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James J. O'Donnell

Christian bishop and theologian, was born Aurelius Augustinus on 13 November 354 CE in Tagaste (mod. Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa, the son of Patricius and Monnica. The names of father and son are marked by emphatic affiliation with Rome (echoing the imperial title of Augustus and the high dignity of “patrician”), while the mother’s name echoes the traditional Punic culture of Africa and one of its leading deities. Augustine died as bishop of Hippo Regius (mod. Annaba, Algeria) on 28 August 430. He never ceased to surprise his contemporaries, and he has astonished many more to this day.

As the older son in a family of some social pretensions but limited resources Augustine should have grown to manhood as a country squire of narrow horizons But his parents were ambitious and found the money from an influential friend to send him away for education He studied first at ...

Article

Katya Leney-Hall

Egyptian diplomat, jurist and scholar who, during 1992–1996, served as the sixth Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN), the first African and Arab to hold the position, was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922 into a distinguished Coptic Christian family. His grandfather, Boutros-Ghali Pasha, was the Egyptian minister for finance and, from 1894, foreign affairs. He was prime minister from 1908 to 1910 when he was assassinated by a nationalist angered with his advocacy of the extension of the Suez Canal Company s concession Boutros Boutros Ghali pointed out in an interview that the reality was that the population was happy to get rid of a Christian and his grandfather s assassination set off a wave of Coptic Muslim clashes Although not overtly religious himself his family s history status and influence on the Coptic Church were to form Boutros Ghali who would later perceive ...

Article

Cajetan Nnaocha

educator, linguist, and first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria, was born in about 1809 at Oshogun, Yorubaland, in today’s Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria.

Crowther was captured in 1821 at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery when Oshogun was raided by Fulani and Oyo Muslims. Crowther, along with other enslaved persons, was marched away to Iseyin, where he was exchanged for English wine and tobacco and handed over to Portuguese merchants engaged in the transatlantic slave trade and put on board the Experanza Feliz, bound for the New World. Fortunately, the ship was intercepted and boarded by British naval patrol ship, the Myrmidon and everyone onboard was rescued The Portuguese ship was then taken by its British captors to Sierra Leone and Crowther and the other slaves were released by them and put ashore When they arrived in Freetown rather than being treated ...

Article

Dance  

Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka

Dance in Africa is as diverse and as complex as the myriad of cultures and peoples on the continent. An art form, it is a product of, and part of, the engendering culture. Albeit nonverbal, dance is especially valued on the African continent for its expressiveness and dynamic form, and features prominently as a medium of communication during religious worships and at instructional levels. Whether in ancient times or in more contemporary times, dance retains its popularity among African peoples as a creative outlet at numerous levels—from the sublime to the predictable, from the sacred to the secular.

All embracing all encompassing dance in the African context quite often becomes a focal point of display and repository for other art forms enhancing them with its dynamic attributes The claim can be made that many other African art forms have been created expressly with dance in mind it is essentially through ...

Article

Gerald Horne

American social scientist, author, educator, civil rights leader, and Pan-Africanist, was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois on 23 February 1868 to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, in the predominantly white hamlet of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. William’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Tom Burghardt, born in West Africa in the early 1730s, was captured and brought to America by Dutch slavers. Du Bois would later recall hearing in his childhood a West African song that was perhaps of Senegambian Wolof origin.

Du Bois had a fondness for his New England birthplace and by his own account had a relatively charmed childhood An only child abandoned by his father whom he did not remember his doting mother and relatives and supportive teachers muted the pangs of racism sharpened by Reconstruction These heady years permeated the nation not just the South Hence his early years were shaped by genteel poverty Victorian ...

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Sue Grant Lewis

Much education in Africa follows the Western model of schooling. But although Western-style education predominates, Islamic schools also operate throughout the continent. These schools, known as madrassa, teach followers lessons of the Qur’an (Koran). In some countries, such as Malawi, Western-style and Qur’anic schools cooperate. In other places, Islamic schooling exists instead of Western schooling.

Article

Katya Leney-Hall

Egyptian Nobel Laureate, diplomat, international civil servant, and scholar who served as the director general (DG) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) between 1997 and 2009, was born in Cairo. His father was Mostafa ElBaradei, a lawyer and president of the Egyptian Bar Association, who campaigned for a free press and an independent legal system. ElBaradei studied law at the University of Cairo (1962), and completed his PhD in international law at the New York University School of Law (1974).

ElBaradei joined the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964; his postings included the Egyptian Permanent Missions to the United Nations (UN) in New York and Geneva. Between 1974 and 1978 he served as a special assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister Working under another Egyptian diplomat who would later leave his mark on the UN Boutros Boutros Ghali he attended the Camp David ...

Article

Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

Article

Harmony O'Rourke

Cameroonian politician, educator, and farmer, was born Ngu Foncha in the fondom (similar to the concepts of kingdom or chiefdom) of Nkwen, of the colonial Southern Cameroons, to Foncha, a prince of the fondom, and his fourth wife, Ngebi. Though his father never became the fon (king or chief) of Nkwen, the boy Ngu grew up in the Nkwen palace precincts. He attended a Christian mission at Big Babanki, where he was baptized in 1924 and took the name John. In 1926 he went to the Bamenda Government School, where he impressed a Nigerian teacher, who enrolled him in Calabar’s St. Michael’s School. In 1934, Foncha returned to Cameroon to serve as a teacher but headed back to Nigeria in 1936 to seek further training at the Saint Charles’ Teachers Training College at Onitsha. From 1939 to 1947 Foncha taught in Njinikom Cameroon a stint that was ...

Article

Cyril Daddieh

university professor, political dissident, and former president of Ivory Coast from 2000–2011 was born in Mama, near Gagnoa (center-west region) on 31 May 1945 to Zepe Paul Koudou and Gado Marguerite. He attended primary and middle schools in Agboville and Gagnoa, completing his studies in June 1962. He went on to high school at the very competitive Lycée Classique d’Abidjan. After graduating in June 1965, Gbagbo enrolled at the University of Abidjan for a year before he transferred to the University of Lyon, in France, to study Latin, Greek, and French. His love of Latin earned him the nickname “Cicero.” However, Gbagbo did not complete his degree in Lyon; rather, he returned to the University of Abidjan, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969.

Gbagbo became a trade unionist and an unflinching opponent of the regime of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. In 1969 Gbagbo s ...

Article

Susanne M. Klausen

teacher, social worker, and antiapartheid activist in South Africa, was born Helen Beatrice May Fennell in Sussex, England, on 8 April 1905. She grew up in London and graduated with a degree in English from King’s College, the University of London, in 1927. She taught at the Mahbubia School for girls in Hyderabad, India, from 1927 to 1930. After a serious horse-riding accident, she resigned and moved to South Africa in 1931 to take up a less demanding post at a school in Durban. Between 1942 and 1946 she worked full time as a Welfare and Information Officer in the South African Air Force, and during this period she learned a great deal about black South Africans’ extensive poverty. Consequently, after World War II, she trained as a social worker.

In 1951 Joseph became secretary of the Medical Aid Society of the Transvaal Clothing Industry In ...

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Jeremy Rich

Congolese politician and intellectual, was born around 1915 in the village of Dizi in the Mayombe region of Bas-Congo. His father, Mvubu-Tsiku, had worked in the Angolan province of Cabinda as a trader and married his mother Mavangu Mpoba afterward. Joseph was the eighth child and youngest boy of the family. Mavungu Mpoba died when Kasa-Vubu was only four. Kasa-Vubu attended a series of Catholic mission schools, culminating in his studies at the Mbata-Kiela seminary run by the Catholic order of the Missionaries of Scheut. He stayed there from 1928 to 1936, but his Belgian missionary teachers found him too intractable to have a vocation in the priesthood. Once dismissed from the seminary, he became certified as a teacher in 1940. However, he chose in 1941 to work for a Belgian company before becoming an accountant working for the Belgian colonial bureaucracy in 1942 He then moved ...

Article

Florian Pajot

historian and political leader of Burkina Faso, was born in 1922 in Toma, a small village in Upper Volta, then a French colony. Often referred to as “Le Professeur” (“The Professor”), Ki-Zerbo was the son of Alfred Diban Ki-Zerbo, who was known as the first Christian in Upper Volta. His parents brought him up in the African rural tradition, which entailed pastoral and agricultural activities. This did not prevent him from studying at the missionary school run by the French Pères Blancs (White Fathers). Despite their traditional background, Ki-Zerbo’s parents allowed him to go to Bamako and then Dakar to complete his studies. He successfully passed his leaving certificate and then he turned his attention to his lifelong struggle for African independence.

Thanks to a scholarship, Ki-Zerbo went to Paris in 1950 to attend the Sorbonne where he pursued a degree in history Influenced by his father s own ...

Article

Michael Mwenda Kithinji

Kenyan scholar and politician, was the first-born son of Senior Chief Koinange of Kiambu. Mbiyu was named after his grandfather Mbiyu wa Gachetha, one of the earliest colonial chiefs in Kenya. His chiefly background provided him with an opportunity to pursue elementary education at an early age, joining the pioneer class of the Alliance High School in 1926. In 1927, he transferred to the Hampton Institute in Virginia. While at Hampton, Mbiyu noticed the absence of authentic African artifacts at the Hampton Museum and requested that his father address the problem. Koinange responded to his son’s request by shipping a container load of various African artifacts, which the museum used to establish the Koinange collection.

In 1930, Mbiyu joined Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where he studied for a degree in political science. He graduated in 1934 the first Kenyan African to obtain a bachelor s ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Malian historian and politician, was born on 2 February 1946 in the town of Kayes in Mali. He attended qurʾanic school in Kayes and then attended secondary schools in Bamako, Dakar, and Katibougou. He then went on to university studies in history at the École Normale Superieur (ENS) in Bamako, the capital of Mali, from 1965 to 1969. Like many other young Malian intellectuals in the 1960s, he supported the socialist policies of the ruling Union Soudanaise-Rassemblement Démocratique Africaine (USRDA; Sudanese Union-African Democratic Rally) party of president Modibo Keïta. Konaré became the secretary general of the youth wing of the USRDA at the ENS in 1967. Konaré had opportunity to continue his studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland from 1971 to 1975, and he received a doctorate in archaeology from this institution.

His stays abroad proved important to his political development as well as his ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

Nana Yaw B. Sapong

, teacher, diplomat, politician, and president of Ghana’s Third Republic, was born in Gwellu in the Upper Region of Ghana in 1934. His father was a blacksmith and farmer in a region noted for predominantly producing cereal, root crops, and legumes. Limann was an accomplished individual. After completing his elementary education at Lawra and Tamale, he earned a teacher’s certificate from the Tamale Government Teacher Training College in 1952 and the General Certificate Examination Advanced Level in 1957. This earned him a place at the London School of Economics, where he completed a bachelor of science in economics degree in 1960. He journeyed to France where he earned a doctorate in political science and constitutional law from the University of Paris in 1965 Limann also received a high diploma in the French language from the Sorbonne 1962 and a bachelor of arts in history from the ...

Article

Ernest Julius Mitchell

Alain LeRoy Locke (1885–1954) was the leading African American philosopher of his time. Raised in Philadelphia, Locke graduated magna cum laude in philosophy from Harvard College (1907) and became the first African American to win a Rhodes scholarship. He studied classics and philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford, until 1910, and attended classes at

the University of Berlin the following year. Locke eventually returned to Harvard and completed his dissertation, The Problem of Classification in Theory of Value, under Ralph Barton Perry, becoming the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard’s Philosophy department (1918). Except for a brief hiatus (1925–28), he spent his academic career at Howard University in Washington, D.C., as chair of the Philosophy Department. Best known as the theorist of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke made important contributions to axiology, cultural pluralism, aesthetics, and adult education.

American ...

Article

Dorothy C. Woodson

South African teacher, Zulu chief, political leader, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born in Rhodesia around 1898 of South African (Zulu) parentage. His mother, Mtonya Gumede, was born and raised in the Royal Kraal of Cetshewayo, the Zulu king. His father, John Luthuli, was the elected chief of Groutville, home of the Umvoti Mission, an American Board of Commissioners station near Stanger, north of Durban, in what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal. He attended various local schools and was later awarded a two-year teacher-training scholarship at Adams College. Luthuli remained at Adams as a teacher, becoming one of only two African teachers at the school, the other being Z. K. Matthews (1901–1968). He married Nokukhanya Bhengu in 1927, and they had seven children.

In 1936 Luthuli reluctantly left Adams College and returned to Groutville after being elected to the chieftainship of the Umvoti Mission Reserve during which time he ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Kenyan environmental leader and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born and raised in a rural village near Nyeri in Kenya’s central highlands. Her mother Wangiru Kibicho (better known as Lydia) was a subsistence-level farmer; her father Muta Njugi worked as a driver and mechanic for a British farmer. She writes about her early memories in her memoir Unbowed (2006 describing a vibrant landscape with many trees and clear running streams She attended primary school in the village then transferred to St Cecilia s Intermediate Primary School and finally continued her education at Loreto Girls High School in Limuru both institutions run by Catholic missionaries She credits her high school science teacher with mentoring her and instigating her lifelong love of chemistry and biology She decided that she did not want to be a teacher or a nurse the careers open to African girls in the 1950s and ...