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Jonathan Morley

An imprint of Heinemann International Division publishing African literature, running from 1957 to 2003. In 1957Van Milne at Heinemann received a manuscript of Chinua Achebe'sThings Fall Apart, the seminal English‐language African novel. He commissioned the work, together with its sequel, No Longer At Ease, Cyprian Ekwensi'sBurning Grass, and a history book by Kenneth Kaunda, soon to be the democratic President of Zambia. The four books were published together in 1962, Achebe taking the editorship of the new series. Things Fall Apart would sell 8 million copies, translated into 32 languages.

Independent Africa's three Nobel Laureates for Literature—Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), and Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)—were included, as were politicians such as Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya) and Nelson Mandela, whose collection of letters, speeches, articles, and trial transcripts, No Easy Walk to Freedom, was published in 1986 several years ...

Article

Greg Miller

As a teenager James Baldwin abandoned the pulpit after a year and a half but it would be fair to say that he always remained a preacher For Baldwin the life of an artist was a higher vocation and he plunged into that life with inexhaustible at times desperate fervor While he insisted that the writer s primary responsibility is to his or her craft he was equally adamant that the writer has an obligation to serve as witness for society in doing so the writer plays an essential role in the construction of a better future Baldwin certainly demanded of himself this double purpose and when the two are in accord often in his essays occasionally in his fiction it is easy to see his work as among the most important in twentieth century American literature For many though Baldwin s early promise as a novelist was never fully ...

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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

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

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

William P. Toth

writer and journalist, was born George Harold Bennett in Buckingham, Virginia, the seventh of eight children born to Charles E. Bennett Sr. and Minnie P. (Bryant) Bennett, of whom little else is known. His family moved north to Orange, New Jersey, during the Great Migration, though he often spent his childhood summers in Buckingham. At age sixteen, Bennett worked part time as a features writer for the Newark (N.J.) Herald News. He attended Orange High School, graduating as class valedictorian, and had dreams of becoming a concert pianist.

After high school Bennett joined the air force and was stationed in Korea, where he was a writer for the Public Information Division and an editor for a military newspaper. When he was discharged in 1952, he continued his journalism career as the fiction editor for African American News in Baltimore Maryland and then became a partner ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.Bontemps then moved to Harlem, New York, where the Harlem Renaissance had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize from Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and The Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes, with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator. In Harlem, Bontemps also came to know Countée Cullen, W ...

Article

Gregory Byala

South African writer and translator, was born in Vrede in the Orange Free State on 29 May 1935. The son of a magistrate, Brink spent his childhood in several towns, including Jagersfontein, Sabie, and Lydenburg. Although his family spoke Afrikaans at home, Brink’s mother, an English teacher, developed in him an early feel for what would eventually become his second literary language.

Brink entered the University of Potchefstroom in 1953. Earning a scholarship to Paris, he undertook postgraduate research at the Sorbonne from 1959 to 1961. In interviews and biographical pieces, Brink regards this stretch of years as seminal to his development as a writer, not merely because it granted him a new vantage from which to assess his homeland, but also because it permitted him unprecedented social freedom to mix with people on new and equal terms.

Following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 Brink s ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

French philosopher and novelist, was born on 7 November 1913 in Mondovi, Algeria. His family belonged to the working classes of the pied noir European settler community in the French colony of Algeria. Although pied noir people enjoyed great legal and political privileges over the vast majority of Muslim Algerians due to the French colonial government, Camus’ family demonstrated that Algerians of European descent were not all living in affluence. His mother, Catherine Hélène Sintés, was of Spanish descent, like many other pied noirs and worked as a maid She was illiterate and a stroke had left her partially deaf His father Lucien Auguste Camus had been an agricultural worker before joining the French military on the onset of war with the Central Powers in World War I He died in the first battle of the Marne in the opening months of the conflict and his body never was ...

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 ...

Article

Joycelyn K. Moody

Lucille Sayles Clifton was born in Depew, New York, to Samuel L. and Thelma Moore Sayles. Her father worked for the New York steel mills; her mother was a launderer, home-maker, and avocational poet. Although neither parent was formally educated, they provided their large family with an appreciation and an abundance of books, especially those by African Americans. At age sixteen, Lucille entered college early, matriculating as a drama major at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her Howard associates included such intellectuals as Sterling A. Brown, A. B. Spellman, Chloe Wofford (now Toni Morrison), who later edited her writings for Random House, and Fred Clifton, whom she married in 1958.

After transferring to Fredonia State Teachers College in 1955 Clifton worked as an actor and began to cultivate in poetry the minimalist characteristics that would become her professional signature Like other prominent Black Aesthetic ...

Article

Jennifer Drake

writer, was born in Toledo, Ohio. Since the beginning of her career Evans has been reticent about revealing personal information, saying that her work speaks for her. It is known that she attended public schools in Toledo and went to the University of Toledo to study fashion design before taking up writing; it is also known that she is divorced and is the mother of two sons. She has resided for most of her adult life in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she has been actively involved in community organizations including the Fall Creek Parkway YMCA, the Marion County Girls Clubs of America, the Indiana Corrections Code Commission, and the Statewide Committee for Penal Reform.

Two childhood events are significant for Evans. In “My Father's Passage,” an essay published in the groundbreaking anthology that she edited, Black Women Writers (1950–1980) (1984), she credits her father and Langston Hughes ...

Article

Sola Olorunyomi

Nigerian writer in the Yoruba language, was born Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa at Oke-Igbo, Western Nigeria (present-day Ondo State), to Joshua Akintunde and Rachael Osunyomi Fagunwa. Originally followers of traditional Yoruba religion, the Fagunwas converted to Christianity, and this abiding influence, most probably, led D. O. Fagunwa to change his middle name from “Orowole” (“the Oro cult enters the house”) to “Olorunfemi” (“God loves me”). Fagunwa received his primary school education at St. Luke’s School, Oke-Igbo (1916–1924), after which he taught in the same school for a year, as a pupil-teacher. Subsequently, he went on for further studies from 1926 to 1929, trained as a teacher at St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, and on completion obtained his first posting, to St. Andrew’s Practicing School, Oyo, where he worked between 1930 and 1939.

In 1936 Fagunwa submitted for competition a manuscript entitled Ogbójú Ode Nínú Igbó Irúnmalè The ...

Article

DaMaris B. Hill

novelist, essayist, educator, and activist, was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She was an only child. Golden's mother, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, was a cleaning woman who played the lottery and became wealthy enough to afford many properties; her father was a taxicab driver. Neither parent had any formal education, but Golden was inspired to write by her father's bedtime stories, which involved African American history and culture. Her mother encouraged her writing talents, too. At age ten Golden had a letter published in the editorial section of the Washington Post. Around age fourteen Golden's mother told her that she was going to write books. This was surprising to Golden because she never even saw her mother reading.

In 1968 Golden graduated from high school and attended American University in Washington, D.C., on a Frederick Douglass Scholarship that was developed as ...

Article

Reidulf K. Molvaer

Ethiopian politician and author, was born to Alemayyehu Selomon, a priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Desta Alemu, the daughter of a priest, in a small village not far from Debre Marqos, the main town of Gojjam province in Western Ethiopia. He was first sent to a church-run school from the age of six to fifteen, and besides learning to read and write became good at singing church chants (zema), a love of which he preserved all his life. His main teacher was his maternal grandfather. After a couple of years away from home, but still in his home province, when he learned the rules of traditional Ethiopian church poetry (qine he moved to the capital Addis Ababa There he first went to the Swedish Mission School for two years starting from grade 1 because he had no previous knowledge of English the language used ...

Article

Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, and grew up in Henning, Tennessee, with maternal relatives who spent many hours telling family stories, some of which extended back to Africa. This exposure directed the course of much of Haley's work as an adult. Haley completed high school at the age of fifteen and attended two years of college, but was uninspired by his studies and left school to join the U.S. Coast Guard. He began writing to counteract the tedium of life at sea. When Haley retired from the service in 1959, he was a mature, self-taught writer.

Haley settled in Greenwich Village in New York City, determined to make his name as a journalist. After a period of hard work and obscurity, he broke into mainstream publications such as Readers' Digest, Harper's, and the New York Times Magazine. In 1962 he ...

Article

Aninydo Roy

Commenting on the works of Wilson Harris, Jamaican novelist John Hearne said, “No other British Caribbean novelist has made quite such an explicitly and conscious effort … to reduce the material reckonings of everyday life to the significance of myth.” Born in New Amsterdam, Guyana Wilson Harris is the author of more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. His most well-known works include the novels of The Guyana Quartet (1960–1963); The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990); the book of poems, Eternity to Season (1954, 1978 second edition); and the collection of essays The Radical Imagination (1992). He published his first volume of poetry, Fetish, while serving as a government land surveyor in Guyana in 1951. Palace of the Peacock, the first novel of The Guyana Quartet, appeared in 1960 and ...

Article

Mark A. Sanders

A prolific writer whose career spans fifty years, Chester Himes is best known for his naturalist and detective fiction. A gambler, hustler, burglar, ex-convict, and expatriate, Himes's Catholic experiences and peripatetic life provided him abundant material for fiction that portrays the near existential “absurdity” of blackness in America. Focusing on violence—physical, political, and psychic—as a ubiquitous dynamic in American culture, Himes's fiction ponders the often futile struggle to resist a relentlessly hostile environment.

Born into a struggling middle-class family in Jefferson City, Missouri, Himes's childhood, and that of his two older brothers, Edward and Joseph, was marked by the chronic tensions between his parents and the perpetual disruptions that occurred due to the family's frequent relocation. Himes describes his father, Joseph Sandy Himes, as a dark-skinned man plagued by the internalized stigma of his blackness. Conversely, Himes saw his mother, Estelle Bomar fair skinned as ...