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Robert Fikes

writer, was born Jervis Beresford Anderson in the rural village of Chatham, Jamaica, in the British West Indies, to Peter Anderson, a building contractor, and Ethlyn Allen, a homemaker. Peter Anderson enforced a strict Baptist upbringing on his son. Having passed a series of rigorous qualifying exams, within days after graduating from Kingston Technical School, a high school affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Jervis was hired as a trainee journalist at the Daily Gleaner, the most revered and influential newspaper on the island. He left its employ after a year—uncomfortable with the newspaper's conservatism and acquiescence to the colonial regime—and joined the writers' staff at Public Opinion a weekly that advocated self rule and was closely allied with the People s National Party Having rejected the stern religion of his father and the unquestioning allegiance to the British Crown manifested by his ...

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Dalton Gross and Mary Jean Gross

poet, critic, and anthologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Smith Braithwaite and Emma DeWolfe. Of his two avocations—American poetry and the status of the American Negro—the second clearly had its origins in an unusual cultural heritage. The Braithwaite family, of mixed black and white descent, was wealthy and held prominent positions in British Guiana. Braithwaite's father studied medicine in London but quit because of apparent mental strain and moved to Boston, where he married DeWolfe, whose family had been in slavery. His father remained aloof from neighbors, educating his children at home. Braithwaite's autobiography mentions no employment held by his father, whose death, when his son was eight years old, left the family destitute.Braithwaite s mother was forced into menial employment and at the age of twelve so was Braithwaite After showing interest in reading he was given a job as a typesetter ...

Article

A native of Aracati, in northeastern Brazil, Adolfo Caminha moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1883 to attend the Escola de Marinha (Maritime Academy). He spent much of his life as a naval officer, drawing from his maritime experiences in his writing. Much of his writing draws thematically from the harsh reality of life at sea and reflects a deterministic view of race relations. Together, these qualities recall the two most important historical struggles of nineteenth-century Brazil and Caminha's most ardent causes—the abolition of slavery in 1888, and the founding of the republic in 1889.

His novel Bom Crioulo (1895), in particular, explores these newfound freedoms. A former slave nicknamed Bom Crioulo (crioulo is a term for a black person born in Brazil pursues and seduces Aleixo a white cabin boy after suffering a ruthless flogging for defending the boy against improper advances ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...

Article

James A. Miller

editor and literary critic, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Thomas Fuller and Lillie Beatrice Ellafair Thomas. A member of the African American middle class, Fuller was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and came of age against the backdrop of the violent race riots in that city in 1943.

Fuller attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he received his BA in 1950. As a student, he was deeply influenced by Fred Hart Williams, a historian who specialized in the experiences of blacks in the Michigan-Ontario area and who founded what would later be known as the Hackley Memorial Collection of Black Arts at the Detroit Public Library. Williams introduced Fuller to regional black history and to African history, beginning Fuller's deep and abiding commitment to African affairs.

Fuller worked as a reporter for the Detroit Tribune from 1949 to 1951 and as ...

Article

Tomeiko Ashford Carter

literary critic and Black Arts proponent, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Addison Gayle Sr., a Communist Party spokesperson, and Carrie (Holloman) Gayle. Gayle was born during the Depression, and his parents divorced early in his life. Despite his mother's well-paying job at a nearby military base during World War II, Gayle and his immediate family remained well acquainted with poverty. He grew up in a black enclave and rarely saw whites. Still, he envied the apparent success that he believed all whites had.

In his autobiography Wayward Child: A Personal Odyssey, Gayle maintains that he was penalized by many of his high school teachers for being racially unmixed, poor, and seemingly arrogant. They despised him because he excelled on state exams and because he boasted about reading works by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the African American writer Richard Wright Gayle ...

Article

Leonard Harris

philosopher and literary critic, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Pliny Ishmael Locke, a lawyer, and Mary Hawkins, a teacher and member of the Felix Adler Ethical Society. Locke graduated from Central High School and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy in Philadelphia in 1904. That same year he published his first editorial, “Moral Training in Elementary Schools,” in the Teacher, and entered undergraduate school at Harvard University. He studied at Harvard under such scholars as Josiah Royce, George H. Palmer, Ralph B. Perry, and Hugo Münsterberg before graduating in 1907 and becoming the first African American Rhodes scholar, at Hertford College, Oxford. While in Europe, he also attended lectures at the University of Berlin (1910–1911) and studied the works of Franz Brentano, Alexius Meinong, and C. F. von Ehrenfels Locke associated with other Rhodes scholars ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Alan West

José Martí is one of the major figures of nineteenth-century Latin America. He is regarded by Cubans across the political spectrum as the father of Cuba's independence. His collected works span some twenty-eight volumes and include exquisite poetry, insightful essays on Whitman and Emerson, impassioned political analysis, and a remarkable book of children's literature, La edad de oro (1889).

While still an adolescent, Martí embraced the cause of Cuban independence, founding the newspaper La Patria Libre in 1869. He was imprisoned and then banished for writing a letter denouncing a Spanish fellow student. After 1871 Martí spent a great deal of his life outside of Cuba (Mexico, Guatemala, Spain), and most of the years between 1881 and 1895 in New York where he dedicated himself to the Cuban independence movement as a brilliant orator journalist fund raiser and political leader He ...

Article

Michael Rodriguez

poet, author, and university professor, was born Sterling Dominic Plumpp near Clinton, Mississippi, to Cyrus Hampton, a laborer, and Mary Emmanuel Plumpp. He lived with his grandparents on a sharecropper's cotton plantation until he was fourteen years old, at which time he moved to Jackson following the death of his grandfather The years that followed his time in Clinton were fraught with a constant sense of displacement and relocation both spiritually and physically The harsh early years of the sharecropper s life coupled with an itinerant adolescent home life led the young Plumpp early on to distrust the institutions that he felt were destructive forces to himself and the black community His high school education in Mississippi church schools led him to move away from the black church and to his conversion to Catholicism and he graduated with honors and accepted a full scholarship to ...

Article

Kimberly Welch

African American educator, historian, and literary critic, was born Jay Saunders Redding in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lewis Alfred Redding, a schoolteacher, and Mary Ann Holmes. As graduates of Howard University, Redding's parents maintained a modest middle-class environment for their children; his father was secretary of the local Wilmington branch of the NAACP. Redding graduated from high school in 1923 and entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that year, with no discernible career ambitions. In 1924 he transferred to Brown University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1928.

After graduation Redding became an instructor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where in 1929 he married Esther Elizabeth James. The Reddings had two children. Redding felt that his liberal political beliefs, which his conservative colleagues believed were “too radical,” were a major factor in the Morehouse College administration's decision to fire him in 1931 ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

poet, editor, and educator, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to John Henry Redmond and Emma Jean Redmond. In 1946, when he was nine years old, Redmond and his siblings were orphaned and left to be raised by his grandmother, Rosa A. Quinn. Active in the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), she created a circle of support for the children consisting of church and community members who acted as male role models. In 1958, he enlisted in military service as a Marine and from 1958 to 1961 served in the Far East, where he learned Japanese. When his tour of duty ended, he returned to his native St. Louis and served as associate editor of the East St. Louis Beacon in 1961 and 1962 before cofounding the Monitor, a weekly East St. Louis paper.

While he was working at the Monitor Redmond attended ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

literary critic, educator, poet, was born Darwin Theodore Troy Turner in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Darwin Romanes Turner, a pharmacist, and Laura Knight, a teacher. His grandfather, Charles H. Turner, was the first African American psychologist. A gifted and precocious student, Turner enrolled in the University of Cincinnati at the age of thirteen. By 1949, when Turner was eighteen, he had received his bachelor's degree with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a master's degree in English and American Drama. That same year, he married Edna Bonner. He taught English at Clark College in Atlanta from 1949 to 1951 and at Morgan State College in Baltimore from 1952 to 1957, while earning his PhD in English from the University of Chicago in-1956. From 1957 to 1970 Turner held teaching and administrative positions at Florida A M North Carolina Agricultural and ...

Article

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in the town of Florida, Missouri, to John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton, both Virginians. Marshall Clemens, a storekeeper and lawyer, cherished ambitions of wealth—a drive that rendered him a distant parent. His wife was an affectionate mother who struggled to instill her Calvinist beliefs in her seven children. In 1839 the Clemens family moved to nearby Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi River, where Samuel spent his boyhood and which later served as model for the fictional Saint Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. With the death of John Clemens in 1847, the young Samuel was forced to leave school to help support the family, working first as a printer's apprentice and later as a printer, which would be his craft for ten years.

At twenty one Clemens planned to set out for South America to seek his fortune but ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

civil rights activist, educator, poet, literary critic, scholar, and writer, was born Gloria Jean Wade in Memphis, Tennessee, the older of two daughters born to Robert Wade, a gifted storyteller and Pullman porter, and Bertha Reese Willett. Though raised in the segregated South, Wade found a source of pride, courage, and comfort in the insulated African American community. Her mother, a former high-school valedictorian, understood the power of knowledge. The Wade home was replete with books on a variety of subjects. Bertha Wade would often engage her daughters on a range of topics, from politics to theology. Determined that her children succeed, she encouraged her daughters to academically excel in spite of a segregated school system. Like Bertha Reese Willett, Robert Wade stressed the importance of education Though the pair were never married and separated when Wade was a young child ...

Article

David Barry Gaspar

poet, playwright, and literary and cultural critic, was born Derek Alton Walcott in the town of Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, then a British colony. It had experienced very slow Anglicization since its acquisition from the French after the Napoleonic wars. His parents, Warwick Walcott and Alix (maiden name unknown), were Methodists in a mostly Roman Catholic society. His mother was a schoolteacher and seamstress and, for many years, headmistress of the Methodist Infant School. She enjoyed acting and reciting. Walcott's father, an avid watercolorist and civil servant, died in 1931, leaving his wife to raise young Derek, his twin brother (Roderick Alton), and his sister (Pamela), who was two years older.Derek Walcott grew up in a house filled with books and other indications of the intellectual and artistic interests of his parents After completing elementary school under the ...

Article

Ann Hostetler

author and editor, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Pittman Watkins, a laborer, and Katie Watkins, a homemaker. When he was a young child the family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, following the second wave of the Great Migration. Watkins called it “that second large wave of Southern black emigrants” (Dancing with Strangers, 23). He chronicled much of this youthful journey in Dancing with Strangers: A Memoir (1998), in which he describes his family as “a Rainbow Coalition” (60).

His dark-skinned father had African and Native American ancestry; his mother, whose father was Irish could have passed for white Because of the variety of skin tones in his own family Watkins didn t pay much attention to racial differences until he began school when he first experienced racial discrimination from other students After a rocky start in elementary school in which ...