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Robert Fikes

writer, was born Jervis Beresford Anderson in the rural village of Chatham, Jamaica, in the British West Indies, to Peter Anderson, a building contractor, and Ethlyn Allen, a homemaker. Peter Anderson enforced a strict Baptist upbringing on his son. Having passed a series of rigorous qualifying exams, within days after graduating from Kingston Technical School, a high school affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Jervis was hired as a trainee journalist at the Daily Gleaner, the most revered and influential newspaper on the island. He left its employ after a year—uncomfortable with the newspaper's conservatism and acquiescence to the colonial regime—and joined the writers' staff at Public Opinion a weekly that advocated self rule and was closely allied with the People s National Party Having rejected the stern religion of his father and the unquestioning allegiance to the British Crown manifested by his ...

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Tomeiko Ashford Carter

literary critic and Black Arts proponent, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Addison Gayle Sr., a Communist Party spokesperson, and Carrie (Holloman) Gayle. Gayle was born during the Depression, and his parents divorced early in his life. Despite his mother's well-paying job at a nearby military base during World War II, Gayle and his immediate family remained well acquainted with poverty. He grew up in a black enclave and rarely saw whites. Still, he envied the apparent success that he believed all whites had.

In his autobiography Wayward Child: A Personal Odyssey, Gayle maintains that he was penalized by many of his high school teachers for being racially unmixed, poor, and seemingly arrogant. They despised him because he excelled on state exams and because he boasted about reading works by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the African American writer Richard Wright Gayle ...

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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

Adam W. Green

writer and educator, was born in Demopolis, Alabama, to Henry Haskins, a funeral business worker, and Julia Brown Haskins a homemaker With the South still deeply segregated and blacks unable to use the public libraries Haskins relied on his mother to buy solo volumes of an encyclopedia from the local supermarket to sate his literary appetite before a white friend of his mother s started to check out books from the library on his behalf He attended a segregated elementary school in Demopolis and though he credited the love of his family and friends for his future humanitarianism Haskins later recalled that Alabama in the forties was a terrible place For the most part it seemed to me my childhood was a constant series of being told where to go and what to do in order to not aggravate the white power structure in Allen Following his ...

Article

Michael Adams

educator, literary critic, and biographer, was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to Jerome Rampersad, a journalist, and Evelyn De Souza Rampersad, a telephone operator at the American naval base. His parents divorced shortly after his birth, and the boy was shuffled between relatives until he began living with his father as a teenager.

Young Rampersad became interested in literature after a neighbor loaned him F. Scott Fitzgerald'sThe Great Gatsby and Thomas Wolfe'sLook Homeward, Angel. Wolfe's novel was a particular revelation, speaking to Rampersad's sense of being a misunderstood outsider in his community. While in high school Rampersad joined the Little Carib Theater workshop of the poet-playwright Derek Walcott, the future Nobel laureate, acting in Shakespearean plays and other productions.

After high school Rampersad did not consider higher education because he could not afford it He continued acting taught high school English geography ...

Article

Ann Hostetler

author and editor, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Pittman Watkins, a laborer, and Katie Watkins, a homemaker. When he was a young child the family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, following the second wave of the Great Migration. Watkins called it “that second large wave of Southern black emigrants” (Dancing with Strangers, 23). He chronicled much of this youthful journey in Dancing with Strangers: A Memoir (1998), in which he describes his family as “a Rainbow Coalition” (60).

His dark-skinned father had African and Native American ancestry; his mother, whose father was Irish could have passed for white Because of the variety of skin tones in his own family Watkins didn t pay much attention to racial differences until he began school when he first experienced racial discrimination from other students After a rocky start in elementary school in which ...