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Andre D. Vann

lawyer and judge, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Reverend Joseph C. Melton, a Baptist minister and teacher, and Alian A. Reynolds Melton. She received her early education in the public school system of Danville, Virginia, and at the age of fifteen graduated from the James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1937 she graduated from the neighboring North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College with a bachelor's degree in music. The following year, at the age of eighteen, she married Girardeau Alexander, a surgeon, and had a son, Girardeau Alexander III.

Alexander worked as a mathematics and history teacher and directed music in South Carolina and North Carolina for four years before deciding that music would not be her lifelong vocation Instead she longed for a career in law despite the profession s being largely ...

Article

born on 22 March 1962 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Her mother was Ana Almánzar, a saleswoman, and her father, the journalist Fermín Arias Belliard, was well known for his humorous political column “Bocadillo” (A Snack) published from the 1970s through the 1990s in different newspapers throughout the country (La Información, El Sol, El Nacional, and El Siglo), and his satirical political radio show Con Pique y Sin Pique (With or Without Rage). Arias has three daughters from her first marriage to Rafael Castillo in August 1982 (Paloma, Lucero, and Violeta). This marriage ended in February 2002; she wed the American scholar Christopher McGrath, in August 2008.

Aurora Arias grew up surrounded by the political and social instability that followed the assassination on 31 May 1961 of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Within a few years of the formal end of the ...

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Adam Biggs

Walter Henderson Brooks was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for $800 Still a slave Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin Yarborough tobacco firm He woefully recalled his time there writing It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of the consequences of failing to do what was required of me When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working ...

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Adam Biggs

clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father, an enterprising slave, owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, the German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for eight hundred dollars. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother ...

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W. Farrell O'Gorman

Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Michael (also spelled Micheil) Cotter, a boarding house owner, and Martha Vaughn. Although his father was known as an avid reader, Cotter was raised largely by his mother, a freeborn woman of mixed English, Cherokee, and African blood. It was from her naturally dramatic manner—she orally composed poems and plays as she worked at chores—that he acquired his love of language and stories. Having taught herself, she also taught Cotter to read and enrolled him in school, but at age eight economic necessity forced him to drop out and begin working at various jobs: in a brickyard, then a distillery, and finally as a ragpicker and a teamster. Until age twenty-two, manual labor consumed much of Cotter's life.

The friendship of prominent black Louisville educator Dr. William T. Peyton who sensed Cotter s natural intelligence ...

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James Robert Payne

Born near Bardstown, Kentucky, Joseph Seamon Cotter had to leave school at age eight to work at a variety of jobs because of family financial exigencies. Cotter had been a precocious child, learning to read at the age of three from a mother who had the gifts, as Cotter wrote later, of “a poet, storyteller, a maker of plays.” When Cotter was twenty-two the prominent Louisville educator William T. Peyton encouraged the promising young man to return to school. After some remediation and two night school sessions, Cotter was able to begin his teaching career. His first Louisville position was at the Western Colored School, where he began in 1889. He went on to a career of more than fifty years as teacher and administrator with the Louisville public schools. In 1891 Cotter married his fellow educator Maria F. Cox with whom he had three children including the ...

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Marilyn Demarest Button

educator, administrator, writer, and activist, was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Thomas Cornelius Cuthbert and Victoria Means. She attended grammar and secondary school in her hometown and studied at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Boston University, where she completed her BA in 1920.

Following her graduation, Cuthbert moved to Florence, Alabama, and became an English teacher and assistant principal at Burrell Normal School. Promoted to principal in 1925, she began to lead students and faculty in bold new perspectives on gender equality and interracial harmony.

In 1927 Cuthbert left Burrell to become one of the first deans of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. In her essay, “The Dean of Women at Work,” published in the Journal of the National Association of College Women (Apr. 1928 she articulated her belief that covert sexism at the administrative level of black colleges limited their ...

Article

Luca Prono

radical journalist and poet, was born in Arkansas City, Kansas, to parents about whom little is known except that they separated only a year after his birth. During his childhood Davis became familiar with the horrors of Jim Crow violence. Arkansas City had a contradictory policy on segregation that allowed discrimination against African Americans while, at the same time, tolerating racially integrated schools. Davis attended Arkansas City High School and then Friends University in Wichita. He was also able to receive formal education in journalism, studying at Kansas State Agricultural College (later Kansas State University) from 1924 to 1926 and from 1929 to 1930. During his college years Davis also started writing poetry, which provided him with an alternative way of writing about the social and racial injustices he had seen and faced.

Between his two periods at Kansas State Davis worked in Chicago where he started to ...

Article

Lou-Ann Crouther

housekeeper, nurse's aide, and writer, was born in New York City, the oldest of the three daughters of James Lee Dickens, a barber and night watchman, and Laura Breckinridge Paige Dickens Potter, a housekeeper and cook. The household also included extended family members, Ethel and Edna Paige (Dorothy's older half-sisters), whose father was deceased. They attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem during some of the years in which Adam Clayton Powell Sr. (who was Laura Dickens's first cousin) was the head pastor. The family moved from Harlem to Mamaroneck, New York, when Dorothy was young, on the recommendation of the family doctor who suggested a more favorable location to cure her case of rickets. Her younger sisters, Evelyn and Irene were born in Mamaroneck and all three of the Dickens girls attended local schools in that city The three Dickens sisters shared the ...

Article

Constance B. Williams

English and drama teacher, poet, and civil rights leader, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Her father was a headwaiter in a hotel and her mother a homemaker. Lottie was the youngest of three children. Her parents sacrificed immensely to send her to Howard University, the university that her mother considered the best and most prestigious of colleges.

Dinkins entered Howard University in September 1925 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in education in June 1929. Her first choice for a career was journalism, but administrators at Howard discouraged her in this. Instead, Dinkins's first job after graduation was teaching at Leland College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After four years there, she returned to Trenton. She met and married William Harvey Dinkins, the father of Mayor David N. Dinkins (the first African American mayor of New York City, 1989–1993 William Dinkins was a ...

Article

Jennifer Drake

writer, was born in Toledo, Ohio. Since the beginning of her career Evans has been reticent about revealing personal information, saying that her work speaks for her. It is known that she attended public schools in Toledo and went to the University of Toledo to study fashion design before taking up writing; it is also known that she is divorced and is the mother of two sons. She has resided for most of her adult life in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she has been actively involved in community organizations including the Fall Creek Parkway YMCA, the Marion County Girls Clubs of America, the Indiana Corrections Code Commission, and the Statewide Committee for Penal Reform.

Two childhood events are significant for Evans. In “My Father's Passage,” an essay published in the groundbreaking anthology that she edited, Black Women Writers (1950–1980) (1984), she credits her father and Langston Hughes ...

Article

Christine Dureau

poet, journalist, political activist, and Cuba's poet laureate, was born Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén y Batista in Camagüey, Cuba. His parents were of mixed African and Spanish descent; his father, a journalist and progressive senator, was murdered in 1917 while protesting against the conservative president Mario García Menocal.

Briefly a law student at the University of Havana, Nicolás soon left to become a journalist. He took after his father in populism and protest. Cuban society was victimized by sequential regimes of repression and oppression. Guillén was among the worst hit, due to his increasingly socialist ideology. His first poems and antiestablishment articles were published in the early 1920s. He and editors of the Mediodía newspaper were briefly jailed in 1936.

He joined the Communist Party. In 1937 he traveled to Spain for the Congress of Writers and Artists while doubling as a correspondent on ...

Article

Robert M. Greenberg

poet and teacher, was born Asa Bundy Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Asa Sheffey, a steel mill worker, and Gladys Ruth Finn. Early in his childhood, his parents separated, and he was given to neighbors William and Sue Ellen Hayden, who also were black, and who reared and renamed him. Hayden grew up in a poor, racially mixed neighborhood. Extremely nearsighted, unathletic, and introverted, he spent much of his youth indoors reading and writing. When he was eighteen, he published his first poem. Hayden attended Detroit City College from 1932 to 1936; worked for the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1938; published his first volume of poetry, Heart-Shape in the Dust, in 1940; and, studying with W. H. Auden, completed an MA in English at the University of Michigan in 1944. In 1946 ...

Article

George Lewis

athlete, photographer, and poet, was born Gilbert Heron in Kingstown, Jamaica. Though he was a talented photographer, particularly of sporting events, and a notable poet, publishing a collection entitled I Shall Wish Just for You as late as 1992, Heron's fame derives from neither. He remains best known as a pioneering nonwhite sportsman in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and as father to the eclectic, prolific, and hugely influential jazz musician and wordsmith Gil Scott-Heron.

Heron came to attention as an association football or soccer player for the Detroit Corinthians although he had previously turned out for the Canadian Air Force Detroit Wolverines and Chicago Sting Standing just below five feet ten inches and weighing just under 178 pounds Heron had the speed and agility that gave him the perfect characteristics for football s target man and goal scorer the center forward In the ...

Article

Chesya Burke

civil rights leader, English professor, editor, and award-winning poet and playwright, was born Moses Carl Holman in Minter City, Mississippi, and was raised from age three in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended St. Louis public schools, where his devotion to education was formed. He graduated from high school in 1936.

In 1942 he graduated magna cum laude from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, and earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1944; he later received a creative writing scholarship to attend Yale and obtained another master's degree (1954). Holman's love of the written word had been shaped early on, and he was known to write anywhere and everywhere he could. In 1938 the nineteen-year-old Holman had become the first black person to win one of the annual scriptwriting awards sponsored by the popular Dr. Christian radio program ...

Article

Hugh Davis

optometrist, educator, administrator, and poet, was born Frank Smith Horne in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Edwin Fletcher and Cora Calhoun Horne. He attended the College of the City of New York (now City College of the City University of New York), and after graduating from the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology (now Illinois College of Optometry) in 1922 or 1923, he went into private practice in Chicago and New York City. He also attended Columbia University and later received a master's degree from the University of Southern California (c. 1932). He was married twice, to Frankye Priestly in 1930 and to Mercedes Christopher Rector in 1950, ten years after his first wife's death.

In 1926 Horne was forced to leave his optometry practice and move to the South owing to poor health He became a teacher ...

Article

Michelle K. Massie

teacher and legislator, was born Kirkland Leroy Irvis in Saugerties, New York, the older of Francis H. and Harriet Ten Broeck Cantine Irvis's two children. Francis was self-employed, and Harriet was a homemaker. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Albany, New York. While Irvis's father instilled in his children the value of education, his mother taught them the importance of art and human emotion. Her lessons would inspire Irvis to become a renowned wood sculptor and published poet. He graduated from Albany High School with honors in 1934 and went on to attend New York State College for Teachers (later SUNY), where he graduated summa cum laude in 1938 with an AB in History.

The harsh realities of racism that his parents tried to shield from him as a child would meet him head on as an adult Denied teaching positions upon graduation Irvis went back to ...

Article

Said M. Mohamed

Somali commander and poet, was born around 1862 in Lasadar, the site of a water well in Somalia’s Buhodle district. An alternate form of his name is Ismaaciil Mire Cilmi. Ismail spent his early life as a nomad in the regions of Nogal and Hawd. After joining the Dervish liberation army, led by Sayyid Muhammad ʿAbdallah Hasan, he became a commander in chief who used his poetic talent to mobilize Dervish support and celebrate colonial defeats. As poetry was the major means of communication among Somalis at that time, Ismail and Sayyid Mohamed, also a great poet, used to exchange poetic messages. Ismail’s poems about the attack on Berbera and the battle of Dulmadobe are still well remembered among Somalis. Ismail’s poetic talent was such that Diana Fearon, who met him in 1948 said that the power of his voice was so great that he could sing his countrymen ...

Article

Roxanne Y. Schwab

novelist, poet, and short fiction writer, was born in Fremont, Nebraska, the only child of Henry Nelson and Dorothy May Flippin. From the age of one, he was raised primarily in Stromburg, Nebraska, by his grandfather, Dr. George Albert Flippin, the inspiration for Jeffers's volume of poetry, Grandsire. This arrangement largely separated the child from the African American community, as the majority of people around him, including his grandfather's wife, were white. Jeffers strove to reverse this cultural estrangement when, following his grandfather's death in 1929, he relocated to San Francisco to join his mother and stepfather, Forrest Jeffers. The tenants in the building where his stepfather worked as a janitor, however, were chiefly white, so Jeffers was encouraged to seek out African American companions among the poorer southerners who had migrated to the west coast.

Jeffers attended three high schools including ...

Article

Jennifer Drake

poet, visual artist, performer, and bohemian citizen of the world, was born Theodore Jones in Cairo, Illinois, to parents who worked on Mississippi riverboats. While little is known about Joans's childhood, two stories circulate widely. The first is that he was born on a riverboat; the second is that his father, a riverboat entertainer, gave the twelve-year-old Joans a trumpet and dropped him off in Memphis, Tennessee, to make his own way in the world. It has been documented that Joans's father was murdered in the 1943 Detroit race riots, and various autobiographical writings indicate that Joans spent some of his childhood in Indiana and Kentucky.

After earning his BFA in painting from Indiana University in 1951, Joans moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a central figure in the Beat scene. He associated with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who would first ...