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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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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

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

Curtis Jacobs

was born Geraldine Molly Leotaud on 29 May 1933, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, into a mixed-race, middle-class, single-parent, devoutly Roman Catholic family. Her mother, however, was also a keeper of Shango religion, a legacy of the Yoruba peoples brought to Trinidad during the African slave trade.

She grew up in a hybrid cultural milieu of Christianity and Yoruba religious tradition (called “Ifa” today). She later recalled her early life as a Roman Catholic, with its elaborate ceremonies, and her love of participation in them, when she was allowed to carry the censer. Beginning in her teens, she was an avid student of dance, and met Beryl McBurnie, founder of the Little Carib Theatre, which first opened at Port-of-Spain in 1947. McBurnie, herself a dancer of some repute, was very interested in the traditional dances of the descendants of the formerly enslaved Africans. From 1952 to 1965 Molly ...

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Robson Cruz

Brazilian Candomblé high priestess (or Iyalorisha), also known as Ọyafunmi (her initiatic name), was born Olga Francisca Régis in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, to Mateus Cassiano dos Reis and Etelvina Francisca Régis (Ogunlona), members of a family of Candomblé Ketu priests and priestesses. She was the fifth high priestess of the Ile Maroialaji terreiro (Ile Ọmọ Aro Alaji, or the House of the Children of Alaji of the Aro clan). The terreiro was founded in the early nineteenth century by Otampe Ojaro (Maria do Rosário Régis) and Baba Alaji (João Porfírio Régis), both of whom belonged to the Ọja Aro clan—one of the five clans from which the king of Ketu is chosen.

According to the terreiro’s oral account, Otampe Ojaro and her twin sister, Obokô Mixobi—allegedly granddaughters of the Alaketu (ruler of the Yoruba kingdom of Ketu) Akebiowu (1780–1795 were abducted in a ...

Article

Robert Baum

Senegalese prophetess was born in the southwestern Senegalese township of Kabrousse a member of the Diola ethnic group Today the Diola number approximately six hundred thousand people primarily in Senegal but there are significant communities in Gambia and Guinea Bissau Generally the Diola are considered the best wet rice farmers in West Africa though they have been increasingly troubled by droughts since the 1930s Although many Diola are Muslim or Catholic in their primary religious affiliation they include the largest number of adherents of an indigenous African religion in the Senegambia region Before the colonial occupation by the French British and Portuguese the Diola had a tradition of direct revelation from the supreme being but it was limited to male prophetic leaders Shortly after colonization in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth women prophets began to gain influence especially among the southern ...

Article

Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...

Article

John Burdick

semi-mythical Brazilian folk saint, is placed by oral and written legends as living either in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Although officially unrecognized by the Catholic Church, in the late twentieth century she became a widely revered object of spiritual devotion throughout Brazil. The broadly disseminated graphic image of a woman of African descent, sometimes pictured with blue eyes, tortured by an iron face mask and heavy iron collar, is today regarded by millions of Brazilians as a realistic likeness of the popular saint.

In 1968 as part of an exhibit dedicated to the history of slavery the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Brotherhood of Blacks in downtown Rio de Janeiro featured an image of a female slave wearing a face mask A cluster of women who saw the image at the time concluded it ...

Article

John Burdick

The worship of Anastacia began in Brazil in the early 1970s The devotion to her centers upon a striking portrait of a young black woman with piercing blue eyes wearing a face iron an iron face mask that slaves were made to wear as a form of punishment Legend has it that Anastacia was tortured with the face iron when she refused to submit to the lust of her master Legend also has it that before she died she forgave her master and cured his child of a fatal disease Although the Catholic Church denounces the devotion to her as superstition at best and heresy at worst millions of Brazilians of all colors are deeply devoted to this woman whom they regard as possessing in death unparalleled supernatural powers Many of her devotees carry a small medallion of her image around their neck others keep a card with her ...

Article

Sherry Wright

religious leader, was born in Wisconsin. The names of her parents are not known, but there is evidence that she was of mixed African American and Native American heritage. “Mother Leafy Anderson,” as she was known to her followers, claimed Mohawk as well as African American ancestry. Little is known of her childhood, but she already had become heavily involved in the Spiritualist movement by the time she reached her twenties. In 1913 Anderson established her first congregation, the Church of the Redemption, on State Street in Chicago. It was also known as the Eternal Life Christian Spiritualist Church, a name shared by many of her churches and by the first recorded organization of Spiritualist churches, also founded by Anderson.

Spiritualist churches were known for healing prophecy and especially for conveying messages from important spirits of the dead The spirits that Anderson claimed to have contacted most often were ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

to coal miner Theodore and Pauline McConoco. Her mother died when she was two. She married Robert Andrews, but they divorced while still in her teens, Andrews supported her two daughters with domestic work. She washed, ironed, and cooked for six days a week, ten hours a day, for eighteen dollars weekly before deciding, while cooking some rice and beets, that God had planned something better for her. She started writing songs. On weekends she sang with local choirs and as an occasional understudy for childhood friend Dorothy Love with the Gospel Harmonettes.

Gospel star James Cleveland saw Andrews sing with the Harmonettes and brought her to the attention of Albertina Walker, leader of the Caravans. After auditioning for Walker and Dorothy Norwood, Andrews joined the Caravans in 1957 The group found an electrifying performer in Andrews The first number one song with featuring Andrews on lead vocals the ...

Article

Matthew Kustenbauder

a Luo woman, helped to found and lead two African-initiated churches. The third of four children, Aoko was born in July 1943 in the town of Awasi, nineteen miles east of Kisumu in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Her educational background is uncertain. In interviews she called herself “uneducated” and claimed to know neither Kiswahili nor English, suggesting that she did not attend school beyond the primary level. Young Aoko was winsome by all accounts—“photogenic,” “tall with a smooth blackness,” and a “beautiful well-proportioned face” (Dirven, 1970, p. 126).

Against Aoko’s wishes not to marry, in 1957 her conservative father arranged a marriage to Simeo Owiti, a Catholic friend from Njoro near Nakuru. Three years later, the couple relocated south of the Kenya border to Bugire in the North Mara district of Tanganyika. Here, Aoko attended Tatwe a Catholic mission run by the Maryknoll fathers where she learned the catechism ...

Article

James Chrismer

evangelist and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was born a freewoman near Havre de Grace, Harford County, Maryland. One of seven children of William and Harriet Lego Cole, she was descended from a family that included a Native American maternal great-grandmother married to an Englishman, a maternal grandfather born in Guinea, and a paternal grandmother reputedly freed from slavery by a Baltimore court after enduring an unwarranted and savage beating while pregnant. In October 1845, when she was sixteen years of age, Harriet married William Baker, ten years her senior and a slave on the Edward Gallop plantation in Michaelsville, a nearby Maryland hamlet.

In 1847 when the couple learned of Gallop s plan to sell William to a slave dealer in Georgia they fled north with their infant daughter After a forty eight mile flight along the western bank of the Susquehanna River they crossed ...

Article

Enrico Ille

freed slave and Roman Catholic saint in Sudan, was born in the Darfur region near Agilerei Mountain, northeast of Nyala. Her father was a wealthy Daju (black African Muslim) who owned numerous cattle and a farm cultivated by servants. She had three brothers and four sisters, one of whom was kidnapped into slavery around 1874. Around 1876, Bakhita, which means “fortunate” in Arabic and is not her original name, was herself taken by slave traders; and after a failed attempt to escape, she was bought by a merchant in al-Ubayyid, where she served his two daughters. She was subsequently purchased around 1879 by an Ottoman army officer, who moved with his household to Khartoum in 1882 In this family she was treated brutally with whipping and scarification but several months afterward she was acquired by an Italian consular agent Callisto Legnani When he was forced by political ...

Article

Patricia Reid-Merritt

social activist and spiritual adviser, was born Willie Taplin in the small rural town of Burton, Texas, the daughter of Nelson Taplin, a Baptist preacher, and Octavia, a Methodist congregant. A member of a large extended family, Barrow fondly recalled an upbringing steeped in strict traditional family values and old-time southern religion. She lived with her parents, six siblings, both sets of grandparents, and a great-grandmother in the family home, and they were sometimes joined by a cousin or two in need of temporary housing. The family lived together, worked together, and went to church together. Although they had limited economic resources, they grew the food that they needed on the family farm, and though she came to understand the family's poverty in later years, Barrow said that she never knew hunger as a child.

Barrow discovered her activist voice and spirit early in life Under the state sponsored ...

Article

Tonia M. Compton

Catholic nun, was born Mathilda Taylor in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Caroline Taylor, a slave owned by James C. Taylor, whose surname he gave to his slaves. Her father, whose name is not known, was Native American. Little is known about Mathilda's early years, except that she learned to read and write and that she somehow received her freedom and moved to Savannah. There she began operating a secret school for African American children in the late 1850s, an enterprise for which she risked imprisonment because state laws prohibited education for blacks.

Taylor supported herself by working a variety of jobs in Savannah. In the 1860s she was employed at the Railroad House, a restaurant owned by Abraham Beasley, a prosperous free black man. In 1869 she married Beasley His ventures included a produce market a saloon a boardinghouse and at times the slave trade The two ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

singer, music educator, choral director, was born in Sandfly, Georgia, a tiny hamlet of Savannah, one of thirteen children born to Daphne and Daniel Berksteiner. Her father worked as a carpenter, and her mother took in washing to make ends meet. In addition to the influence of her family, her early years were influenced by her church, the Speedwell Episcopal Church, and its school, Haven Home. It was at Speedwell and Haven Home that Constance received, first, religious instruction and, second, her introduction to academia.

Through her association with the church she received her first scholarship which enabled her to attend and graduate from the Boylan Home High School in Jacksonville Florida The specific point at which Constance realized she could sing is unrecorded There was the singing in the church as a child and in the choir in her high school years Perhaps the realization ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

public school teacher remembered fondly by her former students in Cleveland's “Little Italy” Murray Hill district, was born most probably in Cleveland, Ohio, the second child and eldest daughter of Richard and Cornelia Cunningham Blue. Her father, born in Virginia, worked as a laborer and later as a teamster, while her Tennessee-born mother kept house.

There are a number of African American families named Blue, many of them related, generally originating in Virginia and often settling in Ohio. At least some may be descended from people formerly enslaved in or around Hampshire County, now part of West Virginia. Blue's parents met and married circa 1873 in Harrison County Ohio where two primary routes of the Underground Railroad had intersected Richard Blue was working on the farm of James Evans in Stock Township likely a Quaker family that had been active in the railroad Cornelia Cunningham was living in Cadiz ...

Article

Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

inventor, lived in New Haven, Connecticut, in the early 1890s. Little is known of her early life; it is not known who her parents were or where she was born. She was, however, one of the first African American women to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office in the nineteenth century. On 26 April 1892 Sarah Boone received her patent for an improved ironing board. As a result, Boone became the fourth African American woman to apply for and receive a patent for a new invention and the first person to receive a patent for an ironing board design.

Those who have written about Boone and her improved ironing board note that her invention was a significant improvement over existing devices According to James Brodie before Boone s ironing board this task normally required taking a plank and placing it between two chairs or simply using the ...