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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 ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African Americanwoman legislator in Oklahoma, librarian, teacher and activist, was the fifth of six children born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Mabel Kennedy and James Thackeray Diggs Sr., a contractor for Gulf Oil Company.

Both Atkins's parents graduated from Slater Industrial Academy. Her parents encouraged the children, four of whom were girls, to attend college. Her brother Edward O. Diggs was the first black to attend the University of North Carolina Medical School (1961). Atkins attended segregated public schools in Winston-Salem, and graduated as valedictorian of Atkins High School at age fifteen. She enrolled in St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian college in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she met and married Charles Nathaniel Atkins on 24 May 1943. A few days later she graduated with a B.A. in French and Biology. She was an honors student, whose advisor was the historian John Hope ...

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

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 ...

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Georgette Mayo

teacher, librarian, and community leader, was born Ethel Evangeline Veronica Martin in Charleston, South Carolina, the only girl of four children born to Thomas Jerry Martin, a laborer, and Ethel Sinkler Martin, a schoolteacher. Martin's youth was spent in constant transition because of family loss. Her father relocated to Chicago in search of employment and died in a streetcar accident. In 1927 her mother died of natural causes while working at the Fairwold School for Colored Girls in Columbia, South Carolina. Having lost both parents by the age of six, Martin was initially reared by her paternal grandmother, Sara Martin, who was an educator at Saint Simon Episcopal Mission in Peak, South Carolina. Ethel Martin later lived with her aunt, Dora Dillard, a seamstress in Columbia, South Carolina. Both women had a lasting influence on Martin. Her grandmother exposed her to books and Paul Laurence Dunbar ...

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

Krystal Appiah

educator and librarian, was born Hallie Mae Beachem in West Baden, Indiana, the youngest daughter of Mary Lucy and Hal Beachem, a businessman. Brooks's love of libraries developed when she was nine years old, and the family moved to Indianapolis allowing her to visit the well-stocked neighborhood branch every two weeks with her siblings.

Brooks began her career in librarianship as a tenth grader at Shortridge High School when she received a scholarship to attend the Indiana State Public Library Training Course. At the end of the program, Brooks received a certificate and an appointment as an assistant librarian, attending high school classes in the morning and working forty-two hours a week at the public library in the afternoon. After graduating from high school, Brooks received a bachelor of arts degree from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1934. Two years later she married Frederic Victor Brooks ...

Article

Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, library director, and educator, was born Louie Zenobia Coleman to Joseph and Alice Hunter Coleman at Childersburg, Alabama. Joseph was a farm laborer, and Alice was a homemaker and helped on the family farm. Zenobia Coleman earned a BA degree in Education at Talladega College in 1921 and continued her studies in education at the University of Chicago during the mid-to late 1920s. Coleman's first professional position was at Bricks Junior College in Brick, North Carolina (later the Franklinton Center), where she worked as a teacher and librarian from 1924 to 1932. In 1936 she graduated from Columbia University Library School earning the bachelor of science degree in Library Science She received a fellowship for advanced study through the General Education Board Fellowship an academic award program funded by the Rockefeller agency The scholarship fund provided financial aid to African American and white students from rural southern ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

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

Eric Gardner

librarian, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, to Robert H. Dunlap and Emma M. (Donovan) Dunlap. Robert Dunlap, alternately listed in censuses and directories as a laborer and a driver, was Donovan's second husband, and Mollie Dunlap was raised in a large family that eventually included three siblings, four step-siblings, and her maternal grandmother. She attended schools in Paducah until the family moved north to Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 1918. She continued her education—specifically studying English and elementary education—at Wilberforce University, apparently worked at Wilberforce in the early 1920s, and also taught in Kalamazoo, where she is listed with her family in the 1920 Federal Census (p. 6B).

Dunlap accepted a position as a teacher and librarian at Winston-Salem Teachers College in North Carolina in 1925. She returned north to take an A. B. from Ohio State University in 1928 and with the aid of a fellowship ...

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 ...

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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

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 ...

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Sylvia M. DeSantis

librarian and educator, was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gleason earned an AB degree from Fisk University in 1926 and a bachelor of science in 1931 from the University of Chicago Library School. Gleason began her library employment that same year as an assistant librarian at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes in Kentucky. In 1932 Gleason became head librarian and taught library classes in the new library department she had created. The department, in conjunction with the Louisville Western Colored Branch Library, offered the only available library classes for African Americans in Kentucky between 1932 and 1951. In 1936 Gleason left Kentucky, earned a master's of arts degree in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Fisk University in Tennessee as an assistant professor through 1937.

Gleason's impressive academic career reached a zenith in 1940 when she became the first African ...

Article

Courtney L. Young

was born in Tallahassee, Florida, the daughter of Colleen Dowling (Hayden), a music teacher and social worker, and Bruce Kenard Hayden, Jr., a college music professor (specializing in stringed instruments). Carla Diane Hayden was raised in Brooklyn, New York and Chicago.

In 1973 Hayden received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She later received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Library Science from the University of Chicago, a program that closed in 1989. Her professional library career began in 1973 as a library associate and children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. In 1979 she became the young adult services coordinator, a position she held until her first departure from the library system in 1982. She set up and operated the library at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry from 1982 to 1987 In this position Hayden became a library advocate skilled in ...

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Betty Kaplan Gubert

Hoyte, Lenon (04 July 1905–01 August 1999), doll collector and art teacher was born Lenon Holder in New York City the oldest child of Moses Holder a carpenter and Rose Holder who sewed hats for infants for a Manhattan department store The family owned a house on 128th Street in Harlem and Hoyte attended public schools there It was a comfortable childhood but ironically the doll collector to be and her sister were forbidden to play with dolls when the younger girl after chewing on the hands of their dolls contracted lead poisoning Hoyte studied both art and education at the City College of New York earning a B S degree in 1937 and at Teacher s College of Columbia University She had private art teachers as well and she painted in media such as oil casein and watercolor In 1930 Hoyte was hired to teach in ...