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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 ...

Article

Rodney Saint-Eloi

was born into a bourgeois family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 5 December 1902. His father, the businessman and public official Rafaël Brouard, and his mother, Cléomie Gaëtjens, had four children. The young Carl spent his childhood in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bizoton, and from an early age he fostered a particular passion for literature from the Middle Ages. When the US Marines disembarked to occupy Haiti (1915–1934), the aspiring writer was bruised: “28 July 1915. The Americans have trespassed on our soil. Melancholy has dilated our vision,” he wrote. This was an inquisitive young man who discovered with enthusiasm the nationalist ideas of Haitian intellectuals like Jean Price-Mars, which emerged in response to the occupation.

An alcoholic Carl Brouard led a bohemian existence in the Port au Prince of the early 1920s which contributed to a tense relationship with his father Around that time his ...

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

educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...

Article

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 ...

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

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

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Sudanese/Nubian poet and critic, was born in Aswan in 1897 to a Sudanese father and an Egyptian mother. His name, Tunbul, means “the generous” in the Nubian language. He belonged to a royal family that resided in the region of Argo in northern Sudan. After receiving his primary and secondary education in Aswan, he returned to Sudan with his family, where he joined the faculty of vice-sheriffs and was appointed a vice-sheriff in Dongola. Tunbul retired from his social and cultural appointments during the final years of his life and remained in his palace until his death in Dongola in 1951.

Tunbul is considered one of the first of those who called for modernizing Sudanese literature His ideas on the importance of the emergence of national literature were extremely influential in the development of Sudanese literature for many decades These ideas were presented in a group of essays that ...

Article

Pamala S. Deane

educator, literary critic, and anthologist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Mary Catherine Dalton, a homemaker and mother of eight children, and David C. Washington, a bank guard at Cleveland National Bank. In 1962 she earned a BA from Notre Dame College, and she was a public school teacher of English from 1962 to 1964 before earning an MA in 1966 from the University of Detroit in Michigan.

Washington served as an instructor at St. John College of Cleveland from 1966 to 1968. She received her PhD from the University of Detroit in 1976, and was an assistant professor there from 1972 to 1977 and an associate professor from 1977 to 1979. At Detroit, she served as director of the Center for Black Studies. From 1980 to 1988 Washington was an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston in ...

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 ...