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Article

Miguel Barnet is the author of Biografía de un cimarrón (Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, 1966), which recounts Esteban Motejo's life as a runaway slave in Cuba and as a soldier in the Spanish-American War (1895–1898). Other works by Barnet include Canción de Raquel Rachel ...

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Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

Dantès Bellegarde was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1877. His family had long been at the center of Haitian politics. Bellegarde's mother was Marie Boisson and his father Jean-Louis Bellegarde. His maternal great-grandfather, Jacques Ignace Fresnel, was named judge by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader of the Haitian Revolution, who became the first leader of the independent state in 1804 and soon proclaimed himself Emperor Jean-Jacques I. This same great-grandfather was later minister of justice under President Jean-Pierre Boyer, who ruled all of Haiti from 1820 to 1843. Bellegarde's paternal grandfather, Jean-Louis de Bellegarde, was a duke and marshal in Haiti's second empire during the rule of Faustin Soulouque, who declared himself emperor and ruled from 1847 to 1859. Bellegarde's aunt, Argentine Bellegarde (1842–1901), was a noted educator and an early feminist. Bellegarde married Cécile Savain (1875–1965 ...

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Charlotte Crawford Watkins

Charles Eaton Burch was born on July 14, 1891, in Bermuda. His early education was in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda, and his advanced training was in the United States, at Wilberforce University (B.A., 1914), Columbia University (M.A., 1918), and Ohio State University (Ph.D., 1933). He taught in the academic department of Tuskegee Institute in 1916 and 1917, and from 1918 to 1921 he taught at Wilberforce as an instructor in English. In 1921 he was appointed to the faculty of Howard University, where he served, successively, as assistant professor (1921–1924), associate professor (1924–1936), and professor of English, and as acting head and (from 1933) head of the Department of English until his death on March 23, 1948 In addition to his work as a scholar Burch made two major contributions to Howard University In ...

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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 ...

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Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...

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Pedro Deschamps Chapeaux was born in Havana, Cuba. His notable works include: El negro en el periodismo cubano en el siglo XIX (The Black in Nineteenth Century Cuban Journalism; 1963); El negro en la economía habanera del siglo XIX (The Black in the Nineteenth Century Havana Economy; 1970 ...

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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 ...

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Octávio Ianni was born in a small town, Itú, São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil. He was one of Brazil's most prestigious social scientists, expanding his work to the fields of sociology, anthropology, and economics. He completed his doctorate at the University of São Paulo (USP), where he also taught. He was also a visiting professor at several foreign universities, such as Columbia (United States), Oxford (England), Complutense (Spain), and UNAM (Mexico). He also taught at the Catholic University and at UNICAMP in Brazil. During the period of military dictatorship (1964–1985), Ianni was forcibly retired from teaching at USP for about ten years; the government considered racial studies to be subversive. According to Pierre-Michel Fontaine's Race, Class and Power in Brazil, Ianni “emphasized the adaptation of racism, having been engendered by the system of slavery, to the structural characteristics of capitalism.”

Some of Ianni s most ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Cheddi Jagan was born in 1918 on a Sugar plantation in the English colony of British Guiana. The son of indentured servants from India, Jagan became one of the most popular politicians in this predominantly working-class Indian nation. Although poor, Jagan's parents managed to send him to secondary school in the capital of Georgetown and from there to Howard University in Washington, D.C. Jagan enrolled at the predominantly African American Howard University as a premedical student, and he supplemented his income by working part-time during the summers as an elevator operator and patent-medicine salesman in the Harlem area of New York City.

After graduating from Howard, Jagan attended the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago, Illinois. While earning his degree Jagan met his wife, a white American nurse named Janet Rosenberg; they married in 1943. Together, the couple began studying the principles of Socialism ...

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Roanne Edwards

In 1960 the diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus, an impoverished black woman, was published in Brazil—a development that brought her national and international celebrity. Titled Quarto de despejo (Portuguese for “the trash room”), the diary sold 90,000 copies within the first six months, making it the most successful book in the history of Brazilian publishing. It was translated into more than a dozen languages and attracted worldwide attention. It was published in English as Child of the Dark in 1962. The book also brought Jesus financial success, allowing her to move out of the Favelas, or squatter settlements.

But Jesus's success was short-lived. Her subsequent writings, including a second diary, Casa de alvenaria (I'm Going To Have a Little House, 1961), were not successful, and she soon drifted into obscurity. As scholar Robert M. Levine has said Ill prepared for her meteoric ...

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Eva Marie Stahl

Born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. Johns, Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid was greatly influenced by her mother, Annie Richards. At sixteen years of age, after successfully completing a British education in Antigua, she moved to New York as an au pair.

After leaving her au pair job, working as a photographer's assistant, and briefly attending college, Richardson changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid and began to establish herself as a writer. Kincaid published her work in the Village Voice and Ingenue magazine, attracting the attention of William Shawn, the legendary editor of the New Yorker, who hired her as a staff writer in 1976. In 1983 she published a collection of short fiction, At the Bottom of the River. These stories, which had previously appeared in the New Yorker, won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Kincaid s ...

Article

Rebecca S. Wood

author and educator, was born John Asberry McCluskey Jr. in Middletown, Ohio, the first of four children of John A. McCluskey Sr., a truck driver, and Helen McCluskey (née Harris), a domestic worker. McCluskey attended primary school at Middletown's all-black Booker T. Washington Elementary, where he demonstrated an early aptitude for literature by winning a school writing contest. Despite encouragement from his teachers, however, he didn't give creative writing much thought, though he was a voracious reader.

An honors student and star athlete, McCluskey entered Harvard in 1962, thinking he would study medicine or engineering before returning to Ohio. Although the concentration of his studies was on social relations, McCluskey also pursued his growing literary interests by writing his undergraduate honors thesis, “The Sociology of Literature,” on works by Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Chester Himes, and Richard Wright Having been active in ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

historian, academic, and writer, was born Nell Elizabeth Irvin in Houston, Texas, to Frank Edward Irvin, a chemist and chemistry administrator at the University of California at Berkeley, and Dona Lolita McGruder, a homemaker and personnel officer for the Oakland Public Schools. Her older brother Frank Jr. died during a tonsillectomy at age five in 1943. When Nell was just an infant, her parents moved to Oakland, California, seeking better work opportunities and living conditions. She attended public schools, including Oakland Technical High School, and she was an active youth member of Downs Methodist Church.

Nell Irvin enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and decided on an anthropology major after spending the summer of 1962 in Kano, Nigeria. A student participant in Operations Crossroads Africa she helped build a local school and experienced the country from a grassroots level ...

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Richard Watts

Jean Price-Mars was born in Grande Rivière du Nord, Haiti. After studying medicine, anthropology, and political science in Haiti and Paris, he joined the Haitian diplomatic corps. It was through this work that Price-Mars discovered his oratorical skills, giving a great number of lectures on Haitian culture and politics in the 1910s and 1920s that were gathered in his first published works, La Vocation de l'élite (1919), Ainsi parla l'Oncle (1928), and Une étape de l'évolution haïtienne (1929). Price-Mars subsequently split his time between active politics and more intellectual pursuits throughout the rest of his life. During the tumultuous middle of the century, he remained close to Haiti's ever-changing power élite, running twice for president and being appointed ambassador to Paris by François Duvalier in 1957.

More significantly Price Mars continued to write on the history of Haiti and on the ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Walter Rodney was an outspoken author, scholar, and activist who championed the rights of the working class around the world. He was born in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1942. Rodney excelled academically, displaying a strong command of history and social theory. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and from London University's prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). At the age of twenty-four he was awarded a Ph.D. in history by SOAS.

Rodney's voice was powerful and articulate as he spoke out against colonialism and worked to develop a political consciousness among the Caribbean working class. As a professor, Rodney had a profound impact on students and workers at the University of the West Indies. His immense popularity with young radicals and organized labor threatened the Jamaican government. In 1968 while he was attending a meeting of the Montreal Congress of Black ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan and Lisa Clayton Robinson

Joel Rogers was born in Jamaica on September 6, 1883, the son of Samuel and Emily (Johnstone) Rogers. After serving four years in the Royal Army, Royal Garrison, Heavy Artillery, Rogers came to the United States in 1906 and was naturalized in 1917. For the most part self-educated, he mastered several foreign languages, traveled extensively in Europe and Africa, and became one of the most prolific writers of his time. In 1930 he attended the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, and after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia he covered the conflict from 1935 to 1936 for the Pittsburgh Courier. For many years he lived at 37 Morningside Avenue in the heart of Harlem, New York, where he had a voluminous library and entertained interested and interesting guests. Most of his books were published by J. A. Rogers Publications.

Rogers contributed articles to the ...

Article

Piri Thomas was raised in the barrios (ghettos) of Spanish Harlem in New York City. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico. He attended public schools, where he was first introduced to institutionalized assimilation and racism. In 1952 he was incarcerated on charges of attempted armed robbery, and in prison he began writing his first book, the autobiography Down These Mean Streets (1967).

Down These Mean Streets gained critical acclaim for its portrayal of Spanish Harlem and its bold new literary style, which mixed Spanish Harlem dialect with slang Thomas had learned in prison. Thomas is known for his use of authentic Afro–Puerto Rican settings and dialect. Thomas went on to publish two more autobiographical works, Saviour, Saviour, Hold My Hand (1972) and Seven Long Times (1974). He also established himself as a playwright, authoring Las calles de ...

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Lorraine Anastasia Lezama

Eric Williams was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the eldest of twelve children in a family of modest means. His education was funded by a series of competitive scholarships awarded to those who excelled academically. He attended Queen's Royal College, a preparatory school for boys, and in 1931 won a scholarship to study at a British university. At Oxford University, Williams earned a bachelor's degree and in 1938 a doctorate in history. His dissertation, “Economic Aspects of the Abolition of the West Indies Slave Trade,” would later be published as Capitalism and Slavery.

In 1939 Williams moved to the United States to establish an academic career teaching social sciences at Howard University. Rising through the academic ranks, he was offered a tenured position in 1946.

Williams returned to Trinidad in 1948 and worked as deputy chairman of the Caribbean Research Council of the Caribbean Commission The ...

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Mayda Grano de Oro

Isabelo Zenón Cruz was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Influenced by the writings of Martinican political philosopher Frantz Fanon and American political activist Eldridge Cleaver, Zenón Cruz defends the importance of African heritage in the formation of a Puerto Rican identity. His two-volume study, Narciso descubre su trasero: El Negro en la cultura puertorriqueña (Narciso Discovers His Behind: The Negro in the Puerto Rican Culture; 1974), questions the often accepted myth of a racial harmony in the definition of a Puerto Rican identity and presents extensive evidence that racism and prejudice have always been part of Afro–Puerto Ricans' reality. The book examines the historical, social, and cultural circumstances that have marginalized Afro–Puerto Ricans.

According to Zenón Cruz the importance of Afro Puerto Ricans has always been underestimated In his extensive and comprehensive discussion about education politics language the arts religion sports and Puerto Rican folklore to name ...