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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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Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

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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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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

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 ...

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Patit Paban Mishra

academician, businessperson, author, talk-show host, and journalist. The fifth son of Royal Brown and Katherine Davis Brown, William Anthony Brown was born in Charleston, West Virginia. The marriage of his parents broke down in the racist environment of Charleston. His father was a light-skinned person, whereas his mother was of dark color. For several years he was raised by a foster family, Elizabeth Sanford and Mabel Holmes, before he was reunited with his mother and three siblings. Brown had a turbulent childhood, but by sheer determination, perseverance, and hard work along with the support of his foster parents and several school teachers, he rose in life—primarily through education. After high school he attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he earned a BA in sociology (1959) and an MSW in psychiatric social work (1961).

After graduation Brown obtained a ...

Article

George White

psychiatrist, educational reformer, and author. Born to working-class parents during the Great Depression, James Pierpont Comer became a world-renowned child psychiatrist. He spent his childhood in East Chicago, Indiana, but then traveled to the East Coast and did work at some of America's most prestigious academic institutions. By the early twenty-first century he stood as an intellectual pioneer and an advocate for disadvantaged children.

Comer's parents lacked extensive formal education, and both worked outside the home—his father as a laborer at a steel mill and his mother as a domestic. Yet they created an environment that cultivated self-esteem, confidence, and high academic achievement for James and his siblings. After completing high school in 1952, Comer attended and graduated from Indiana University, but his negative experiences in Bloomington encouraged him to attend medical school elsewhere. He earned his MD in 1960 from Howard University and a ...

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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

Jeff Shantz

writer and union activist, was born in rural Alabama. As a youth Denby endured the hardships of farm labor. During the 1920s he joined the Great Migration of African American workers who migrated to the northern industrial centers in search of employment. Denby ended up in Detroit, where he found work as an auto assembler on the production lines.

The 1930s were a period of militant mobilization and organization among workers in the auto industry and Denby became a leading participant in the wildcat strikes that swept through the industry in the 1930s and 1940s crucial struggles in the development of the United Auto Workers UAW His involvement in these organizing campaigns both reinforced his view that struggles over race and class were intricately enmeshed and convinced him that working class gains could not be made unless unions were prepared to attack systemic racism a perspective that was not ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

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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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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

Ralph E. Luker

writer, was born Alexander Palmer Haley in Ithaca, New York, the son of Simon Alexander Haley, a graduate student in agriculture at Cornell University, and Bertha George Palmer, a music student at the Ithaca Conservatory of Music. Young Alex Haley grew up in the family home in Henning, Tennessee, where his grandfather Will Palmer owned a lumber business. When the business was sold in 1929, Simon Haley moved his family to southern black college communities, including Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal (near Huntsville), Alabama, where he had his longest tenure teaching agriculture. The three sons of Bertha and Simon Haley, Alex, George, and Julius, spent their summers in Henning, where, in the mid-1930s, their grandmother Cynthia Murray Palmer recounted for her grandsons the stories of their family's history.

After graduating from high school in Normal Alex Haley studied to become a teacher at ...

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

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

Amritjit Singh

poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, columnist, and cultural leader. James Mercer Langston Hughes was the preeminent African American poet of the twentieth century, but he wrote in almost every literary genre during his five-decade career. He was born in Joplin, Missouri, but spent his childhood years in Lawrence, Kansas, with his maternal grandmother, Mary Langston, while his mother, Carrie Langston Hughes, a teacher, looked for employment and marital stability elsewhere. Soon after Langston's birth in 1902, his parents separated. His father, James Hughes, embittered by racist experiences in the United States, left for Mexico, where he owned a ranch, practiced law, and collected rent from tenement houses he owned. After his grandmother died, Langston lived for two years with family friends, James and Mary Reed.

As an artist Hughes saw life and art as closely intertwined ...

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Meghan Elisabeth Healy

South African memoirist and editor, was born Helen Nontando Jabavu in Middledrift in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa on 20 August 1919. She was the second child of Davidson Don Tengo (D. D. T.) Jabavu and Florence Tandiswa Jabavu (née Makiwane) and their first child to survive infancy. Jabavu’s great-grandfather, Ntwanambi Citywa, had earned the praise name “Jabavu” for his valor; with his Quaker wife, Mary Mpinda Citywa, Ntwanambi Citywa educated his first son, John Tengo (J. T.), through his high school matriculation, an unprecedented educational achievement in their Eastern Cape village. In 1884, J. T. Jabavu achieved a more notable first: he became the first African owner and editor of a newspaper on the entire continent when he began to publish Imvo Zabantsundu With his wife Elda Jabavu née Sakuba the daughter of one of the first black Wesleyan Methodist ministers in South Africa J T Jabavu had ...

Article

Justin D. Edwards and Moira Ferguson

novelist, travel writer, and journalist, was born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. John's, Antigua, daughter of Annie Richardson and Frederick Potter. Annie, who was born in Dominica but moved to Antigua as a young woman, appears in many of Kincaid's fictional and nonfictional writings; she is often referred to in contradictory terms as a loving yet stifling, vituperative, and hostile maternal figure, as well as a dedicated homemaker, gardener, and political activist. Kincaid's biological father was an Antiguan taxi driver who abandoned his family. When Kincaid was a young child, her mother was remarried to a cabinetmaker and carpenter, David Drew, and bore three sons. Kincaid has often referred to Mr. Drew as her father.In 1965 shortly following her sixteenth birthday Kincaid left Antigua for the United States where she worked as an au pair in Scarsdale New York In an article in ...