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Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...

Article

Kenneth Harrow

Amadou Hampâté Bâ once wrote that every time an elderly man dies in Africa it is as if a library has burned down. Bâ was the most effective advocate, spokesperson, and writer of what we have come to associate with traditional Africa; that is, the Africa whose texts were oral creations, whose authors were performers of epics as well as tales, whose heroes were both rulers and tricksters, and whose religions encompassed both Islam and those of the Bambara or Mande, Fulbe, Soninke, and other West African communities.

Born in Mali around 1900 Bâ was raised in the region of Bandiagara where the influence of El Hadj Omar s conquests were still being felt having marked much of the Sahel with a strong Islamic character El Hadj Omar was the major figure of resistance to the French during the period of early colonialism in the second half of the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Amadou Hampaté Bâ was born in the town of Bandiagara, approximately 500 km (300 mi) northeast of Bamako, Mali, and belonged to an important family of Marabouts (Muslim religious leaders). Bâ’s father died when he was two years old, and he was adopted and raised by a chief in the region. Educated at French schools in Bandiagara and Djenné, about 200 km (124 mi) from Bandiagara, Bâ nonetheless managed to continue his traditional Islamic education with famed Islamic teacher Tierno Bokar, a man whose wisdom Bâ later immortalized in Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar (The Life and Teachings of Tierno Bokar, 1980 It was also at this time that Bâ encountered Kullel a storyteller and traditional educator who gave Bâ his first lessons in the African oral tradition Bâ later earned the nickname Amkullel Little Kullel and he honored his teacher by titling the first volume ...

Article

Hilary Jones

missionary, parish priest, and religious educator, was born in Senegal on 16 April 1814, the same day that Napoleon Bonaparte left France for exile on the Island of Elba. Two years later Britain ended its occupation of Senegal and returned the fortified island territories of Gorée and Saint-Louis to France. The island of Saint-Louis du Sénégal, founded by France in 1659 as a strategic site in the period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, gained a reputation as a cosmopolitan Atlantic port city shaped by patterns of intermarriage between African women (Signares) and European administrators, merchants, and soldiers. The son of Marie Monté, a “free mulâtresse,” and Pierre Boilat, member of the merchant marines, David Boilat came from the small but growing class of mixed race inhabitants who closely identified with the Catholic Church and sought the privileges of French education despite their relative isolation from French culture.

In 1816 ...

Article

R. Baxter Miller

scholar and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Stanley Dykes and Martha Ann Howard. Eva graduated from M Street High (later Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1910. As valedictorian of her class, she won a $10 scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to attend Howard University, where in 1914 she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English. After a year of teaching Latin and English at the now defunct Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, and for another year elsewhere, she was urged by James Howard, a physician and uncle on her mother's side, to enter Radcliffe College in 1916. Subsequently, she earned a second BA in English, magna cum laude, in 1917. Elected Phi Beta Kappa, she received an MA in English in 1918 and a PhD in English philology in 1921 Her dissertation was titled ...

Article

Dorsia Smith Silva

writer, educator, and preacher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Addie Mae Leonard, a teacher's aide. In 1990 Dyson was adopted by the auto worker Everett Dyson when Leonard married him. As a child, Dyson read avidly and enjoyed the Harvard Classics. His intellectual vigor earned him a scholarship to the prestigious Cranbrook Kingswood School in 1972. However, Dyson behaved poorly and was expelled in 1974. He then attended Northwestern High School and graduated in 1976.

In 1977, Dyson married his girlfriend, Terrie Dyson, who gave birth to Michael Eric Dyson II a year later. Due to the pressures of being a young couple, Dyson and his wife divorced in 1979. To help focus his life, Dyson became a licensed Baptist preacher in 1979 and ordained minister in 1981 with his pastor Frederick G. Sampson II s assistance He ...

Article

David Michel

minister and historian, was born one of six children to Elijah John Fisher, a Baptist minister, and Florida Neely in Atlanta, Georgia. His father later pastored the Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, where he had moved his family. The young Fisher grew up in Chicago but was sent to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College where he earned the BA in 1918. He was immediately ordained, but worked for the YMCA as camp secretary. Fisher married Ada Virginia Foster, with whom he would have six children.

In 1919 Fisher returned to Chicago to take over the International Baptist Church. One year later he moved to Racine, Wisconsin, to pastor the Zion Baptist Church. In 1921 he published a short biography of Lott Carey, a pioneer black Baptist missionary to West Africa. In 1922 Fisher earned the BD and thus became the first black graduate of Northern Baptist ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

pastor, Latinist, linguist, Reformation scholar, and college president, was born in Urbana, Ohio. He was one of seven children born to David Leander and Karen Andrews Hill. Hill's father was the first African American police officer in Urbana. His mother was a housewife who was active in the community and a devoted member of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church, founded in 1824, held an important place in the African American community. For the young man, the church provided not only spiritual guidance but his Bible studies also provided him a rich source of intellectual stimulation.

In 1924 Hill matriculated at Wittenberg University which was founded under the auspices of the Lutheran church and located in Springfield, Ohio. He graduated with honors in 1928 Interested in religion he entered Hamma Divinity School now located in Columbus Ohio and sharpened his skills in Greek Latin ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

historian and religious leader, was born on 24 June 1846. His father, Henry, was a member of the Saro community, a large group of people who had been liberated from slave ships by the British Navy and then resettled in the British coastal colony of Sierra Leone. Like many other Saro individuals, Johnson’s father originally came from a Yoruba-speaking community in southwest Nigeria. Henry Johnson came from a royal pedigree, as he was the grandson of Alaafin Abiodun, king of the Oyo Empire in the late eighteenth century. Johnson married a Saro woman named Sarah, and their son Samuel was born in the Hastings village near Freetown. Samuel was the third of four children.

By the 1850s, many Saro chose to return to their home regions, and the Johnson family followed this trend by moving to back to Yorubaland in December 1857 There Henry Johnson became an assistant ...

Article

Tunde Oduntan

Samuel Johnson (1846–1901) embodied the diversity of thought that struggled to define Africa’s identity and future during the nineteenth century. In a career spanning more than thirty years as a missionary, clergyman, and political agent between the British colony of Lagos and Yoruba states, Johnson negotiated contending intellectual terrains to produce the first and the best-known study published on Nigerian history. His History of the Yorubas from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate is at once historical narrative, cultural exposition, and imaginative repudiation of racialist depictions of Africa. In this work and in his journals and correspondence, Johnson articulated a world view that situates Africa as an important and proud part of human civilization and the Yoruba as a distinct cultural identity.

His background highlights the dilemma that early generations of Western educated African intellectuals confronted and which shaped the intellectual currents of the ...

Article

Dismas A. Masolo

Kagame, philosopher, linguist, and historian, was born in 1912 in Kiyanza, Rwanda. A member of the traditional Tutsi royalty, Kagame was educated in the local minor and major seminaries there before being ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1941. He later studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 1955. He died in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 1981.

Abbe Kagame is best known for his monumental work, La Philosophie Bantu-Rwandaise de l’Etre, published in Brussels in 1956 by the Belgian Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales (Belgian Royal Academy of Colonial Sciences), to which he had been elected as a corresponding member since 1950 in recognition of his earlier publications which mainly featured collections of literary and historical texts gathered from the oral traditions of Rwanda and marked his dedication to the study and preservation of local knowledge ...

Article

Danica Tisdale

religious leader, college founder, and historian, was born near Jackson, Tennessee, to Cullen Lane, a white slave owner, and Rachel, a slave woman. Although born to a white father, young Isaac, by custom and law, occupied the status of his mother and was thus raised a slave by Rachel and her husband Josh, a slave and field hand. Little is known about young Isaac's parents, and, in fact, his autobiography states that he “was reared almost motherless and fatherless having no parental care and guidance” (Lane, 47). Nevertheless he was a precocious child, eager to learn. At the age of eleven he assumed the surname of his white father.

In his formative years Lane began to educate himself and would eventually learn to read write and do math Denied the advantages of early training Lane was able to seize a blue black speller and through ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

classicist, Congregationalist preacher, and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest child of Henry Moore and his second wife Rebecca (née Beasley). Louis would in his early years have witnessed the black community's enthusiasm toward such new freedoms as political participation. At the same time, he suffered the hardships besetting his family of twenty-eight in the transforming Deep South. Before Louis turned ten years old, his home state's race relations started slipping toward their “nadir.” Alabama endured Ku Klux Klan terrorism and voter intimidation; a “Redeemer” government rose to power in 1874 as black workers and sharecroppers fell into economic dependency on their former owners; and in 1876 federal Reconstruction efforts were sacrificed to political deal making which further impeded blacks access to polls and lecterns Still increasing numbers of African Americans came to ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Gabonese Roman Catholic priest and scholar, was born on 19 June 1871 in Libreville in present-day Gabon to Robert Bruce Napoleon Walker and Agnourogoulé Ikoutou. Ikoutou was a female Mpongwe entrepreneur. R. B. N. Walker was an English resident of Gabon. Raponda Walker’s father, an amateur scholar and trader, took him to England for several years in the mid-1870s. After the boy returned to Libreville by 1877, his Mpongwe mother raised him. He had already learned some English, French, and Omyènè, the dominant language of the Gabonese coast and the commercial lingua franca of the entire colony, before the age of ten. Raponda Walker was so inspired by his Catholic missionary teachers that he chose in 1886 to enter the seminary and to become ordained His mother opposed his decision to become a priest on the grounds he would not be able to form his own family Although ...

Article

Sonia Abun-Nasr

pastor of the Basel Mission in the Ga/Dangme region of the West African Gold Coast, present-day Ghana, was born on 31 May 1834 in Prampram His father Christian Hackenburg Reindorf was a trader of joint European and African descent his mother Anoa Ama was born in Accra of Ga origin Reindorf s great grandfather Augustus Frederick Hackenburg was from Denmark and had been governor at Fort Christiansborg on the Gold Coast Because of his mixed race background and his links with the Basel Missionary Society Reindorf moved throughout his life in a complex web of social relationships These linked him with Ga society in the coastal towns the Christianized Euro African business community in and around Fort Christiansborg now Osu as well as with Europeans working for the Basel Mission on the Gold Coast In his life history these different aspects of Reindorf s identity come to the surface ...

Article

Kim Miller

historian and writer during Nigeria’s colonial period, was born in 1898 into the Tiv ethnic group in northern Nigeria. Sai was one of the first individuals in his village to convert to Christianity following the arrival of European missionaries in 1911. Sai’s father strongly encouraged and supported his conversion. Sai subsequently became employed by the missionaries and worked as an evangelist. Partly because of his associations with the missionaries, Sai was also one of the first individuals in his village to learn to write in the Tiv language. This skill would prove to be foundational in shaping the rest of Sai’s life and transformative in determining the important role he would later play in writing and recording the history of his people.

Akiga Sai was the editor of the monthly Tiv newspaper, Mwanger u Tiv, published by the Gaskiya Corporation. In 1951 he was elected as a ...

Article

Jeff Opland

Xhosa missionary and historian, the second son of Tiyo and Janet Burnside Soga, was born at Mgwali, a mission station founded by his father, a United Presbyterian Church minister. He was named after one of his father’s benefactors in Scotland, as was his elder brother. Crippled by infantile paralysis, the young child was taken to Scotland by his mother in September 1863, but medical treatment proved unsuccessful, and they returned in 1864: Soga remained lame all his life. In 1868 he moved with his family to Thuthura, his father’s new mission station. In 1870 the ten-year-old accompanied his two brothers, William Anderson (then aged twelve) and Allan Kirkland (then aged eight) to Scotland to complete their schooling. He attended school in Glasgow from 1870 to 1873 and at the Dollar Academy until 1877 after a period in South Africa he returned to Scotland to study land surveying at ...

Article

Ezekiel Gebissa

Ethiopian linguist, historian, evangelist, and social reformer, was born in the village of Yefag in Begemder region, northwestern Ethiopia, on 30 March 1860. His father, a staunch Orthodox Christian and a wealthy landowner, sent Tayye to the traditional church school in the village. His mother died in 1867 while his father was on a business trip from which he never returned. Tayye ventured as far as Massawa on the Red Sea coast in search of his uncle. Sometime between 1875 and 1878, he applied for and was admitted to the Swedish Evangelical Mission School for boys at Emkullu near Massawa. Tayye avidly studied the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, scrutinizing their scriptural foundation. In 1881, feeling that he had found the true faith, he became a communicant member of the Lutheran congregation in Imkulu.

Devoted to studying the heritage of his country Tayye returned to Begemder ...

Article

Eric Fournier

Christian bishop. Details on the life of Victor of Vita are known exclusively through his own History of the Persecution in the African Provinces, from both specific sentences in the first person and the level of detail that he presents in different episodes of his account of the Vandal period. Victor was most likely born between c. 440 and 445 CE and originated from the city of Vita in the northern part of the Roman province of Byzacena The first personal memory that he relates is his meeting with the old bishop Valerianus of Avensa sometime after 455 in terms that imply he was not a cleric yet By the end of the Vandal king Gaiseric s reign in January 477 Victor knew an intendant of the palace Saturus and he was in the capital when the Carthaginian clerics were allowed to return from exile probably in ...

Article

Roy Bridges

whose parentage and date of birth are unknown, was a freed slave of Yao origin who produced a remarkable record of the African initiative to return David Livingstone’s body to the coast in 1873. Until recently, Wainwright’s achievement has been overlooked and his character unfairly condemned.

Taken from near Lake Malawi to the coast for transport perhaps to Arabia, Wainwright was rescued by the British Navy’s anti–slave trade patrol in 1866. British policy was to transfer freed slaves to Christian missionaries, and Wainwright came into the care of the Anglican Church Missionary Society at Sharanpur School at Nasik, near Mumbai in India. Converted to Christianity and given a new name and an elementary education, he was soon able to write and speak clear, coherent English.

In 1871 increasing worries about the fate of Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone 1813 1873 led the Royal Geographical Society to ...