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Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Ondra Krouse Dismukes

writer, editor, and scholar, was born in New York City to Dorothy L. Babb and Lionel S. Duncan, both of whom were immigrants from the Republic of Panama. Her parents were part of the larger West Indian community, the “diggers” as many were called, who built the Panama Canal. Babb shared a close relationship with her mother, who instilled in her the value of an education.

Babb attended the Bronx High School of Science, a high school specializing in math and sciences and with some of the best English teachers, whose influence Babb credits for choosing this profession. After graduating from high school in 1973, she enrolled in Queens College of the City University of New York. She graduated with honors in 1977 earning a bachelor s degree in English with a minor concentration in Romance Languages Babb went on to attend graduate school ...

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Charlotte Crawford Watkins

Charles Eaton Burch was born on July 14, 1891, in Bermuda. His early education was in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda, and his advanced training was in the United States, at Wilberforce University (B.A., 1914), Columbia University (M.A., 1918), and Ohio State University (Ph.D., 1933). He taught in the academic department of Tuskegee Institute in 1916 and 1917, and from 1918 to 1921 he taught at Wilberforce as an instructor in English. In 1921 he was appointed to the faculty of Howard University, where he served, successively, as assistant professor (1921–1924), associate professor (1924–1936), and professor of English, and as acting head and (from 1933) head of the Department of English until his death on March 23, 1948 In addition to his work as a scholar Burch made two major contributions to Howard University In ...

Article

Brenna Sanchez

Englishprofessor, civil rights activist, and scholar of African American literature, was born Mary Fair and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. Little information is available about her family. Burks bucked the Jim Crow system of segregation even as a child in the 1930s, using whites-only elevators, restrooms, and other facilities in what she later called “my own private guerilla warfare” (Bolden, 241). At age eighteen she earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Alabama State College, and a year later earned her master's degree from the University of Michigan. She returned to Montgomery to teach English at the Alabama State Laboratory High School and, later, at Alabama State College. Burks married the principal of Alabama State Laboratory High School, Nathaniel Burks. The couple would have one son, Nathaniel W. Burks Jr.

She became head of the Alabama State College English department and later earned her doctorate from Columbia ...

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Peter D. Fraser

was born on 26 January 1903 in New Amsterdam, British Guiana, the son of George Johnson Cameron (a druggist) and Sylvia Elizabeth Cameron (née Beete). The family lived in several places but eventually settled in Georgetown, where Cameron attended Christ Church Primary School, winning a scholarship to attend the leading secondary school, Queen’s College. In 1921 he won the prestigious Guiana Scholarship and departed in 1922 to study mathematics at Cambridge University, graduating in 1925.

Cameron had wanted to teach in Liberia but, unable to do so, returned to British Guiana. He established his own school, The Guianese Academy, in 1926 and that same year married Lurline Daly (they adopted a daughter, Joan, in 1941). He became an assistant master at Queen’s College in 1934, eventually being named deputy principal in 1958; in 1963 he joined the newly established University of Guyana which on his ...

Article

Roxanna Nydia Curto

was born Suzanne Roussi on 11 August 1915, in Poterie aux Trois-Îlets, Martinique. Her mother was Flore Roussi (née William); her father, Benoît Roussi, was a sugar factory worker.

In 1934 Roussi left Martinique to pursue her studies in literature, first in Toulouse, and then in Paris at the École Normale Supérieure, where she met her future husband and fellow Martinican, Aimé Césaire, in 1936. Legend has it that Roussi, known for her beauty and brilliance, was actively pursued by the three founders of the Negritude movement—Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas of French Guiana, and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal—while they all worked together on the journal L’Étudiant noir. She chose Césaire, and they married on 10 July 1937 and eventually had six children (four sons and two daughters).

In 1938 after finishing her studies she returned to Martinique to teach at the Victor Schoelcher high school ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

Article

Linda Watts

was born Maryse Boucolon on 11 February 1937, the youngest of eight children born to a middle-class couple in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Her father, Auguste Boucolon, worked as a civil servant. Her mother, Jeanne Quidal Boucolon, was an elementary school teacher. As a youth, Condé was bright, inquisitive, and a bit unruly. Despite household prohibitions, she explored her father’s personal library, where she developed an appetite for reading.

According to Condé, she became a writer at about the age of 7. Her debut came with a sketch she wrote depicting her mother’s strong role within the family. When her mother read her daughter’s portrayal, she cried. At that moment, the novice author discovered that even a child could use language to convey compelling truths to an audience. Years later, in her 2010 article How to Become a So Called Caribbean Woman Writer A User s Manual Condé recounted how ...

Article

Dorsia Smith Silva

educator and writer, was born in Hampton, Virginia and raised in a middle-class family. After receiving his bachelor's degree in American literature from Dartmouth College in 1939, Davis attended the University of Chicago and became a great enthusiast of the Harlem Renaissance. His master's thesis on the Harlem Renaissance was acclaimed by his professors and marked the beginning of his reputation as a dedicated scholar. Davis graduated with a master's degree in American Studies in 1942 and then entered the army to serve his country in World War II. While he steadily rose to the rank of a captain, he decided to return to academia as an instructor in American Civilizations and doctoral student in American literature at New York University in 1948 Being in a new academic setting inspired Davis to pursue a variety of literary interests such as the historical and cultural influences of poetry ...

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

educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...

Article

Malin Pereira

educator and writer, was born Sandra Yvonne Govan in Chicago at the all-black Provident Hospital to Tanzel R. Govan, a bus driver with the Chicago Transit Authority, and Sarah D. Wilson Govan, a lunchroom manager for the Chicago board of education. Both of Govan's parents were from the South. They met and married in Louisiana, and following Tanzel Govan's service in World War II they settled in Chicago, where they raised Sandra and her older brother. Govan was born with dislocated hips and did not walk until age four. In stories about her childhood she describes a loving and strict upbringing with occasional difficulties because of physical challenges and ever-present racism. She was a precocious child who loved to read and was doted upon—as well as firmly held in line—by her neighborhood community.

Govan earned a BA in English and history at Valparaiso University in 1970 ...

Article

Casey Wells

the first African American to apply to the all‐white University of Virginia, educator and part‐time writer, was born Alice Carlotta Jackson in Richmond, Virginia, to James Edward Jackson, Sr. and Clara Louise Kersey Jackson. Her father was a local pharmacist in the Jackson Ward district of Richmond.

Alice Jackson received her education at two American Baptist Home Mission schools, Hartshorn Memorial College and Virginia Union University, both historically black educational institutions in Richmond. After Hartshorn closed its doors in 1930, Jackson attended Virginia Union University. In 1934, she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Virginia Union University and also took a few other classes at Smith College in Massachusetts. In 1935 she applied for admission to the all white University of Virginia graduate school She was the first known African American to try to be admitted into a graduate or professional school in ...

Article

Frances Smith Foster

scholar, teacher, editor, and author, was born Nellie Yvonne Reynolds in New York City, the daughter of Harry, a taxi driver, and Nellie Reynolds, a homemaker. Graduating cum laude from Queens College in 1969 with a BA in English, McKay was accepted into the PhD program at Harvard University for British and American Literature.

McKay was part of the first cohort of African American graduate students determined to include the literatures, histories, and religions of African Americans in their research and study. However, McKay often reminisced about Harvard not having any black literature class and how her graduate colleagues taught one another. Not only did they have to teach one another but they also had to create their own bibliographies and share the few extant copies of the books. McKay dedicated her life to filling this void.

In 1973 she began teaching at ...

Article

Mildred T. Nichols

university professor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the last of seven children born to Charles F. Nichols and Julia E. King, who were Plymouth Church of the Brethren missionary immigrants from Christ Church, Barbados. Reared in a tradition of rigorous and Calvinistic Bible study, his gift for learning became obvious during childhood. His father, anticipating future job discrimination, enrolled him in a vocational school to learn the printing trade. Soon after, he was accepted at the prestigious Boys High School, where he excelled and was the salutatorian of the 1938 class. Nichols attended Brooklyn College on a State of New York university scholarship and a Rachel Herstein scholarship administered by the NAACP. He was a member of the debate team and the glee club, and graduated cum laude in 1942 with a BA in English.

Except for unskilled jobs in the garment district Nichols was unable to ...

Article

Michael Adams

educator, literary critic, and biographer, was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to Jerome Rampersad, a journalist, and Evelyn De Souza Rampersad, a telephone operator at the American naval base. His parents divorced shortly after his birth, and the boy was shuffled between relatives until he began living with his father as a teenager.

Young Rampersad became interested in literature after a neighbor loaned him F. Scott Fitzgerald'sThe Great Gatsby and Thomas Wolfe'sLook Homeward, Angel. Wolfe's novel was a particular revelation, speaking to Rampersad's sense of being a misunderstood outsider in his community. While in high school Rampersad joined the Little Carib Theater workshop of the poet-playwright Derek Walcott, the future Nobel laureate, acting in Shakespearean plays and other productions.

After high school Rampersad did not consider higher education because he could not afford it He continued acting taught high school English geography ...

Article

Amani Morrison

to Jessie Rowell, a gardener and storyteller, and Hosea Rowell, a farmer two generations removed from slavery. At an early age Rowell identified with his mother’s spirit of freedom and love of beauty as opposed to his father’s desire for land ownership and material gain.

Rowell lived and was educated in the segregated schools of Alabama before earning his degree in English from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, also segregated, in 1961. He completed his Master of Arts degree in English at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1962, after which he taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. In 1964 Rowell began pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Ohio State University, which he completed in 1972 after teaching at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena, Mississippi and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he worked until 1977. In 1976 just before leaving Southern ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Publisher and Professor of Commonwealth Literature. Ceaselessly energetic in her organizational and publishing activities, Australian‐born Anna Rutherford was revered in Commonwealth academic circles for her efforts to establish the study of post‐colonial literature in Europe.

For 28 years, from 1968 to 1996, Rutherford directed the Commonwealth Literature Centre at the University of Aarhus, organizing symposiums, seminars, and readings involving leading British‐based black scholars and writers such as Wilson Harris, Sam Selvon, Buchi Emecheta, and Shiva Naipaul. She introduced African and West Indian courses and, in 1971, organized the first European conference on the Commonwealth novel, a project involving many future British professors including Louis James (Kent) and Paul Edwards (Edinburgh), who went on, in their own universities, to promote the research that gave the discipline of Commonwealth literature intellectual respectability.

Rutherford was the first woman chair of the Association of ...

Article

Greta Koehler

professor of English and African American studies, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, to Harold N. Tate, an engineer, and Mary Austin Tate, a mathematician. Her parents received their degrees from North Carolina Central University in Durham. During World War II they came to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where her father served as an engineer in the army and her mother worked for the U.S. Department of Defense. Tate was an honor student at Rumson–Fair Haven Regional High School in New Jersey and received her bachelor's degree in English and American Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1968.

Tate subsequently entered the graduate program in Harvard's English Department, where she was one of only a few black women. She received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language in 1977 Tate started teaching at Howard University in Washington DC and joined ...

Article

Charles Boewe

university professor, was born Kenny Jackson in Omaha, Nebraska, the only child of the Reverend Joseph Harrison Jackson and Maude Thelma (Alexander) Jackson. Kenny's father was a distinguished pulpit orator and well-regarded writer who traveled widely, especially after he became head of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., in 1953, and had responsibility for its eight million members. Although Maude Jackson often accompanied her husband on his trips, he had to be in Kentucky while she stayed in Nebraska for the birth of their baby, a fact commemorated in their daughter's unusual first name. The family moved to Chicago in 1941 when Kenny s father became pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church there In Chicago her father s well stocked library and her mother s work with amateur dramatic groups helped prepare Kenny for the intellectual life she would pursue Although she was not born there Chicago ...