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Sierra Leonean public intellectual, was born in the southwest Nigerian city of Abeokuta in 1848. His father was from the Krio community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Many people from Freetown were former slaves originally of Yoruba descent, and still others traded in southern Nigeria by the 1840s. His father may have been a Muslim notable in Freetown, but his Christian missionary uncle took him under his wing. His parents agreed to send him to the Church Missionary Society (Anglican) mission school in Freetown. Though he did not stay long in school, Abayomi-Cole proved to be a formidable intellect. He mastered Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. In the 1870s and early 1880s, Abayomi-Cole made a living as a teacher. His lively intelligence attracted the interest of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which appointed him a catechist in the Sierra Leonean town of Shenge in the Shebro district in 1885 ...

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Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

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Jessica Falconi

Angolan essayist, poet, and militant anticolonialist, was born in Golungo Alto, Kwanza-Norte province, Angola. The son of José Cristino Pinto de Andrade, one of the founders of the African National League (Liga Nacional Africana), and Ana Rodrigues Coelho, he came to be known as a “Citizen of Africa.” At two years of age, he moved with his family to Luanda, where he completed his primary and secondary school studies. The proto-nationalist ideas of his father, the growing urbanization of Luanda, and the heterogeneous racial and social atmosphere of the Luanda Catholic seminary constituted the primary elements that marked the formation of his personality.

In 1948 he traveled to Lisbon, where he began a course in classics in the Department of Letters and frequented the Casa dos Estudantes do Império (House of Students of the Empire), an institution created in 1944 to support students from the colonies which quickly was ...

Article

One of the most important intellectuals at work today, Asante is the founding and preeminent theorist of Afrocentricity, an intellectual movement that insists on the study of Africa and African peoples from an African perspective. In 1996 the Utne Reader called Asante “one of the 100 leading thinkers” in the United States. His development of the methodology of Afrocentricity initiated debates, both inside and outside the academy, on the nature of a pluralistic society in a postcolonial age. A prolific writer with an impressive intellectual range, he has authored over 40 books and more than 200 scholarly articles. Asante is professor and former chair of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he created the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies.

Asante was born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr., in Valdosta, Georgia one of sixteen children in a working class family ...

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Ama Mazama

scholar and author, was born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. in Valdosta, Georgia. He was the first son of Lillie Wilkson, a domestic worker, and Arthur L. Smith, a railroad worker. The family grew over the years and eventually included sixteen children.

Valdosta, a small southern town also known as the Azalea City, was the arena in which young Arthur first saw the abuses and injustices suffered by black people under segregation. He picked cotton during the summer to help his family, a task representing for him not only the injustices of the present but also the awful, backbreaking conditions that his ancestors had to endure for hundreds of years during slavery. While shining shoes at age eleven, he was spat upon by a white man, an experience he would later recall in describing his growing determination to fight against racism.

Identified early in life as possessing exceptional intellectual ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” In this statement from his 1972 essay “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin sums up a philosophy that drove much of his work. Baldwin was continually conscious of the hypocrisies and injustices in the world around him, and as a writer he strove to make his audiences aware of the possibility that people could do, and be, better. An expatriate most of his adult life, Baldwin nevertheless wrote tirelessly about the contradictions inherent in American identity, and especially about the state of American race relations. He came to be respected as one of the most insightful intellectuals in the Civil Rights Movement and as a leading figure in the African American literary tradition.

Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924 Shortly ...

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Carolyn Wedin

writer and civil rights activist. James Arthur Baldwin was born James Arthur Jones in Harlem Hospital in New York City to Emma Berdis Jones. He was adopted by Jones's husband David Baldwin, a Baptist preacher and factory worker, in 1927.

By the time of his death Baldwin had become a kind of prophetic spokesperson—as both artist and activist—for black life and black history in America, a strong critic of the country he loved. This he accomplished with considerable reflective time spent outside the country, especially in France and Turkey; with wide-ranging artistic and literary contacts; and with a consummate skill in several literary genres, especially the essay, the novel, and the play.

Home life for Jimmy was hectic and demanding He moved frequently between crowded apartments in Harlem with his overworked mother his angry stepfather David Baldwin s mother and oldest son and eight brothers and sisters ...

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Floris Barnett Cash

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), the leading agent of change and promoter of a new “relevant” black literature of the 1960s, influenced the development of contemporary black letters. Amiri Baraka is the author of twenty plays, three jazz operas, seven books of nonfiction, and thirteen volumes of poetry. Born Everett Jones in Newark, New Jersey, he is the son of Coyette Jones, a postal worker and elevator operator, and Anna Lois Russ Jones, a social worker. Baraka graduated with honors from Newark’s Barringer High School in 1951 at the age of fifteen and received a scholarship to Rutgers University in Newark. A year later, “LeRoi” transferred to Howard University, where he remained briefly before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1954. Stationed at Ramsey Field, Puerto Rico, for two years, he read extensively, wrote poetry, and traveled to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

In 1957 ...

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James Smethurst

Amiri Baraka was a highly productive writer who has written poetry, drama, novels, Jazz operas, and nonfiction. He also played a crucial role as an organizer, editor, and promoter of the avant-garde literary movements of the 1950s and early 1960s and the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often controversial, Baraka became the center of a political firestorm in his home state of New Jersey in 2003 when a poem he had written was criticized as anti-Semitic.

Born Everett Leroy (later LeRoi) Jones in Newark, New Jersey, Baraka attended Newark public schools and studied chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C., before turning to literature and philosophy. In 1954 he left Howard and joined the United States Air Force. He became increasingly interested in literature, immersing himself in the work of American poet Ezra Pound, Irish novelist James Joyce and other modern ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

poet, playwright, educator, and activist, was born Everett Leroy Jones in Newark, New Jersey, the eldest of two children to Coyette Leroy Jones, a postal supervisor, and Anna Lois Russ, a social worker. Jones's lineage included teachers, preachers, and shop owners who elevated his family into Newark's modest, though ambitious, black middle class. His own neighborhood was black, but the Newark of Jones's youth was mostly white and largely Italian. He felt isolated and embattled at McKinley Junior High and Barringer High School, yet he excelled in his studies, played the trumpet, ran track, and wrote comic strips.

Graduating from high school with honors at age fifteen, Jones entered the Newark branch of Rutgers University on a science scholarship. In 1952 after his first year he transferred to Howard University hoping to find a sense of purpose at a black college that had ...

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Henry C. Lacey

One of the most influential and prolific African American writers of the twentieth century, Amiri Baraka first came to the attention of readers and critics as LeRoi Jones. He was born Everett LeRoy Jones on 7 October 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. His solidly middle-class upbringing figures prominently in his creative work and must be considered one of the major distinguishing features in any comparative treatment of Baraka and other seminal African American literary artists. The son of postal employee Coyt LeRoy Jones and social worker Anna Lois (Russ) Jones, Baraka articulates the angst of the African American middle class with unsurpassed effect in works from every phase of his artistic development. This concern is most apparent in such relatively early works as the Beat-inspired Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note (1961), the theatrical triumph Dutchman (1964), the barometric essays collected in Home Social ...

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Magda Romanska

playwright, poet, writer, and one of the leaders of the black revolt of the 1960s. Imamu Amiri Baraka was born Everett Leroy Jones during the Great Depression in Newark, New Jersey. He is credited as one of the most outspoken advocates of a black cultural and political revival in the 1960s. He attended Barringer High School and Rutgers University, where he pursued philosophy and religious studies, before enrolling in Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was then that he changed his name to LeRoi Jones. Baraka graduated from Howard University in 1953, and in 1954 he joined the U S Air Force in which he served for three years When an anonymous tipster suggested that he was a communist sympathizer Baraka s belongings were searched for subversive literature Because some of his books were deemed socialist Baraka was discharged from the military Shortly thereafter he ...

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Martha I. Pallante

Born to Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut, Henry Ward Beecher was a member of one of the nation's most visible reform-minded families, and he would come to be acknowledged as one of nineteenth-century America's finest orators.

The ninth of ten children, who included the author Harriet Beecher Stowe and the educator Catherine Beecher, Henry grew up questioning the faith his father passionately espoused. Hoping to inspire his son, Lyman Beecher sent him to the Mount Pleasant Classical Academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1827. There Henry committed to becoming a minister. He attended Amherst College (1830–1834) and Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio (1834–1837). After serving as a the pastor for two Congregational churches in Indiana, at Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis, he was called to the pulpit of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, in 1847.

By the time Beecher returned to ...

Article

Cilas Kemedjio

Mongo Beti (born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala) was born in 1932 in Akometan near Yaoundé, during the colonial period when Cameroon was ruled by France and Great Britain, under the trusteeship of the League of Nations and then the United Nations. Beti died on 7 October 2001, at the Douala General Hospital in Cameroon. He wrote his first novel (Ville cruelle, 1954) as Eza Boto, which, in the Beti language, literally means the “people from elsewhere, the strangers.” With his second novel, he adopted Mongo Beti, which translates as “the child of the Beti,” his ethnic group. Beti would have been a German citizen, but Western history decided differently, and he became a French subject. Unlike the preceding generation, which followed the paths of German schooling before leaving for Germany, Beti went to the French colonial school, continuing his studies in France after his baccalauréat.

Beti arrived in ...

Article

Born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala in Mbalmayo, a town near Yaoundé, he adopted the pen name Eza Bota with his first work and thereafter used the pseudonym Mongo Beti. Educated in Catholic mission schools and then at a French lycée in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Beti went to France in 1951 to study literature at the University of Aix-en-Provence. He published his first novel, Ville cruelle, in 1954. This work introduces the major themes of his early writing: the social disorientation caused by colonialism, and the African’s revolt against traditional village life, especially its patriarchy.

With his second novel, Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (1956; The Poor Christ of Bomba, 1971 Beti established himself as an important Francophone French language writer The novel was banned in Cameroon however because it presumes a complicity between missionaries and the government in maintaining colonialism Written in the form of ...

Article

Frank E. Dobson

educator and scholar. The grandson of slaves, Horace Mann Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to two graduates of Oberlin College, Jane Alice Browne, a schoolteacher, and James Bond, a minister. Named after the abolitionist and educator Horace Mann, Bond was an academic prodigy, graduating from high school at the age of fourteen. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and was something of a mascot to his older classmates. Labeled the “class baby” by some, Bond proved himself a leader, becoming involved in a number of activities, including the school newspaper, debate, and a social fraternity. Bond graduated from Lincoln with honors in 1923, at the age of eighteen.

Following graduation Bond was offered a teaching post at Lincoln in preparation he took graduate courses at Pennsylvania State College While at Penn State Bond excelled academically but he encountered racism from a white professor who refused ...

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Alice Drum

writer, professor, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Cary, a junior high school science teacher, and Carole Hamilton, a one time hairdresser and elementary school special education teacher. Cary's mother took an active role in guiding her early education in public schools in the Philadelphia suburbs. In 1972 in a move that had tremendous significance personally and academically for the young teenager Cary with her mother s encouragement entered the prestigious St Paul s Preparatory School in New Hampshire Historically an all male all white institution St Paul s in the 1970s was actively seeking to change its elitist image by admitting girls and African Americans Although Cary had eagerly sought admission to St Paul s her experiences there were mixed While she was successful academically and socially she often felt isolated never entirely a part of St Paul s established world ...

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Vanita Vactor

writer, performance artist, and activist, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, but grew up in Detroit, Michigan, as the younger of two daughters of Albert Buford Cleage Jr., a minister, and Doris Graham Cleage, an elementary school teacher. Her father created his own religious denomination, the Black Nationalist Christian Church. His church, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, was most noted for its eighteen-foot pulpit portrait of a black Madonna painted by Glanton Dowdell. Cleage's parents bestowed upon her family an Afrocentric view of the world. She grew up surrounded by books and listening to political discussions about black liberation and empowerment. She and her sister Kristen were taught early on that growing up in a home of black middle-class privilege meant also having social and political responsibilities to contribute to the black community's liberation out of poverty, disenfranchisement, and racism.

A gifted student Cleage attended Northwestern High ...

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Jacob Zumoff

Black Panther Party leader, was born Leroy Eldridge Cleaver in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, the third child of six born to Leroy Cleaver, a nightclub pianist and waiter, and Thelma (maiden name unknown), an elementary school teacher and janitor. After a brief stay in Phoenix, Arizona, the family moved in 1947 to East Los Angeles, where Leroy Cleaver, often abusive and violent toward Eldridge and his mother, eventually abandoned them. Soon afterward, Eldridge was arrested for the first time, for stealing a bicycle, and from 1949 until 1966 he spent most of his time in reform school and prison. At one reform school in 1950, he briefly converted to Roman Catholicism—less out of religious conviction, he later recalled, than because at that school most Catholics were black or Latino and most Protestants were white. In 1952 he was returned to reform school after being caught selling marijuana.

In 1954 ...

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Lauren Araiza and Joshua Bloom

Cleaver, Eldridge (31 August 1935–01 May 1998), social activist and writer, was born Leroy Eldridge Cleaver in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, the son of Leroy Cleaver, a waiter and nightclub piano player, and Thelma Hattie Robinson Cleaver, an elementary school teacher. When Cleaver was ten the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona; three years later, they moved again, this time to Los Angeles, California. Soon after, his parents separated. At this time, Cleaver became involved in criminal activities. In 1949 he was arrested for stealing a bicycle and was sent to reform school. In 1952 he was arrested for selling marijuana and was sent back to reform school. In 1954, a few days after his release, Cleaver was again arrested for marijuana possession and was sent to Soledad State Prison for a term of two and a half years.

While in Soledad Cleaver earned his high school diploma and studied ...