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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 ...


Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...


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 ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

At the conclusion of her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Beloved (1987), Toni Morrison sums up her retelling of one slave family's experience: “It was not a story to pass on.” There are certainly logical reasons why the story of Slavery might never have been passed on. One, the reason Morrison suggests, was its sheer horror and trauma—those who lived through it may not have wanted to remember their experiences. A second is more practical: it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, which meant that the act of putting a story on paper was generally prohibited to them. But neither of these reasons kept former slaves from passing on their stories and leaving a record about what living as a piece of property had been like. These slave narratives set the standard for a tradition of African American autobiography that continues today.

Although slave narratives were written ...


Mason I. Lowance

Slave narratives written by women occupy a special place in the long history of antebellum slave narration because female slaves suffered additional burdens based on gender. As the emancipated slave Harriet Jacobs noted, those qualities of beauty and femininity long honored in all cultures became a special curse for the female slave, because these attributes often led to sexual abuse by slave owners and overseers and male slaves. In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), this problem is examined in several episodes in which a vulnerable female slave is forced into sexual relationships with men. These incidents, related by Cassy in Chapter XXXIV, “The Quadroon’s Story,” can be considered a slave narrative in microcosm, one that exhibits the essential characteristics of the slave narrative genre. And in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1845 a young and attractive female ...


Gary Ashwill

Born in Virginia to former slaves, Carter G. Woodson worked in coal mines until he entered high school at the age of nineteen, finishing in less than two years. Over the next several years, he taught high school and obtained a BL degree at the interracial Berea College (Kentucky). From 1903 to 1906 Woodson worked as supervisor of schools in the Philippines. In 1908 he received both BA and MA degrees from the University of Chicago and began teaching high school in Washington, D.C. He earned a PhD in history from Harvard University in 1912, becoming, after W. E. B. Du Bois, the second African American to receive a doctorate in history. From 1919 to 1922 he taught at Howard University and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, and served in high administrative posts at both institutions.

In 1915 Woodson with several other scholars founded the Association for the ...


Aaron Myers

One of nine children, Carter Godwin Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, and grew up on his family's farm in rural Virginia. His mother, a former slave who had secretly learned to read and write as a child, and two of his uncles, who had received training at Freedmen's Bureau schools, tutored him and cultivated his interest in learning. In 1892 Woodson moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he worked in coal mines.

At age twenty, Woodson enrolled at Frederick Douglass High School, the only all-black school in the area. He completed the four-year curriculum in two years while working to pay his tuition. Following graduation he obtained a teaching position in Winona, West Virginia. But in 1901 Woodson returned to his former high school to teach and later to serve as principal Meanwhile he intermittently attended Berea College an integrated school established by abolitionists in Kentucky from ...