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Leyla Keough

Diane Abbott, a working-class Cambridge University graduate, made history on June 11, 1987, by becoming the first black female member of the British Parliament. Her outspoken criticism of racism and her commitment to progressive politics have made her a controversial figure in Britain's Labour Party.

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in the working-class London neighborhood of Paddington. Her mother (a nurse) and father (a welder) had moved there in 1951 from Jamaica. Later they moved to lower-middle-class Harrow, where Abbott was the only black student at the Harrow County School for Girls. Graduating among the top in her class, she applied and was accepted into Newnham College at Cambridge University, despite a high school teacher's comment that attendance there would give her ambitions that were above her social status.

She began work after graduation at the home office a government department responsible for a broad range ...

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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 ...

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Alma Jean Billingslea Brown

civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...

Article

Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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

Susan Leigh Foster

Senegalese dancer and choreographer was born in Benin the daughter of a Senegalese colonial civil servant and the granddaughter of a Yoruba priestess When she was ten years old her family moved to Dakar Senegal From an early age Acogny showed exceptional talent for and love of dancing After pursuing a degree in physical education she went to France in the early 1960s where she studied ballet and modern dance Upon returning to Senegal she began teaching dance classes in the courtyard of her home and in the lycée where she was hired to be in charge of physical education In these classes she began to develop a codification of what she calls African dance Establishing an inventory of positions and steps as well as a spatial stability to each position s appearance she developed a dance technique based on an aesthetic of groundedness a sense of dynamism moving up ...

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David B. McCarthy

Presbyterianeducator and activist, was born Thelma Cornelia Davidson at Iron Station, North Carolina, one of five children of Robert James Davidson, a Baptist minister, schoolteacher, and principal, and Violet Wilson Davidson a schoolteacher mortician and community organizer Her grandfather six uncles and three brothers were all ministers as would be her future husband She grew up in Spindale North Carolina where her mother was a teacher and her father was principal and superintendent of Western Union Baptist Academy and later in Kings Mountain North Carolina where her father served as a high school principal and as the pastor of several local churches After her early years in public school she enrolled in Lincoln Academy a boarding school run by the American Missionary Society of the Congregational Church Just before her thirteenth birthday she enrolled in Barber Scotia Junior College in Concord North Carolina a school of ...

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

Crystal Renée Sanders

civil rights activist, was born in Palmers Crossing, an all-black community in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to Mack and Annie Mae Jackson. After the death of Adams's mother when she was three years old, she lived with her grandparents. Adams earned her high school diploma from Depriest Consolidated School in 1945 and subsequently enrolled at Wilberforce University, but was forced leave school after one year because she lacked the money for tuition. She later studied at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Mississippi and eventually became a teacher. Adams also served as a campus minister at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Her first marriage was to Tony West Gray and they had three children—Georgie, Tony Jr., and Cecil Gray was in the U S Army and his military career took the family to Germany and Fort ...

Article

Antero Pietila

political activist, born in Baltimore, Maryland, was the daughter of Joseph C. Quille, a chauffeur, and Estelle Tate Quille, a beautician. She grew up at 2426 McCulloh Street, a cramped row house just thirteen feet wide in Baltimore's Sugar Hill neighborhood.

The Quilles had moved to Sugar Hill, southwest of Druid Hill Park, in the mid-1920s, continuing a racial transformation begun in 1910. That year the future NAACP attorney William Ashbie Hawkins scorned the generally accepted line of racial demarcation by buying 1834 McCulloh Street on a largely Jewish block near Eutaw Place, a prestigious address. This “Negro Invasion,” as the Baltimore Sun called it, prompted the all-white City Council legally to prohibit blacks from moving to majority-white blocks. This was the nation's first residential segregation law, and some thirty other cities copied it, mostly in the states of the former Confederacy.

The Quilles lived among teachers postal ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

James Clyde Sellman

was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago, to Malcolm and Elitha Addison. Her father was an electrician, and her mother was a schoolteacher and housewife. She later recalled that “my father used to play the guitar, and my brothers were also involved in music, so music was always around me” (Blood, 2013). Her first stage appearance came in 1959 or 1960. Her brother Winston was performing at a community show in Tunapuna and called her out of the audience. She later appeared on television and on Radio Trinidad’s Sunday Serenade. While still a teenager, she made her first recording—a single for Arawak Records, featuring Paul McCartney’s “My Love” backed by her own song, “Tricked and Trapped,” on the B-side.

Her first full-length album, Born to Shine (1976 was released on the Trinidadian label KH Records It featured American style gospel inflected soul music and ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

activist and sole adult survivor of a deadly bombing of a home of the MOVE organization, in one of Philadelphia's black neighborhoods, that killed 11 people and left over 250 people homeless. Africa was born Ramona Johnson in West Philadelphia, where she was raised by her mother, Eleanor Jones, and attended Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. She then attended Temple University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and an associate's degree in Criminal Justice. In 1976, her last year at Temple, she was hired by Community Legal Services, the state-sponsored legal aid in Philadelphia. There she worked helping tenants with legal issues they had with their landlords, an experience that set the foundation for activism later in her life. “Prior to that I was not active in anything,” Africa said I had a general idea about injustice by police brutality and ...

Article

Stephanie Beswick

Sudanese military figure and song composer, was an Agar Dinka woman from the Nyang section born of an Yibel mother in Dinkaland in South Sudan. She is perhaps the most famous female military commander in Southern Sudanese history and also one of the most famous song composers. She became a role model for younger twentieth-century women as an example of new female leadership in a rapidly changing society.

In the early 1960s Ager Gum was living as most other Dinka women did However she experienced a series of personal misfortunes She was married three times but all her marriages failed in part because most of her children proved unable to survive the harsh health conditions of South Sudan where preventative vaccinations and medicines were rarely available The father of her sole surviving child a son named Chol demanded the return of the wedding cattle that comprised her bridewealth thus ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Ai  

André Willis

Ai was born Florence Anthony in Albany, Texas, and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She officially changed her name to Florence Ai Ogawa in 1974 and began calling herself Ai (which means “love” in Japanese) in 1979. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 1969 and received a master of fine arts degree from the University of California at Irvine in 1971. In 1973 she published Cruelty, her first book of poetry, and her next book, the award-winning Killing Floor (1979), received critical acclaim. Other works include Sin (1986), Fate (1991), and Greed (1993). Her collection Vice: New and Selected Poems (1999) received the prestigious National Book Award for poetry. Dread (2003) is Ai's seventh collection of verse.

Through her poetry Ai gives people from all walks of life including prostitutes killers poor farmers ...

Article

AI  

Robert A. Lee

Born in Tucson, Arizona, the poet AI, pseudonym of Florence Anthony, looks to a complex American multicultural ancestry—a Japanese father and a mother part black, Choctaw, and Irish. Raised also in Las Vegas and San Francisco, she majored in Japanese at the University of Arizona and immersed herself in Buddhism. From 1999 she lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma and taught in the English Department of Oklahoma State University. She received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and various universities; she also was a frequent reader-performer of her work.

So eclectic not to say peaceable an upbringing makes a striking contrast with the kind of poetry that won her ongoing attention Her particular forte was to adapt Robert Browning s dramatic monologue to her own purposes poems whose different voices speak of fracture violence revenge sexual hunger as if to emphasize the human disorder both beneath and ...

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Kathleen Sheldon

Ghanaian poet, playwright, and short-story writer, was born Christina Ama Aidoo in a village in central Ghana, in either 1940 or 1942 (sources differ). Her father, Yaw Fama, was a local ruler and an educator who opened the first local school and encouraged his daughter to attend. By the time she was a teenager, she was writing poems and short stories, and she has said that she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Her first story, “To Us a Child Is Born,” was published in 1958, when it won a prize sponsored by The Daily Graphic, a leading Ghanaian newspaper. She attended Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast and the University of Ghana at Legon. In 1962 she attended the African Writers Workshop at Nigeria s University of Ibadan the result of a contest to which she had submitted No ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Christina Ama Ata Aidoo was born in Abeadzi Kyiakor, Ghana, into a Fante family she once characterized as “a long line of fighters.” Encouraged by her liberal-minded father, Aidoo pursued an English degree at the University of Ghana in Legon. As a student, she won a short-story prize, but her interests centered on drama as a means of bringing to life the rich oral traditions of the Fante. She worked closely with leading Ghanaian dramatist Efua Sutherland and became familiar with a Fante dramatic style that blossomed in the 1930s.

Aidoo's first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was staged in 1964 by the Student s Theatre at the University of Ghana With this play Aidoo earned her lasting reputation as a writer who examines the traditional African roles of wife and mother The play like many of her later works also demonstrated her willingness to grapple ...

Article

Melissa Castillo-Garsow

was born Maymie Leona Turpeau De Mena in 1891, to Isabella Regist and Francisco Hiberto De Mena in San Carlos, Nicaragua. She was raised in an upper-middle-class family—her father was the government minister of lands in San Carlos—and was privately educated. De Mena traveled to the United States in 1913–1914 and 1917–1925. She was employed as a clerk-stenographer and teacher before she began her career in Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) as an interpreter, lecturer, organizer, and journalist. Originally, she joined the Chicago chapter of the UNIA, serving as one of their delegates to the national convention in 1924.

Although in 1925 she was still listed as part of the Chicago UNIA, following her participation at the 1924 convention De Mena was tapped by Garvey to accompany George Emonei Carter and Henrietta Vinton Davis on the SS Goethals when it toured the Caribbean to ...