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Roanne Edwards

Lydia Cabrera, along with Fernando Ortiz, is widely considered one of the two most important twentieth century researchers and writers on Afro-Cuban culture. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of investigative work on the subject, including her pioneering El monte (1954), subtitled “Notes on the Religion, the Magic, the Superstitions and the Folklore of Creole Negroes and the Cuban People,” and Reglas de congo (1980), a book on Bantu (known as congo in Cuba) rituals. According to Ana María Simo, author of Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait, Cabrera's “is the most important and complete body of work on Afro-Cuban religions” of its time. Cabrera also wrote four volumes of short stories inspired by Afro-Cuban legends and beliefs. Her fiction is rich in metaphor and symbolism and has been compared stylistically with the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca ...

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 ...

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Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...

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Lawrie Balfour

The son of a Baptist minister from Barbados and a Virginia schoolteacher, John Gibbs St. Clair Drake grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Staunton, Virginia. As a student at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia from 1927 to 1931, he majored in biology, but his study of anthropology with Professor W. Allison Davis defined Drake's future.

After graduating Hampton, Drake worked as a high school teacher in rural Virginia and continued his interest in anthropology. His contributions to a social survey of life in a Mississippi town were published as part of Davis's study titled Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (1941). Drake also became involved in the peace movement, spending his summers with Quaker activists. Reflecting on the “peace caravan” that took him and other demonstrators through the South during the summer of 1931 Drake commented that he just ...

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Frank A. Salamone

anthropologist, was born John Gibbs St. Clair Drake Jr. in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of John Gibbs St. Clair Drake Sr., a Baptist pastor, and Bessie Lee Bowles. By the time Drake was four years old his father had moved the family twice, once to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The family lived in a racially mixed neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where Drake grew to feel at ease with whites. His strict Baptist upbringing gave him a deep understanding of religious organizations. His father also taught him to work with tools and to become an expert in woodworking, a skill Drake later employed in his field research.

A trip to the West Indies in 1922 with his father led to major changes in Drake s life The Reverend Drake had tried to instill in his son a deep respect for the British Empire but the ...

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

Hannington Ochwada

Belgian historian of Africa, was born on 14 September 1929 in Antwerp, Belgium, to Dirk Vansina and Suzanne Vansina (maiden name unknown). His parents were Flemish-speakers and members of the Catholic professional artist and business class. His father was a World War I veteran who moved his family from the busy port city of Antwerp to the seemingly safer location of Bruges during World War II. Little did the young Vansina know that in Bruges the Belgian and the Allied contingent would be encircled and forced to surrender, an event that would impact the course of his education. But while the war interrupted his schooling, Vansina’s mother, Suzanne, encouraged him to take the state examinations for a high school diploma, which he passed with high marks.

When Vansina turned sixteen his parents had him matriculate in the school of medicine at the Catholic University in Leuven contrary to his ambition ...