British penetration in the East, also known as al-Asadaabadi and al-Husayni, Afghani, was born in October/November 1839 in the Iranian village of Asadaabad. However, he endeavored to hide his origins so as to conceal his Shiite identity. It was with this in mind that he assumed the surname al-Afghani (of Afghan origin).

His father, Sayyid Safdar, is said to have been a modest farmer, but a learned Muslim. From the age of five to ten, Afghani was apparently educated at home, focusing on Arabic and the Qurʾan. Thereafter, he was sent to school in Qazvin and later Tehran, where he received the standard Shiite education.

After several years of study in the holy city of Najaf, Afghani moved to India in approximately 1855 where he first encountered British colonialism By the time he reached ...


Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, more commonly known as Averroës, was born in Córdoba, Spain. His father, a judge in Córdoba, instructed him in Muslim jurisprudence. In his native city he also studied theology, philosophy, and mathematics under the Arab philosopher Ibn Tufayl and medicine under the Arab physician Avenzoar. Averroës was appointed judge in Seville in 1169 and in Córdoba in 1171; in 1182 he became chief physician to Abu Yaqub Yusuf, the Almohad caliph of Morocco and Muslim Spain. Averroës's view that reason takes precedence over religion led to his being exiled in 1195 by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; he was restored to favor shortly before his death.

Averroës held that metaphysical truths can be expressed in two ways: through philosophy, as represented by the views of Aristotle and through religion which is truth presented in a ...


Jolie A. Jackson-Willett

scholar, activist, and philosopher, was born Ramona Hoage in Los Angeles, California, the only child of George Hoage and A. Annette Lewis Hoage. Edelin's commitment to education started with the influences of her mother and maternal grandfather, both of whom were university professors. Alethia Annette Lewis Hoage Phinazee served as dean of the school of library science at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina (1970–1983), and has herself been celebrated for her contributions to the field of library science.

The young Hoage got an auspicious start to her own education at the progressive and innovative Oglethorpe Laboratory School at Atlanta University. The campus school's teaching philosophy was geared toward the intellectual advancement of inner-city youth. During Edelin's childhood, the Hoages lived in college towns near South Carolina State and Atlanta and Southern Illinois Universities. In 1963 Ramona graduated from high school ...


Françoise Vergès

writer, psychiatrist, and activist, was born on 20 July 1925 at Fort de France Martinique at the time a French colony The descendant of a slave of African origins Fanon was the fifth of eight children His parents who were of mixed heritage belonged to the urban middle class His father Félix Casimir Fanon worked in the French customs Eléanore Médélice his mother was a shopkeeper She was very proud of her Alsatian roots on an island where the hierarchy of color was very strong Both parents discouraged their children from speaking Creole and encouraged them to integrate into French culture Fanon studied at the elitist Lycée Schoelcher where he had Aimé Césaire as one of his teachers At eighteen Fanon joined the Free French army and was sent for army training to Algeria Fanon became disillusioned with the cause of freeing Europe from Nazism and wrote to his ...


Richard Watts

Born in Fort-de-France on the island of Martinique into a conventional, bourgeois family, Frantz Fanon grew up with assimilationist values that encouraged him to reject his African heritage. This influence was countered by one of Fanon’s high school teachers, Aimé Césaire, who introduced Fanon to the philosophy of Négritude and taught him to embrace the aspects of self that the colonizer had previously forced him to reject. The encounter with Césaire proved to be a turning point in Fanon’s intellectual development. In 1940 following France s capitulation to the Germans in World War II the part of the French Navy that had declared its allegiance to the collaborationist Vichy regime began the occupation of Martinique As a result 5 000 French soldiers commandeered the resources of the island leaving the resident population to fend for itself It was in this context that Fanon first experienced the full force ...


Sheila Gregory Thomas

educator, dramatist, social philosopher, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the youngest of the four children of James Monroe Gregory and Fannie Emma Whiting Hagan. His father, a professor of classics at Howard University, had been a member of the university's first college graduating class in 1872. The family lived on the university campus until Gregory was eight years old, at which time his father resigned from the faculty to head the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth in New Jersey.

The family's 1897 move to Bordentown gave Gregory the run of a beautiful 225 acre campus on the Delaware River A favorite time for him was Saturday mornings when he and his father traveled to Philadelphia by boat to make purchases for the school for these shopping trips inevitably included dinner at Wanamaker s or Snellenburg s and ...


Efraim Barak

Egyptian intellectual, writer, reformer, and lecturer of philosophy, was born in Cairo on 13 February 1935. His father was a professional musician. In the early 1950s, he joined the Muslim Brothers and was active in student politics at the University of Cairo, where he studied philosophy. In 1956, after earning his BA, he moved to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Sorbonne. In 1966, after receiving his PhD in philosophy, he returned to Cairo where, after a year, he began teaching at the local university. At the same time, he translated into Arabic some of the works of Western philosophers, such as Spinoza, Lessing, and Sartre, and published several articles in the journals al-Katib (The Writer) and al-Fikr al-Muʿasi (Modern Thought).

From 1971 to 1975, Hanafi worked as an external lecturer at Temple University in Philadelphia. From 1979 to 1980 he supervised the ...


Hannington Ochwada

Beninese philosopher and politician, was born at Treichville in the Ivory Coast. His father, Paul Hountondji, was a minister of the Methodist Church of Benin, and his mother, Marguerite Hountondji née Dovoédowas, was a housewife. Hountondji is the most prominent scholar in the debate on the contribution of Africa to the discipline of philosophy. He came to prominence in 1976 with the publication of the now- classic Sur “la philosophie africaine”: Critique de l’ethnophilosophie (African Philosophy: Myth and Reality). Hountondji received formal schooling at Savè et Sakété and Lycée Victor Ballot in Porto Novo before proceeding to Lycée Henri IV in the early 1960s for his high school education He was admitted to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris where he came under the tutelage of the great French Marxist theoretician Louis Althusser who also influenced his choice to study philosophy rather than the classics While in ...


Joab Eichenberg-Eilon

Jewish neo-Platonic philosopher active in Egypt, was born in Qayrawan (present-day Tunisia). Other forms of his name are Yitzhaq ben Shelomo ha Yisraeli, Ishaq al-Israʿili, Abu Yaʿqub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Israʿili, Isaac Judaeus, and Isaac Israeli the elder. He was a predecessor of Solomon Ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, and the early kabbalists of the Geronese school. The originator of the emanation theory (Atziluth) in Jewish thought, he is also known for his theory of prophecy in relation to philosophy.

He was the physician of the founder of the Fatimid dynasty, Caliph ʿAbd Allah al-Mahdi Billah; and many of his medical books, written originally in Arabic, were translated into Latin, Spanish, and Hebrew and used in medical education. They include Kitab al Hummayat, on fevers; Kitab al adwiya al mufrada wa al aghdhiya (Latin Diaetae universales et particulares; Hebrew Tivʾei haMezonoth ...


Delores Williams

college professor, political philosopher, and civil rights advocate, was born Preston Theodore King in Albany, Georgia, the youngest of seven sons of Clennon W. King, a civil rights advocate and businessman, and Margaret Slater.

King followed the family view that education was essential and mandatory and proved himself to be a brilliant scholar at an early age. He entered Fisk University in Nashville at age sixteen. He majored in history, languages, and philosophy and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. He enrolled in graduate school at the London School of Economics & Political Science in England, where he earned an M.Sc. (Econ.), the Leverhulme Award in 1958, and the Mark of Distinction and a Ph.D. in 1966. He also studied during the summers at Atlanta University (1955), Universität Wien in Austria, 1956, 1958 German language Université de Strasbourg ...


Alejandro Gortázar

in the first half of the nineteenth century, was born on 15 October 1766 in Rio Grande de San Pedro, a city in Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). His mother was Juana de Sacramento, a Benguela woman from Angola. His father was Ventura, a Mina Dajome man (from Dahomey, currently Republic of Benin). Molina was born on the ship that brought his family to Brazil to be sold as slaves. His parents married in 1765 in Rio Grande.

Molina’s parents were both personal servants to José de Molina (1707–1782), a Spanish military man who came in 1759 to Banda Oriental with the Cevallos expedition to delimitate the Spanish imperial territory in Banda Oriental. Ventura saved José de Molina’s life in 1765 and was rewarded his freedom in return but he preferred to remain with his master Juana his mother was enslaved in Portuguese territory and became a ...


Sylvie Kandé

multimedia artist, philosopher, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Daniel Robert, a lawyer, and Olive Xavier Smith Piper, an administrator. Belonging to a light-skinned African American family, she was confronted early on by challenges that ultimately gave her work some of its unique characteristics, namely the firm assertion of her black identity, her unremitting fleshing out of racial stereotypes, and her commitment to cross-cultural bridge-building. Her involvement with the arts began in childhood: a piano prodigy and ballet dancer, she also took classes at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Her political consciousness was first shaped in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which she joined in 1962, and by the events surrounding the March on Washington in 1963, commemorated in her 1983 poster Think about It She graduated from New Lincoln School in ...


Sylvie Kandé

An outstanding figure of twentieth-century philosophy, literature, and politics, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was the author of world-renowned essays, biographies, novels, and plays. He is generally remembered for his contribution to existentialism, a philosophical doctrine that challenges previous determinations of the nature of human existence and focuses instead on its raw and subjective reality. Positing that existentialism is a form of humanism, Sartre held that individuals must take responsibility for their freedom, which he defines as an uninterrupted series of choices. To achieve authenticity, one must also commit to personal and collective disalienation—an anxiety-inducing process, given the meaninglessness of a world devoid of teleology.

Sartre s own interventions in speeches and publications constantly targeted state power and its institutions and reflected his solidarity with the oppressed An eminent intellectual who declined the Légion d Honneur and the Nobel Prize for Literature Sartre undoubtedly brought into the limelight the various ...


J. Ayo Langley

Studies of African political thought are still dominated by the Western intellectual tradition. As Langley and Van Hensbroek have argued, African political thinkers are still studied as derivative thinkers borrowing from Western political thought without any originality. The purpose of this entry is to draw attention to the thought of Kobina Sekyi (1892–1956) of Ghana, who was fully engaged with the Western intellectual tradition and was trained in the philosophical tradition of the West but who was not a derivative thinker and remained firmly anchored in his Akan-Fanti culture and tradition, to which he turned for inspiration and guidance in the period of cultural crisis unleashed by colonialism and Christianity. The details of his thought can be found in the works listed herein.

William Esuman-Gwira Sekyi, better known as Kobina Sekyi, was born at Cape Coast on 1 November 1892 He was the grandson of Nana ...


Justin J. Corfield

Marcien Towa is an important ideological Marxist who, like Amilcar Cabral, has done much to raise the profile of Marxist-Leninist interpretations of African thought and raise new ideas about ethnophilosophy not only in Africa but also among some of the African diaspora. Certainly some of Towa’s ideas are similar to those of the more high-profile Paulin J. Hountondji, but there are many crucial differences, as Hountondji has been able to detail in his work, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality, where, in the second edition, he contrasts their ideas in detail.

Towa was born in Cameroon in 1931 and was one of the major philosophers who did much to promote the study of African thought in the 1970s and 1980s. He became rector of the University of Yaoundé (formerly the Federal University of Yaoundé). Although he retired in 1997 he still keeps up contact with the university ...


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 ...


Jeremy Rich

academic and politician, was born on 16 April 1942 at the Swedish Protestant mission at Sundi-Lutete, located in the Bas-Congo Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (then the Belgian Congo). Wamba's father, Wamba, was known for both his fidelity to Protestant teachings and his willingness to challenge missionaries. His mother, also a Protestant, taught Wamba how to read. He grew up in the village of Zabanga, and in fact only visited Kinshasa for the first time in 1962. Wamba later recalled how his father managed to remain head of his Kikongo-speaking lineage despite his faith. Ultimately, Wamba distanced himself from Christianity and honored Kongo indigenous traditions. By his adolescent years Wamba became an advocate of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) political party, which called for Congolese independence and even the formation of a separate state for members of the Kongo ethnic community. In February 1960 Wamba ...


Elizabeth Sanders Delwiche Engelhardt

and major figure in African American academia. Cornel West was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 2 June 1953. His mother was an elementary school teacher who later became principal; his father, a civilian administrator in the air force. Both of his parents attended Fisk University. The family, including West's brother, Clifton, moved often. They eventually settled in a middle-class African American neighborhood in Sacramento, California. West graduated with a degree in Near Eastern languages and literature from Harvard University. He received his doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University. As director of Princeton's Afro-American Studies Program from 1988 to 1994, and as a professor in Harvard's Department of Afro-American Studies since 1994 West is one of several high profile scholars who have strengthened African American studies programs He has taught at America s most prestigious universities and has lectured at many others The blend of skills and ...


Lewis R. Gordon

philosopher, educator, and social critic, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Clifton L. West Jr., a civilian air force administrator, and Irene Bias, an elementary school teacher. The West family eventually settled in the segregated city of Sacramento, California. The young Cornel's childhood was at first marked by much anger and rebellion. In the third grade, when his teacher slapped him, he hit her back and was expelled. He was taught at home for six months before being placed in a newly integrated school. At the age of eight he became a devout Christian. From then onward, the precocious Cornel became a conscientious student, and spent much of his youth reading biographies and philosophical texts from the neighborhood bookmobile and articles from the Black Panther newspaper.

West s family was Baptist and he grew up with a sense of pride in the role of ...


Zachery R. Williams

African American philosopher, public intellectual, theologian, and activist. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cornel West was raised the grandson of a Baptist minister. The influences of the black church made an indelible impact on his emerging consciousness. In his youth, he obtained a reputation as highly intelligent and outspoken regarding matters of inequality.

As an adolescent growing up in Sacramento, California, West came under the influence of the Black Panther Party. It was during this crucial period in West's maturation that he acquired his abiding interest in democratic socialism. Early on, he came to view black progress through a global lens. Among the parallel influences on West were the writings and activities of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Wylie Evers. There was no doubt in the eyes of many that West was on his way to becoming a scholar-activist.

In 1970 ...