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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 ...

Article

Florence M. Coleman

educator, literary scholar, and biographer of the English novelist Daniel Defoe, was one of five sons born to Helena Burch in Saint George's, Bermuda. Nothing is known of his father. Charles Burch was educated in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda. Burch met and married Willa Carter Mayer, who at one time served as a professor of education at Miner Teacher's College in Washington, D.C. She also served as a supervisory official of the public schools of the District of Columbia and authored Clinical Practices in Public School Education (1944). Whether or not they had children is not known.

Burch attended Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, from which he was awarded a BA in 1914. Four years later, he earned a MA from Columbia University. Fifteen years later in 1933 he was awarded a PhD in English from Ohio State University He taught ...

Article

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 ...

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

Daly Guilamo

was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on 25 February 1949. De Filippis’s grandmother, whom she refers to as Mama Beila and whose real name is Gabriela Menendez Henriquez, was a schoolteacher and avid book reader. She inspired her granddaughter to study Dominican poetry, which she began memorizing at the age of 7. Her exploration of Dominican poetry, beginning in her childhood, has been a lifelong endeavor, allowing her to cultivate her identity as a woman and a scholar. Such childhood activities later influenced De Filippis in her choice of discipline and eventual profession. De Filippis was bilingual by the age of 9, fluent in both Italian and Spanish. Her parents divorced when she was 4 years old.

In 1962 De Filippis left her homeland to settle with her parents in New York City, where she eventually graduated from high school. At the city’s Queens College, in 1975 ...

Article

Tiffany Adams

folklorist, writer, and educator, was born Daryl Cumber in Richmond, Virginia, the only child of Allen Whitfield Cumber, a proprietor of a restaurant and tavern, and Veronica Bell, a teacher. Raised in Charles City, Virginia, she earned her B.A. degree in English in 1957 from Virginia State College (now known as Virginia State University), a historically black institution located just outside of Richmond in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1958 she married Warren Dance and had three children, two sons and one daughter. She continued to pursue her English studies at Virginia State College and earned her M.A. in English there in 1963.

Dance taught at both Virginia Union and Armstrong High School of Richmond before earning her Ph.D. in English in 1971 at the University of Virginia which was by then an integrated institution Although Dance and her family had deep roots in Virginia ...

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

Marie Umeh

Nigerian poet, literary critic, scholar, biographer, performer, and journalist, was born on 31 March 1958 to Michael Ogbonnaya Ohaeto and Rebecca Nwego Ohaeto in Ife Ezinihitte, Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo state. According to Ernest Emenyonu, Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s hyphenated name means “child king” or “child destined to be king.”

His primary education began in 1971 at St. Augustine Grammar School in Nkwere. He completed his secondary school education, earning a Grade One Certificate, with distinction in the arts and sciences, in 1975. When he was growing up, he published poems in the school magazine, HIPO, and short stories in the local newspaper, The Daily Star. From 1971 to 1979 he attended the University of Nigeria Nsukka UNN where he majored in English and studied under the renowned novelist Chinua Achebe and the famous critic Donatus Nwoga He graduated with a BA with honors in English This achievement ...

Article

Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

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

Simon Gikandi

Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been the dominant figure in the study of African American literature and culture since the 1980s He has had a long and profound interest in Africa its history culture and institutions Through his writings documentaries and electronic publications he has been central in shaping debates about the continent in the American academy and public culture A prolific writer social commentator and builder of institutions Gates has influenced a range of debates on African and African American life from the meaning of blackness in the cultures of slavery the nature and form of the canon of black letters in the modern period and the relationship between the continent and its diaspora in Europe and the Americas Gates has done more than any other critic in the post civil rights era to bridge the gap between forms of knowledge that are produced in elite and exclusive ...

Article

Richard Newman

As a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and a frequent public speaker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., emerged as a national spokesperson on racial issues in the mid-1990s. He attempted to refocus the nation's public policy debate by emphasizing that both the black middle class and the black underclass had grown considerably since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. As he stated on “The Two Nations of Black America,” the program he wrote and hosted for Frontline (WGBH-TV, 1998), “The class divide within our community is black America's most urgent social problem.”

Gates was born in Keyser, West Virginia, the son of Pauline Coleman and Henry Louis Gates, Sr. He grew up in Piedmont a small town of about 2 000 people 10 percent of whom were black Gates s father worked as a laborer in the local paper mill and as a ...

Article

Kenneth W. Warren

Arguably the most influential black literary scholar of the 1980s, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who earned his PhD at Cambridge University, has been the recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the American Book Award. In his early textual scholarship, Gates achieved prominence by establishing Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) as the first novel published in the United States by an African American. At the same time, Gates, along with such other scholars as Robert Stepto and Dexter Fisher, who together coedited Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction (1979), were laying the groundwork for a critical approach to African American literature that sought to focus on its literariness, breaking with, as Gates argued, the social realist preoccupation of critics of previous generations.

Central to Gates s establishment of this intended break was first ...

Article

OluwaTosin Adegbola

critic, writer, educator, documentarian, and commentator. Told by a doctor when he was fourteen years old that his problem was that he was an overachiever, because he was a black boy who wanted to be doctor, Gates has spent a good deal of his lifework trying to dispel doubts about the intellectual capacities of African Americans. He has accomplished this by earning high scholarly achievements and becoming a strong voice for a multicultural approach to education.

Born and raised in West Virginia, Gates graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history from Yale University, then attended Clare College, Cambridge, in England on fellowships. There he was mentored by Wole Soyinka a Nigerian playwright and later a Nobel laureate who convinced Gates to study especially African American literature and its lineage from and similarities to the literary traditions of Africa and the Caribbean ...

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

Tina Steiner

writer and academic, was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, to parents of Yemeni and Kenyan origins. After he had finished high school, he left Zanzibar in 1968 with his brother to escape the turmoil of the takeover by Sheikh Abeid Karume in the aftermath of the 1964 Zanzibari uprising. In an article Gurnah recalls the consequences of the revolt in Zanzibar: “Thousands were slaughtered, whole communities were expelled and many hundreds imprisoned. In the shambles and persecutions that followed, a vindictive terror ruled our lives” (The Guardian2001, 2). The two brothers entered Britain on tourist visas but hoped to be able to support themselves in order to study in Britain.

The mood in Britain at that time was one of open hostility toward immigrants epitomized by Enoch Powell s infamous rivers of blood speech However Gurnah was able to enroll at London University where he proceeded to obtain ...

Article

Russell Hopley

literary theorist, poet, anthologist, was born in Masila in the region of Constantine, a city in present-day Algeria, to a family of Arab origin. Hasan al-Qayrawani al-Azdi al-Masili Ibn Rashiq displayed an early interest in Arabic literature, and following his primary education in Masila he was sent to al-Qayrawan in 1015/1016 to pursue his secondary studies. There he was able to study under some of the most eminent literary figures of eleventh-century Ifriqiya (present-day Tunisia), among them the grammarian Abu ʿAbd Allah al-Qazzaz, and the poets Ibrahim al-Husri, Abu Muhammad al-Khushani, and Abu Muhammad ʿAbd al-Karim al-Nahshali. This latter was, like Ibn Rashiq, a native of Masila, and his principal work, al-Mumtiʿ fi ʿilm al-shʿir wa ʿamalih, served as Ibn Rashiq’s introduction to classical Arabic poetry, as it did for an entire generation of North African poets.

An accomplished poet by the age of nineteen Ibn Rashiq became a ...