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Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.

Bontemps then moved to New York’s Harlem, where the “Harlem Renaissance” had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and the Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator In Harlem Bontemps also ...

Article

David L. Dudley

Claude Brown was born in New York City on 23 February 1937 to Henry Lee and Ossie Brock Brown, South Carolinians who had come north in 1935 looking for economic opportunities unavailable in the South. Growing up in Harlem involved Claude Brown in crime and violence early in his life. By the time he was ten, he had joined the stealing division of a notorious street gang and had a history of truancy and expulsion from school. At eleven, Brown was sent to the Wiltwyck school for delinquent boys, where he came under the supervision of Dr. Ernest Papanek, whose positive influence in his life Brown would later acknowledge.

Back on the streets after two years at Wiltwyck at age thirteen Brown was shot during an attempted robbery A year later he was sent to the Warwick school for boys where he completed three terms before his final ...

Article

Claude Brown was born in New York City, the son of Ossie Brock Brown, a domestic worker, and Henry Lee, a railroad worker. In 1963 Brown began writing Manchild in the Promised Land; it was published in 1965. The book tells of his troubled childhood in Harlem, New York, where he ran with a gang and was in and out of reform schools.

Brown abandoned street life, resumed his education, and was awarded a grant to study government at Howard University. He graduated from Howard in 1965, studied law at Stanford University, and then studied at Rutgers University, which he left in 1968 without a degree. In 1976 he published The Children of Ham about struggling young blacks in Harlem Brown was working on a third book about the traumatic impact of violence on the young when he died of lung ...

Article

Michelle Gueraldi

Florestan Fernandes strongly influenced the study of race relations in Brazil by documenting the importance of race in Brazilian society and the existence of racial discrimination. He was one of a group of social scientists who challenged the Brazilian myth of racial democracy, which held that racism was not a significant factor in Brazilian society. Fernandes criticized what he termed the Brazilian “prejudice of having no prejudice.” Together with other Brazilian and foreign social scientists, partly inspired and funded by the UNESCO Race Relations Project of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, Fernandes revolutionized the study of race. According to fellow social scientist Carlos Hasenbalg, Fernandes “substantiated the significance of racism and racial discrimination in industrial and capitalist Brazil, but saw them as an archaic survival from the seigniorial, pre-capitalist and pre-industrial past.”

Fernandes was born in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, in 1920 His ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Gilberto Freyre was born into an upper-class family in Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco. The son of a law professor, he was educated in his hometown, Recife, and studied social and political sciences at Baylor University in Texas and Columbia University in New York. At Columbia, Freyre was influenced by the pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas, who led the academic challenge against theories of racial determinism. After a brief imprisonment in 1930 on federal charges that he was “a leftist agitator,” Freyre traveled to Portugal and then back to the United States, where he taught a course on the development of Brazilian society at Stanford University. This led to his most famous book, Casa grande e senzala, published in 1933 (The Masters and the Slaves, 1946). In 1934 he helped organize the Primeiro Congresso Afro-Brasileiro First Afro Brazilian Congress in Recife A political conservative Freyre served ...

Article

John Maddox

was born to Ivan Gonçalves, an industrialist, and Hélia Iza da Silva Gonçalves, a seamstress, on 13 November 1970 in Ibiá, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The family moved to Porto Ferreira, São Paulo, in 1980, and she graduated with a degree in advertising from the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado in 1992. Her first short story was published alongside Portuguese writers in As segundas palavras da tribo (The Second Words of the Tribe, 2002). Her first novel Ao lado e à margem do que sentes por mim (Beside and at the Edge of What You Feel for Me, 2002) was written at the same time as the groundbreaking Um defeito de cor (A Color Defect, 2006).

Um defeito de cor is an epistolary novel narrated by a nineteenth century Dahomeyan woman who is enslaved taken to Brazil and manumitted She returns to Africa before learning as ...

Article

Pero Gaglo Dagbovie

A scholar of national renown, Darlene Clark Hine has published pathbreaking scholarship; introduced and developed new and existing fields of scholarly inquiries; provided leadership for various groups of scholars; and mentored and trained several generations of historians. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians (2001-2002) and the Southern Historical Association (2002-2003). During her productive, decades-long career as a professional historian, Hine has taught at eight different universities, published several books, cowritten and coedited a dozen scholarly volumes, edited three major works, written more than fifty journal articles and chapters in anthologies, presented more than sixty papers in professional venues, lectured at universities all over the United States, and served on countless programming, advisory, and nominating committees and editorial boards. Since the mid-1980s, Hine has received numerous grants, awards, and honors, including honorary doctorates from Purdue University and Buffalo State College, the Detroit News ...

Article

Octávio Ianni was born in a small town, Itú, São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil. He was one of Brazil's most prestigious social scientists, expanding his work to the fields of sociology, anthropology, and economics. He completed his doctorate at the University of São Paulo (USP), where he also taught. He was also a visiting professor at several foreign universities, such as Columbia (United States), Oxford (England), Complutense (Spain), and UNAM (Mexico). He also taught at the Catholic University and at UNICAMP in Brazil. During the period of military dictatorship (1964–1985), Ianni was forcibly retired from teaching at USP for about ten years; the government considered racial studies to be subversive. According to Pierre-Michel Fontaine's Race, Class and Power in Brazil, Ianni “emphasized the adaptation of racism, having been engendered by the system of slavery, to the structural characteristics of capitalism.”

Some of Ianni s most ...

Article

Yvette Walker

poet, essayist, critic, publisher, and educator. Don L. Lee was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was raised in Detroit by his mother, Maxine Lee, who died of a drug overdose when he was sixteen years old. He has attributed his early race consciousness and self-awareness to his upbringing by his mother and his time as an apprentice and curator at the DuSable Museum of African History in Chicago in 1963. Influenced by the poets Amiri Baraka and Gwendolyn Brooks, Don L. Lee emerged as a major literary artist of the 1960s. His formal education includes undergraduate studies at various universities in Chicago and graduate school at the University of Iowa. Lee took a Swahili name, Haki R. Madhubuti, in 1973.

Madhubuti is one of the defining artists of the Black Arts Movement a cultural phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s ...

Article

Joyce A. Joyce

Given the name Don L. Lee, Haki R. Madhubuti changed his name in 1973 as a result of the ideological influences of the Black Arts movement, of which he was a highly visible member. He was born 23 February 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1943 he and his parents migrated to Detroit, Michigan, where his father deserted the family before the birth of Madhubuti's sister. In order to cope with poverty and feed her two children, his mother worked as a janitor and a barmaid, eventually becoming an alcoholic and a drug addict. When Madhubuti was sixteen, his mother died from a drug overdose.

This woman, Maxine Lee, was the prime mover behind the creative force that Haki R. Madhubuti has become. When Madhubuti was thirteen years old, his mother asked him to check out for her Richard Wright's Black Boy from the Detroit Public ...

Article

Ali A. Mazrui was born into the prominent Mazrui clan of Mombasa, which ruled the city during the eighteenth century. His father, Al’Amin Ali Mazrui, was chief Kadhi, Kenya's highest-ranking Islamic judge. After attending primary and secondary schools in Mombasa, he earned a B.A. from the University of Manchester in 1960. He earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1961 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1966.

While working on his dissertation, Mazrui began teaching political science in 1963 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Mazrui was named dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967, a position he held until 1973. An early favorite of Idi Amin, in 1971 Amin s first year in power Mazrui soon lost favor because of his outspokenness and was told to shut up or move out of Uganda ...

Article

Chouki El Hamel

Tunisian writer, novelist, and major contributor to colonial and postcolonial studies, was born in Tunis, Tunisia, to a Jewish family of modest means. His father earned a meager income as a saddler, which was barely sufficient to provide for a household of eight children. Identity politics, shaped by the dynamics of the intervention of a foreign political force in the form of the French colonizing occupation, created a radical shift among autochthonous diverse groups. Although Jews were a minority in Tunisia, under Islamic rule they were granted a special status called dhimmi because they were considered “People of the Book.” This status allowed Jews to hold land, practice their religion, and maintain their cultural distinctness in exchange for poll taxes paid to the Muslim state.

Memmi became aware of class ethnic status and colonial hierarchy at an early age when he mingled with socially and ethnically diverse children at a ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Albert Memmi was born to a poor Jewish family in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. His position as a non-Muslim gave him some privilege in what was then a French protectorate, and as a young man he was educated at an exclusive French secondary school. Yet as a Jew from the ghetto and as a Tunisian, he suffered his own indignities. After Germany occupied Tunisia in 1942, Memmi was interned as a Jew in a forced-labor camp. Memmi used his intermediate position between the dominated majority and the dominating minority to gain insight into the social structure of colonization. “I know the colonizer from the inside almost as well as I know the colonized,” he would later write, reflecting on his background as a North African Jew.

In his autobiographical first novel La statue de sel 1953 The Pillar of Salt Memmi embarked on a discussion ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

public television and public radio host, author, commercial radio commentator, book publisher, entrepreneur, and political and social activist. Tavis Smiley is one of the most prominent African American broadcasters of the early twenty-first century. Smiley made history when his book The Covenant with Black America, outlining the problems of and solutions for black social and economic ills, jumped to number one on the New York Times best-seller list in 2006.

Smiley came to national prominence in the 1990s through his role as host of BET Tonight, a weeknight talk show on the cable channel Black Entertainment Television, and through his commentaries on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, a morning drive-time entertainment program syndicated by ABC Radio and tailored to an African American audience. Smiley owns his own company, the Smiley Group, which produces both the half-hour weeknight television talk program the Tavis Smiley Show ...