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Article

Israel Gershoni

the third and last khedive of Egypt, ruled the country from 1892 to 1914. ʿAbbas was the seventh ruler in Mehmet ʿAli’s dynasty, which was established in the early nineteenth century. ʿAbbas came to the throne at the very young age of eighteen in January 1892 after his father, Khedive Tawfiq (r. 1879–1892), died unexpectedly. Born in Cairo ʿAbbas was educated by tutors at the Thudicum in Geneva and later in the Theresianum Military Academy in Vienna.

Unlike his father, a weak ruler who was considered a puppet of the British colonial rule, the young ʿAbbas strove to restore the original khedival status as sovereign ruler, patterned after the model established by his grandfather Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 and to assert Egypt s unique status as a semiautonomous province within the Ottoman Empire ʿAbbas s aspirations clashed with British rule particularly with the authority of the powerful agent ...

Article

Robert Fikes

writer, was born Jervis Beresford Anderson in the rural village of Chatham, Jamaica, in the British West Indies, to Peter Anderson, a building contractor, and Ethlyn Allen, a homemaker. Peter Anderson enforced a strict Baptist upbringing on his son. Having passed a series of rigorous qualifying exams, within days after graduating from Kingston Technical School, a high school affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Jervis was hired as a trainee journalist at the Daily Gleaner, the most revered and influential newspaper on the island. He left its employ after a year—uncomfortable with the newspaper's conservatism and acquiescence to the colonial regime—and joined the writers' staff at Public Opinion a weekly that advocated self rule and was closely allied with the People s National Party Having rejected the stern religion of his father and the unquestioning allegiance to the British Crown manifested by his ...

Article

S. L. Gardner

coal miner who wrote the first published memoir of an African American coal miner, was born Robert Lee Armstead in Watson, West Virginia, to Queen Esther Armstead and James Henry Armstead. James worked in Alabama and West Virginia coal mines for fifty years. Bob received his formal education in all‐black schools. The eighth of eleven children born and reared in coal camps, he learned early on that the family's well‐being depended on his parents' extraordinary ability to feed and clothe so many on his father's meager income. His religious mother and authoritarian father instilled in their children a strong sense of responsibility, dedication to the family, and solid work ethic.

In 1929 when Bob was two years old the family moved to Grays Flats a segregated coal camp on the edge of Grant Town West Virginia In the late 1920s the Grant Town mine employed 2 200 men ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.

Anna Julia Cooper, in what is considered the first black feminist text, A Voice from the South (1892), declared, “As our Caucasian barristers are not to blame if they cannot quite put themselves in the dark man’s place, neither should the dark man be wholly expected fully and adequately to reproduce the exact Voice of the black Woman.” African American women have written autobiographies since the 1700s. Today, the many forms of autobiography—memoirs, essays, notes, diaries, advice, and self-help—constitute one of the most important genres in black writing.

Some of the most exciting and dynamic work written at the beginning of the twenty first century focused attention on the social history of black women These autobiographical writings both outside and within the academy occupied in a sense the frontier sites of public discourse ...

Article

Lynn Orilla Scott

Slave narratives are autobiographical accounts of the physical and spiritual journey from slavery to freedom. In researching her groundbreaking 1946 dissertation, Marion Wilson Starling located 6,006 slave narratives written between 1703 and 1944. This number includes brief testimonies found in judicial records, broadsides, journals, and newsletters as well as separately published books. It also includes approximately 2,500 oral histories of former slaves gathered by the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s. The number of separately published slave narratives, however, is much smaller. Although exact numbers are not available, nearly one hundred slave narratives were published as books or pamphlets between 1760 and 1865, and approximately another one hundred following the Civil War. The slave narrative reached the height of its influence and formal development during the antebellum period, from 1836 to 1861 During this time it became a distinct genre of American literature and achieved immense popularity ...

Article

M. W. Daly

Sudanese educator and memoirist, was born in a village on the Atbara, the son of Muhammad al-Sadiq al-Tayyib of the Rubatab tribe and Madina bint al-Nur. With them he moved in boyhood to Rufaʾa on the Blue Nile. There, after a traditional quʾranic education, he became an early adherent of Muhammad Ahmad, the Mahdi. He fought in major engagements of the Mahdiyya, including the decisive battle of Omdurman (Karari), after which he returned to Rufaʾa. His famous memoir, Taʾrikh Hayati, remains an important eyewitness account for events of that and subsequent periods.

It is for Babikr Badri’s long career as an educator that he is famous. He became headmaster of the first primary school at Rufaʾa in 1903 Despite a traditional Sudanese upbringing he had a more liberal attitude toward girls education than officials of the new Anglo Egyptian colonial regime And with little formal training ...

Article

Wesley Borucki

journalist. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Ray Stannard Baker was the son of Joseph and Alice Stannard Baker. Joseph moved the family to Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, in 1875 where he worked as a real estate and utility agent. Ray dabbled in literary, agricultural, and scientific studies at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) before turning his attention to the law. He studied at the University of Michigan Law School for only one semester, however, before becoming interested in prose writing. In 1893 he became a reporter for the Chicago Record newspaper. When the Panic of 1893 gripped Chicago, Baker saw levels of poverty, unemployment, and unrest beyond what he had ever seen before, and he was drawn to the experiences of the poor whom he found in soup kitchens, jails, and flophouses. Baker gained further sympathy for the common man when he covered the labor leader Jacob ...

Article

Dahlia Patrice Perryman

author, was born Freddie Mae Baxter in Denmark, South Carolina, the seventh of eight children born to Julia Free, a domestic worker, and Henry Baxter, a farmer. In 1933Baxter's father left home and moved to a nearby town Undeterred her mother continued to work as a domestic caring for the families of others to support her own five girls and three boys The family lived in extreme poverty residing in a tiny one story shack with no bathroom running water or electricity Throughout these early years Baxter picked cotton for a family that owned a hardware store At age thirteen the quick thinking and strong minded young lady decided that she no longer wanted to work in the field She convinced her boss to let her work inside the home fixing breakfast for the owner s family before school Baxter was extremely close to her mother ...

Article

Justin David Gifford

pimp-turned-novelist, autobiographer, essayist, and central figure of the black crime fiction movement that began in the 1960s, was born in Chicago, Illinois, as Robert Lee Maupin Jr., the only child of Mary Brown, a hairdresser, and Robert Maupin Sr., a hustler and one-time cook for Chicago mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson. In 1919, the year of the bloodiest race riots in Chicago's history, Robert Maupin Sr. tossed his infant son against a wall and abandoned the family. Beck survived, and Mary Brown supported her infant son by working as a door-to-door hairstylist. In 1924 she met Henry Upshaw the owner of a cleaning and pressing shop the only black business in Rockford Illinois Remembered by Beck as the only father I had ever really known Iceberg Slim 23 Upshaw provided Beck and his mother with a relatively stable middle class life However ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

record executive, producer, and activist, was born Alvertis Isbell in Brinkley, Arkansas, in 1940 or 1941. In 1945 his family moved to Little Rock, where Bell later graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the city's Philander Smith College, following this with uncompleted ministerial training; he worked as a disc jockey throughout high school and college. In 1959 Bell began working at workshops run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His SCLC involvement was short-lived, which Bell attributed to a difference in philosophy, explaining that King's strategy of nonviolent confrontation differed from his belief in the power of black capitalist entrepreneurship in effecting social change.

Bell then worked full time at several radio stations first at WLOK in Memphis where his laid back style helped boost ratings and then at WUST in Washington D C where he introduced ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on an Indian reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Gwendolyn's father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. When her parents divorced, her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with Gwendolyn's stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918–1921) Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies—the first African American to do so—and won first place in an art contest. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an undergraduate her poems Nocturne and Heritage were published in ...

Article

William P. Toth

writer and journalist, was born George Harold Bennett in Buckingham, Virginia, the seventh of eight children born to Charles E. Bennett Sr. and Minnie P. (Bryant) Bennett, of whom little else is known. His family moved north to Orange, New Jersey, during the Great Migration, though he often spent his childhood summers in Buckingham. At age sixteen, Bennett worked part time as a features writer for the Newark (N.J.) Herald News. He attended Orange High School, graduating as class valedictorian, and had dreams of becoming a concert pianist.

After high school Bennett joined the air force and was stationed in Korea, where he was a writer for the Public Information Division and an editor for a military newspaper. When he was discharged in 1952, he continued his journalism career as the fiction editor for African American News in Baltimore Maryland and then became a partner ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.Bontemps then moved to Harlem, New York, where the Harlem Renaissance had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize from Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and The Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes, with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator. In Harlem, Bontemps also came to know Countée Cullen, W ...

Article

Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer and educator, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, to parents about whom little is known but who were only briefly married before Harold's father took his young son to New York City during the black migration to the North. The elder Cruse found work as a custodian with the Long Island Railroad; however, he soon realized the he could not care for a small child alone and placed Harold with a foster family in Queens. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s his foster mother, Aunt Henrietta, instilled a love for the black theater in the young Harold, frequently taking him to performances. With the coming of the Depression the family lost their home and was forced to move into an apartment in Harlem, where Cruse became more deeply immersed in black culture. There he would witness performances by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson, and Florence ...

Article

Marilyn Demarest Button

educator, administrator, writer, and activist, was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Thomas Cornelius Cuthbert and Victoria Means. She attended grammar and secondary school in her hometown and studied at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Boston University, where she completed her BA in 1920.

Following her graduation, Cuthbert moved to Florence, Alabama, and became an English teacher and assistant principal at Burrell Normal School. Promoted to principal in 1925, she began to lead students and faculty in bold new perspectives on gender equality and interracial harmony.

In 1927 Cuthbert left Burrell to become one of the first deans of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. In her essay, “The Dean of Women at Work,” published in the Journal of the National Association of College Women (Apr. 1928 she articulated her belief that covert sexism at the administrative level of black colleges limited their ...

Article

Beverly Lanier Skinner

scholar, professor, and cultural critic, was born in Hampton, Virginia, the youngest of nine siblings in one of Hampton's most socially prominent black families. His father, Andrew Davis, born a slave, was an 1872 graduate of Hampton Institute and was the “leading plasterer and plastering contractor in Hampton” (Negro History Bulletin, Jan. 1950). He and his wife, Frances S. Nash, were strict disciplinarians who taught their children to refuse any form of charity during the difficult Depression era and to refuse menial job offers from whites. Davis's parents also taught him high standards of decorum, including not eating watermelon, not shelling peas on the front porch, and avoiding “emotional excesses” (for example, “shouting” in church and talking loudly), he recalled in a 1944 essay called “When I Was in Knee Pants” (47).

Davis s parents sent him to the ...

Article

Samuel A. Hay

writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.

Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...

Article

Jeff Shantz

writer and union activist, was born in rural Alabama. As a youth Denby endured the hardships of farm labor. During the 1920s he joined the Great Migration of African American workers who migrated to the northern industrial centers in search of employment. Denby ended up in Detroit, where he found work as an auto assembler on the production lines.

The 1930s were a period of militant mobilization and organization among workers in the auto industry and Denby became a leading participant in the wildcat strikes that swept through the industry in the 1930s and 1940s crucial struggles in the development of the United Auto Workers UAW His involvement in these organizing campaigns both reinforced his view that struggles over race and class were intricately enmeshed and convinced him that working class gains could not be made unless unions were prepared to attack systemic racism a perspective that was not ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...