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Ann McCarthy

novelist, playwright, screenwriter, memoirist, folklorist, and educator, was born in Bolton, North Carolina, to Dorothy and Cecil Culphert Brown. His father was in prison until Brown was thirteen, so he and his brother Donald Ray were raised until then by his Uncle Lofton, who recognized and nurtured young Cecil's talent for academics and his facility with words. Brown describes this part of his life as a kind of idyll haunted by the mysterious but terrible situation of his father.

When he was fourteen years old Brown reluctantly moved with his brother and father to Green Swamp, North Carolina, to grow tobacco. Considerably less supportive of Cecil's bookishness, Culphert Brown beat him for reading when he should have been plowing It was around this time that Brown first encountered the Stagger Lee story which would be the focus of much of his scholarly research Friends of his father would ...


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 ...


Jennifer Jensen Wallach

author, composer, and activist. When Shirley Graham Du Bois was thirteen years old she met the prominent scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. The meeting had a profound impact on her political and personal development, for she eventually married Du Bois in 1951. She became well known as W. E. B. Du Bois's second wife, causing some to overlook her tremendous personal accomplishments.

Shirley Graham was born near Evansville, Indiana, to David Graham and Etta Graham. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal minister, a career that caused him to move his family to various locations in the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Nashville. At his churches Shirley first discovered a love for music, learning to play the organ and piano. She completed high school in Spokane, Washington, and then moved to Seattle, where she married Shadrack T. McCants ...


Robert L. Gale

Graham, Shirley (11 November 1896–27 March 1977), musical composer and director, author, and political activist also known as Shirley Graham Du Bois was born Lola Bell Graham in Indianapolis Indiana the daughter of the Reverend David A Graham an African Methodist Episcopal minister and Etta Bell She accompanied them when her father held pastorates in New Orleans Colorado Springs and Spokane He delighted her with stories about important blacks in American history In his churches she learned to play the piano and the pipe organ and to conduct choirs In 1914 she graduated from high school in Spokane took business school courses and worked in government offices in Spokane and Seattle After she married Shadrach T McCanns in 1921 she gave private music lessons and played the organ in white movie theaters hidden backstage She had two sons Robert and David and was either widowed in 1924 ...


was a prominent Egyptian playwright, author, and intellectual. Some discrepancy exists according to his date of birth, and various sources state the range of 1898 to 1903. He was born in Alexandria to an Egyptian father and a Turkish-Persian mother. His father, Ismaʿil, was a middle-class advocate in the district attorney's office. In his autobiography Sijn al-ʿumr (Life's Prison Hakim describes his father as an introvert with a penchant for writing poetry His mother ʿAsma al Bistami is described as a strong vibrant woman who enjoyed music In his youth Hakim wandered between schools due to his father s frequent work related relocation After matriculating in several country schools he commenced his high school education in Ras al Tin followed by the ʿAbasiyya School in Alexandria while his family resided in Damanhur Hakim did not excel in his learning due to his frequent visits to the theater ...


Rachel Westley

playwright and director, author, and educator, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, to Thelma Inez Harrison and Paul Randolph Harrison. Although he was reared in the North and nurtured by the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, his roots are from below the Mason-Dixon Line, in North and South Carolina.

In the South the Harrison family was strongly immersed in Gullah culture and Marcus Garvey s Back to Africa movement Harrison s grandfather in fact was a major leader of and played an active role in the Garvey movement in North Carolina The household was also greatly involved in the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church in the Carolinas and much of the mystical curiosity in Harrison s work can be attributed to his grandmother s spiritual influence He was embraced by this richness as a young man and it created the resonating aura of self ...


Christopher Phelps

revolutionary socialist writer, was born Cyril Lionel Robert James in the village of Caroni on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, a British colony, to Robert Alexander James, a schoolteacher and principal of modest means, and Ida Elizabeth (“Bessie”) James, a devout Anglican and avid reader of English literature. His parents nicknamed him “Nello,” a name later used among friends. His earliest education took place under his strict father in a tiny schoolhouse in North Trace. At age nine James won a scholarship to Queen's Royal College (QRC), the island's best school, in the capital, Port of Spain. At QRC between 1911 and 1918 James indulged his love for the game of cricket and English novels (Thackeray'sVanity Fair was a particular favorite to the detriment of his grades His teachers as had his family impressed upon him the importance of proper manners and fair play ...


Shanna L. Smith

poet, dramatist, and artist, was born Estella Marie Conwill in Louisville, Kentucky, the only daughter of the six children of Mary Luella (Herndon) and Adolph Conwill, of whom little else is known. Growing up during the 1950s civil rights era had a profound impact on the burgeoning writer. Struggling to articulate radical changes in her segregated Louisville community and to explain those changes as one of a handful of blacks in a local Catholic school honed her particular and peculiar voice. Language, ideas, and the spoken word titillated her passion for storytelling. In 1980 that singleness of vision led her to be among the first scholars to earn a doctorate in African American literature from the University of Iowa and to pen several books, including Come Out the Wilderness: Memoir of a Black Woman Artist (1999).

An early portion of her memoir related her ...


Malin Pereira

poet, playwright, memoirist, children's literature author, and educator, was born Thylias Brasier to Florida and Calvin Brasier in Cleveland Ohio Moss s father worked as a tire recapper and her mother as a maid their working class family life was stable Moss experienced childhood in two highly dissimilar stages During her earliest years in the late 1950s her family lived above a Jewish couple who showed Moss great warmth and affection Her elementary school years however were filled with cruel treatment by a certain babysitter and by violent events in her neighborhood such as children being killed in accidents or by violent acts And when she moved to a mostly white school district at nine years old she had additional traumatic experiences However during the most difficult years of her childhood Moss found lifelines in church and poetry In church she was particularly drawn ...


David C. Conrad

Guinean professor, historian, editor, author, and dramatist, was born in Conakry on 9 January 1932, the son of Daouda Niane and Aissatou Sam. Niane’s great-great grandfather, Kadi Mali Niane, left Futa Toro (in present-day Senegal) in the early nineteenth century and settled at Dagana on the Senegal River, where his son Amadou (Niane’s great-grandfather) was born. Amadou’s son (Niane’s grandfather), Mamadou Boubacar Tamsir Niane (b. c. 1845), was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and became a marabout (traditional Muslim cleric) in Dakar. Mamadou Boubacar’s sons included Djibril Tamsir’s father Daouda and an uncle, Djibril Tamsir Niane, after whom the present subject was named. Niane’s mother, Aissatou Sam, was the daughter of a Maninka mother, Yèbè Diarra of Dinguiraye, Guinea, and a Tukulor father, Amadou Sam of Segou in present-day Mali.

For his elementary schooling Djibril Tamsir Niane II lived with his sister Fatou in northeastern Guinea first in Siguiri then ...


Edward T. Washington

was born Theodis Wesley Shine, Jr. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of Theodis Wesley Shine, Sr. and Bessie Herson Shine. Before Shine’s third birthday, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. Shine credits elementary school teacher Lorna Dunlap and high school teacher Willie Burke Anderson with fueling his early passion for writing. By the time he graduated from Dallas’s Booker T. Washington High School in 1949, Shine had already written several plays.

Shine attended Howard University in Washington, DC from 1949 to 1953. There he honed his playwriting abilities under the tutelage of esteemed dramatist and educator Owen Dodson. It was Dodson who fostered Shine’s acumen in comedic and satirical writing. Sho Is Hot in the Cotton Patch, one of Shine’s earliest plays, achieved critical acclaim with its production at Howard in 1951.

From 1953 to 1955 Shine was the recipient of a Rockefeller Grant ...


Biodun Jeyifo

Nigerian writer and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka on 13 July 1934 in Abeokuta Nigeria One of the most prominent writers and public intellectuals in the world his international fame rests as much on his writings as on his widely admired fearless advocacy of human rights and social justice both in his native Nigeria and in other countries in Africa Primarily a playwright and dramatist Soyinka has written in virtually all of the literary genres and he has written rather prodigiously his corpus comprising more than forty five works of drama fiction poetry translation and nonfictional criticism memoirs and philosophical reflection Now in the eighth decade of his life he has spent six of those decades in a sustained unbroken work of social activism that stands as a necessary complement to the primacy of his life and career as ...


Kristina D. Bobo

autobiographer, poet, artist, and activist, was born John Peter Thomas in New York City's Harlem Hospital in 1928. His mother, Dolores Montañez, came to New York from Puerto Rico. His father, Juan Tomás de la Cruz, was a Cuban-born laborer who had also moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. Piri Thomas was the eldest of their four surviving children. “Piri” was a nickname given to him by his mother.

The Thomas family was very poor throughout his childhood He spent his early years in poverty stricken ethnically diverse Depression era Harlem When he was thirteen years old his father hit the numbers and moved the family to Babylon Long Island The very dark skinned Thomas suffered so much from racial discrimination and feelings of displacement in suburbia that he left his family moved back to Harlem and began living on the ...


Piri Thomas was raised in the barrios (ghettos) of Spanish Harlem in New York City. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico. He attended public schools, where he was first introduced to institutionalized assimilation and racism. In 1952 he was incarcerated on charges of attempted armed robbery, and in prison he began writing his first book, the autobiography Down These Mean Streets (1967).

Down These Mean Streets gained critical acclaim for its portrayal of Spanish Harlem and its bold new literary style, which mixed Spanish Harlem dialect with slang Thomas had learned in prison. Thomas is known for his use of authentic Afro–Puerto Rican settings and dialect. Thomas went on to publish two more autobiographical works, Saviour, Saviour, Hold My Hand (1972) and Seven Long Times (1974). He also established himself as a playwright, authoring Las calles de ...