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Article

Khwezi Mkhize

South African-born poet, journalist, essayist, and novelist, was born on 19 March 1919, in Vrededorp, a slum in Johannesburg, though he later became an adopted citizen of Britain. His father was James Henry Abrahams Deras (or De Ras), an Ethiopian itinerant who settled in Johannesburg as a mine laborer. His mother, Angelina DuPlessis, was a Coloured woman whose first husband was a Cape Malay resident, with whom she had two children. His parents met and married in Vrededorp. Abrahams grew up as a Coloured, “a by-product of the early contact between black and white” (Abrahams, 1981 p 10 which made him aware of the social and political consequences of racial formation in South Africa His father died when he was still young Upon his father s death his family was thrown into poverty Abrahams later wrote that his mother went to work in the homes of white folk ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

Frank A. Salamone

author, editor at Ebony magazine for more than fifty years, and popular historian of African American history. Lerone Bennett Jr. was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on 17 October 1928 to Lerone Bennett Sr. and Alma Reed. He grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from Morehouse College in Georgia in 1949. He became a journalist for the Atlanta Daily World that same year. Four years later he joined Jet in Chicago as associate editor, and the next year he moved to Ebony as associate editor. He moved up the editorial ranks at Ebony, becoming senior editor in 1958. In 1987 he became executive editor. While at Ebony, Bennett also continued to write, and the magazine published his articles on African American history.

Bennett collected his early articles for his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619–1962 (1962 ...

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

John Edgar Tidwell

During the Depression and World War II, Frank Marshall Davis was arguably one of the most distinctive poetic voices confronting W. E. B Du Bois's profound metaphor of African American double consciousness. Complementing a career that produced four collections of poetry was one as a foremost journalist, from 1930 to 1955. Through the “objective” view of a newspaperman and the “subjective” vision of a poet, Davis struggled valiantly to harmonize Du Bois's dilemma of the color line.

Frank Marshall Davis was born on 31 December 1905 in Arkansas City, Kansas,“ … a yawn town fifty miles south of Wichita, five miles north of Oklahoma, and east and west of nowhere worth remembering” (Livin’ the Blues His mention of interracial schools suggested a harmonious small town life the reality however barely concealed deeper racial tensions Housing jobs movie theaters and all facets of life were tacitly divided ...

Article

Ula Y. Taylor

Garvey, Amy Euphemia Jacques (31 December 1896–25 July 1973), journalist, Pan-Africanist, and the second wife of black nationalist Marcus Garvey, journalist, Pan-Africanist, and the second wife of black nationalist Marcus Garvey was born in Kingston Jamaica the daughter of George Samuel Jacques a property owner and Charlotte maiden name unknown Amy Jacques s family was rooted in the Jamaican middle class thus she was formally educated at Wolmer s Girls School an elite institution in Jamaica As a young woman she suffered from ailing health due to recurring bouts with malaria In need of a cooler climate she emigrated to the United States in 1917 and settled in New York City where she had relatives After hearing contradictory reports about the Universal Negro Improvement Association UNIA recently founded by Garvey she attended a meeting in Harlem She was intrigued by the organization and in 1918 became ...

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Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, music critic, author, filmmaker, and television producer, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended St. John's University, and while there began his writing career at the black newspaper the Amsterdam News, where he was a college intern. During this time he also contributed to the music trade journal Billboard. After graduating from St. John's in 1979, George worked as a freelance writer and lived with his mother and sister in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn. It did not take him long, though, to begin what would prove to be a flourishing career. George found employment as a black music editor, first for Real World magazine from 1981 to 1982, and then at Billboard from 1982 to 1989. He moved on to write a successful column entitled “Native Son” for the Village Voice, from 1989 to ...

Article

Jennifer Curry

New Yorker columnist and author of popular nonfiction, was born in Fareham, England, the youngest of three sons born to Graham M. L. Gladwell, a British mathematician, and Joyce (Nation) Gladwell, a Jamaican-born family therapist. His parents met while attending university in England in the 1950s; during that time interracial couples were not common, and Joyce Gladwell later wrote of the couple's struggle for acceptance, as well as of her own experiences growing up a “brown face” in Jamaica, in her book Brown Face, Big Master, which was published in 1969. That same year the Gladwell family relocated to Elmira, Canada, which is just outside Toronto, after Graham Gladwell—who has authored numerous mathematical texts—accepted a teaching position at the University of Waterloo.

In “Black Like Them,” a 1996 article written for the New Yorker Gladwell described Elmira as a close knit sleepy town in which ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Charles D. Smith

Egyptian journalist, author, and politician, was born in the village of Kafr Ghannam, located northeast of Cairo, on 20 August 1888. His father’s family had for decades held the post of ʿumda (head of the village) of Kafr Ghannam. Haykal’s father had attended the Sunni Muslim mosque/university of al-Azhar; his mother was illiterate. In 1895 Haykal’s father sent him to Cairo to live with an uncle and attend a government primary school. By 1905 he had graduated from the Khedivial Secondary School in Cairo and entered the Khedivial Law School, from which he graduated in 1908. In 1909 he traveled to Paris, where he earned a doctorate in law from the Sorbonne in 1912 and published his doctoral thesis on the Egyptian public debt. In 1914 he published a novel, Zaynab which dealt with rural life similar to that of his early childhood Scholars no longer consider ...

Article

Trevy A. McDonald

journalist, historian, and activist, was born in Saulsbury, Tennessee, the youngest son of Annie Sybil Thomas, a schoolteacher, and William Robert, a school principal. The grandson of slaves, from an early age he and his older brother Dr. Thomas Dunbar Jarrett, who were raised in Paris, Tennessee, were taught the importance of education. When he was in the first grade, his teacher assigned him to “be” Robert S. Abbott, the founder of the Chicago Defender, and instructed him to tell the class why they should read the newspaper. “My name is Robert S. Abbott and I am the editor of the Chicago Defender and you ought to read my newspaper because my newspaper's standing up for our race,” Jarrett recalled in the 1999 documentary The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords Jarrett went on to begin and end his journalism career at ...

Article

Jennifer Vaughn

author, educator, and economist, was born to Everett Loury and Gloria Cartman (Roosely) Loury and grew up in Park Manor on the South Side of Chicago. Loury attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating with a BA in Mathematics in 1972. He then continued his education as a graduate student in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Working at MIT under the guidance of the future Nobel laureate Robert M. Solow, Loury began to formulate a theory of “social capital,” the idea that family and community characteristics can influence wages regardless of individual ability. This was Loury's explanation for how “equal opportunity” might not guarantee “equal outcome,” an important part of the debate surrounding affirmative action. As long as social context was ignored, disparities in incomes between blacks and whites would not be eliminated. In 1976 Loury submitted his dissertation Essays in ...

Article

Malinda Williams

writer, journalist, economist, and commentator, was born in San Francisco, California, to Proteone Alexandria Malveaux, a social worker. She received an AB in 1974, an MA in 1975 in economics from Boston College, and a PhD in Economics in 1980 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Malveaux served as a media intern for WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 1975 and as a junior staff economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, D.C., from 1977 to 1978. She was a research fellow for the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City from 1978 to 1980 and an assistant professor of economics at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1980 to 1981.Malveaux's first book, Black Women in the Labor Force, appeared in 1980, a collaborative project with Phyllis A. Wallace and Linda ...

Article

Frank Mehring

journalist, editor, and writer, was born Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi in Hamburg, Germany, the son of Al-Haj Massaquoi, a businessman from Liberia, and Bertha Baetz, a domestic worker and nurse from Germany. Massaquoi descended from a family with strong political ties and power in the West African capital city of Monrovia. His grandfather Momolu Massaquoi inherited the crown of his parents, King Lahai and Queen Sandimanni.

During the course of his life Massaquoi lived on three continents, but it was his experience of growing up black in Germany, a child of Liberian and German parents, that set the course of much of his life. Massaquoi's father, the consul general to Germany since 1922, had to return to Liberia in 1929 leaving his wife and son behind Massaquoi was a child during a period when African American culture and particularly music had become a source ...

Article

Shane Graham

South African jazz pianist, composer, journalist, writer, and broadcaster, was born 7 March 1921 in Queenstown, South Africa, to a family of musicians, the youngest of seven children born to Samuel Bokwe and Grace Matshikiza. Todd attended Adams College in Natal, and trained as a teacher at Lovedale College in Alice. He then taught English and mathematics at Lovedale High School beginning in 1940. He composed for the college choir during this time.

In 1947 Matshikiza moved to Johannesburg and met Esme Sheila Mpama, whom he married in 1950 and with whom he had one daughter, Marian, and one son, John. He taught high school, and then began teaching piano at his own private school. He played jazz piano with several groups throughout the 1950s, including the Manhattan Brothers, the Harlem Swingsters, and Nancy Jacobs and Her Sisters. In 1951 he began working for the newly founded Drum ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

writer and musician, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of eight children of Andrew Dennis McBride, a Baptist minister, and Rachel (Shilsky) McBride, an occasional typist. The exact date of his birth is not known. Part of a tide of African Americans who left the South in search of greater freedom and job opportunities in the North, McBride's father Andrew had moved in the 1940s from North Carolina to New York, where he found work in a small Manhattan leather factory. Similarly his mother, Rachel, had emigrated from Poland as a child in 1921 and settled with her family in Suffolk Virginia where her father an Orthodox rabbi ran a synagogue and managed a store that exploited the local black population One of Rachel s jobs in that store was to watch the shvartses a derogatory Yiddish term for blacks who were always suspected ...

Article

Alex Feerst

journalist and writer, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and spent his earliest years in Key West, Florida, and Morocco, where his stepfather was stationed with the navy. McCall's biological father, who left the family when McCall was two, was named JL; after his departure McCall did not see him again until he was twenty-seven years old. His mother's name is unknown. From the age of nine McCall grew up in the Cavalier Manor area of Portsmouth, Virginia, with his mother, stepfather Bonnie Alvin, grandmother Sadie Benton, two older brothers, Dwight and Billy, a younger half-brother, Bryan, and a step-brother, Junnie.

In 1966 McCall began sixth grade as one of first black students at the recently desegregated Alfred J Mapp Junior High School After facing intense discrimination there he transferred to Cavalier Manor s W E Waters Middle School of which McCall writes ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

writer. Festus Claudius McKay was born in Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, to Thomas Francis McKay, a devout Christian landowner and farmer, and Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards McKay. McKay grew up in one of the many mountain villages in the Jamaican countryside. The youngest of eleven children, he began his formal education at age four at the school of the Mount Zion Church. His greatest educational influence, however, was his brother U Theo, a lay preacher and schoolteacher who exposed young Claudius to classic works of literature as well as to the rudiments of philosophy, government, political science, and the natural sciences. McKay spent many of his formative years in his brother's library, reading the works of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Charles Dickens and studying the tenets of sociology and government that would be at the heart of his creative work Impressed with ...