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Gregory Mann

Malian political activist, women’s leader, and author, was born in Bamako, in the French colony of Soudan (now Mali) on 12 July 12 1912. An alternate form of her name is Awa Keita. Her father Karamogo Kéita, a Malinké veteran of the World War I from Guinea, worked for the colonial hygiene service. Her mother Mariam Coulibaly, a Dioula from Ivory Coast, gave her a strong traditional education. Unusually for a girl of her generation, Aoua Kéita was enrolled in Bamako’s newly established école de filles (school for girls) in 1923 by her father and against the wishes of her mother. In 1928 she graduated from Bamako’s foyer de métisses, a boarding school for mixed race girls that a small number of Africans were permitted to attend She then won admission to the École de Médecine de Dakar at that time the capital of the federation of French ...


Chorok Sally Chung

Senegalese-Beninese novelist and memoirist, was born Mariètou Mbaye Biléoma on 28 November 1948, in Ndoucoumane, Senegal (then part of French West Africa). She later adopted the pen name Ken Bugul. Her parents were Abdoulaye Mbaye, an eighty-five-year-old marabout (Muslim holy man), and Aissatou Diop Mbaye. Ken Bugul’s mother left her when she was just five years old, in order to attend to her newborn granddaughter. Soon after, Ken Bugul began her French education at the village of Gouye and continued her secondary education in the French school system at the Lycée Malick Sy at Thiès. She attended Dakar University in the 1966–1967 academic year, after which she obtained a scholarship to continue her studies in Belgium from 1968. She returned to Senegal in 1980 and in her first marriage became the twenty-eighth wife of a marabout who died a short time later She later remarried and had ...


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 ...


Amanda J. Davis

writer, activist, editor, speaker, was born Barbara Smith in the central part of Cleveland, Ohio. Smith's mother died at age thirty-four, exactly one month before Smith's tenth birthday; her father, she writes, was a “total mystery” to her. Smith and her twin sister, Beverly, were reared in a modest, working-class home by their mother, maternal grandmother, and great-aunt Phoebe. When Smith was six years old she and her family moved into a two-family house that her aunt LaRue and uncle Bill had bought and she lived there until she was eighteen and went away to college It is this house that Smith most vividly remembers as home and from which she learned many of the fundamentals of black feminism before such a term even existed As Smith watched the women in her family struggle with dignity strength and perseverance against a segregated society marred ...


Adele N. Nichols

journalist, commentator on gender and health issues, and novelist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Andres Villarosa and Clara Villarosa. Her mother was later the founder and co-owner of Hue-Man Experience Bookstore, a specialist in African American titles. Linda had one sibling, a younger sister, Alicia. In 1969 the Villarosas moved from the predominantly black South Side of Chicago to a white neighborhood in suburban Denver Colorado where some neighbors wrote derogatory messages on their garage door and driveway despite her husband s concerns about the racist welcome Clara Villarosa and her neighbors persuaded her husband to remain in the neighborhood Villarosa has written about her experiences with school integration noting that the principal of her new school in Colorado held an assembly informing the school that she would be its first black student As a result she recalled that no one spoke to her during ...


Shirley Walker Moore

Michele Faith Wallace was born in New York City to musician Robert Earland Wallace and artist Faith Jones. Wallace’s parents provided both Wallace and her younger sister Brenda a middle class upbringing in Harlem. Wallace’s poignant childhood remembrances in Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Culture include living in an apartment equipped with doormen, traveling by taxis to private schools, shopping in expensive department stores, and spending summers in Europe. On Sunday mornings their grandmother, Momma Jones, escorted Wallace and her sister to the magnificent Abyssinian Baptist Church. Childhood innocence, though, was not long lived for Wallace. Her parents divorced when Wallace was four years old. Her mother then remarried Burdette Ringgold in 1962. Three years later, Wallace’s father died of a drug overdose.

In Invisibility Blues Wallace traces her maternal family s penchant toward art and crafts back to her great great great grandmother who was ...