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Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

In 1982, Houston Baker wrote “[O]nce I had abandoned my graduate school plans to write definitive critiques of British Victorian literature and turned to black American literature, ‘cultural nationalism’ became the ideologically determined project in my intellectual life.” Thus, Baker began a groundbreaking career that would take him through the cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement, the post-structuralist and deconstructionist discourse of the 1980s, and black feminist criticism in the 1990s to studies of masculinity, rap, and the Academy. With works like Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory, Baker shaped black aesthetic discourse, becoming one of the most incisive theorists of African American literature and culture.

Born in 1943, Houston Baker was educated at Howard University (BA in 1965) and the University of California–Los Angeles, where he received his PhD in 1968 He has taught at Cornell Yale Duke ...

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

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

Yusuf Nuruddin

Harold Cruse (8 March 1916–20 March 2005), an iconoclastic social critic and a largely self-educated cultural historian, achieved distinction as the preeminent African American dissident public intellectual of the 1960s. Although he authored several books, his reputation rests largely on his monumental work The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), a flawed yet brilliant, imaginative, sweeping, and provocative polemic. A thematically united collection of essays, Crisis presents a withering assessment of the black intelligentsia for its self-defeating embrace of both liberal and radical integrationist politics, especially its involvement in the Communist Party, of which Cruse was once a member.

Within the Communist Party and other leftist organizations black political interests according to Cruse historically have been subordinated to white political interests including Jewish and white ethnic nationalisms As a remedy Cruse calls upon the black intelligentsia to abandon its bankrupt integrationist strategies and embrace its ...

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

Léon-Gontran Damas was born into the mulatto (of African and European descent) bourgeoisie of Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, a territory vilified in Damas's day as a penal colony. The area contained significant Native American and nègres bosh (descended from fugitive African slaves) populations. Damas lost his mother in early childhood and received a bourgeois upbringing from his aunt; he would later reject the values of his youth, together with all forms of political and cultural assimilation. As an adolescent Damas attended the Victor Schoelcher High School in Martinique, where he first became friends with Aimé Césaire. After graduating he moved to Paris, where he studied literature, Asian languages, and law. He also collaborated in the production of the now-famous black publications La Revue du Monde Noir, Légitime Défense, and L'Etudiant Noir.

With the support of French anthropologist Paul Rivet Damas ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Stuart Hall, a founder of the New Left and of the interdisciplinary field known as cultural studies, has devoted his career to developing a framework for understanding issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural practice and their practical relationship to contemporary British politics.

Hall was born to upwardly mobile middle-class parents in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1951 he won a Rhodes scholarship to Merton College at Oxford University, which he has called “the hub, the motor, that creates Englishness.” He earned a doctoral degree in American literature.

During the 1950s Hall became involved in West Indian and socialist politics. He was a founding member of the New Left Club and its publication Universities and Left Review. This journal merged with social historian E. P. Thompson's The New Reasoner in 1959 and became the New Left Review Hall was its first editor In this journal Hall challenged the failure ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Merle Hodge is one of the best-known Caribbean women writers. She was born and raised in Trinidad, and after graduating from high school in 1962 she received the Trinidad and Tobago Girls' Island Scholarship to study in England. There she received a B.A. degree in French from University College, London, in 1965, and an M.Phil degree in 1967. Her master's thesis was on the poetry of French Guianese Négritude writer Leon Damas, and she later wrote several more scholarly studies of his work.

After graduation Hodge spent several years working as a baby-sitter and a typist as she traveled across Europe, and during her travels she completed her first novel. Crick Crack, Monkey (1970 tells the story of Tee a young girl who is forced to choose between her mother s family and her father s after her mother s death The choice is ...

Article

Frances B. Henderson

Born in 1952, Gloria Watkins later changed her name to bell hooks. Raised in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, by working-class parents (her mother was a homemaker and her father a custodian), hooks is one of six children and an advocate of antiracist, antisexist, and anticapitalist “policies” (Daughters of Africa). hooks identified the struggles and the volatile relationship she witnessed between her parents during her childhood as products of American patriarchy and racism. This early view of relationships was a factor that influenced her perspective and writing on love and relationships, perspectives that she articulated in her later works such as Salvation: Black People and Love (2001) and Communion: The Female Search for Love (2002).

hooks s school experience also was saturated by the challenges of living in rural Kentucky an area facing the same issues around race and gender that American society at large faced ...

Article

Kizito Muchemwa

Zimbabwean essayist, novelist, poet, editor, translator, writer-in-residence, visiting lecturer, and cultural critic, was born to Ruvaro Muza Hove, a farmer, and Jessie Hove, his wife, in rural Mazvihwa, Zvishavane, a linguistic and ethnic buffer zone in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. Hove’s father, a local chief, was a polygamist who brought the family into contact with colonial modernity. The family migrated in the 1960s to Copper Queen Gokwe a district that took in the colonially displaced from different parts of the country following the enactment of many laws dispossessing Africans of their land Hove s time in Mazvihwa and Gokwe explain the writer s ability to speak more than one local language a significant achievement in a racially and ethnically polarized country The aspects that have shaped the writer s sensibility are colonialism missionary education orature war and Zimbabwe s postindependence experience He escaped political persecution at home following ...

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Alessandra Benedicty

was born on 3 September 1958 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She grew up on the rue Carlstroem, which connects two main arteries of the city, Avenue John Brown and Avenue Lamartinière (also known as Bois-Verna). Her uncle owned the Eldorado cinema space, which showed mostly Italian and American Westerns, musicals, and French films. As a family member, she had unlimited free entry. Mars attended primary school with the Soeurs de St. Joseph de Cluny, in the center of Port-au-Prince, near her mother’s small souvenir shop; she attended secondary school at the Centre d’Études Secondaires, followed by accounting and secretarial school.

Mars began writing in her thirties, after a career in high-level administration, notably working for the Japanese Consulate in Port-au-Prince. She first wrote poetry and later prose fiction: novels and short stories. Her novels include Kasalé (2003), L’heure hybride (2005), Fado (2008), Saisons sauvages ...

Article

Kenneth Ombongi and Marcel Rutten

Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan academic, is an enigma. Many call him a pan-Arabist, pan-Africanist, or Muslim fundamentalist. In academia, he is a political historian, political scientist, philosopher, or commentator on diverse issues. However, there seems to be consensus that he is a prolific writer and an orator.

Mazrui is a creation of diverse influences and a creator of many ideas. In his achievements, he is a creation of countries other than his own. He was born 24 February 1933 in Mombasa, Kenya, and got his early education there. He has, however, spent his professional life outside Kenya. Educated at university in England and America, Mazrui’s achievements have been made and celebrated abroad. Whereas he started his scholarship career in Makerere University, in Uganda, he has achieved his intellectual prowess in the United States.

True, the Swahili culture constitutes Mazrui’s cultural roots but he is also Westernized Perhaps neither ...

Article

Ali A. Mazrui was born into the prominent Mazrui clan of Mombasa, which ruled the city during the eighteenth century. His father, Al’Amin Ali Mazrui, was chief Kadhi, Kenya's highest-ranking Islamic judge. After attending primary and secondary schools in Mombasa, he earned a B.A. from the University of Manchester in 1960. He earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1961 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1966.

While working on his dissertation, Mazrui began teaching political science in 1963 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Mazrui was named dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967, a position he held until 1973. An early favorite of Idi Amin, in 1971 Amin s first year in power Mazrui soon lost favor because of his outspokenness and was told to shut up or move out of Uganda ...

Article

George Ogola

Kenyan novelist, actor, and newspaper humorist and cultural critic, was born in 24 October 1954 in Nyeri, Central Kenya, a place he immortalized in his newspaper column, “Whispers,” as “the slopes of Mount Kenya,” a literal reference to the region’s mountainous topography. He was Octavia Muthoni and Elijah Mutahi Wahome’s first child in a family of eight children (two girls and six boys). Mutahi attended Catholic schools, a life that graced his writings. Baptized Paul, a name he later dropped, Mutahi became an altar boy at his local church and later joined the seminary, in what should have led him to joining the Catholic priesthood. Despite being encouraged by his parents to train as a priest, Mutahi dropped out of the seminary in 1972 because he found the institution too strict for his liberal ideas Instead he joined Kirimara High School for his A level education the last two ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

Tanzanian journalist, cultural critic, and historian, was born in Kigoma on 4 October 1949. Mwakikagile’s childhood in the closing stages of Tanzania’s colonial period made a significant impression on him. He witnessed colonial oppression firsthand, and the racist ideology that upheld it, evinced in “Whites Only,” “Asians Only,” and “Africans Only” signs that hung on the doors of restaurants, hotels, and public bathrooms. Indeed, the ideas of Pan-Africanism embraced by the early Nyerere government would resonate with Mwakikigale deeply, as he early on came to possess a deep and abiding respect for Africans and African Americans who preserved their culture in the face of racist ideology and institutions. In his introduction to Africa and the West (2000 he wrote Much as the conquest of Africa led to the denigration of the African personality leading many Africans to hate themselves by despising their heritage an equally intense but ...

Article

Frieda Ekotto

Franco-Algerian writer and cultural critic, was born on 9 November 1941 in Aflou, Algeria, to a French mother and an Algerian father. For Sebbar, who deals with the complex issue of what it means to have a double identity, identities are not easily bestowed by the territory into which one is born—national identities are not so clearly and discretely marked. She grew up in Algeria during the colonial period; both her parents were schoolteachers there at the heart of the Algerian war. Her overall intellectual project is to answer the question: What are the complexities of being from mixed parents, dealing with hybrid or being in between cultures? She covers political, intellectual, and cultural texts from different areas within Algeria and France; and her ongoing search for new paradigms for framing literatures of immigration makes her a cultural reader of an exceptional range of topics within France and the Maghreb.

Other ...

Article

Salah Trabelsi

Tunisian historian and Islamologist, has devoted the best part of his career to teaching and researching medieval Maghreb and Mediterranean history. His profile is that of an atypical intellectual. After a long career teaching in primary and secondary schools, Mohamed Talbi took and passed the Arab Studies competitive examination. On the eve of Tunisia’s independence, he joined the Institute of Higher Education of Tunis. In 1955 he became the first dean of the School of Letters and Human Sciences of Tunis. He also chaired the school’s history department before devoting his full energies as director of the scientific journal Les Cahiers de Tunisie. He was born in the city of Tunis and spent most of his life there.

In 1968 Talbi defended his PhD thesis at the Sorbonne. Entitled L’émirat aghlabide 186–296, 800–909: Histoire politique (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1966; English trans. The Aghlabid Emirate, a Political History: 184/860–296/909 ...

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Lorna Lueker Zukas

Zimbabwean author and human rights activist, was born at the Dadaya Mission in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) on 18 March 1943. Her missionary father, Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd, served as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (1953–1958). His plan to extend the franchise, majority rule, and human rights to blacks led to his expulsion from political life and left the family ostracized from white society. Her mother, Jean Grace Wilson Todd, designed and implemented the Southern Rhodesian African Educational System and fully supported her husband and daughter’s political activities. Garfield Todd received a papal medal in 1973 for his peace and human rights work and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth of England in 1986. Serving as a senator in Zimbabwe’s first parliament (1980–1985), he left government service after becoming disillusioned with Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

Judith Todd likewise dedicated her life to the freedom struggles of blacks in Zimbabwe In ...

Article

Martha Davis

Notable among the works of Ana Lydia Vega are Vírgenes y mártires (1981), the author's first book, which was coauthored with Carmen Lugo Filipp; Encancaranublado y otros cuentos de naufragio (1982), which won Vega the 1982 Casa de Las Americas Prize; La gran fiesta (1986), a screenplay that was made into a movie; Pasión de historia y otras historias de pasión (1987); and Falsas crónicas del sur (1991). Various Vega stories and a novella were translated into English by Andrew Hurley and appeared under the title True and False Romances (1994). Vega has received numerous awards for her work, including the PEN (International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists) Club of Puerto Rico National Literature Prize on several occasions, the prestigious Casa de Las Americas Prize of Cuba (1982 the Juan Rulfo International ...