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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

Mary Jane Lupton

autobiographer, poet, educator, playwright, essayist, actor, and director, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on 4 April 1928. Her pen name derives from having been called “Maya” (“My”) by her brother Bailey and from having being married for nearly three years to Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor whom she met while she was a salesgirl in a record store. After the marriage to Angelos ended in divorce, she performed as a calypso dancer at The Purple Onion, a San Francisco night club, where she took the stage name that she still uses.

Maya Angelou s mother Vivian Baxter was a blackjack dealer and a nurse her father Bailey Johnson Sr was a doorman a cook and a dietician for the United States Navy Their marriage ended in divorce When Maya was three and Bailey was four the children with name tags on their wrists were sent ...

Article

Stefanie K. Dunning

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. Because her brother Bailey could not say her whole name as a child, Marguerite became Maya. Angelou's life is synonymous with her work; she has published a series of five autobiographies, her most famous being I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). In each of these five works, Angelou writes about particular and important parts of her life. Yet not only does each book elucidate periods in Angelou's own life, but these books also paint a picture of the time she is writing about within the black community. Angelou's work demonstrates that the personal is political and that the events that shape and inform an individual life are often related to large political movements and events that affect an entire community.

Long before the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The wit, wisdom, and power of Angelou's work have made her one of the most beloved contemporary American writers. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Later she chose a new name for herself by combining her childhood nickname, Maya, with a version of her first husband's last name. Her family moved to California soon after her birth, but her parents divorced when she was three, and she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to be raised by her paternal grandmother. When Angelou was seven, her mother's boyfriend raped her. The trauma of this made Angelou unable to speak for five years. During this period she began to read widely.

Angelou returned to California during high school and took drama and dance lessons. As a teenager, she became San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor. She gave birth at age sixteen to her only child, Guy Johnson To ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

author and performer. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson, Angelou was given her shortened first name, Maya, by her brother Bailey. She later modified the name of her first husband, Tosh Angelos, to whom she was married from 1952 to 1955, to form her last name. Her parents divorced soon after her birth, and in 1930 she and her brother were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, where they were raised for most of the next ten years by their paternal grandmother, Anne Henderson (or “Momma”). After Angelou's graduation with honors in 1940 from Lafayette County Training School, she and her brother were put on a train for San Francisco, where they were to live with their recently remarried mother. In 1944 the unmarried sixteen-year-old Angelou gave birth to her only child, Clyde Johnson, later Guy Johnson ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer, poet, and performer, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second of two children of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a naval dietician, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a card dealer who later became a registered nurse. Her parents called her “Rita,” but her brother, Bailey, who was only a year older, called her “My Sister,” which was eventually contracted to “Maya.” When Maya was three years old, she and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom Maya often referred to as “Mother.”Mrs. Henderson was a strong independent black woman who owned a country store in which Maya lived and worked Maya was a bright student and an avid reader she absorbed the contradictory messages of love emanating from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and of hatred revealed in the pervasive mistreatment of ...

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

McKay Jenkins

tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father to play football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten years old he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, R. Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured the talents of Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win Wimbledon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful. Johnson was an exacting coach he had his charges practice hitting tennis balls with broom handles to develop their hand eye coordination But his lessons extended beyond tennis he also ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Mattie and Arthur Robert Ashe Sr. He began playing Tennis at the age of ten under the guidance of Dr. Walter Johnson, a prominent coach of African American youth from Lynchburg, Virginia. With Johnson's coaching, Ashe won three American Tennis Association (ATA) boy's championships, becoming the first African American junior to be ranked by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA).

Between 1960 and 1963 Ashe won three ATA men's singles titles, became the first African American on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, and the first African American to win a USLTA national title in the South. His achievements earned him a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he attended from 1961 to 1966 earning a bachelor s degree in business administration While in college Ashe won the U ...

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

Jeremy Rich

Chadian politician and writer, was born in southern Chad on 22 September 1933. His father had problems with a state-appointed chief in his home village in the year before his son Antoine’s birth, so he fled to the neighboring colony of Ubangi-Shari (the Central African Republic). His mother followed and carried Antoine hundreds of miles on the long journey south with his elder sister. His father nicknamed the boy Bangui after the capital of the colony where the family had found sanctuary. When a teacher asked the boy in 1940 what his name was, Antoine answered, “Bangui.” The teacher threatened to expel Bangui for insolence, but his father persuaded the teacher to accept the name. Bangui attended schools in the Central African Republic until 1947, even though his family finally returned to Chad in 1946 Luckily for Bangui he won a contest held by the colonial administration ...

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

Carine Bourget

Moroccan writer, was born on 1 December 1944 in Fez, Morocco. His father was a merchant, and his mother an illiterate housewife whose life is narrated in his Sur ma mère (2008; On My Mother). Both parents were devout Muslims whom Ben Jelloun credited for creating a nurturing environment. After attending the local Qurʾanic school until the age of six, Ben Jelloun received a bilingual French-Arabic education in a Franco-Moroccan elementary school. In 1955, his family moved to Tangier. Ben Jelloun’s secondary schooling was mostly French; he attended the Lycée Regnault, the oldest French high school in Morocco. After receiving his high school degree in 1963, he studied philosophy at the Muhammad V University in Rabat.

Morocco’s post-independence history was marked by the Lead Years (1960s–1980s), a period of severe political repression that spanned most of King Hassan II’s reign. Suspected of having organized student demonstrations in 1965 ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

pan-African political activist and author who worked with several African heads of state during the decolonization era, was born in the village of Bessou, near Fort de Possel (present-day Possel), in the French colony of Ubangi-Shari (present-day Central African Republic, CAR) on 16 December 1921. Her father, Pierre Gerbillat, was a French businessman from Lyon. Her mother, Joséphine Wouassimba, was the daughter of Gbanziri chief Zoumague of Kuango. Her father paid bridewealth to marry Zoumague’s daughter, but he then married a Belgian woman, after which Andrée, like many young métisse or Euro African mixed blood girls at that time was sent away to be raised and educated by nuns of the Order of St Joseph of Cluny in the Republic of the Congo Brazzaville where she was registered as number twenty two For the next fourteen years Andrée s education and upbringing was supervised by extremely strict and ...

Article

David L. Dudley

Claude Brown was born in New York City on 23 February 1937 to Henry Lee and Ossie Brock Brown, South Carolinians who had come north in 1935 looking for economic opportunities unavailable in the South. Growing up in Harlem involved Claude Brown in crime and violence early in his life. By the time he was ten, he had joined the stealing division of a notorious street gang and had a history of truancy and expulsion from school. At eleven, Brown was sent to the Wiltwyck school for delinquent boys, where he came under the supervision of Dr. Ernest Papanek, whose positive influence in his life Brown would later acknowledge.

Back on the streets after two years at Wiltwyck at age thirteen Brown was shot during an attempted robbery A year later he was sent to the Warwick school for boys where he completed three terms before his final ...

Article

Claude Brown was born in New York City, the son of Ossie Brock Brown, a domestic worker, and Henry Lee, a railroad worker. In 1963 Brown began writing Manchild in the Promised Land; it was published in 1965. The book tells of his troubled childhood in Harlem, New York, where he ran with a gang and was in and out of reform schools.

Brown abandoned street life, resumed his education, and was awarded a grant to study government at Howard University. He graduated from Howard in 1965, studied law at Stanford University, and then studied at Rutgers University, which he left in 1968 without a degree. In 1976 he published The Children of Ham about struggling young blacks in Harlem Brown was working on a third book about the traumatic impact of violence on the young when he died of lung ...

Article

Stephen Bourne

Black Londoner whose life as a working‐class seamstress was documented in Aunt Esther's Story (1991), published by Hammersmith and Fulham's Ethnic Communities Oral History Project, and co‐authored with Stephen Bourne. Aunt Esther's Story provides a first‐hand account of Bruce's life as a black Briton in the pre‐Empire Windrush years. Her father, Joseph (1880–1941), arrived in London from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the early 1900s and settled in a tight‐knit working‐class community in Fulham. He worked as a builder's labourer. When Bruce was a young child, Joseph instilled in his daughter a sense of pride in being black. After leaving school, she worked as a seamstress, and in the 1930s she made dresses for the popular African‐American stage star Elisabeth Welch. She also befriended another black citizen of Fulham: the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey She told Bourne he was a nice chap ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Mohamed Jouay

Moroccan writer, was born in Bni Chiker in northern Morocco on 15 July 1935 The Choukri family was forced by drought and famine to emigrate from the impoverished Rif Mountains in search of better prospects in Tetouan and Tangier two principal cities in the north of Morocco Choukri s father a heavy drinker and a deserter from the Spanish Army subjected his family to both physical and emotional abuse In an act of atrocious cruelty he killed his starving son and Choukri accused him of killing the mother too All of Choukri s eight brothers and sisters perished because of hunger maltreatment or neglect As a result Choukri renounced his father and decided to sever all ties with the past He left for Tangier where he worked in various menial jobs and spent his time in the alleyways and brothels of Tangier the city was teeming at the time ...