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Emad Abdul-Latif

Sudanese poet, critic, and academician, was born in Ad Damer on 1 January 1944, after which he moved across Sudan with his family. His father was Abdul-Hayy Mahmoud, an architect who studied country planning in Britain. His mother, Aziza Ismaeel Fawzy, was a daughter of an architect as well. Abdul-Hayy married Dr. Aisha Moussa and had four children. He graduated from Khartoum University and obtained his PhD in comparative literature from Oxford University. He published many important volumes of poetry and produced many books and critical essays in both Arabic and English. In the 1970s he held some cultural and academic posts. For his last nine years, a series of ailments caused his health to decline and his linguistic memory to die until he was completely paralyzed. After a long struggle with illness, he died on 23 August 1989 in Sopa University Hospital.

Abdul Hayy was among those ...

Article

Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

Article

Michael Awkward

In an October 1985Pennsylvania Gazette profile, Houston A. Baker, Jr., speaks of his intellectual journey from graduate studies in late-Victorian literature to the then relatively uncharted field of African American literature as “a great awakening and a conversion experience rolled into one.” Baker's blues journey home has resulted in the field's richest, most consistently probing body of work, and has established him as one of a handful of preeminent scholars of American literature to have emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement struggles of the 1960s.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Baker matriculated at Howard University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and then earned a PhD in English at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1968. After brief stints at Yale University, the site of his conversion, and the University of Virginia, Baker moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 ...

Article

Hédi Abdel-Jaouad

Tunisian poet, critic, and essayist, was born in Majel Bel Abbès, near Kassérine, Tunisia, where his father was employed with the railway system. His family originates from Gabes, in southeast Tunisia. Bekri’s mother died when he was ten years old, which affected both his personal and literary journeys. He attended the Lycée of Sfax, where he was active in various literary and artistic circles. At the age of eighteen he published his first poems, in the school’s literary journal. He then attended the University of Tunis, where he majored in French literature. During the turbulent years following May 1967, the university was a hotbed of political activism. Bekri was arrested for his political opinions in 1972 and was sentenced and jailed in 1975. Upon his release in 1976 he left for France and has since resided in Paris where he was granted political asylum Bekri completed a ...

Article

Houda Ben Ghacham

Tunisian film critic and director, was born in Tunis on 11 March 1944. His father, Taoufik Boughedir, was a journalist, novelist, playwright, and an influential figure in cultural life. Boughedir attended a French secondary school in Tunis and lived in the family home in Halfaouine, an area of old Tunis that was later to provide the name for the director’s first film. He went on to study French literature in Rouen and Paris and wrote two doctoral theses on African and Arabic cinema.

Boughedir first made a name for himself as a film critic, writing for, among others, the journal Jeune Afrique, which was published in Paris and distributed in francophone Africa. In his writing for this, he was an inexhaustible supporter of the cause of African cinema. He was involved in organizing the oldest pan-African film festival, Les Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, in Tunis which he ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Elaine Savory

Kamau Brathwaite, born Edward Lawson in Barbados in 1930, has had a very distinguished career as a poet, historian, and cultural theorist. His historical work contributed greatly to the understanding of creolization as a process and his term “nation language” has been enormously important in the recognition of the wide range of Creole languages in the Caribbean. But he has also been a critical intellectual and creative force in bringing subordinated African cultural elements to the fore in Caribbean culture. His own adoption of an African name is a powerful symbol of his conscious affiliation with Africa.

Although the majority of the population of Barbados is of African descent African thought and culture were only present in subordinated cultural practices after the systematic erasure of ancestral memories of African slaves by the plantation system and British colonial education Educated at Cambridge in history Brathwaite then worked in the ...

Article

Keith Clark

A distinguished writer and teacher, Joanne M. Braxton has published important poetry and criticism while maintaining the significance of historical and communal ties.

Joanne Margaret Braxton was born in Lakeland, Maryland, on 25 May 1950 to Mary Ellen Weems Braxton and Harry McHenry Braxton, Sr. The second of four children, she graduated from Northwestern Senior High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Braxton found her poetic voice as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College; after graduating, she entered Yale University, where she earned her PhD in American Studies in 1984. Braxton wrote her dissertation on black women's autobiography under the tutelage of scholars Charles Davis and John Blassingame.

Braxton has enjoyed a fruitful publishing career. Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), a volume of poetry, reflects the centrality of folkloric and familial traditions; Gwendolyn Brooks hailed it for its economy courage and genuine expression of youthful energy ...

Article

Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...

Article

Antonio López

was born Lourdes Emilia de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, on 5 April 1938. Her family was of African, Spanish, and Chinese descent. Her father, Pedro Casal, was a doctor and dentist, her mother, Emilia Valdés, a teacher.

Casal attended the Universidad de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, a Catholic university in Havana. Her interests soon turned to writing and psychology. She participated in the Catholic ranks of the revolutionary movement, which culminated in the 1959 Cuban Revolution. By 1962 however she opposed the new revolutionary state She then traveled to Africa and in a major move settled in New York City becoming a citizen of the United States This inaugurated Casal s career as an Afro Latina protagonist in Cuban American culture and politics that fits into the arc of José Martí and Rafael Serra in the late nineteenth century and Rómulo Lachatañeré and Melba ...

Article

Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Ross Michael Nedervelt

was born in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, to Alphonso Christian, a judge, and his wife, Ruth. She was raised in an unconventional family, as her parents held academic learning in high esteem. Her father believed that all six of his children should receive an equal education, regardless of the patriarchal social norms discouraging women from further education. Encouraged by her father, she became an accomplished student and avid reader. Yet, as she read through numerous books, she became quite concerned by the absence of Caribbean and African American women within the stories. At the age of 15, she traveled to the United States for the first time. She enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1963 Her parents pressed her to go on to medical school and become a doctor but Christian decided to pursue her emerging passion for literature and ...

Article

Jean Smith

educator best known as the “Dancehall Doctor” or “Patois Docta,” was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 20 November 1950. The eldest of three children born to Daniel George and Modesto Cooper, her mother taught at Rollington Town Primary and her father was both a tailor and an elder in the church. While growing up, she actively participated in the church as a youth leader and an organist. She credits her mother with encouraging her creative side and the church with developing her leadership skills. She learned about her Accompong Maroon heritage as an adult. Her interest in popular music began during her teenage years, when she found ska, rock steady, and reggae engrossing.

She attended St. Hugh’s High School in Kingston, graduating in 1968 and was awarded the Jamaica Scholarship which allowed her to pursue a B A in English literature at the University of the West Indies ...

Article

Gerald Early

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles. His father was a heroin addict and his mother a hard-working domestic who taught him to read before he entered school. Although Crouch attended both East Los Angeles Junior College and Southwest Junior College, he never earned a degree. In effect, he is an autodidact and his work reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the untrained intellectual. During the 1960s, Crouch became enamored of black nationalism and the theater. He was well known in black nationalist circles and was an actor, director, and playwright. He also was a drummer leading his own jazz combo during these days, recording an album with Impulse Records called Ain't No Ambulances for No Niggahs Tonight. In the 1970s, Crouch, deeply influenced by the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, began to distance himself from the black nationalists. In 1975 he moved to New ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Harold Wright Cruse moved with his father after his parents' separation to New York City, where he completed high school. After serving in the quartermaster division of the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York on the G.I. Bill, although he dropped out in his first year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Cruse worked at various part-time jobs and became an active participant in left-wing politics in Harlem, including joining the Communist Party, which he later rejected. He also wrote two plays and a musical during this period, and with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), established the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School in 1965.

Cruse's book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership was hailed by the New York Times as a mind ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

writer, editor, educator, artist, and intellectual, best known as a social critic. Cruse defined the relationships between African Americans and American society. His 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership energized activists intellectually, both within the United States and in a few black nations, and thus contributed to the roots of the so-called black revolution.

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Virginia; his father was a railroad porter. During Cruse's childhood his father and his stepmother divorced, and he was taken to New York to live with his father's sister in Queens. Before graduating from high school, Cruse was introduced to what remained of the Harlem Renaissance, to the country's radicalism of the 1930s, and to a lecture given by the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois all of which provoked his thinking about ...

Article

James E. Genova

was born on 28 March 1912 in Cayenne, French Guyana. He was the youngest of five children born to Ernest and Marie Aline Damas. His parents were both from French Guyana and of mixed ethnic ancestry. His father was of European and African descent and his mother was of Native American and African ancestry. Damas’s mother died shortly after his birth, and Ernest’s sister Gabrielle became the primary caregiver for the five children. In 1924 Damas’s father sent the young boy to Martinique to attend the Lycée Victor Schoelcher. The move to Martinique had a profound impact on the young Damas. While there he developed a lifelong friendship with his classmate Aimé Césaire, and the two became interested in poetry as well as the race question in the context of the French colonial empire. Upon graduation in 1929 Damas went to Paris to complete his higher education pursuing a ...

Article

James Smethurst

Samuel R. Delany's early work played a major role in the development of a more literary “new wave” in science fiction during the 1960s. The science fiction genre was known previously more for its ideas rather than for its stylistic innovation. Delany's first novels were heavily influenced by the formal experimentation of modernist and postmodernist writers such as James Joyce, Ralph Ellison, and Djuna Barnes as well as by the work of leading science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon.

Delany s writing was concerned with technology and the development of artistic and outlaw subcultures on the margins of society anticipating the later cyberpunk trend in video film fiction and graphic art Perhaps influenced by being one of very few African American science fiction writers of his generation and by his open homosexuality although he also had significant heterosexual relationships Delany from the beginning ...