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Hédi Abdel-Jaouad

Tunisian poet, critic, and essayist, was born in Majel Bel Abbès, near Kassérine, Tunisia, where his father was employed with the railway system. His family originates from Gabes, in southeast Tunisia. Bekri’s mother died when he was ten years old, which affected both his personal and literary journeys. He attended the Lycée of Sfax, where he was active in various literary and artistic circles. At the age of eighteen he published his first poems, in the school’s literary journal. He then attended the University of Tunis, where he majored in French literature. During the turbulent years following May 1967, the university was a hotbed of political activism. Bekri was arrested for his political opinions in 1972 and was sentenced and jailed in 1975. Upon his release in 1976 he left for France and has since resided in Paris where he was granted political asylum Bekri completed a ...

Article

Jon-Christian Suggs and Dale Edwyna Smith

[This article contains three subentries, on Du Bois's life, on his historical writing, and on his literary writing.]

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R. Baxter Miller

scholar and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Stanley Dykes and Martha Ann Howard. Eva graduated from M Street High (later Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1910. As valedictorian of her class, she won a $10 scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to attend Howard University, where in 1914 she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English. After a year of teaching Latin and English at the now defunct Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, and for another year elsewhere, she was urged by James Howard, a physician and uncle on her mother's side, to enter Radcliffe College in 1916. Subsequently, she earned a second BA in English, magna cum laude, in 1917. Elected Phi Beta Kappa, she received an MA in English in 1918 and a PhD in English philology in 1921 Her dissertation was titled ...

Article

Bobby Donaldson

One of the chief advocates of the Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle, Jr., was born in Newport News, Virginia, on 2 June 1932. Inspired by the growing example of Richard Wright, young Gayle became a fastidious reader and hoped that a writing career would enable him to over come the strictures of poverty and racism. By the time he graduated from high school in 1950, Gayle had completed a three-hundred-page novel.

Unable to attend college or secure profitable employment, Gayle joined the air force. During his short stint, he wrote copious drafts of his novel, short stories, and poetry and submitted them for publication. After an honorable discharge and several rejection letters from publishers, Gayle reluctantly returned to Virginia.

In 1960, Gayle enrolled in the City College of New York and received his BA in 1965. The following year he earned an MA in English ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean Tigrinya-language writer, historian, translator, linguist, and professor of African languages, was born and grew up in Yeha, an ancient historical village in Tigray, the northernmost Ethiopian province bordering Eritrea. Yeha is remarkable for its unique and early archaeological sites, as well as for its proximity to and historical connections with the well-known city of Axum, which formed the center of the Axumite kingdom during the reign of the Queen of Sheba, and still remains Ethiopia’s oldest cultural center. Giyorgis is considered one of Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s most important intellectuals; he lived and wrote during the Italian colonial era in Eritrea. He is considered by many the true founder of secular, modern African literature in Tigrinya.

The consciousness of precolonial history evident in Yeha had a lasting influence on Giyorgis s imagination affecting everything he wrote from literature to history Another important influence on Giyorgis s formation as a native ...

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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

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 ...

Article

Greg Miller

Jamaica Kincaid's early work earned her immediate acclaim as an unusual voice hailing from an unusual place. Her short story collection, At the Bottom of the River (1983), was followed two years later by her first novel, Annie John (1985). Both books are set in her native Antigua, a Caribbean island of roughly 108 square miles. The dreamy lyricism of her short fiction gave way to the plainer, yet more resonant style of Annie John which tells a largely autobiographical story of childhood Neither book suggested the controversial figure that Kincaid would become Her fiction has remained autobiographical but her grown up protagonists are prone to disquieting anger and her nonfiction has proved downright divisive As Kincaid s literary reputation continues to grow the vapors of disapproval still trail her and this is as it should be for the strength of one of our most ...

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

Joshunda Sanders

prominent scholar of black history and race relations in America, was born in Dayton, Ohio. His adolescence was influenced by the civil rights movement and in 1968, his senior year of high school, Marable penned a newspaper column for an area black weekly called “Youth Speaks Out.” His mother flew him to Atlanta to write about Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral when the civil rights leader was assassinated on 4 April 1968. Witnessing that moment in time was pivotal in shaping his lifelong mission to become a part of and document history in the making. He joined many of his peers at Vietnam War and civil rights protests and marches in the 1960s. He continued his work as a student journalist until he graduated from Earlham College in 1971.

He earned a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1972 and a doctorate in ...

Article

Frances Smith Foster

scholar, teacher, editor, and author, was born Nellie Yvonne Reynolds in New York City, the daughter of Harry, a taxi driver, and Nellie Reynolds, a homemaker. Graduating cum laude from Queens College in 1969 with a BA in English, McKay was accepted into the PhD program at Harvard University for British and American Literature.

McKay was part of the first cohort of African American graduate students determined to include the literatures, histories, and religions of African Americans in their research and study. However, McKay often reminisced about Harvard not having any black literature class and how her graduate colleagues taught one another. Not only did they have to teach one another but they also had to create their own bibliographies and share the few extant copies of the books. McKay dedicated her life to filling this void.

In 1973 she began teaching at ...

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

LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben

educator and author, was born in Flat Creek, Kentucky, the younger of two children of William Morton, a grocer and small truck-business owner, and Susie Anna Stewart Morton, a schoolteacher. Shortly after her birth, Morton's family relocated near Lexington, Kentucky. Her early childhood was defined by several moves between Lexington and various small towns in Kentucky; the family finally settled in Winchester, Kentucky, a community of approximately eight thousand people.

Morton's maternal grandfather, the Reverend H. A. Stewart, was the minister in the local Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. The Reverend Stewart, born enslaved in 1846 played a monumental role in guiding Morton s development and he challenged her to think critically independently and to pursue all things with excellence As a result Morton excelled academically in the all black schools of Winchester including the high school which lacked the resources to matriculate students or award ...

Article

The second son of a Pullman porter, Willard Francis Motley was raised in the only African American family in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. At age thirteen his first short story appeared in the Chicago Defender. Unable to attend college during the Great Depression, as a young adult he trekked across the country accumulating real life experiences that informed much of his writing. He moved from his parents’ home into a dingy apartment in a Chicago slum to better observe the lower-class whites he intended to portray. Simultaneously, he established contact with and was encouraged by the city's leading proletarian writers: Alexander Saxton, William Shenck, and Jack Conroy. They introduced him to the writings of numerous classic and modern authors.

Cofounding a literary journal, signing up with the WPA Federal Writers’ Project in 1940 and the assistance of two fellowships allowed ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

novelist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Florence Motley. He was reared by his maternal grandparents, Archibald Motley Sr., a Pullman porter, and Mary Huff. Motley grew up in a South Side Chicago neighborhood with few black families. He began his literary career precociously, writing a column for the Chicago Defender, a black weekly, under the pen name Bud Billiken. After his graduation from Englewood High School in 1929, however, he found it difficult to break into print and embarked on several cross-country trips—to the East Coast by bicycle and to the West Coast by automobile—in search of adventures to turn into fiction. For the same reason he left his grandparents' middle-class home for an apartment in a slum. At the end of the 1930s he began to publish in travel and outdoor magazines and in Commonweal and while working ...

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

William L. Andrews

William Pickens, one of the most popular African American speakers of his era, was born in Anderson County, South Carolina, on 15 January 1881, the son of former slaves who worked as tenant farmers. His parents moved their family to Arkansas in 1888 in search of better economic and educational opportunities. From the beginning a zealous student, Pickens's first systematic schooling came in 1890 in Argenta, across the river from Little Rock. With funds earned from a variety of manual labor jobs, Pickens paid his way to attend the Little Rock High School, from which he graduated at the top of his class in 1899. He then obtained admission to Talladega College in Alabama, where he studied for three years before entering Yale University in 1902 At Yale Pickens won the Henry James Ten Eyck prize in oratory for a speech on Haiti and was elected to ...

Article

Theodore O. Mason

Born in 1941 in Trinidad, Arnold Rampersad received a BA and MA from Bowling Green State University and an MA and PhD from Harvard. He has held teaching positions at Stanford, Rutgers, and Columbia. Rampersad was Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton and is Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at Stanford University. From 1991 to 1996, he held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Rampersad was a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.

Although he began his career specializing in Herman Melville, Rampersad is best known for biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes. In The Art and Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois (1976 Rampersad sought to trace the intellectual development of one of this century s preeminent black political and social ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

Taught by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson at his Wilmington, Delaware, high school, J. Saunders Redding earned an advanced degree in English at Brown University (1932) and was a professor at various colleges and universities, including More-house, Hampton, and Cornell. In 1949, his stint as a visiting professor at Brown made him the first African American to hold a faculty position at an Ivy League university. He wrote many books and articles on African American culture and other topics, including To Make a Poet Black (1939), a landmark history of African American literature; No Day of Triumph (1942), an autobiographical account of a journey through southern black communities; and Stranger and Alone (1950), a novel, as well as several more general historical and sociological works. He also edited with Arthur P. Davis an important anthology, Cavalcade Negro American Writing from 1760 to the ...