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Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Sharon Pruitt

artist, art historian, curator, critic, and educator, was born Lynda Faye Peek in Atlanta, Georgia. Amaki, who legally changed her name in 1978, is the fourth of six surviving daughters of Mary Lee Hill, a homemaker, gardener, and quilter, and Norman Vance Peek, a landscape designer and gardener during the summer, and a cake and candy caterer during the winter. Early in her life and throughout her artistic career Amaki was influenced by her parents' penchant for recycling materials into creative forms.

Amaki's parents supported and encouraged her early artistic pursuits. Her mother enthusiastically showed Amaki's drawings to family friends and members of the community. Aware of Amaki's interest, the Reverend William Holmes Borders, a friend of the family and pastor of the Wheat Street Baptist Church where the Peek family worshipped, introduced ten-year-old Amaki to Hale Aspacio Woodruff a ...

Article

Onita Estes-Hicks

librarian, Harlem Renaissance cultural worker, and playwright, was born Regina Anderson in Chicago, the daughter of Margaret (Simons) Anderson, an artist, and William Grant Anderson, a prominent criminal attorney. She was reared in a black Victorian household in Chicago's Hyde Park district, amply provided for by a father who counted W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson among his friends and clients. Regina attended normal school and high school in Hyde Park, studying later at Wilberforce University and the University of Chicago, and eventually receiving a degree in Library Science from Columbia University's School of Library Science.

The Chicago of her youth and early adulthood struck her as provincial, yet it was flavored by migrants from the deep South and enlivened by the voice of Ida B. Wells whose writings on lynching gave Anderson an understanding of the link between race and violence ...

Article

Roberto Conduru

was born on 15 November 1940, the son of Guilhermina Alves and Vital Araújo. His full name is Emanoel Alves de Araújo; he was born into a traditional family of goldsmiths in Santo Amaro da Purificação, in Bahia, Brazil. There, he learned carpentry with master Eufrásio Vargas, worked with linotype and typesetting in the official press, and held his first exhibition in 1959.

In the 1960s, he moved to Salvador, where he majored in printmaking at the Federal University of Bahia, in 1965. Since then, he has held solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions held in Brazil and abroad.

His artistic work has explored the transformation of traditional artistic media from chromatic and three dimensional experiments with printmaking his work unfolded in sculptures some of them displayed in public spaces His work has also promoted the articulation of African descended cultures with constructivist principles and forms ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...

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

Theodore Cohen

was born in the town of Hopelchén, Campeche, on 7 January 1892 to Francisco José Baqueiro and Teodosía Fóster. Probably of Mayan and not of African descent, he was a relative of the famous nineteenth-century Yucatecan musician Chan Chil (Cirilio Baqueiro Prevé). Baqueiro Fóster attended primary school in Hopelchén before moving to Mérida, Yucatán, to continue his education. He learned to play the guitar, mandolin, violin, oboe, and flute, his instrument of choice. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City, and the following year he enrolled at the National Conservatory, where he studied with the renowned musical theorist Julián Carrillo. He later married Eloisa Ruiz Carvalho (1925–1980), a music critic and educator.

Baqueiro Fóster began to make a name for himself during Mexico’s First National Congress of Music in 1926 With fellow Carrillo disciple Daniel Castañeda he argued that Mexican composers could study indigenous music more accurately ...

Article

John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.

Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...

Article

Misere Osorio Ramírez

was born José Ramón Osorio Bulerín in Canóvana, Puerto Rico. He was the son of Gabriel Osorio and Juana Bulerín Guzmán, but his father was absent from his childhood. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood where everyone worked at the local sugar refinery. The fourth of ten siblings, Ramón was raised by his mother and his grandmother, Martina Guzmán (informally known as “la negra,” or “the black woman”), who cultivated in him an independent and honest character. As of 2015, eight of Bulerín’s ten siblings were still alive, as was his mother. Bulerín has two daughters, the first, Misere Osorio Ramírez, was born in 1985, and the second, Pamela Osorio Ramírez, was born in 1988.

During his childhood Bulerín enjoyed sketching and as a result his teachers asked him to help them with drawings for school He began by drawing everything that he saw in magazines ...

Article

Ingrid Schorr

curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.

As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.

Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 22 November 1904 in Mexico City to José Covarrubias and Elena Duclaud. José was a civil engineer and government official who helped provide Miguel with access to Mexico’s cultural and intellectual elite. Miguel was born into a family with Spanish, French, and Mexican—but no African—ancestry. He had an elite education, attending the Horace Mann School and the Alberto Correo School in Mexico City. He married the dancer Rosa Rolando (née Rose Cowan, 1898–1870) on 24 April 1930. Although he never officially divorced her, he also married Rocío Sagaón in 1955.

Covarrubias started to draw caricatures as a child. Mexico City newspapers and cultural magazines began to publish them in 1920. With a little support from the Mexican state, Covarrubias left for New York City in the summer of 1923 Mexico s foremost cultural promoter in the United States José Juan Tablada helped ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

artist, art historian, curator, and educator, was born David Clyde Driskell in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of four children and the only son of George W. Driskell, a Baptist minister, and Mary L. Clyde Driskell. When Driskell was five years old, his family moved to Polkville, North Carolina, a community located in the Appalachian Mountains. He attended Rutherford County public schools and graduated from Grahamtown High School in 1949. He began his matriculation at Howard University in 1950 where he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He married Thelma G. DeLoatch on 9 January 1952, and had two daughters. In 1953 he began studying at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, located in Skowhegan, Maine. After he graduated from Howard with a BA in Art in 1955 Driskell was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U S Army later being ...

Article

David Driskell's paintings use vibrant colors, reveal the influence of African styles, and often depict nature. In addition to being a painter, he has served the arts as a teacher and a curator of art exhibits.

Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Driskell grew up in North Carolina. After attending public high school, he studied art in 1953 at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and went on to receive a degree in art from Howard University. Driskell received a master's degree in art from Catholic University of America in 1962.

His teaching career began in 1955 at Talladega College in Alabama and continued when he was made professor of art at Howard in 1962. Four years later Driskell left Howard to become chairman of the Department of Art at Fisk University. He took leave to spend 1969 and 1970 as a visiting ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

was born in Port-au-Prince to entrepreneur Claude Duval and his wife Anita. His family was forced into exile when the artist was 9 years old. Relocating to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Duval-Carrié would attend the Colegio San Jose until the age of 15, when his family decided to return to Haiti. His knowledge of Haitian Vodou and culture, as well as his experience of exile and migration, inform Duval-Carrié’s work and have made him among the highest-regarded Haitian contemporary artists and an influential player in Miami’s diverse contemporary art scene. His works include paintings, sculpture, mixed media, and immersive installations, often addressing themes that pertain to Haitian history and religion.

After graduating from high school, Duval-Carrié relocated to Montreal, Canada, with his brother Bobby Duval; there, he would receive a bachelor of arts from Loyola College in 1978 During Duval Carrié s time in Canada his brother Bobby was ...

Article

Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, curator, and educator, was born in Dayton, Ohio. His family later moved to Indianapolis, where he attended high school in 1903 and 1904. While Farrow was in high school, the noted muralist William Edouard Scott recognized his artistic potential and encouraged him to enroll at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1908 Farrow moved to Chicago to begin classes at the Institute, Scott's alma mater and one of the first U.S. art schools to admit black students.

Farrow studied intermittently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1908 to 1918, while working for the U.S. Postal Service. When Farrow arrived at the institute, founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879 it was not yet a world class art institution In the early twentieth century the institute was actively building ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

librarian, journalist, and African Methodist Episcopal lay church leader, was born in Shannon, Mississippi, the son of William and Sarah Forbes, who had been enslaved until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the arrival of the United States Army in Mississippi, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Working at a young age in brickyards and farms, Forbes left the state at the age of fourteen, attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for a time, then moved to Boston in the 1880s. Mr. and Mrs. Mungin of Smith Court, a forgotten couple who assisted many struggling students, assisted him in finding work as a laborer at Memorial Hall in nearby Cambridge, saving money and studying. In 1888 Forbes enrolled at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was a classmate of Sherman W. Jackson later principal of M Street High School in ...

Article

Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer, college and music conservatory professor, composer, activist, and genealogist, the youngest of seven children, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, and reared in Louisville, Kentucky, where his family moved in search of suitable employment and better schools. Andrew's mother, Lue Vergia Esters Frierson, was a homemaker. His father, Robert Clinton Frierson, was a laborer.

At age three Frierson first dramatically showcased his musical talent. One afternoon he accompanied his mother to the home of an old family friend where there was a piano. Frierson saw the instrument, went to it, and instinctively began to play recognizable songs. Frierson's mother and her friends were astounded because he had never even seen a piano. By the age of five Frierson was playing all over the town.

After four years of piano study with William King and graduation from high school Frierson went to ...