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Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

Article

Matthew LeRiche and John Young

Sudanese journalist, politician, and government official, is the son of a Dinka chief from Twic Mayardit County in the province of northern Bahr El Ghazal, in southern Sudan. Bona has pursued careers in journalism, academia, and most prominently, politics. After the 2010 national election, he was named advisor to President ʿUmar al-Bashir, of the National Congress Party (NCP).

An accomplished student and athlete, Bona went to the US on scholarship. While there, he earned an MA in journalism and communications before returning to Sudan, where he became a leading southern Sudanese nationalist. Building on his academic training, Bona became the editor-in-chief of The Advocate, an early publication defending the human rights of southerners and calling for devolution of power to the south. He was a cofounder of the Southern Front and served as its first secretary-general. He was then elected to the national assembly in 1968 only to ...

Article

David Killingray

Cricketer, politician, and broadcaster born into a middle‐class family in Trinidad. When he left school, he became a clerk in a local company, a post he held for the next ten years until 1927, the year he married Norma Cox. His father was a good cricketer and Constantine also became an excellent fielder. He played for his school and as a member of the Trinidad team in inter‐colonial matches; he was selected for the West Indies team to tour England in 1923, and again in 1928. During that tour Constantine's distinguishing moment came in the match against Middlesex in June 1928 when his skills as bowler, fielder, and scorer enabled the West Indies to defeat their opponents by three wickets. C. L. R. James wrote of him he took 100 wickets made 1 000 runs and laid claim to being the finest fieldsman ever ...

Article

Josephine Dawuni

Ghanaian journalist, writer, political and gender activist with ancestral roots in both Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born to Francis Thomas Dove, an accomplished barrister at law and Madam Eva Buckman, a Ga businesswoman. In 1933, Mabel Dove married Dr. J. B. Danquah, a leading figure of the anti- imperialist independence movement; the couple had one son. Mabel Dove Danquah’s formative years began in Sierra Leone, where at the early age of six, she attended the prestigious Annie Walsh Memorial School, the oldest girls’ school in Sierra Leone. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Sierra Leone, she went to England, where she attended the Anglican Covenant in Bury and then St. Michael’s College. She then proceeded to take a four-month course at Gregg Commercial College in secretarial training.

In 1926 at the age of twenty one Danquah took her first job as a shorthand typist with Elder ...

Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Charles Alexis Oswald Durand became an orphan at the age of two when an earthquake destroyed the city of Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti in 1842. Afterwards, Durand went to live with his grandmother in the frontier town of Ouanaminthe. Little is known of his first years of studies, but at age sixteen he was already working for his living as a tinsmith. While making pots and pans in the tiny village of Saint-Louis du Nord, he read and wrote his first verses. He was later offered a job as a primary school teacher.

Demesvar Delorme, a renowned politician and writer, assisted Durand in publishing his first books of poetry. Durand's reputation as a poet grew, particularly after the publication of “Choucoune” in 1883, which recounts how the narrator's beautiful black mistress is seduced by a white foreigner. Other works by Durand include Quatre nouveaux poèmes (1896 ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

Michael Dash

Joseph Antenor Firmin was born in 1850 in the town of Cap Haitien in the north of Haiti. He was a lawyer, a minister of government, and a diplomat. Haitian politics in the late nineteenth century were dominated by two major groups: the nationalist and liberal parties. These parties representing black and mulatto factions fought for supremacy in the 1870s and 1880s. The nationalist party championed a black ideology and claimed to speak on behalf of the masses against the elite. The liberal party played down the color question and advocated that Haiti be governed by the most competent. Firmin is particularly interesting because he was black and associated himself with the liberal party. He was a liberal candidate for the legislature in 1879. In 1889 he became a cabinet minister under President Florvil Hyppolite and as foreign minister he worked with Frederick Douglass to foil ...

Article

The son of slaves, Juan Gualberto Gómez was born in Santa Ana, Cuba. His parents bought his freedom, a practice allowed through manumission laws in Cuba. He was educated under the tutelage of mulatto (of African and European descent) poet Antonio Medina y Céspedes at a local religious school that was known to be a refuge for black children. Sensing that his racial background would limit his opportunities in Cuba, Gómez left the island in 1869 for Paris, France, where he studied the art of cabinetmaking and, later, engineering. Poverty soon forced him to leave his studies and pursue a career in journalism, a profession that would provide him with an outlet for expressing his political and social views.

Gómez's stay in Paris was a formative experience in his life. He became acquainted with various eminent members of Cuba's expatriate community, including separatists such as Vicente Aguilera ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Biographer of Ignatius Sancho, the African writer whose letters were published in England in 1782. Jekyll was the only son of Edward Jekyll, a captain in the Royal Navy. Details concerning his place of birth are uncertain. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, left for France upon completion of his studies in 1774, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1788.

Jekyll may have met Sancho during this period, but there is no confirmation of this. In fact, information regarding their relationship is scarce and is left to much speculation. However, one piece of evidence affirms that Jekyll and Sancho did indeed meet and had some form of connection that extended beyond the purely professional. A letter written around 1803 by Sancho's son William to Jekyll, suggests that Jekyll was generous to the Sancho family:

To Joseph Jekyll Esq M P From ...

Article

Leila Kamali

Newspaper editor, statesman, and Mayor of Kingston, Jamaica. Jordon was born a freeman on 6 December 1800. He founded the Watchman and Jamaica Free Press in Kingston, which printed an editorial in 1832 calling to ‘knock off the fetters, and let the oppressed go free’. Jordon was tried for sedition—a crime that carried the death penalty—but was eventually acquitted.

He campaigned vigorously against slavery and, having won the Kingston seat in the House of Assembly in 1835, saw complete abolition in Jamaica in August 1838. He then founded the Morning Journal, became manager of Kingston Savings Bank, and director of the Planters' Bank.

Jordon was the first appointment to the Executive Committee under Sir Henry Barkly's governorship, and in 1854 the first man to be appointed both Mayor of Kingston and Custos. In 1860Queen Victoria made him a Companion of the Bath the first ...

Article

Philip Nanton

Nickname of Ellsworth McGranahan Keane (1927–1997), internationally established jazz flugelhorn player born into a family of musicians in St Vincent. His nickname derived from his great love of Shakespeare and literature in general. He established a reputation locally as a trumpeter but it was after he emigrated to England in 1952 that he began to consider himself as a jazz musician. In the 1960s he became one of a select band of musicians who, because of the clarity and quality of his playing, was rarely out of work. He played with the Joe Harriott Quintet, the Michael Garrick Quintet, and later, in a move to Germany, with bands led by Kurt Edel Hagen, Francy Boland, and Kenny Clarke.

But poetry was equally his passion. L'Oubli, his first collection, was published in 1950 when he was 23 years old, followed by Ixion in 1952 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Marveta Ryan

Poverty and racism forced Martín Morúa Delgado, born in Havana, Cuba, to a Spanish immigrant father and an ex-slave mother, to leave school at an early age and find work. He managed to educate himself, often by purchasing books with part of his salary. His experiences working in a barrel factory led him to become a labor activist. Besides organizing workers in several Cuban cities, Morúa made speeches and wrote newspaper and magazine articles on workers' rights, thus launching his career as a political leader and a journalist.

In the nineteenth century, paid readers read books aloud to factory workers while they engaged in nonmechanical tasks like rolling cigars. Even before slavery had been abolished, Morúa was the first man of African descent to become a professional reader in Cuba. He also became the first reader of color in New York, New York when he worked in ...

Article

Sanjay Mistry

The first Asian elected to the House of Commons. Dadabhai Naoroji was born in Bombay in 1825. The son of a Parsee priest, he was educated at Elphinstone Institute School and later became a teacher.

In 1855 Naoroji was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He became involved in politics and in 1867 helped to establish the East India Association. He was one of the first leaders of the Indian nationalist movement, who supported independence for India. He played an important role in establishing the Indian National Congress in 1865 and in 1886 was appointed President of the Indian National Congress.

Naoroji moved to England and joined the Liberal Party, and in July 1892 was successfully elected to Parliament where he represented Finsbury He therefore became the first Asian to be elected to the House of Commons Although he promised that his first duty would be to ...

Article

Benedicte Boisseron

Cameroonian novelist and statesman, was born on 14 September 1929 in N’Goulémakong, a small village near Ebolowa in southern Cameroon. His mother, Mvodo Belinga Agnès, a pious Catholic woman, separated from Ferdinand’s father, Etoa Jean Oyono, when the latter, though baptized, opted for a polygamous lifestyle. The young Ferdinand and his sister, Mfoumou Elisabeth, were raised by their mother who, after the separation, supported the family as a seamstress in Ebolowa. To help his mother, at the age of ten, Oyono joined the Catholic Mission as a choirboy and a houseboy at the service of missionaries. His early intimate experience with Catholic missionaries fueled his revolutionary imagination as an anticolonial writer well known for his satirical portrait of priests and colonial officials.

When Oyono earned his primary school certificate his father an educated city official learned of his son s success in the newspaper which published such educational results and ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Englishhistorian, writer, and active denouncer of the African slave trade. Roscoe was born in Liverpool and was repulsed by the slave trade and its ubiquity in his home town, where most of its wealth was derived from the trade. He became politically active in the 1790s, and in October 1806 he was elected member of Parliament for Liverpool. One of his earliest speeches called not only for parliamentary reform and peace with France, but for the abolition of the slave trade. He was spoken of highly by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce referred to Roscoe as ‘a man who by strength of character has risen above the deep‐seated prejudices of his townspeople and eventually won their respect’. Roscoe's first published work, Mount Pleasant, a Descriptive Poem (1777), deprecated the slave trade. In 1787 he wrote and published The Wrongs of Africa The poem promoted him ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

Egyptian writer, was born in January 1872 to a landowning family in Lower Egypt. He attended a local traditional Islamic school (kuttab) and chose to go to the khedivial secondary school rather than to al-Azhar. Having read translated scholarly works, notably Darwin’s Origin of Species, he was admitted in 1889 to the Khedivial Law School, the alma mater of many of Egypt’s modern politicians and leaders. As a young student, he founded Egypt’s first law review, Majallat al-Tashriʿ (Legislative Review). He graduated in 1894, entered government service, and in 1897 began collaborating with the nationalist leader Mustafa Kamil, who had the support of Khedive ʿAbbas II. They advised him to go to Switzerland and acquire Swiss citizenship so that he would enjoy immunity as a journalist and would be able to criticize the British occupiers freely. However, in Geneva in 1897 he came under ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Rwandan politician, was born in 1963 to a Tutsi family in Rwanda In Kinyarwanda; his name means “chief shepherd.” His parents were both Seventh-Day Adventists. Sebarenzi’s father was a successful farmer with three wives, and Sebarenzi had a large number of siblings. Both his father and mother became fearful for their son’s life after the Rwandan government promoted widespread attacks on Tutsi families in 1973 and the systematic discrimination made against placing young Tutsi people in middle and high schools led Sebarenzi s parents to send their son to a school on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu which was a part the Democratic Republic of the Congo He spent his remaining years in middle and high school on Idjwi Island and the large city of Goma Sebarenzi eventually received his undergraduate degree in sociology from a Congolese university He met a fellow Rwandan exile Liberata and the couple married ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian writer and politician, was born in 1927 in Abéché, the capital of the eastern Chadian sultanate of Wadai. Little is known about his early life, but he grew up listening to stories about powerful sultans of Wadai from times past, such as the early nineteenth-century ruler Sabun. By the late 1930s he was living in the southern Chadian town of Sarh (Fort-Archambault). There, he attended classes at the local Catholic mission with a French priest, Father de Belinay, in 1938 and 1939. Under de Belinay’s tutelage, Seid decided to switch from the Islamic faith of his family to Roman Catholicism. Seid’s parents brought the priest salted bread and oil on the day of Seid’s baptism.

Seid then attended secondary school and became involved in politics. He helped to establish the small Mutuelle Amicale Tchadienne political party in 1945 with Mahamat Yakouma Mustapha Batran Abdoulaye Toure Souleymane Naye ...

Article

Eric Young

Throughout his life, Ian Smith has been a conservative rebel. For years he was one of the most ardent proponents of white settler society in southern Africa, and he has since become one of the most vociferous critics of independent rule in Zimbabwe.

Born and raised in colonial Southern Rhodesia, Smith joined the British Royal Air Force in 1939. After serving as a combat pilot in World War II, Smith attended Rhodes University in South Africa and after graduation returned to Southern Rhodesia to work on his large cattle ranch. Smith was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the British colony as a member of the Liberal Party in 1948, only to switch five years later to the more conservative United (Federal) Party. He later became chief whip but left the party in 1961 to help form the Rhodesian Front a party opposed to making concessions ...