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Anani Dzidzienyo

Afro-Latin America encompasses a broad geographical, cultural, and linguistic area of Latin America—from Brazil in South America to the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, and Mexico in Central America. There is no agreement among scholars or other observers about which countries may be correctly designated as Afro-Latin American. A generally accepted yardstick emphasizes the presence of people of African descent from the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the present. How many Afro-Latin Americans there are today is a difficult question to answer. Throughout Latin America, definitions of race, color, and origin are extremely varied. In Brazil, for example, the four official racial categories are black, brown (or pardo), yellow, and white. Yet census takers in 1980 counted some 140 terms ...


Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...


Bernard Demczuk

Ben's Chili Bowl (1213 U Street, NW) is a family-owned and -operated restaurant in the historically African American community of Shaw/Cardozo, Washington, DC. The restaurant sits on the former, yet famous, “Black Broadway,” so named by Pearl Bailey in the 1940s as the premier African American entertainment strip in America. During the Jim Crow Era of segregation, Black Broadways appear in urban centers across the United States but the U Street corridor, just blocks from Howard University, cultivated a sense of its own blackness with hundreds of African American businesses, churches, social clubs, banks, hotels, barbershops, beauty salons, and entertainment venues, including one of the premier African American performing arts venue in America—The Howard Theatre—established in 1910 Ben s Chili Bowl sits at the epicenter of the Black Broadway strip close to the theater that rocked with blues jazz gospel R B doo wop soul funk go go ...


Gordon Root

Ignacio Villa, known by his stage name, Bola de Nieve, was born and grew up in a poor neighborhood in Guanabacoa, Cuba. His parents introduced him to Afro-Cuban music when he was a child, and he was exposed to European classical music in his formal studies. His classical training began when he studied privately with Gerado Guanche. Later Villa enrolled in the Conservatorio de José Mateu, where he studied mandolin and flute as well as piano.

At home Villa absorbed many elements of traditional Afro-Cuban music through his contact with Rumba and other rhythms and dances. It has been suggested that his parents participated in African-based religions and that young Ignacio had been educated in the music and practices of Afro-Cuban religion as well.

As a boy Villa helped support his family by performing in house for neighborhood audiences His professional career began in the 1920s ...



Curtis Jacobs

was the first of three children born to Thomas Reginald “Reggie” Carr and Cecilia Behamie Carr, a devout Roman Catholic family at Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 7 March 1902. His father was a British estate owner, and his mother was a direct descendant of King David, a Mandingo who came to Trinidad during the nineteenth century. His siblings were Emelda Candella, born in October 1903, and Dorothy Victoria, born 23 December 1905.

Belmont was one of the places where survivors of the British slave trade gathered with Africans who the British had seized on slave ships in international waters and relocated to Trinidad, in an effort to enforce international compliance with the 1808 abolition of the British slave trade. During the period immediately prior to 1834 they lived nearly in near isolation, more or less living out their lives as Africans from the old country.

Carr attended ...


The 500-year history of black cultural and political organization in Latin America is immensely rich. It begins in the 1500s and 1600s with communities formed by runaway slaves who, after escaping from their masters, sought shelter in the forests and mountains of the region. These communities were known as quilombos or mocambos in Brazil, and palenques or cumbes in Spanish America. Most of them were small, mobile encampments that lasted a few years at most before being attacked and dispersed by colonial forces. As soon as one encampment was broken up, however, others would form; and occasionally they took permanent root, evolving into fortified villages and small towns built in African styles and governed by military commanders and priests. The largest such settlement was Palmares, a federation of villages in the northeastern Brazilian state of Alagoas. Palmares lasted almost ninety years (1610–1695 before being defeated by ...


legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Baguirmi, was apparently born in the early sixteenth century. Given the wealth of legends about his life and the lack of documentary evidence, it may be that stories involving Dala Birni Bisse may refer to events linked to several early mbang kings of Baguirmi Many oral traditions collected about Dala Birni Bisse claim that his grandfather ʿAbd al Tukruru was the great grandson of ʿAli son in law of the prophet Muhammad Supposedly ʿAbd al Tukruru s father Muhammad Baguirmi was a black child of two Arabian parents who was nearly killed by his angry relatives ʿAbd al Tukruru advised his twelve sons and twelve of their friends to leave Yemen and establish a kingdom somewhere to the west They brought with them bellows made of stone from the holy city of Medina three drums three trumpets and three lances carried by ...



Allen J. Fromherz

the Aeneas of North African Arabs, was a semilegendary Arab chief and a primary character in the most important medieval Arab epic, the Sira al-Hilaliyya. The Sira al-Hilaliyya glorifies the story of the great “western march” of Arabs from their original homelands to Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Sira tells of the odyssey of the Arab migrants who journeyed from Yemen and Arabia to the more verdant lands of North Africa. It relates the resistance they encountered from Berber peoples as they spread across the continent in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The arrival of the Arabs irrevocably changed the cultural and linguistic landscape of the Maghreb.

The first part of the Sira takes place in Arabia and details long struggles between warring factions and the eventual displacement of one tribe the Banu Hilal to the land of Jaziya in North Africa Driven from Arabia by famine ...


Douglas H. Johnson

Nuer prophet, was the son of and successor to the nineteenth-century prophet Deng Laka. Deng Laka was a Dinka refugee living among the Gaawar Nuer along the Zeraf Valley in what is now Jonglei state, South Sudan, in the mid-nineteenth century. His mother and sisters were sold into slavery by the slavers’ Gaawar ally, Nuaar Mer. Deng Laka, proclaiming seizure by the divinity Diu, organized a force of other disaffected Nuer, defeated and killed Nuaar Mer, and became the dominant leader of the Nuer in the Zeraf Valley. He was usually successful in raids against his southern Dinka neighbors, but he also attracted Dinka young men as his followers and married several Dinka wives. He defeated an invading Mahdist army in 1896, but his relations with the incoming Anglo-Egyptian government at the beginning of the twentieth century, while wary, were peaceful.

On Deng Laka’s death in 1907 his ...



Julio Cesar Pino

Favelas represent the plight and promise of the urban poor in Brazil. Although they can be found throughout the country, favelas are more numerous in Rio de Janeiro, once the nation's federal district (1889–1960) and still its second largest city. Shantytowns such as Rocinha and Jacarezinho have become an indelible part of the landscape of the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). Other Brazilian metropolises—São Paulo, Salvador, Recife—have their own favelas, with populations numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but these settlements have not attained the political prominence or journalistic notoriety of the ones in Rio.

The favela is fundamentally different from inner city slums and tenements the type of poor people s housing prevalent in the developed world Tenements are usually rundown buildings owned by a landlord where the occupants pay rent Squatter settlements by contrast are units of self constructed housing built on terrain seized and ...


J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Ginger, wine-gold,

Persimmon, blackberry,

All through the spectrum

Harlem girls vary—

So if you want to know beauty's

Rainbow-sweet thrill,

Stroll down luscious,

Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

—Langston Hughes, “Harlem Sweeties”

In his 1942 poem “Harlem Sweeties,” Langston Hughes rhapsodizes about the rich variety of black beauty visible on a walk through Harlem, New York's famed Sugar Hill. This beauty ranges from a “honey-gold baby/Sweet enough to eat” to a “cocoa brown/Pomegranate-lipped/Pride of the town.” His list captures the spectrum of colors in which African Americans come—and the diversity of ways in which black is beautiful.

The history of African American hair and beauty culture is rich and complicated and reflects the complexities of African Americans connections to both African and American cultures At times African American hair and beauty culture has been associated with the larger social trend toward assimilation into American culture as blacks have adopted hairstyles ...


Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

What’s new in Harlem: the air expectant; arrival and departure; the train depot; the brownstones; the shoeshine boys, and the numbers runners; all the players assembled on these storied streets. The drumbeat struck in Harlem echoes in all the cities transformed by the Black Belt’s Great Migration. In the salons, rent parties, jazz clubs, and meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the New Negro Renaissance took its most definitive and impactful shape.

The violent end of Reconstruction the rise of Jim Crow segregation and the shift away from an agricultural economy galvanized black migration on a national and international scale As the global south moved north black Manhattan transformed from a small enclave of colored men and women to a more expansive micro nation of blackness as immigrants from Jamaica Barbados and Trinidad joined those from Mississippi Georgia and North Carolina The regional and ...


Jim Mendelsohn

As slaves of the Dutch West India Company, Africans built the first wagon road into Harlem in the seventeenth century, and for the next two centuries, African slaves worked the Dutch, and then English, farms in Harlem. In 1790, during an early census, 115 slaves were listed for the Harlem Division, which accounted for about one-third the population of the area.

But the evolution of Harlem into the political and cultural capital of black America is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Once a wealthy suburb of New York City, Harlem real estate soared in value at the turn of the century, only to collapse beneath excessive speculation in 1904 and 1905. Those years coincided with the completion of the Lenox Avenue subway line to lower Manhattan. Philip Payton s Afro American Realty Company leased large numbers of Harlem apartment houses from white owners and rented them to ...


Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...



John Garst

an African American criminal whose fame lives in the ballad John Hardy, was hanged on the order of Judge T. L. Henritze in Welch, West Virginia, for the murder in January 1893 of Thomas Drews, also African American, at a camp of the Shawnee Coal Company near Eckman, McDowell County. He was convicted in Welch on 12 October 1893.

According to a 1925 statement by 67-year-old Lee Holley, a lifelong resident of Tazewell, Virginia, who claimed to have known Hardy well, he “was 27 or 8 when he was hung” (Chappell, 25). He may have been the John Hardy who was born in Virginia, was thirteen years old in 1880, and lived then in Glade Springs, Washington County, Virginia, with his parents, Miles and Malinda Hardy (U.S. Census, 1880 According to Holley he was one of a gang of gamblers about a half dozen ...


David C. Conrad

ruler of the West African Soso Empire in present-day Mali, was a central iconic figure in the Sunjata epic. In this story, Kanté is described as a “sorcerer king” and is credited with the acquisition of Mande musical instruments and conquest of pre-Malian Mande chiefdoms. His sister Kosiya Kanté was the mother of Fakoli Koroma, who is claimed as an ancestor by most Mande endogamous blacksmith lineages.

Our knowledge of Sumanguru also known as Sumaworo Sumamuru Sumawolo and other similar names comes almost entirely from oral tradition although his ephemeral kingdom is historical and it is reasonable to assume the existence of the ruler on which this legendary character is based Moreover in the Mande worldview Sumanguru plays a pivotal role in events affecting key historical ancestors and leading up to the founding of the Mali Empire The existence of Sumanguru s kingdom is acknowledged in the Arabic sources including ...



Richard A. Bradshaw

Central African religious leader whose prophetic vision and teaching of nonviolent resistance to foreign domination in the 1920s helped inspire the so-called Baya Revolt or Hoe Handle War (Biro Konggo Wara), was born Barka Ngainoumbey during the 1890s in the village of Seri-Poumba, near Bouar and the Cameroonian border in western Ubangi-Shari. His name is also spelled Karnou. His father, Gbayanga Ngabanan Ngaiwen, belonged to the Gbaya (Baya) ethnolinguistic group, and thus so did his son. Barka’s parents separated while he was still very young, and his mother took him back to her village with her. Little is known for certain about his youth, but it is said that as a teenager, Barka was initiated into the Labi cult, which is associated with the acquisition of certain extraordinary powers, and that Barka was known for his hunting and fishing skills.

It is said that when Barka went to ...