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Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

Gerald Horne

publisher and political figure, was born in Dawson, Georgia, the son of Mike Davis (who changed his name from Mike Haynes in 1868 or 1869) and Katherine Davis, farmers and former slaves. Benjamin's formal education ended after the sixth grade, and he worked as a bricklayer and teacher before becoming a printer. He learned the trade while working for Tom W. Loyless, a white Dawson publisher and printer, and then opened his own printing business. He soon became a moderately wealthy man, living in a two-story, fifteen-room house while his siblings eked out their livings as sharecroppers. In 1898 he married Jimmie Willard Porter, a Dawson native who had been educated at Hampton and Tuskegee institutes; they had a son and daughter.

In 1903 Davis began publishing the Independent a black weekly newspaper that was sold throughout Georgia and that within a year ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...

Article

Hlonipha Mokoena

, Zulu printer, tutor, and author, was born near present-day Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. All that is known about his paternal genealogy is that his father, Magwaza, was the son of Matomela, who was the son of Thoko, and that the amaFuze (the Fuze people) were a sub-clan of the amaNgcobo (the Ngcobo lineage); his maternal genealogy is unknown. His exact birth date is also unknown. The estimate year is based on John William Colenso’s guess that the young Magema was twelve years old when Colenso, the Bishop of Natal, met him in 1856. Even these facts do not accurately establish Fuze’s identity, however, because at various times in his life he was known by different names. At birth, he was given the name “Manawami,” but he was soon nicknamed “Skelemu” (derived from the Afrikaans word skelm meaning rascal or trickster because of his repeated prophecy to his ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

Baptist minister, grocer, printer, and civil rights leader, reported by Ebony magazine as “the first Negro to qualify to vote in Belzoni [Mississippi] since Reconstruction days,” was born in Edwards, Mississippi. There is no well‐established record identifying his parents. His mother died when he was still a child; at the age of seventeen he appears to have been living with an aunt and uncle, Garfield and Minnie B. Holmes, in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

After graduating from high school Lee worked on the docks in New Orleans unloading bananas while studying typesetting through a correspondence course He served for a time as pastor of St James Church in Jackson Mississippi then accepted a call seventy miles to the north in the predominantly African American Delta community of Belzoni As in many churches the offerings of members were not sufficient to support a full time pastor He opened a grocery store ...

Article

Lisa D. Freiman

artist and educator, was born Betye Irene Brown in Pasadena, California, to Beatrice (maiden name unknown), a seamstress who enjoyed quilting, and Jefferson Brown, a salesman who liked to sketch and write. Jefferson Brown died from kidney problems when Saar was six years old, and Betye and her brother and sister lived with her mother's great-aunt and great-uncle until her mother remarried a man named Emmett six years later. After the second marriage, Beatrice had two more children, a boy and a girl. Saar spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw Simon Rodia'sWatts Towers, a vernacular example of assemblage consisting of eight tall conical spirals. Built from steel rods, covered in concrete, and encrusted with found objects like bottle caps, glass, broken tiles, and shells, the Watts Towers seemed like “fairy-tale castles” (Isenberg, State of the Arts 23 to Saar and ...

Article

Lonnie Graham

artist. Born Betye Irene Brown in Los Angeles, California, Betye Saar is a renowned assemblage artist and the mother of three daughters—Lezley, Alison, and Tracye Saar—two of whom, Lezley and Alison, are also well-known artists.

Betye Saar earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1949. She did graduate work at California State University at Long Beach from 1958 to 1962. Later in 1962 she returned to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California to specialize in printmaking; she also continued her studies at California State University at Northridge that year. In 1970 she entered the Pasadena School of Fine Arts to study film.

While residing in Pasadena during the 1950s Betye Brown took a turn from her professional life as a social worker and became active in her early artistic career as ...

Article

Earnestine Jenkins

Betye Saar’s multidimensional work destroys the distinctions between the traditional art forms of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. She has participated in group and solo exhibitions throughout the country, and her work is in major collections in museums across the United States.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles. As a child she often visited her relatives in nearby Watts, where she actually observed the construction of Watts Towers (1921-1954) by the self-taught artist Simon Rodia. Saar credits the memory of the construction of the towering spirals (from bottle caps, glass, tiles, cement, and steel) with her lifelong interest in putting together or assembling creative works using different art techniques, and from castoff, found materials. Saar graduated with a degree in design from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1949 and pursued graduate work at California State University Long Beach in art education and printmaking ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the only child of Alonzo Williams and Laura Powell, a live-in maid. As a small boy, Williams moved to Dayton, Ohio, with his grandmother, whom he thought of as his mother. Williams's mother eventually joined her family in Dayton.

Williams's mother died when he was eight, and he went to live with his Aunt Ola Mae and his Uncle James Jackson in Dayton. He attended Dunbar High School, where he was a high jumper and ran the half mile as a member of Dunbar's 1948 Ohio state track championship team. After he graduated in 1951 he worked at a local bowling alley, as he had done throughout his high school years. Later he took a job at Chevrolet parking cars. In 1952, at the age of twenty, Williams met Ernestine Hatcher The couple married the same year they had two ...