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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 ...

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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

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

Egyptian literary critic, journalist, lawyer, and politician, was born on 5 July 1907 in Kafr Mandur in central Minya al-Qamh to a large family (he had four brothers and four sisters). His father was a very religious man who was a member of a Sufi order, al-Triqah al-Naqshbandiyyah. Mandur was greatly influenced by his father‘s religious activity and placed a greater emphasis on his Islamic studies throughout his elementary education at the al-Alfi school.

The nationalist revolution of 1919 was a formative event in his early life He witnessed the demonstrations in Minya al Qamh including the violent one at Bahr Muys Bridge opposite the police headquarters The calls to get rid of the British and the revival of Egyptian national pride deeply influenced him His anti British sentiments grew following the British raid of his village after the villagers sabotaged the local railway During his high school studies ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

civil rights activist, educator, poet, literary critic, scholar, and writer, was born Gloria Jean Wade in Memphis, Tennessee, the older of two daughters born to Robert Wade, a gifted storyteller and Pullman porter, and Bertha Reese Willett. Though raised in the segregated South, Wade found a source of pride, courage, and comfort in the insulated African American community. Her mother, a former high-school valedictorian, understood the power of knowledge. The Wade home was replete with books on a variety of subjects. Bertha Wade would often engage her daughters on a range of topics, from politics to theology. Determined that her children succeed, she encouraged her daughters to academically excel in spite of a segregated school system. Like Bertha Reese Willett, Robert Wade stressed the importance of education Though the pair were never married and separated when Wade was a young child ...