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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

Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese religious leader and politician, was born into a Kikongo-speaking family in the late 1940s. In 1969 while studying chemistry at the University of Lovanium in Kinshasa Zaire present day Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC Nsemi claimed he heard God speak to him He had decided to fast for a month to prepare himself for an encounter with spiritual forces in order to find a way to rescue people of African descent from oppression and misery God said to the young student In order to give a new revelation to Africa for a new time I sent the Kikongo speaking religious leader Simon Kimbangu However he did not finish his mission You are the one I choose to perfect Kimbangu s work because it has left the correct path The Kongo religion will be the soul of the Black African renaissance Nsemi who claimed to never have had ...

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

Darshell Silva

(also known as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West, Carlos Ashbie Hawk Westez, Ashbie Hawkins West, and Namo S. Hatirire) activist, linguist, storyteller, performer, and shaman, was born in Newport, Rhode Island. There are varying accounts of Red Thunder Cloud's parentage and upbringing. According to his own account, he was born Carlos Ashibie Hawk Westez. As a young boy, he was brought up among the Narragansett Indians of Rhode Island by his Catawba mother, Roberta Hawk Westez, and his Honduran father, Carlos Panchito Westez. He is believed to have lived among the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island in the late 1930s. His actual home during much of this time was said to be on the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina, but he traveled extensively, visiting many Indian groups. This account of his early life has been challenged by Smithsonian anthropologist and ethnologist Ives Goddard who claimed ...

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

Nicola Cooney

Solano Trindade was born in 1908 in Recife, a town in northeastern Brazil, the son of a mulatto cobbler and a mestizo (of indigenous and European descent) woman. His interest in folklore and popular arts was instilled at an early age, as he would routinely accompany his father to local folk dances and read aloud to his illiterate mother.

After some advanced schooling, Trindade became a Presbyterian deacon and began to write poetry. His early works were mystical writings, and his black poetry would evolve soon thereafter. In 1936 Trindade published his first book, Poemas Negros, and founded the Frente Negra Pernambucana (Black Front of Pernambuco) and the Centro Cultural Afro-Brasileiro (Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center). These groups united a group of contemporary black writers with a view to collecting and disseminating the work of fellow Afro-Brazilian poets and painters. In 1959 Trindade founded the Teatro Popular Brasileiro Brazilian ...

Article

Wanda F. Fernandopulle

Georgia to Lydia Elizabeth Howard Wright and to Richard Wright Sr., an educational advocate who progressed as a child born into slavery and challenged the status quo. Both parents attended Atlanta University. Richard Robert Wright Jr. attended and excelled academically at the Storrs School for children. Thereafter, Wright led a life committed to helping others and producing writings such as Encyclopedia of African Methodism, Mission Study Courses Nos. 1 and 2, The Negro in Pennsylvania, The Negro Problem: a Sociological Treatment, The Teachings of Jesus, Church Financing, Handbook of the A.M.E. Church, What the Negro Gives to his Church, and Wilberforce and Negro Migration to the North.

In 1892 where Richard Robert Wright Sr. served as president, young Richard Robert Wright Jr. enrolled in Georgia State College. In 1898 Wright graduated from Georgia State College and immediately entered the Seminary School at the University of Chicago Wright completed ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

exhorter, sociologist, banker, and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, the son of Richard Robert Wright Sr., an educator and banker, and Lydia Elizabeth Howard Wright. He had a brother, Emmanuel, and sisters, Edwina MaBelle, a schoolteacher, and Julia.

Wright attended public schools and the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, founded in 1886 by Lucy Craft Laney, often considered Georgia's most famous African American woman educator. In 1898 he was the first graduate of Georgia State Industrial College, where his father was the first president. After graduating with an A.B. degree, he served briefly as a paymaster's clerk in the Spanish-American War, began graduate study at the University of Chicago, and was licensed to preach by the AME church in 1899. In 1900 he was ordained an AME minister and worked as an enumerator for ...