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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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Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

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Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

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Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, music critic, author, filmmaker, and television producer, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended St. John's University, and while there began his writing career at the black newspaper the Amsterdam News, where he was a college intern. During this time he also contributed to the music trade journal Billboard. After graduating from St. John's in 1979, George worked as a freelance writer and lived with his mother and sister in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn. It did not take him long, though, to begin what would prove to be a flourishing career. George found employment as a black music editor, first for Real World magazine from 1981 to 1982, and then at Billboard from 1982 to 1989. He moved on to write a successful column entitled “Native Son” for the Village Voice, from 1989 to ...

Article

Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...

Article

Jeremy Metz

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 22 December 1953 into an upper-middle-class family. Lahens was particularly close to her mother, who supported her early interest in literature. She has returned in her writing to her childhood home, which she described as a privileged “space of origins,” in her short story “La chambre bleue.” Lahens left Haiti at the age of 13 to continue her secondary school studies in Paris. She remained in France until 1978, when she returned to Haiti after receiving an advanced degree in comparative literature from the Sorbonne. For the next seventeen years, Lahens taught literature at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) of the Université d’Etat d’Haïti. In 1996–1997, she joined the Haitian government’s Ministère de la Culture during the tenure of the activist documentary filmmaker Raoul Peck. In 1998 she directed the work on Haiti for UNESCO s Route de l Esclavage project ...

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 ...

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Ernest Julius Mitchell

Alain LeRoy Locke (1885–1954) was the leading African American philosopher of his time. Raised in Philadelphia, Locke graduated magna cum laude in philosophy from Harvard College (1907) and became the first African American to win a Rhodes scholarship. He studied classics and philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford, until 1910, and attended classes at

the University of Berlin the following year. Locke eventually returned to Harvard and completed his dissertation, The Problem of Classification in Theory of Value, under Ralph Barton Perry, becoming the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard’s Philosophy department (1918). Except for a brief hiatus (1925–28), he spent his academic career at Howard University in Washington, D.C., as chair of the Philosophy Department. Best known as the theorist of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke made important contributions to axiology, cultural pluralism, aesthetics, and adult education.

American ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Leonard Harris

philosopher and literary critic, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Pliny Ishmael Locke, a lawyer, and Mary Hawkins, a teacher and member of the Felix Adler Ethical Society. Locke graduated from Central High School and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy in Philadelphia in 1904. That same year he published his first editorial, “Moral Training in Elementary Schools,” in the Teacher, and entered undergraduate school at Harvard University. He studied at Harvard under such scholars as Josiah Royce, George H. Palmer, Ralph B. Perry, and Hugo Münsterberg before graduating in 1907 and becoming the first African American Rhodes scholar, at Hertford College, Oxford. While in Europe, he also attended lectures at the University of Berlin (1910–1911) and studied the works of Franz Brentano, Alexius Meinong, and C. F. von Ehrenfels Locke associated with other Rhodes scholars ...

Article

Alessandra Benedicty

was born on 3 September 1958 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She grew up on the rue Carlstroem, which connects two main arteries of the city, Avenue John Brown and Avenue Lamartinière (also known as Bois-Verna). Her uncle owned the Eldorado cinema space, which showed mostly Italian and American Westerns, musicals, and French films. As a family member, she had unlimited free entry. Mars attended primary school with the Soeurs de St. Joseph de Cluny, in the center of Port-au-Prince, near her mother’s small souvenir shop; she attended secondary school at the Centre d’Études Secondaires, followed by accounting and secretarial school.

Mars began writing in her thirties, after a career in high-level administration, notably working for the Japanese Consulate in Port-au-Prince. She first wrote poetry and later prose fiction: novels and short stories. Her novels include Kasalé (2003), L’heure hybride (2005), Fado (2008), Saisons sauvages ...

Article

Alan West

José Martí is one of the major figures of nineteenth-century Latin America. He is regarded by Cubans across the political spectrum as the father of Cuba's independence. His collected works span some twenty-eight volumes and include exquisite poetry, insightful essays on Whitman and Emerson, impassioned political analysis, and a remarkable book of children's literature, La edad de oro (1889).

While still an adolescent, Martí embraced the cause of Cuban independence, founding the newspaper La Patria Libre in 1869. He was imprisoned and then banished for writing a letter denouncing a Spanish fellow student. After 1871 Martí spent a great deal of his life outside of Cuba (Mexico, Guatemala, Spain), and most of the years between 1881 and 1895 in New York where he dedicated himself to the Cuban independence movement as a brilliant orator journalist fund raiser and political leader He ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

writer and critic, was born in Nokomis, Alabama, the son of Sudie Graham, a Tuskegee Institute student, and John Young, a businessman. Soon after his birth Mattie Murray, a housewife, and her husband, Hugh, a laborer and timber worker, adopted him. Murray, who later enjoyed a close relationship with Graham and Young, joked of his adoption by less-wealthy parents, “It's just like the prince left among the paupers” (Gates, 30). He learned about the folkways of segregation in Magazine Point, a community on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, where his family had moved during World War I. “We didn't dislike white people,” he recalled. “We saw too many bony-butt poor white crackers. We were going to feel inferior to them?” (Maguire, 139). Murray's rejection of any notion of black inferiority was further strengthened by exposure to Mobile's baseball legend Satchel Paige and ...

Article

David Barry Gaspar

poet, playwright, and literary and cultural critic, was born Derek Alton Walcott in the town of Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, then a British colony. It had experienced very slow Anglicization since its acquisition from the French after the Napoleonic wars. His parents, Warwick Walcott and Alix (maiden name unknown), were Methodists in a mostly Roman Catholic society. His mother was a schoolteacher and seamstress and, for many years, headmistress of the Methodist Infant School. She enjoyed acting and reciting. Walcott's father, an avid watercolorist and civil servant, died in 1931, leaving his wife to raise young Derek, his twin brother (Roderick Alton), and his sister (Pamela), who was two years older.Derek Walcott grew up in a house filled with books and other indications of the intellectual and artistic interests of his parents After completing elementary school under the ...

Article

Maria Cristina Fumagalli

was born in Castries, St. Lucia, on 23 January 1930 to Warwick Walcott and Alix Marlin Walcott Derek had a twin brother Roderick and an older sister Pam born two years earlier Although the majority of the St Lucian population were Catholic and spoke a French based Creole the Walcotts were Anglophone and part of the Methodist minority that nonetheless played a major role in the cultural policies of the island Walcott s father Warwick the son of a white Barbadian and a St Lucian woman of African descent died when Derek and Roderick were only 1 year old he was a bright and dependable civil servant and talented amateur artist fond of literature and classical music Warwick s wife Alix the daughter of a white Dutch colonial of St Maarten and an Afro Caribbean woman was a hardworking ambitious and determined woman who taught for years at St ...

Article

Lewis R. Gordon

philosopher, educator, and social critic, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Clifton L. West Jr., a civilian air force administrator, and Irene Bias, an elementary school teacher. The West family eventually settled in the segregated city of Sacramento, California. The young Cornel's childhood was at first marked by much anger and rebellion. In the third grade, when his teacher slapped him, he hit her back and was expelled. He was taught at home for six months before being placed in a newly integrated school. At the age of eight he became a devout Christian. From then onward, the precocious Cornel became a conscientious student, and spent much of his youth reading biographies and philosophical texts from the neighborhood bookmobile and articles from the Black Panther newspaper.

West s family was Baptist and he grew up with a sense of pride in the role of ...