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Article

April Taylor

Born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a political activist from adolescence. At the age of fourteen he was arrested and beaten for demonstrating against segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and worked on the party's newspaper in California during the summer of 1970.

Returning to Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal became a radio journalist with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and had his own talk show on station WUHY. He was highly critical of Philadelphia's police department and of the city's “law and order” mayor, Frank Rizzo. He provided coverage of the police treatment of MOVE, a Philadelphia black militant group, which further alienated the authorities. Forced to leave his position as a journalist, Abu-Jamal took a job as a taxi driver.

While Abu Jamal was driving his cab on the ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

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 ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Kerima M. Lewis

The African Methodist Episcopal Church Review (AME Church Review) has the distinction of being the oldest magazine owned and published by African Americans. The denomination's first periodical, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Magazine, appeared in September 1841. The General Conference that met in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1884 changed the name of this periodical to the AME Church Review. The AME Church saw a need for a scholarly magazine to complement its Christian Recorder, which had been published as a weekly newspaper since 1852. Headquarters for the magazine was set up in Philadelphia, and Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner was appointed the first editor-manager.

As a quarterly magazine the Review was not limited to the news and business of the AME Church but provided thought-provoking, intellectual, and scholarly articles. The first issue of the AME Church Review appeared in July 1884 with the lead ...

Article

Keith Clark

James Baldwin's The Amen Corner did not reach Broadway until 1965, twelve years after its completion. A morality play echoing his novel Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), The Amen Corner has a laborious history. Although the play failed to generate professional interest, writer Owen Dodson directed a student production at Howard University in 1955. It opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre a decade later on 15 April 1965 under Lloyd Richards's direction.

The drama critiques the church's role in African Americans’ lives. Center stage are Sister Margaret the pastor of a Pentecostal church Luke her estranged husband David their son Odessa Margaret s sister and church members Described by the author as a tyrannical matriarch Margaret applies a harsh Calvinistic doctrine to her family and parishioners However she fails to heed her opening sermon Set thine house in order Instead she ...

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

Robert Fay

Founded by entrepreneur James H. Anderson in 1909, the New York Amsterdam News presents news and events by and for the African American community, which historically have been underreported by the mainstream white press. The Amsterdam News has featured the writing of many important black journalists and leaders, including T. Thomas Fortune, Cyril V. Briggs, Adam Clayton Powell, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Roy Wilkins. During World War II, the paper was criticized for its coverage of sensational subjects such as murder and gambling rings, but it also protested segregation in the armed forces, sought to ally blacks with Jews, and argued for racial equality.

Although the Amsterdam News struggled financially during World War II it flourished in the postwar era with a weekly circulation of 100 000 However increased competition from mainstream newspapers which in the 1960s began to cover ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

In 1909—the same year that W. E. B. Du Bois helped found the NAACP and that the African American Matthew Henson went with Robert Peary on what became the first successful journey to the North Pole—James Henry Anderson from South Carolina established the New York Amsterdam News. Anderson was born soon after the Civil War. At the age of twelve he left South Carolina, a runaway who worked an assortment of jobs, finally settling in New York City. He came up with the idea of establishing a newspaper aimed directly at the needs of an African American audience. This was a brave move on his part: at the time, there were only about fifty such newspapers in the entire country.

Anderson's small investment led to the Amsterdam News a newspaper that grew to have a strong influence in the black community He named the newspaper after ...

Primary Source

The assassination of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr triggered a wave of rioting and protests in over one hundred American towns and cities The violence in Baltimore dragged on for two weeks as protestors clashed with police and burned down businesses and properties It took thousands of National Guard and regular army troops to finally restore order In the midst of the chaos Governor Spiro T Agnew delivered a speech aimed at the leaders of the city s black community Until then Agnew had a reputation for being more moderate than most governors in the South His administration had repealed the state s antimiscegenation law and had succeeded in passing a fair housing act He took a decidedly different tone in his speech accusing black leaders of not doing enough to stop the violence Agnew even suggested that the leaders held a secret meeting in which they ...

Article

Freda R. Beaty

and winner of first James *Baldwin Prize. Raymond Andrews was born near Madison, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children born to sharecropping parents George and Viola Andrews. He helped with the farm work and absorbed the ambience of rural living that was to color his later writings. Andrews left home at fifteen and worked at a variety of jobs while beginning to write. He eventually took a position in New York City with an airline, a job that enabled him to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.

Raymond Andrews's first published piece was an article on baseball, which appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1975. In 1976, Ataraxia, a small journal edited by Phillip Lee Williams and Linda Williams, excerpted a section from the novel Appalachee Red, which was published in its entirety by Dial Press (1978). Appalachee ...

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

Carol P. Marsh-Lockett

Immensely complex because of its size and scope, Another Country is James Baldwin's most ambitious novel. This novel of ideas covers myriad issues and themes, all related to the transcending power of love. Through interlocking events and episodes, Another Country critiques a “moral” and “democratic” America that fosters prejudice based on race, class, and sexuality. The author began writing it in the mid-1950s, completing it in Istanbul; Dial Press published the novel in 1962, and it became a best-seller.

Baldwin creates characters of various racial, sexual, and social backgrounds to illustrate how personal, cultural, and national identities intersect. We first encounter Rufus Scott, a black jazz musician and one of the novel's many artists. He mentally and physically abuses his lover Leona a white Southerner who goes insane Psychically and physically debilitated by a virulent self hatred Rufus portends America s fate if it continues to ...

Article

Jonathan Silverman

Tina McElroy Ansa was born in Macon, Georgia, and educated at Mount DeSales, a Catholic school in Macon, and at Spelman College in Atlanta. Early in her career, she worked primarily as a journalist. She freelanced and worked for the Atlanta Constitution and for the Charlotte Observer (N.C.). She has also conducted writing workshops in Georgia at Brunswick College, Emory University, and Spelman College.

Ansa s best known work is her fiction She may be considered a southern writer for her fiction clearly draws on the physical landscape specifically the middle Georgia setting and the mores and folkways that shape the psyche of the American South Unlike much of southern fiction however her tales are devoid of the subtextual exploration of the undercurrent of dysfunction and perversion that exists in the South That is not to say that her fictive worlds are without dysfunction or moral conflict Her fiction however ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...