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Don E. Walicek

was born in The Farrington, a district on the Leeward Caribbean island of Anguilla. Of African descent, her parents were Malcolm Lindbergh Christian and Ann Juliette Christian. Adams attended the island’s Valley Girl’s School and the Valley Secondary School, graduating from high school in 1969, the year British troops invaded Anguilla. Most of the population, which was mainly of African descent, was then engaged in the rebellion now called the Anguilla Revolution, which vehemently opposed Anguilla’s membership in the Associated State of St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla, established as the main form of governance of the three islands in conjunction with British decolonization in the Caribbean. Anguillians believed that the Associated State would be dominated by the larger and quite distant island of St. Kitts.

Adams began writing at the age of 17, at a time when there was little encouragement for writers in Anguilla. From 1969 to 1973 ...

Article

DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...

Article

Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.Bontemps then moved to Harlem, New York, where the Harlem Renaissance had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize from Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and The Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes, with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator. In Harlem, Bontemps also came to know Countée Cullen, W ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.

Bontemps then moved to New York’s Harlem, where the “Harlem Renaissance” had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and the Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator In Harlem Bontemps also ...

Article

Frances Smith Foster

Educating people about their positive potential has long been Candy Boyd's priority. As a high school student, she tried to stop blockbusting in her native Chicago by convincing three of her friends, an African American, a Jew, and a Protestant, to join her in personal visits to more than two hundred white families. She withdrew from college to work as an organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When she finally earned her bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois State University, she became, in her own words, a “militant teacher.” She worked with Operation PUSH, organized neighborhood beautification projects, and used her Saturdays to take students on excursions to parks, theaters, and other neighborhoods.

When Boyd moved to Berkeley California and began teaching in a more diversely multicultural setting her frustration with literary stereotypes and negative depictions of African Americans was exacerbated by her discovery that Asians Latinos and many Euro ...

Article

Maia Angelique Sorrells

The works of Jeannette Franklin Caines are generally concerned with parent-child communication and other social and political issues. Jeannette Caines often presents these topics in the voice of a child. Abby (1973) explores the dynamics of adoption and the complex issues surrounding the expansion of the family, while her second book, Daddy (1977), deals with divorce and the necessity of maintaining healthy relationships between the child and both parents. Chilly Stomach (1986) concerns the difficulties of defining and confronting sexual abuse. Often Caines's books end without a resolution to the problem. This encourages thought and discussion and facilitates effective communication and problem solving between parents and children.

Caines was born in New York in 1937 and has dedicated much of her life to improving the quality of children s and young adult literature In addition to receiving the National Black Child Development Institute ...

Article

Joycelyn K. Moody

Lucille Sayles Clifton was born in Depew, New York, to Samuel L. and Thelma Moore Sayles. Her father worked for the New York steel mills; her mother was a launderer, home-maker, and avocational poet. Although neither parent was formally educated, they provided their large family with an appreciation and an abundance of books, especially those by African Americans. At age sixteen, Lucille entered college early, matriculating as a drama major at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her Howard associates included such intellectuals as Sterling A. Brown, A. B. Spellman, Chloe Wofford (now Toni Morrison), who later edited her writings for Random House, and Fred Clifton, whom she married in 1958.

After transferring to Fredonia State Teachers College in 1955 Clifton worked as an actor and began to cultivate in poetry the minimalist characteristics that would become her professional signature Like other prominent Black Aesthetic ...

Article

Amy Sparks Kolker

poet, author of children's literature, and memoirist, was born in Depew, New York, to Samuel L. Sayles, a steel mill worker, and Thelma Moore Sayles, a homemaker, laundry worker, and amateur poet. Born Thelma Lucille Sayles, she was named for one of her father's ancestors, the daughter of a woman kidnapped from Dahomey (later Benin), West Africa, in 1822 and enslaved in Virginia. This early Lucille had been executed for killing the white man who had fathered her son.

In 1953 Clifton became the first member of her family to graduate from high school. She attended Howard University on scholarship as a drama major for two years, from 1953 to 1955, meeting writers such as Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), Sterling Allen Brown, and Toni Morrison (then Chloe Wofford Clifton chose to leave Howard telling her family that she wanted to write poetry She ...

Article

Dianne Johnson

Clifton said plainly:

I am a woman and I write from that experience. I am a Black woman and I write from that experience. I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am. That does not mean that I have never had bad scenes relating to being Black and/or a woman, it means that other people’s craziness has not managed to make me crazy. At least not in their way because I try very hard not to close my eye to my own craziness nor to my family’s, my sex’s, nor my race’s.

(quoted in Evans, 1984)

This statement is an apt introduction to Clifton’s considerable body of work, both for adults and for young people, comprising fiction, poetry, essays, autobiography, and interviews. She is one of the prolific writers of picture books created out of an African American consciousness and experience. She is also a 1980 ...

Article

Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

poet and author of children's books. Clifton was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York, the daughter of Samuel Louis Sayles Sr., a steelworker, and Thelma Moore Sayles, a laundress. The family moved to Buffalo, where Clifton grew up. Her extended family included grandparents and several uncles. Lucille's mother wrote poetry for personal enjoyment and encouraged her daughter's interest in writing.

Article

C. Doreski

Born into urban poverty in Baltimore, Maryland, on 22 December 1935, Samuel James Cornish was the youngest of the two sons of Herman and Sarah Cornish. From his older brother Herman he learned early the lessons of the street, which he later would incorporate into a street-tough observancy in his poetry.

Cornish served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1958–1960), then returned to Baltimore, where he published two poetry collections—In This Corner: Sam Cornish and Verses (1961) and People Beneath the Window (1964). While working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, he became part of Baltimore's political and literary underground, self-publishing a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Generations and Other Poems (1964). A subsequent edition of Generations (1966) appeared when Cornish was editing Chicory a literary magazine by children and young adults in the Community Action Target Area ...

Article

crystal am nelson

to Trinidadian immigrants. His father, Lionel John Dillon, Sr., the proprietor of a truck delivery service, and his mother, a dressmaker, recognized Dillon’s artistic talent early in his childhood, and nurtured it by purchasing art supplies for him. However, despite his parents’ support, and perhaps because of their immigrant background and arrival in New York during the Great Depression, they aspired for their son to become either a lawyer or a doctor. Unbeknownst to his parents, Dillon elected to begin training for a career in the commercial arts at the School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, which was founded in 1936 and has since been renamed the High School of Art and Design.

After Dillon graduated from high school in 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to take advantage of the unrestricted tuition bursary provided by the 1944 Servicemen s Readjustment Act otherwise known as the G ...

Article

Born Cyprian Duaka Odiatu Ekwensi in Minna, Nigeria, Ekwensi began his secondary education at Government College in Ibadan, completing it at Achimota College in present-day Ghana (then called the Gold Coast) in 1943. In the early 1950s he studied pharmacy at the Chelsea School of Pharmacy in London, England. While working at such jobs as forestry official, teacher, journalist, and broadcasting executive, Ekwensi pursued his writing career. He began by reading his work on a West African radio program. His first published success came with the short novel When Love Whispers (1948). People of the City (1954), a collection of interconnected short stories, chronicles the frantic pace of life in modern Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. The book’s critical view of urban existence drew attention within Nigeria and internationally.

From 1957 to 1961 Ekwensi was head of features at the Nigerian ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Ibo novelist, was born on 26 September 1921 in Minna, northern Nigeria (Niger State), to Ogbuefi David Anadumaka Ekwensi and Agnes Uso Ekwensi, who were from Nkwelle in eastern Nigeria (Anambra State). Ekwensi’s father was an elephant hunter and a great storyteller; from him, Ekwenski learned the Ibo folklore that would later enrich his stories. Ekwensi grew up among Fulani children, learning to speak Hausa, in addition to Ibo, which was spoken at home. He was known to have married at least twice: Eunice Anyiwa in 1952, with whom he had five children, and Maria in 1969.

Ekwensi was sent to Government College in Ibadan in Yorubaland where he absorbed the Yoruba culture and language He continued his studies at Achimota College Ghana then at Yaba High College Lagos and he studied forestry at the School of Forestry Ibadan He worked in the forestry department at Ibadan from ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta was born near the city of Lagos, Nigeria. Both of her parents died when she was young; her father was killed while serving the British army in Burma. After completing a degree at the Methodist girls’ high school in Lagos, Emecheta married Sylvester Onwordi at the age of sixteen. The couple moved to London, England, and during the next six years, Emecheta bore five children while supporting the family financially. She began to write during this time, but as she later said in an interview, “The first book I wrote, my husband burnt, and then I found I couldn’t write with him around.”

Emecheta left her husband in 1966, supporting herself for the next few years by working at the library in the British Museum. She enrolled at the University of London, where she received a degree in sociology in 1974 Her first ...

Article

Ruth Graham Siegrist

missionary, educator, social worker, and author was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of the Rev. David Andrew Graham, a Methodist minister, and Etta Bell Graham. His father's pastorates took the family from New Orleans to Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Nashville, Colorado Springs, and Spokane. Graham attended the University of Washington and the University of California at Los Angeles.

While a student at UCLA, Graham learned about the need for missionary teachers in Liberia, West Africa, and felt he was called there to serve. He left for Liberia in 1924 to teach at Monrovia College, a Christian boys' school.

Going to Africa changed Graham s life He realized he had gone with a false concept of what African people were like He decried the fact that all he had read or seen had described Africans in stereotypical terms as savages at best stupid and ...

Article

Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...