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Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

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Samuel A. Hay

writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.

Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

author, composer, and activist. When Shirley Graham Du Bois was thirteen years old she met the prominent scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. The meeting had a profound impact on her political and personal development, for she eventually married Du Bois in 1951. She became well known as W. E. B. Du Bois's second wife, causing some to overlook her tremendous personal accomplishments.

Shirley Graham was born near Evansville, Indiana, to David Graham and Etta Graham. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal minister, a career that caused him to move his family to various locations in the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Nashville. At his churches Shirley first discovered a love for music, learning to play the organ and piano. She completed high school in Spokane, Washington, and then moved to Seattle, where she married Shadrack T. McCants ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

Graham, Shirley (11 November 1896–27 March 1977), musical composer and director, author, and political activist also known as Shirley Graham Du Bois was born Lola Bell Graham in Indianapolis Indiana the daughter of the Reverend David A Graham an African Methodist Episcopal minister and Etta Bell She accompanied them when her father held pastorates in New Orleans Colorado Springs and Spokane He delighted her with stories about important blacks in American history In his churches she learned to play the piano and the pipe organ and to conduct choirs In 1914 she graduated from high school in Spokane took business school courses and worked in government offices in Spokane and Seattle After she married Shadrach T McCanns in 1921 she gave private music lessons and played the organ in white movie theaters hidden backstage She had two sons Robert and David and was either widowed in 1924 ...

Article

was a prominent Egyptian playwright, author, and intellectual. Some discrepancy exists according to his date of birth, and various sources state the range of 1898 to 1903. He was born in Alexandria to an Egyptian father and a Turkish-Persian mother. His father, Ismaʿil, was a middle-class advocate in the district attorney's office. In his autobiography Sijn al-ʿumr (Life's Prison Hakim describes his father as an introvert with a penchant for writing poetry His mother ʿAsma al Bistami is described as a strong vibrant woman who enjoyed music In his youth Hakim wandered between schools due to his father s frequent work related relocation After matriculating in several country schools he commenced his high school education in Ras al Tin followed by the ʿAbasiyya School in Alexandria while his family resided in Damanhur Hakim did not excel in his learning due to his frequent visits to the theater ...

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Shanna L. Smith

poet, dramatist, and artist, was born Estella Marie Conwill in Louisville, Kentucky, the only daughter of the six children of Mary Luella (Herndon) and Adolph Conwill, of whom little else is known. Growing up during the 1950s civil rights era had a profound impact on the burgeoning writer. Struggling to articulate radical changes in her segregated Louisville community and to explain those changes as one of a handful of blacks in a local Catholic school honed her particular and peculiar voice. Language, ideas, and the spoken word titillated her passion for storytelling. In 1980 that singleness of vision led her to be among the first scholars to earn a doctorate in African American literature from the University of Iowa and to pen several books, including Come Out the Wilderness: Memoir of a Black Woman Artist (1999).

An early portion of her memoir related her ...

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Malin Pereira

poet, playwright, memoirist, children's literature author, and educator, was born Thylias Brasier to Florida and Calvin Brasier in Cleveland Ohio Moss s father worked as a tire recapper and her mother as a maid their working class family life was stable Moss experienced childhood in two highly dissimilar stages During her earliest years in the late 1950s her family lived above a Jewish couple who showed Moss great warmth and affection Her elementary school years however were filled with cruel treatment by a certain babysitter and by violent events in her neighborhood such as children being killed in accidents or by violent acts And when she moved to a mostly white school district at nine years old she had additional traumatic experiences However during the most difficult years of her childhood Moss found lifelines in church and poetry In church she was particularly drawn ...

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Biodun Jeyifo

Nigerian writer and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka on 13 July 1934 in Abeokuta Nigeria One of the most prominent writers and public intellectuals in the world his international fame rests as much on his writings as on his widely admired fearless advocacy of human rights and social justice both in his native Nigeria and in other countries in Africa Primarily a playwright and dramatist Soyinka has written in virtually all of the literary genres and he has written rather prodigiously his corpus comprising more than forty five works of drama fiction poetry translation and nonfictional criticism memoirs and philosophical reflection Now in the eighth decade of his life he has spent six of those decades in a sustained unbroken work of social activism that stands as a necessary complement to the primacy of his life and career as ...