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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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Robin G. Schulze

and influential critic who strived to reanimate and draw attention to American verse in the early twentieth century. Born and raised in Boston, William Stanley Braithwaite began life in a prosperous, cultured home but, on the death of his father, was forced to quit school at the age of twelve to help support his family. Lacking formal instruction, Braithwaite rigorously educated himself. He eventually found work as a typesetter in a Boston printing firm. Setting poems by John Keats and William Wordsworth, Braithwaite developed a love of lyric poetry that inspired his own writing. He began to publish poems and reviews in the Boston Journal and Transcript and eventually produced his first book of poetry, Lyrics of Life and Love, in 1904, followed by The House of Falling Leaves (1908). In 1906 Braithwaite started his critical career in earnest with a regular feature in ...

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Cary D. Wintz

poet, anthologist, and literary critic. The second of five children, Braithwaite was born into a genteel upper-middle-class Boston family. His father, William Smith Braithwaite, was a member of a prominent and wealthy British Guiana family, while his mother, Emma DeWolfe, was the descendant of North Carolina slaves. During his early childhood Braithwaite enjoyed a life of comfort and privilege. However, following his father's death in 1886, the family quickly sank into poverty. Emma Braithwaite was forced to take menial jobs, while young William had to leave school at the age of twelve to seek employment. He took a typesetting job with a Boston publishing house, which introduced him to the world of literature. Braithwaite was especially attracted to the work of British Romantic poets like John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Robert Burns Largely self educated Braithwaite read widely and with great ...

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Dalton Gross and Mary Jean Gross

poet, critic, and anthologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Smith Braithwaite and Emma DeWolfe. Of his two avocations—American poetry and the status of the American Negro—the second clearly had its origins in an unusual cultural heritage. The Braithwaite family, of mixed black and white descent, was wealthy and held prominent positions in British Guiana. Braithwaite's father studied medicine in London but quit because of apparent mental strain and moved to Boston, where he married DeWolfe, whose family had been in slavery. His father remained aloof from neighbors, educating his children at home. Braithwaite's autobiography mentions no employment held by his father, whose death, when his son was eight years old, left the family destitute.Braithwaite s mother was forced into menial employment and at the age of twelve so was Braithwaite After showing interest in reading he was given a job as a typesetter ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Although he praised and supported many African American writers, poet and critic W. S. Braithwaite always held the firm belief that the best writing was never racially or culturally specific, but instead spoke to universal themes. Braithwaite was born into a genteel Boston family, but after his father's death in 1884 he was eventually forced to leave school and take a job with a publisher to help support his family. He later said it was while typesetting John Keats's poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” that he realized he wanted to write poetry. His first pieces appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and Scribner's, and he published his first book, Lyrics of Life and Love, in 1904.

In 1906 Braithwaite began writing a regular column for the Boston Transcript in which he reviewed other contemporary poets, and in the same year he edited his first anthology, The ...

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

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

Article

Luca Prono

writer, literary critic, and professor, was born in New York City to Samuel R. Delany and Margaret Carey Boyd Delany, funeral parlor owners. Delany spent his childhood in Harlem. Thanks to his wealthy family background, he was able from an early age to cultivate his many cultural interests. He first attended the Bronx High School of Science and then went on to City College, but dropped out after only one semester. Although he later came out as gay, Delany married and fathered a child with the Jewish poet Marilyn Hacker in 1961 (the couple divorced in 1980).

In 1962, when he was only twenty years old, Delany published his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor the first in a long series of science fiction books After his literary debut he gained a reputation as a prodigy in science fiction and enjoyed his renown ...

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Dagmawi Woubshet

poet, novelist, translator, literary critic, and professor, was born in Stamford, Connecticut. Dixon's parents had moved from the South to settle in west Stamford, as part of the broader Great Migration to the North, where Handy, Dixon's father, a sharecropper from Pee Dee, North Carolina, started a new professional life as a contractor and a house painter, and Jessie, his mother, from Irmo, South Carolina, became a nurse. Indeed, Stamford's social and cultural milieu—namely, the interface of the North and South—would later shape Dixon's creative enterprise. Dixon went on to receive his BA from Wesleyan University in 1971 and his MA in 1973 and PhD in 1975 from Brown University. Dixon emerged as a literary figure with the publication of Change of Territory (1983), his first collection of poems. In Change as in much of Dixon s early work the idea ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...

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 ...

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James A. Miller

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 BA 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 would later be 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 to 1951 and as ...

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

Daniel Donaghy

cultural critic, philosopher, and author of the influential texts Negro Art: Past and Present (1936) and The Negro in Art (1940). Born in Philadelphia, Alain Leroy Locke was the only child of Pliny Ishmael and Mary Hawkins Locke. He attended Central High School and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy before enrolling at Harvard College in 1904 as a philosophy major, where he studied with some of the country's most celebrated philosophers including Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Hugo Munsterberg, and William James. An excellent student, Locke was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and named the first black Rhodes Scholar in 1907. From 1907 to 1910, he studied at Hertford College, Oxford University, and for the 1910–1911 academic year he studied the work of the philosophers Franz Brentano, Alexius von Meinong, and Christian von Ehrenfels at ...

Article

Richard A. Long

Alain Locke's role as a general factotum of the Harlem Renaissance has tended to overshadow the full dimensions of an active and productive life. John Edgar Tidwell and John Wright list more than three hundred items spanning the period from 1904 to 1953 in “Alain Locke: A Comprehensive Bibliography of His Published Writings” (Callaloo, Feb.–Oct., 1981). Born in (or near) Philadelphia to parents who were school-teachers, Locke came to maturity in the self-conscious genteel ambiance of Philadelphia's black elite. After completing secondary and normal school studies in Philadelphia, he went to Harvard College, where he majored in philosophy. An appointment as a Rhodes scholar in 1907 followed his undergraduate Harvard experience and he spent time at both Oxford and the University of Berlin, returning to the United States in 1911 Shortly after he began his long career as a teacher at Howard University He received his ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

In his introduction to Alain Locke: Reflections on a Modern Renaissance Man, Russell J. Linnemann points out that although Alain Locke was trained as a philosopher at Harvard, Oxford, and Berlin Universities, “anthropology, art, music, literature, education, political theory, sociology, and African studies represent only a few of his wide range of intellectual pursuits.” Linnemann goes on to hypothesize that this extraordinary breadth of intellectual activity is “the primary reason why a biography of him has not yet been written … few if any potential biographers who might wish to examine the scope of his thought, assess his often provocative contributions, and place them within the context of the appropriate disciplines, would have the intellectual breadth or depth to fulfill the task properly.” The title of Linnemann's edited volume gets to the heart of Alain Locke's legacy: While he is often best remembered for his role in the Harlem ...