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Article

Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...

Article

Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Richard A. Long

Born in Atlanta but reared in Detroit where he graduated from Wayne State University, Hoyt Fuller embarked on a career in journalism and editing. He held positions with the Michigan Chronicle, the Detroit Tribune, and Collier's Encyclopedia, among others. Increasingly frustrated by American racism, he went abroad in 1957, living in France and in Spain; later, attracted by the anticolonial stance of Sekou Toure of Guinea, he travelled in Africa, an experience evoked in his only book, a collection of essays, Return to Africa (1971). Fuller returned to the United States in 1960.

Fuller had worked briefly as an associate editor at the monthly Ebony in 1954 before going abroad, and when Ebony publisher John Johnson decided to revive the periodical Negro Digest in 1961 he offered Fuller the job of editing it Fuller accepted the position but rejected the digest format ...

Article

James A. Miller

Fuller, Hoyt William (10 September 1927–11 May 1981), editor and literary critic, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Thomas Fuller and Lillie Beatrice Ellafair Thomas. A member of the African-American middle class, Fuller was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and came of age against the backdrop of the violent race riots in that city in 1943.

Fuller attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he received his B.A. in 1950. As a student, he was deeply influenced by Fred Hart Williams, a historian who specialized in the experiences of blacks in the Michigan-Ontario area and who founded what is now known as the Hackley Memorial Collection of Black Arts at the Detroit Public Library. Williams introduced Fuller to regional black history and to African history, beginning Fuller’s deep and abiding commitment to African affairs.

Fuller worked as a reporter for the Detroit Tribune from 1949 ...

Article

Bobby Donaldson

One of the chief advocates of the Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle, Jr., was born in Newport News, Virginia, on 2 June 1932. Inspired by the growing example of Richard Wright, young Gayle became a fastidious reader and hoped that a writing career would enable him to over come the strictures of poverty and racism. By the time he graduated from high school in 1950, Gayle had completed a three-hundred-page novel.

Unable to attend college or secure profitable employment, Gayle joined the air force. During his short stint, he wrote copious drafts of his novel, short stories, and poetry and submitted them for publication. After an honorable discharge and several rejection letters from publishers, Gayle reluctantly returned to Virginia.

In 1960, Gayle enrolled in the City College of New York and received his BA in 1965. The following year he earned an MA in English ...

Article

H. Adlai Murdoch

was born in Sainte-Marie, Martinique, on 21 September 1928, the son of Édouard Glissant, a gireur (a worker who organized gang labor on a sugar plantation), and Adrienne (Godard) Glissant. Glissant wrote little about his father—and little, in general, that was autobiographical—but would dedicate his first novel, La lézarde, to his mother.

Beginning in 1939, Glissant studied at the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, a school named after the abolitionist Victor Schoelcher. The poet and politician Aimé Césaire had studied there earlier, and returned there to teach upon leaving France in 1939, although he did not teach Glissant directly. Another student who attended the school contemporaneously with Glissant was Frantz Fanon, the revolutionary writer and activist, who was three years older. After working on a 1945 campaign whereby Césaire was elected as a Communist candidate for the French Parliament and ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Luis Gonçalves

Mozambican poet, journalist, and literary and film critic, was born in Inhambane, Mozambique in 1932. His family name, Knopfli, comes from his Swiss great-grandfather. Knopfli’s father was in Mozambique, where he worked for the colonial government, and he married by proxy a Portuguese primary school teacher from the northeast of Portugal whom he had met years before, in Coimbra. She arrived in Mozambique at the end of 1930. In Mozambique, work assignments for both parents meant periods of separation for the couple, and Knopfli divided his time between his parents. He grew up on the school grounds playing with children of all races, while his mother worked in a racially integrated school. Knopfli credits his profoundly antiracism stance to his upbringing.

Early in his life Knopfli started to read politically engaged poetry from local authors who criticized the colonial regime which profoundly influenced him He also read poetry ...

Article

Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton

Kenyan scholar, postcolonial theorist, and literary critic, was born in Seme, in central Nyanza Province, Kenya. He attended Ndiru and Ambira primary schools as a child, and the Church Mission Society (CMS) school at Maseno from 1949 to 1952. He studied at Makerere University College in Uganda from 1953 to 1956, where he was awarded the Makerere Arts Research Prize for his essay, “The Place of Folk Tales in the Education of Luo Children.” The historian B. A. Ogot, who was also a student at Makerere at the time, observes that for Owuor, this essay marked “the beginning of a distinguished career during which he made enormous contributions to the study of Luo oral literature” (Ogot, 2001 p 43 Anyumba came of age during the 1950s a period some Luo scholars refer to as the the Luo Renaissance when rising Luo intellectuals and educated citizens were actively ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

Taught by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson at his Wilmington, Delaware, high school, J. Saunders Redding earned an advanced degree in English at Brown University (1932) and was a professor at various colleges and universities, including More-house, Hampton, and Cornell. In 1949, his stint as a visiting professor at Brown made him the first African American to hold a faculty position at an Ivy League university. He wrote many books and articles on African American culture and other topics, including To Make a Poet Black (1939), a landmark history of African American literature; No Day of Triumph (1942), an autobiographical account of a journey through southern black communities; and Stranger and Alone (1950), a novel, as well as several more general historical and sociological works. He also edited with Arthur P. Davis an important anthology, Cavalcade Negro American Writing from 1760 to the ...

Article

Kimberly Welch

Redding, J. Saunders (13 October 1906–02 March 1988), African-American educator, historian, and literary critic, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lewis Alfred Redding, a schoolteacher, and Mary Ann Holmes. As graduates of Howard University, Redding’s parents maintained a modest middle-class environment for their children; his father was secretary of the local Wilmington branch of the NAACP. Redding graduated from high school in 1923 and entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that year, with no discernible career ambitions. In 1924 he transferred to Brown University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1928.

After graduation Redding became an instructor at Morehouse College in Atlanta where in 1929 he married Esther Elizabeth James The Reddings had two children Redding felt that his liberal political beliefs which his conservative colleagues believed were too radical were a major factor in the Morehouse College administration s decision to fire him in ...

Article

Jennifer Burton

and important figure in the 1960s black arts movement. Eugene Redmond was born 1 December 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri. Orphaned at age nine, he was raised by his grandmother and “neighborhood fathers,” made up of members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and friends of his older brother. During high school he worked on the newspaper and yearbook, performed in school and church plays, and composed for neighborhood singing groups.

From 1958 to 1961Redmond served as a U.S. Marine in the Far East, acquiring a speaking knowledge of Japanese. He was an associate editor of the East St. Louis Beacon from 1961 to 1962. In 1963 Redmond co-founded a weekly paper in East St. Louis, the Monitor, working at different times as a contributing editor, executive editor, and editorial page editor.

At Southern Illinois University he was the first African American student editor of the university ...

Article

Gerry Cambridge

In Crocodile Dandy, an essay about the Australian poet Les Murray, which amusingly begins with “the barbarians” approaching “the capital” with their rambunctious and superbly learned bards in tow, Derek Walcott provides a witty shorthand for the surprise of Empire at finding its former colonies' poets more au fait with its civilization's great art than it is itself. Walcott, as a son of the former colony of the British Empire, St. Lucia, is a perfect example—a poet from the margins, greatly learned in English literature, who has been widely feted both in Britain and America.

Article

Maria Cristina Fumagalli

was born in Castries, St. Lucia, on 23 January 1930 to Warwick Walcott and Alix Marlin Walcott Derek had a twin brother Roderick and an older sister Pam born two years earlier Although the majority of the St Lucian population were Catholic and spoke a French based Creole the Walcotts were Anglophone and part of the Methodist minority that nonetheless played a major role in the cultural policies of the island Walcott s father Warwick the son of a white Barbadian and a St Lucian woman of African descent died when Derek and Roderick were only 1 year old he was a bright and dependable civil servant and talented amateur artist fond of literature and classical music Warwick s wife Alix the daughter of a white Dutch colonial of St Maarten and an Afro Caribbean woman was a hardworking ambitious and determined woman who taught for years at St ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Derek Alton Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature, is widely regarded as one of the most important writers to emerge from the English-speaking Caribbean. While other Caribbean writers have responded to what Patricia Ismond has called the West Indian “crisis of historylessness,” brought about by the devastating effects of slavery and colonialism, by searching for roots, Walcott celebrates the possibilities of the “newness” of the region. The figure of Robinson Crusoe recurs in his poetry and plays, exemplifying both the predicament of Caribbean isolation and the potential that isolation offers to West Indians for creating a vocabulary uniquely suited to the complexity and richness of their world.

For Walcott, the artistic legacy of classical Western civilization is integral to this creative process. At an early age, he “fell madly in love with English.” Born in Castries, Saint Lucia he became familiar with the Western canon through ...