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Article

David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

Article

Michael J. Bustamante

was born on 27 February 1927 in Havana into a working-class family with twelve children. After completing the eighth grade and working as a bricklayer, Almeida was introduced to political activity in 1952 upon meeting Fidel Castro while employed at the beach club for students of the University of Havana. A veteran of the failed 1953 assault on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada Barracks, and prisoner of the Fulgencio Batista government until May 1955, Almeida returned to Cuba in late November 1956 from exile in Mexico, along with other insurgents of the 26th of July Movement, aboard the yacht Granma. Together with Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl, as well as Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, Almeida was among the few rebels who survived initial clashes with Batista’s forces and arrived at the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba. In early 1958 he was promoted to Comandante Commander the ...

Article

Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

Article

DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...

Article

Nancy Kang

playwright, academic, director, and producer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Nashville. One of nine children Bass grew up in a segregated area of the capital, the son of Clarence Bass, a Baptist minister, and Mabel Dixon Bass, a retired schoolteacher and health-care worker. The atmosphere of his childhood home was closely knit and disciplined; life revolved around education and religion. Bass earned his bachelor's degree in Mathematics with honors from Fisk University in 1959. While a senior, he met the Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps, then a Fisk librarian, who brokered the student's formative literary partnership with Langston Hughes. Bass then attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Business (1959–1960 to study finance but quit because of what he felt was endemic racism in the academic and social milieu He received an MA from New York University s Film ...

Article

Marinelle Ringer

journalist, author, and public speaker, was born Melba Joy Pattillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Howell “Will” Pattillo, a hostler's helper for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Lois Marie Peyton Pattillo, a junior high school English teacher who was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Arkansas (graduating in 1954). In 1957, spurred by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, mandating public school desegregation, Beals, at the age of fifteen, became one of the first African American students—later known as the “Little Rock Nine”—to enroll in Central High School, then Arkansas' finest high school.

Prior to 1957 Beals s deepest anguish had been her parents divorce when she was seven She found solace in the hours she spent with her cherished grandmother India Anette Peyton while her mother worked and studied and ...

Article

Mimerose Beaubrun

was born in Port-au-Prince on 26 December 1918. The oldest of five children of a primary school administrator, he was educated by Jesuits at Petit Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial, which he left after his fifth year for Lycée Alexandre Pétion. He then entered École Tippenhauer, and later École Antonio Vieux. Upon receiving his secondary school diploma, he began studying law. Beaubrun had three children from his first marriage, to Luce Ameris (a talented actress and dancer), and three from his second marriage, to actress Ginette Monpremier.

Considered a role model in the sphere of Haitian arts Beaubrun was by turns a journalist teacher dramatist comedian and actor drummer dancer singer director head of an acting company and satirical author From the age of 13 in his last year of primary school at Petit Séminaire Saint Martial Beaubrun was already displaying his writing talent and publishing a small satirical pamphlet a ...

Article

Shivohn N. García

was born on 2 February 1899 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to Felipe Belpré and Carlota Nogueras. Belpré’s passion for stories and her desire to share the culture of Puerto Rico through storytelling and children’s literature can be traced to her childhood. In an unpublished autobiographical essay, she mused that “growing up on the island of Puerto Rico in an atmosphere of natural storytellers was fun: a father whose occupation took him all over the island; a grandmother whose stories always ended with a nonsense rhyme or song, setting feet to jump, skip, or dance; elder sisters who still remembered tales told by a mother; and finally, a stepmother whose literary taste was universal” (Pura Teresa Belpré Papers, hereafter PBP). As Belpré reached adulthood, Puerto Rico was undergoing a dramatic change: in 1917 the Jones Shafroth Act bestowed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans which triggered a migration from the island ...

Article

Peter Hudson

While Louise Bennett was not the first writer to use Jamaican dialect, the facility with which she reproduces it in her writing and performances has marked her as a pioneer. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bennett was the daughter of baker Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who died when she was seven years old, and dressmaker Kerene Robinson. Bennett, known as Miss Lou, studied social work and Jamaican folklore at Friends' College, Highgate, Jamaica. In 1945 she received a British Council Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

Bennett began writing in dialect in the late 1930s, inspired by the language she heard spoken by Jamaicans on the streets of Kingston. Soon after she began writing, she staged public performances of her poems. In 1942 her first collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was published. Starting in 1943 Bennett contributed a weekly column to ...

Article

Mervyn Morris

popularly known as “Miss Lou,” was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 7 September 1919. Her father, Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who had owned a bakery in neighboring Spanish Town, died when she was only 7. Her mother, Kerene Robinson, was a dressmaker. Louise Bennett grew up with her mother and grandmother, and often acknowledged their influence on her career. Her mother sewed for a wide social range of clients, and taught her to respect them all. Her grandmother, “Mimi,” introduced her to Jamaican folklore.

Her mother and grandmother often talked of their ancestral connection with St Mary a parish north of Kingston When Louise was about 10 years old she was invited by Mimi to travel with her to St Mary a trip Louise identified as her introduction to rural Jamaica It was there that she attended for the first time a Dinki Mini a traditional function held to cheer ...

Article

Casey Kayser

teacher, poet, playwright, and artistic director of a theater company, was born Nora Brooks Blakely in Chicago, one of two children of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and Henry Blakely, a poet, auto mechanic, and insurance adjuster. Blakely's mother was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, the poet laureate of Illinois, and the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, which she did in 1950, just a year before Nora's birth. Nora's father was the author of A Windy Place, a 1974 collection of poetry, and he later founded the Perspectivists, a group of black Chicago writers. As a child, Nora displayed a natural ability and love for reading and writing, no doubt cultivated by her parents' passion for the same.

A propensity for teaching emerged early as well at the age of three Blakely rounded up the children of her South Side Chicago neighborhood and ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

Article

Heather Martin

theatrical producer, director, actress, playwright, and singer, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, one of five children (three girls and two boys) of Harrison James Bryant, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Edith Holland Bryant, a social worker. The family lived in Ohio, Kentucky, and Baltimore, Maryland. Bryant acknowledged her parents, sisters, and religion as the main influences in her life. Her talent as a singer was evident when she performed in church choirs. After graduating from Peabody Preparatory School of Music in Baltimore in 1958, Bryant attended Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. She continued her music training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and studied opera in Vienna and Venice. She toured Eastern Europe with the Robert Shaw Chorale.

With her European training and singing experience Bryant returned to the United States in the early 1960s to pursue a career as an opera singer ...

Article

Thomas Aiello

journalist and jazz musician, was born Daniel Gardner Burley in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of James Burley, a former slave and Baptist minister, and Anna Seymour Burley, an educator who served under Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute. His father died when he was five years old, and in 1917 his mother, then remarried, moved the family to Chicago. Accounts differ as to whether Burley graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, but he attended, and his experience there cultivated a talent for writing, and his extracurricular activity taught him the jazz piano.

Burley began writing for the Chicago Defender between 1925 and 1928, according to some accounts while he was still attending high school. After leaving the weekly newspaper, Burley traveled the country, making his living through odd jobs and piano playing before returning to write for the Chicago Bee in 1932 He acted as ...

Article

Araceli Reynoso

was born on 2 December 1919 in Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca. His parents were Francisco José María Carrillo and Candelaria Morales, a mulata originally from Juchitán, a small town located within what is today the municipality of Azoyú in the state of Guerrero. He had three more siblings. His mother died when he was still a child, after which his father married Teodora Alarcón. Álvaro took his stepmother’s last name in recognition of the fact that she had raised him and his siblings.

Álvaro liked to say that he was oaxaqueño by birth and raised by the Costa Chica of Guerrero a region that has historically identified itself as the major African presence in Mexico Costa Chica or Small Coast covers the southern Pacific coast of Mexico beginning in Acapulco Guerrero and ending in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca Africans arrived in this area of Mexico in the middle of the sixteenth century ...

Article

Sharon D. Johnson

director, playwright, and actress, was born in New York City, the elder of two daughters of upper-middle-class parents, Edgar E. Carroll, a dentist, and Florence Morris, a teacher, both from Jamaica, West Indies. When Carroll was three, her parents sent her and her sister Dorothy to live with their grandparents in Falmouth, Jamaica, while Carroll's father completed his dental training at Howard University. Seven years later Carroll and her sister returned to New York, where their father's dental practice was thriving. The family's town house in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem eventually became a hub of activity that included frequent gatherings of neighborhood children and black community leaders.

Raised to be an achiever Carroll absorbed this intellectually and culturally charged atmosphere Her mother made sure that Carroll took music lessons and attended diverse cultural events particularly those featuring black artists Although Carroll wanted to become an actress ...