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Article

Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

Nigerian writer, also known as Catherine Obianuju Acholonu-Olumba, was born on 26 October 1951 in Orlu of Igbo parentage. The daughter of Chief Lazarus Emejuru Olumba and Josephine Olumba of Umuokwara Village in the town of Orlu in Imo State, southeastern Nigeria, she obtained her early education at local primary and secondary schools in Orlu. At age seventeen, in an arranged marriage, she became the wife of Douglas Acholonu, a surgeon then living in Germany, by whom she had four children: Ifunanya, Nneka, Chidozie, and Kelechi. In 1974 she registered as a student of English and American language and literature and Germanic linguistics at the University of Dusseldorf and earned a master’s degree in her chosen field in 1977.

Upon returning to Nigeria in 1980, she accepted a teaching appointment at Alvan Ikoku College of Education in Owerri. While teaching, Acholonu was also writing her PhD dissertation. In 1982 ...

Article

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

Novian Whitsitt

Nigerian creative writer and educator, was born in the Tura-Wazila community of Borno State, Nigeria. She completed her graduate education at Bayero University, Kano, receiving a doctorate in African literature. Professionally, she has served as principal of Shekara Girls’ Boarding School, Kano, an assistant lecturer at Bayero University, and senior lecturer in English and coordinator of English and general studies at Modibbo Adama College, University of Maiduguri. Following twenty-two years of university work, Alkali took a three-year break and worked for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Abuja. In 2009 she was named dean of the Faculty of Arts at Nasarawa State University, where she teaches creative writing and African literature in English. During her childhood, Alkali’s father converted to Christianity, but she became a Muslim in the 1960s. She asserts that both Christianity and Islam have influenced her own spirituality. In 1971 she married Dr Mohammed ...

Article

Margaret Ann Reid

Johari Amini, born Jewel Christine McLawler to William and Alma (Bazel) McLawler on 13 January 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed her name after her consciousness-raising by Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee), whom she met as a thirty-two-year-old freshman at Wilson Junior College. Johari is Swahili for “Jewel,” and Amini is Swahili for “honesty and fidelity.” Amini believes that the meaning of a name becomes an inherent part of the person carrying that name, and she wanted names that would reflect her personality and her values of honesty and fidelity—values that she lived by and that she wanted her writings to convey.

Amini's meeting Madhubuti was the beginning of a long literary and political association which is demonstrated in her poetic style as well as in her social criticism She was a staff member of the Institute of Positive Education and she was assistant then associate editor ...

Article

Mary Jane Lupton

autobiographer, poet, educator, playwright, essayist, actor, and director, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on 4 April 1928. Her pen name derives from having been called “Maya” (“My”) by her brother Bailey and from having being married for nearly three years to Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor whom she met while she was a salesgirl in a record store. After the marriage to Angelos ended in divorce, she performed as a calypso dancer at The Purple Onion, a San Francisco night club, where she took the stage name that she still uses.

Maya Angelou s mother Vivian Baxter was a blackjack dealer and a nurse her father Bailey Johnson Sr was a doorman a cook and a dietician for the United States Navy Their marriage ended in divorce When Maya was three and Bailey was four the children with name tags on their wrists were sent ...

Article

Stefanie K. Dunning

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. Because her brother Bailey could not say her whole name as a child, Marguerite became Maya. Angelou's life is synonymous with her work; she has published a series of five autobiographies, her most famous being I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). In each of these five works, Angelou writes about particular and important parts of her life. Yet not only does each book elucidate periods in Angelou's own life, but these books also paint a picture of the time she is writing about within the black community. Angelou's work demonstrates that the personal is political and that the events that shape and inform an individual life are often related to large political movements and events that affect an entire community.

Long before the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The wit, wisdom, and power of Angelou's work have made her one of the most beloved contemporary American writers. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Later she chose a new name for herself by combining her childhood nickname, Maya, with a version of her first husband's last name. Her family moved to California soon after her birth, but her parents divorced when she was three, and she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to be raised by her paternal grandmother. When Angelou was seven, her mother's boyfriend raped her. The trauma of this made Angelou unable to speak for five years. During this period she began to read widely.

Angelou returned to California during high school and took drama and dance lessons. As a teenager, she became San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor. She gave birth at age sixteen to her only child, Guy Johnson To ...

Article

Françoise Lionnet

A prolific author, with a successful career as a singer, actress, and dancer, Maya Angelou became one of America's most famous poets when she stood before the nation to deliver her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton's inauguration on 20 January 1993. At sixty-four years old, she was the first black woman to be asked to compose such a piece, and the second poet to be so recognized after the pairing of Robert Frost and John F. Kennedy in 1961. Born Marguerite Johnson in St Louis but raised in Arkansas Angelou was a natural choice for the forty second president and fellow Arkansan The poem reflects a theme that is common to all of Angelou s published works namely that human beings are more alike than different and that a message of hope and inclusion is a most inspiring dream and ideal ...

Article

Tasha M. Hawthorne

Angelou’s creative talent and genius cut across many arenas. One of the most celebrated authors in the United States, Angelou writes with an honesty and grace that captures the specificity of growing up a young black girl in the rural South.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey, a doorman and naval dietician, and Vivian, a registered nurse, professional gambler, and rooming house and bar owner, Angelou spent her early years in Long Beach, California. When she was three, her parents divorced, and she and her four-year-old brother, Bailey Jr., were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou recalls in vivid detail this lonely and disconcerting journey to Stamps.

Under the watchful and loving gaze of her grandmother Angelou lived a life defined by staunch Christian values and her grandmother s ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

author and performer. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson, Angelou was given her shortened first name, Maya, by her brother Bailey. She later modified the name of her first husband, Tosh Angelos, to whom she was married from 1952 to 1955, to form her last name. Her parents divorced soon after her birth, and in 1930 she and her brother were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, where they were raised for most of the next ten years by their paternal grandmother, Anne Henderson (or “Momma”). After Angelou's graduation with honors in 1940 from Lafayette County Training School, she and her brother were put on a train for San Francisco, where they were to live with their recently remarried mother. In 1944 the unmarried sixteen-year-old Angelou gave birth to her only child, Clyde Johnson, later Guy Johnson ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer, poet, and performer, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second of two children of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a naval dietician, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a card dealer who later became a registered nurse. Her parents called her “Rita,” but her brother, Bailey, who was only a year older, called her “My Sister,” which was eventually contracted to “Maya.” When Maya was three years old, she and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom Maya often referred to as “Mother.”Mrs. Henderson was a strong independent black woman who owned a country store in which Maya lived and worked Maya was a bright student and an avid reader she absorbed the contradictory messages of love emanating from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and of hatred revealed in the pervasive mistreatment of ...

Article

Nicole L. Phillip-Dowe

was born Peggy Gibbs on 21 August 1935 in Grenada to Bernard and Kathleen Gibbs. Her father was one of the first West Indians to be appointed to the colonial civil service, and her mother worked as a secretary to senior civil servants in the government of the Windward Islands. Peggy was educated at St. Joseph’s Convent, St. Lucia (1940–1943), and St. Vincent Girl’s High School (1944–1953). Antrobus won an island scholarship to study in the United Kingdom and went on to attain her bachelor’s degree in economics from Bristol University in 1958. This was followed by a professional certificate in social work from Birmingham University in 1962. In 1998 she attained her doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1959 she married Ken Antrobus a native of St Vincent He had won the island scholarship two years before her ...

Article

Adeyemi Bukola Oyeniyi

Nigerian historian and educational administrator, was born to Samuel Akindeji Fajembola, an Ibadan man, and Mosebolatan Fajembola, an Ijesa woman, on 28 January 1933 in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria. Samuel Akindeji Fajembola was a manager with John Holt & Co., a merchant company, based in Liverpool, England; Mosebolatan Fajembola was one of the first female professional teachers to be trained in southwestern Nigeria. Awe had her early education at Holy Trinity School, Omofe, Ilesa; Saint James’s School, Oke-Bola, Ibadan; C.M.S Girls’ School, Lagos; and Saint Anne’s School, Ibadan, between 1941 and 1951. Between 1952 and 1954, she attended the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, England, and received an MA from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1958. Between 1958 and 1960 she did postgraduate work for a doctoral degree at Somerville College the oldest of the University of Oxford s female colleges She was ...

Article

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese educator, novelist, and activist, was born into a well-to-do and ardently religious Lébou family, which had its own mosque in the family compound, bringing the neighborhood together for prayers several times a day. The Lébous, tall, regal, staunchly Muslim, and predominantly fishermen, are a subtribe of the Wolof ethnic group related to the Lébous of Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof) in the northern Sahel region of Senegal. They were the first inhabitants of the city of Dakar (Ndakarou in Wolof) in the Cape-Vert peninsula, composed of the villages of Ngor, Ouakam, and Yoff. Mariama’s father was Niélé Bâ, born in 1892. Her mother died when Mariama was two years old. Hence, she never got to know her nor did she ever see a photograph of her. Niélé Bâ fought as a tirailleur African infantry soldier on the French side in World War I becoming on his return to ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Mariama Bâ, the daughter of Senegal’s first minister of health, was born into a highly educated Muslim family. Bâ’s father had a strong belief in the value of education and, ignoring traditional prohibitions, insisted that his daughter pursue higher education. Bâ attended a prestigious French boarding school near Dakar, passing the entrance examination with the highest marks of all candidates in West Africa that year.

While still a student Bâ began writing essays for local journals and newspapers Her writing revealed her as an articulate and political young woman one essay for example attacked assimilation a French policy encouraging Africans to adopt French identity and culture An active participant in women s organizations the young Bâ found her voice as a spokesperson for African women facing new troubles in the traditional institution of marriage Bâ would later confront these difficulties in her own life when as a ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese intellectual, educator, political leader, and women’s advocate, was born on 1 January 1932 in the city of El Obeid, Province of Kordofan, and raised by an Islamic family. Her grandfather, al-Shaykh Mohammed al-Badawi, was a prominent Islamic scholar, and his house in Omdurman was a gathering place for well-known Islamic scholars from North Africa, such as al-Shaykh Mohammed Abdu of Egypt. Al-Badawi’s father, al-Fatih Mohammed al-Badawi, was a district commissioner who replaced the position of the British officer after Sudan independence in 1956. Although girls’ formal education was boycotted by the masses for being based on Western values, he was an open-minded and progressive individual with liberal ideas regarding girls’ education. In this atmosphere al-Badawi and her two sisters were raised.

As a district commissioner al Badawi s father s moved and worked in different regions of Sudan This situation compelled al Badawi to receive her elementary intermediate ...

Article

Juanita de Barros

was born on 27 November to a middle-class family. Both of her parents (William Frederick Bailey and Anna Bailey) were trained as teachers and her father was the head of the Jamaica Union of Teachers. Bailey and most of her sisters followed their parents’ example; this was not surprising as teaching was one of the few “respectable” positions available to women of their class. After attending a technical college in Jamaica, Bailey found a position teaching secretarial skills, a job she held from 1919 to 1958 The senior Baileys also inspired their children to devote themselves to civic service For Amy Bailey the political turbulence of the 1930s played an important role in this respect As she noted in an interview with Jamaican writer Erna Brodber many years later they inspired her activism and political engagement Something of this may be seen in her many writings from the 1930s ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...

Article

Myrna Guerrero Villalona

was born in the San Carlos neighborhood of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on 16 June 1930, at the beginning of the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo (1930–1961), and three months before the San Zenón hurricane flattened the city (3 September 1930).

Her parents were Porfirio Balcácer and Tomasina Rodríguez a couple with scarce financial resources who valued education as a way out of poverty In addition to Ada they had a son Porfirio Lorenzo Ada grew up between her parents home on Ravelo Street in San Carlos and the home of her maternal grandmother in San Juan de la Maguana The city located about 118 miles from Santo Domingo afforded Ada direct contact with myths and legends from the cultural reservoir of her country s heritage Her grandfather Catedral de los Santos was the overseer on a farm and a devotee ...