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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

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

was born on 12 August 1945, into a large family in Chocó, a department located on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Carlos inherited his passion for writing and literature from his father, Pedro Adán Caicedo, a well-known judge in Quibdó (the capital of Chocó). From childhood, his mother, María Licona Benítez, instilled in him a great sense of belonging and identification with his region. Among his many virtues and talents, Caicedo is best known as an outstanding writer whose emblematic works are a national treasure, telling the story of an interesting and unique culture.

Caicedo began his academic training at the Escuela Normal Superior de Quibdó, where he completed his elementary studies. He graduated from the Normal Guillermo León Valencia high school in Montería (in the department of Córdoba) in 1965 Later he enrolled in the Universidad Libre de Colombia Free University of Colombia where he successfully completed his bachelor ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

was a major poet and scholar of the third century BCE. He was born at the end of the previous century in Kyrene (also Cyrene), the important Greek city on the coast of Africa west of Egypt in present-day Libya. He was of distinguished background: his homonymous grandfather was a member of the ruling elite of the city. The younger Callimachus immigrated to Alexandria in Egypt at an early age and became an intimate at the court of Ptolemaios II (who came to the throne in early 282 BCE). Callimachus was part of the developing intellectual presence around the Ptolemies, which at that time included the mathematician Euclid and the poets Theokritos and Apollonios of Rhodes. He was especially close to the queen, Arsinoë II, and wrote her eulogy.

When Arsinoë died around 270 BCE Callimachus may have fallen out of favor since little is known about him for ...

Article

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

Ernest Cole

Sierra Leonean journalist, poet, and literary scholar, was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He studied at the universities of Oregon and Wisconsin before returning to Sierra Leone where he worked as a journalist. He taught at the universities of Maiduguri in Nigeria and the University of the Philippines but later returned to Sierra Leone and continued his work as a journalist and editor of the radical newspaper The Vanguard. Cheney-Coker has published three books of poetry: Concerto for an Exile in 1973, The Graveyard Also Has Teeth in 1980, and The Blood in the Desert’s Eyes in 1990. He also published a novel, The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, in 1990 which won the African Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 1991.

The poetry of Syl Cheney Coker falls within the period of modern writing in Sierra Leone The influence of modern poets like W B Yeats ...

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

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

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

Reinhard Klein-Arendt

From the beginning of his career, Leo Viktor Frobenius (1873–1938), one of Germany’s most reknowned ethnologists and ethnographists, was an autodidact: there is no information that he ever studied, and he never held an academic degree such as an MA or PhD; he even did not graduate from high school and had no university entrance qualification. However, he submitted a doctoral thesis about secret societies in Africa to the University of Frankfurt—the thesis was rejected [the year not known—not in the records of the University]. Between 1904 and 1935, he was the leader of several large-scale expeditions to various regions in Africa and wrote abundantly as a freelance writer about his findings. In his books and articles, he coined a number of theories about the cultural history of Africa, some of them gaining much influence beyond German ethnology. In 1932 he became an honorary professor at ...

Article

Eugenio Fantusati

Roman writer and prefect in Egypt, was born in Fréjus, in present-day France, in 69 BCE. Before devoting himself to a political career, he showed significant literary talent. He belonged to the neoteric school— a poetic society inspired by the Alexandrine traditions—of Valerius Cato and Catullus and composed four books of elegies, now almost entirely lost, entitled Amores, in which he mourned over his unlucky love for the young girl Lycoris.

A personal friend of Augustus and Virgil Gallus received his first political appointment at the age of thirty eight when immediately after the Battle of Actium he was named to the position of praefectum fabrum supervisor of the corps of engineers in Cyrenaica There with the cooperation of Pinarius Scarpa the commander of Antony s forces in Libya he had ensured the obedience of the rebellious countries thereby depriving Antony of the possibility of mounting a defense in ...

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

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 ...

Article

poet, litterateur, and historian, was born in the Tunisian city of al-Qayrawan to a family of Arab origin. Ibn Sharaf received his education in the Islamic sciences at the hand of several North African luminaries of the eleventh century, including the eminent jurists Abu al-Hasan al-Qabisi (d. 1012) and Abu ‘Imran al-Fasi (d. 1039), who provided the young pupil with a thorough training in Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Sharaf also studied with Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Qazzaz (d. 1021–1022) in the fields of Arabic grammar and lexicography, and he was introduced to classical Arab literature by the poet and belle-lettrist Ibrahim al-Husri (d. 1022). It is likely that Ibn Sharaf received his initial exposure to Arab verse by studying the poetic selections found in the anthology al-Mumti‘ fi ‘ilm al-sh‘ir wa ‘amalih a work that served to initiate an entire ...

Article

jurist, historian, and litterateur, was born in the city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta) to an Arab family with origins in the Yemen. ‘Iyad's training in the various branches of Islamic learning was remarkably thorough. He undertook his early education in Sabta at the hand of several scholars, including the jurist ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Isa and the faqih ‘Ali Abu Ishaq al-Fasi. He then traveled to al-Andalus, and there exists notice that he studied there with no fewer than a hundred scholars, among them several leading figures of the age, including the traditionist Abu ‘Ali al-Sadafi of Murcia (d. 1120/21), the jurist Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd of Cordoba (d. 1126), and the religious scholar and jurist Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi of Seville (d. 1148).

Unlike many of his fellow North Africans it appears that Iyad never made the journey to ...

Article

Hans P. Hahn

The life of Janheinz Jahn was dedicated to the support and dissemination of African literature in German-speaking countries. He was a pioneer in that pursuit—to impart African literature—with restless engagement and consequence. After studying the history of arts and the Arabic language in the 1930s, he was a soldier during World War II and became a prisoner of war. After his release in 1946, he worked as a freelance writer and journalist. Throughout the rest of his life, he never had an academic position and made his living from publishing books.

In 1950 he met Leopold Senghor when the latter was in Frankfurt am Main at the invitation of the Institut Culturel Français This meeting and the conversations with Senghor left such deep and lasting impressions that a short time later Jahn himself started to give public lectures on African literature At the same time he initiated ...

Article

Kasereka Kavwahirehi

Congolese poet, novelist, and philosopher, was born Valentin-Yves Mudimbe on 8 December 1941 in the Belgian Congo, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was the eldest child of a skilled worker employed by the Union Minière, who dreamed his son would ascend to the managerial ranks of the same company. However, the dream quickly faded, for, early on, the son was rubbing shoulders with Benedictine monks and chose to follow in their footsteps. Hence, following his studies at a Catholic minor seminary (1952–1958), he entered the Benedictine monastery of Gihindamuyaga in Rwanda. But just like his father’s ambitions for him, Mudimbe’s childhood dream of joining the Benedictine order evaporated. In fact, gripped by the climate of social tensions and decomposition he was witnessing—the rebellion in Congo, the civil war, and the hypocritical attitude of the Church in Rwanda—he renounced monastic life and decided in 1961 in ...

Article

Dismas A. Masolo

Valentin Yves Mudimbe was born in 1941 in the then- Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was attracted to religious life as a young man and joined a Benedictine monastery to train for the priesthood before leaving to dedicate his life to understanding the forces that shaped—and prevented from developing strong indigenous roots—Africa’s own order of knowledge and self-management in history. He and his family left their native country to flee the dictatorship of President Mobutu in the early 1980s. He now teaches comparative literature at Duke University, having had stints at Haverford College and Stanford University. The universal acclaim of his The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge in 1988 made V Y Mudimbe an unrivaled universal authority in African humanities and social sciences The depth and breadth of Mudimbe s knowledge manifested in it is simply astounding Despite the ...