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Article

Jeremy Rich

was born in Tunis, Tunisia. She came from a very prosperous family that opposed continued French colonial rule in the early 1950s. She took pride in the liberal politics of her family and she later noted in the 1990s how her grandfather had encouraged his children to stop wearing the veil (hijab) worn by many Muslim women in the 1930s. Béji was the niece of Wassila Ben ‘Ammar, the second spouse of nationalist and first Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba. She attended primary schools in Tunis, and completed her graduate study at the well-respected Carnot secondary school there. After Béji passed her baccalaureate examination, she entered Université de Paris I La Sorbonne, and completed her doctorate there in 1973 Béji returned to Tunisia where she taught literature at the University of Tunis She began to gain renown in the early 1980s Her long study of the authoritarian state and society ...

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

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Harold Wright Cruse moved with his father after his parents' separation to New York City, where he completed high school. After serving in the quartermaster division of the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York on the G.I. Bill, although he dropped out in his first year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Cruse worked at various part-time jobs and became an active participant in left-wing politics in Harlem, including joining the Communist Party, which he later rejected. He also wrote two plays and a musical during this period, and with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), established the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School in 1965.

Cruse's book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership was hailed by the New York Times as a mind ...

Article

Dorsia Smith Silva

writer, educator, and preacher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Addie Mae Leonard, a teacher's aide. In 1990 Dyson was adopted by the auto worker Everett Dyson when Leonard married him. As a child, Dyson read avidly and enjoyed the Harvard Classics. His intellectual vigor earned him a scholarship to the prestigious Cranbrook Kingswood School in 1972. However, Dyson behaved poorly and was expelled in 1974. He then attended Northwestern High School and graduated in 1976.

In 1977, Dyson married his girlfriend, Terrie Dyson, who gave birth to Michael Eric Dyson II a year later. Due to the pressures of being a young couple, Dyson and his wife divorced in 1979. To help focus his life, Dyson became a licensed Baptist preacher in 1979 and ordained minister in 1981 with his pastor Frederick G. Sampson II s assistance He ...

Article

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

Stephanie Y. Evans

feminist theorist and author. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks was raised in the segregated South and was aware of racial, gender, and economic discrimination at an early age. Defying the odds, she earned a BA in 1973 from Stanford University in English, an MA in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in 1983 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. hooks's dissertation explored the ideas of Toni Morrison.

hooks began writing her first book, Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, when she was nineteen years old, and, after much revision, it was published in 1981 Since then her writing has explored themes including the experience of growing up black and female in America the creation of feminist ideals by which to evaluate culture observations on interracial relationships and race relations and discussions of love and spirituality ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

linguist and scholar, was born John Hamilton McWhorter V in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was John McWhorter IV, a university administrator. His mother was a college professor, and so McWhorter's world was one of learning and educational attainment. He attended Friends Select School, a small Quaker K-12 school in Philadelphia, and was a precocious student who often felt himself more intelligent than his teachers and who reportedly began teaching himself Hebrew when he was still just a young child.

McWhorter's academic skill led him to be invited to attend the Bard College at Simon's Rock, a preparatory college for especially gifted young people in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was in the tenth grade when he enrolled, and he graduated with honors and an associate's degree. He then matriculated at Rutgers, from which he graduated in 1985 with a B A in French and Romance Languages He removed ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

writer and critic, was born in Nokomis, Alabama, the son of Sudie Graham, a Tuskegee Institute student, and John Young, a businessman. Soon after his birth Mattie Murray, a housewife, and her husband, Hugh, a laborer and timber worker, adopted him. Murray, who later enjoyed a close relationship with Graham and Young, joked of his adoption by less-wealthy parents, “It's just like the prince left among the paupers” (Gates, 30). He learned about the folkways of segregation in Magazine Point, a community on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, where his family had moved during World War I. “We didn't dislike white people,” he recalled. “We saw too many bony-butt poor white crackers. We were going to feel inferior to them?” (Maguire, 139). Murray's rejection of any notion of black inferiority was further strengthened by exposure to Mobile's baseball legend Satchel Paige and ...

Article

Albert Murray's contribution to African American literature has established the value and importance of the blues idiom as the basis for approaching life as an African American. Whether writing fiction, social essays, book reviews, memoirs, aesthetic theory, or music criticism, Murray performs like the best-trained jazz musician. In his essays, Murray turns the basic beliefs of “social science fiction” inside out, exposing and playing on their assumptions just as Billie Holidaycreated soul-stirring art out of trite popular tunes. In his fiction, Murray draws from the modernism of Thomas Mann, James Joyce, and William Faulkner in order to interpret the basic raw materials of growing up African American in the South, creating a style as innovative as the harmonically and rhythmically complex improvisations of Charlie Parker. When his career is examined as a whole, Albert Murray seems similar to Duke Ellington a modern composer for the ...

Article

Eva Stahl Brown

Albert L. Murray was born in Nokomis, Alabama, and adopted by Albert Lee Murray and his wife, Mattie James Murray. He grew up in Magazine Point, outside of Mobile. Often characterized as a member of the “Talented Tenth,” Murray excelled academically and won a scholarship to Tuskegee Institute in 1935. Following his graduate study at the University of Michigan, he returned to Tuskegee to teach English and theater. In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served until 1962, when he retired as a major. During his retirement, Murray has lived mostly in New York City but has been a visiting professor in various schools, including Colgate, Barnard, Columbia, Emory, the University of Massachusetts, and Washington and Lee.

Like his friend and Tuskegee classmate, Ralph Ellison Murray is interested in the cultural complexity of America especially for African Americans He strongly contends that African ...

Article

Frieda Ekotto

Franco-Algerian writer and cultural critic, was born on 9 November 1941 in Aflou, Algeria, to a French mother and an Algerian father. For Sebbar, who deals with the complex issue of what it means to have a double identity, identities are not easily bestowed by the territory into which one is born—national identities are not so clearly and discretely marked. She grew up in Algeria during the colonial period; both her parents were schoolteachers there at the heart of the Algerian war. Her overall intellectual project is to answer the question: What are the complexities of being from mixed parents, dealing with hybrid or being in between cultures? She covers political, intellectual, and cultural texts from different areas within Algeria and France; and her ongoing search for new paradigms for framing literatures of immigration makes her a cultural reader of an exceptional range of topics within France and the Maghreb.

Other ...

Article

Lorna Lueker Zukas

Zimbabwean author and human rights activist, was born at the Dadaya Mission in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) on 18 March 1943. Her missionary father, Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd, served as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (1953–1958). His plan to extend the franchise, majority rule, and human rights to blacks led to his expulsion from political life and left the family ostracized from white society. Her mother, Jean Grace Wilson Todd, designed and implemented the Southern Rhodesian African Educational System and fully supported her husband and daughter’s political activities. Garfield Todd received a papal medal in 1973 for his peace and human rights work and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth of England in 1986. Serving as a senator in Zimbabwe’s first parliament (1980–1985), he left government service after becoming disillusioned with Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

Judith Todd likewise dedicated her life to the freedom struggles of blacks in Zimbabwe In ...

Article

Lewis R. Gordon

philosopher, educator, and social critic, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Clifton L. West Jr., a civilian air force administrator, and Irene Bias, an elementary school teacher. The West family eventually settled in the segregated city of Sacramento, California. The young Cornel's childhood was at first marked by much anger and rebellion. In the third grade, when his teacher slapped him, he hit her back and was expelled. He was taught at home for six months before being placed in a newly integrated school. At the age of eight he became a devout Christian. From then onward, the precocious Cornel became a conscientious student, and spent much of his youth reading biographies and philosophical texts from the neighborhood bookmobile and articles from the Black Panther newspaper.

West s family was Baptist and he grew up with a sense of pride in the role of ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

writer and educator. John Edgar Wideman grew up in Homeward, a predominately African American section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which became the setting for his most critically acclaimed fiction, the Homewood trilogy (Hiding Place, 1981; Damballah, 1981; and Sent for You Yesterday, 1983). The themes of history, memory, family ties, and racial identity resonate throughout his writing.

Both academically and athletically talented, in high school he was a star basketball player, class president, and valedictorian. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to play basketball and received a BA in 1963. He then became the second (after Alain Locke) African American to receive a Rhodes scholarship, taking a degree in eighteenth-century literature from New College, Oxford University, in 1966. Afterward, Wideman attended the prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop and wrote his first novel, A Glance Away (1967).

In ...

Article

Arnold E. Sabatelli

The fiction and nonfiction of John Edgar Wideman moves between worlds of language and experience that are not usually encountered side by side. He was raised in the African-American community of Homewood in Pittsburgh, was a college basketball star for the University of Pennsylvania, and graduated from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. His works mix the disparate forces of his life into an artistic form that is both intellectually challenging and experimental in the best sense of the word. A prolific novelist and essayist, Wideman's texts consistently blend voices and genres and challenge the reader. Responding self-consciously to contemporary jazz forms, his later work is filled with free-form ad-libbing, discontinuity, and always a rich integration of voices.

Article

Wilfred D. Samuels

John Edgar Wideman was born on 14 June 1941 in Washington, D.C., to Edgar and Betty (Lizabeth) French Wideman, but he grew up at the foot of Bruston Hill, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Homewood community. His maternal great-great-great-grandmother, Sybela Owens, a runaway slave, was among the original founders and settlers of this community. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, which he attended on a Benjamin Franklin Scholarship, he was captain of the university basketball team. Wideman holds the distinction of being the second African American Rhodes scholar. He graduated from Oxford University in 1966. Before doing so, however, he married Judy Ann Goldman of Virginia in 1965. They are the parents of three children.

Wideman began his teaching career in the English department of the University of Pennsylvania where he also founded and chaired for one year its first African ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Petit-Bourg, Martinique, Zobel attended school in Fort-de-France. Afterward, he moved to the poverty-stricken southern part of the island. The result of Zobel's time among the peasants of Le Diamant is his first published novel, Diab'la (Paris: 1946), a work that underscored the need for land reform by suggesting, not without some temerity, that those who work the land should own it. Although completed in 1942, it was censured by the Vichy government, which occupied Martinique during World War II. A collection of Zobel's stories published just after the war, Laghia de la mort (1946), exemplified what could be called Martinican social realism, exposing the brutal existence of plantation workers. In 1946 Zobel moved with his family to France, where he taught school while pursuing studies in literature, drama, and ethnology.

His best-known work, the semiautobiographical coming-of-age story La Rue cases-nègres (1950 ...