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Eric Paul Roorda

one of the most famous and prolific poets of the Dominican Republic, was born on 6 September 1833 in the town of Moca, in the Cibao Valley, the son of Félix Alix and María Magdalena Rodríguez. The Cibao, the breadbasket region of the country, fringed by mountains and home to tobacco cultivation, is its own patria chica, or “little country,” an area of strong personal identification for those people who are native to it. Alix began writing poetry there at the age of 16, mastering the distinctive Cibao dialect that he would use extensively in his work. After his rural upbringing in the valley, Alix went on to lead a picaresque existence. He is best known for composing in a popular form of verse called the décima, which has ten lines and a complicated rhyme scheme. Décimas typically comment on a wide range of issues of a ...


Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian poet, diplomat, military commander, and politician, was born in Cairo on 6 October 1839. His family claimed descent from a medieval Mamluk royal line, but his surname (nisba) refers to the district of Ityay al-Barud in Lower Egypt, of which his ancestors had once been tax farmers (multazims). His father, an artillery officer under Muhammad Ali, died in Sudan when al-Barudi was only seven years old. After primary education, al-Barudi entered the Military Training School in Cairo, in 1851, and graduated from it in 1855 with the rank of bash-jawish (sergeant-major). During the reign of the viceroy Saʿid (r. 1854–1863), he served in Istanbul as a diplomat and during this time acquired a lifelong enthusiasm for literature.

In 1863 the new viceroy, Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 visited Istanbul and recruited al Barudi as commander of his Viceregal Guard in Cairo with the ...


Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...


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 ...


Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...


Alberto Arenas

Obeso was born three years before the Colombian government abolished slavery. The illegitimate son of a white lawyer and a mulatto laundrywoman, Obeso was raised by his mother in the small town of Mompós along the banks of the Magdalena River. At the age of seventeen he moved to Bogotá to study at a military academy. Just one year after his arrival, a military coup closed down the academy, and Obeso then entered the recently inaugurated National University. Even though Obeso never graduated, he received a teaching certificate and started writing his first poems.

In 1871 he released his first novel, La familia Pygmalión (The Pygmalion Family), in which he ridiculed a family that got him imprisoned for a love affair. Obeso then published articles and poems in Bogotá's most important newspapers and magazines; he gradually gained notoriety. The 1876 civil war interrupted his literary career He enlisted as ...


Carl A. Wade

poet and U.S. Army veteran, was born Henry Bertram Wilkinson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of five surviving children of the Barbadians Mary Elizabeth Clarke, a seamstress, and William Lawrence Wilkinson, a carpenter, himself the son of a “colored” slave manumitted in the parish of St. Philip, Barbados, in 1834.

When Henry was four, the family departed Philadelphia's black ghetto, a district hostile to the social and economic advancement of its black citizenry (as W. E. B. Du Bois documented in 1899 in The Philadelphia Negro), and returned to Barbados. There Wilkinson received his elementary and only formal education, leaving school at age twelve to become a pupil-teacher (trainee).

In 1909 Panama beckoned Wilkinson, as it did thousands of other West Indians in search of economic opportunity. Two years later, on 24 August 1911 he left the canal zone with its deadly and debilitating tropical ...