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Jessica Falconi

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and political activist, was born Mário de Carvalho Moutinho in Lisbon on 29 September 1932. Portuguese by birth and Angolan by nationality, Henrique Abranches also used the pseudonyms “Mwene Kalungo” and “Mwene Kalungo-Lungo.” In 1947 he and his family left Portugal to settle in Luanda, where he attended the Liceu Salvador Correia, a pioneering institution of secondary education in Angola whose students included several names that were later important in Angolan literature. After five years in Luanda, Abranches moved to the city of Sá de Bandeira (now Lubango) in the Huíla Plateau in southern Angola, where he became interested in the customs and traditions of the people of the region. He returned briefly to Portugal, where he finished secondary school and attended the Society of Fine Arts. He returned to Lubango on his own and began working for the Bank of Angola. In 1952 he ...

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Angie Colón Mendinueta

was born on 8 November 1908 in San Casimiro, in the state of Aragua, Republic of Venezuela. He was the son of Miguel Acosta Delgado, a native of Maturín in the state of Mongas, and Adela Saignes Roulac, from the village of Saignes Roulac, of French origin. From childhood onward, Miguel received a good education, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1927. After graduation, he became a teacher in the Colegio San Pablo de Caracas (San Pablo de Caracas High School), where he had formerly been a student, and the vice principal of the Zamora School (also in Caracas).

In 1928 Acosta began medical school at the Universidad Central de Venezuela That same year along with several of his classmates he was arrested and taken to prison for his participation in student protests against the regime of the military dictator Juan Vicente Gómez They were taken to ...

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Andrea A. Davis

was born on 20 April 1940 in the rural Jamaican village of Woodside, St. Mary. Her parents, Ernest Brodber, a farmer, and Lucy Brodber, a teacher, provided important models for her later development as a scholar and academic firmly rooted in the values of community. Brodber credits her maternal grandmother, Eva Harris, however, as her most important early influence. Harris raised seven children on her own after her husband died, earning a living as a cane farmer and using the sugar produced from her farm to make baked goods for sale. An entrepreneur before her time, she was the symbol of black women’s strength and creativity that Brodber later came to value and embody. Brodber attended Excelsior High School in Jamaica and earned a B.A. in history, with honors, from the University College of the West Indies in 1963, and an M.Sc. in sociology (1968 and Ph ...

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Roanne Edwards

Lydia Cabrera, along with Fernando Ortiz, is widely considered one of the two most important twentieth century researchers and writers on Afro-Cuban culture. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of investigative work on the subject, including her pioneering El monte (1954), subtitled “Notes on the Religion, the Magic, the Superstitions and the Folklore of Creole Negroes and the Cuban People,” and Reglas de congo (1980), a book on Bantu (known as congo in Cuba) rituals. According to Ana María Simo, author of Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait, Cabrera's “is the most important and complete body of work on Afro-Cuban religions” of its time. Cabrera also wrote four volumes of short stories inspired by Afro-Cuban legends and beliefs. Her fiction is rich in metaphor and symbolism and has been compared stylistically with the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca ...

Article

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker, was born in Santarém, Portugal, on 22 April 1941. His family immigrated to Angola in 1953, to the city of Moçamedes, where he spent part of his adolescence. He then returned to Portugal, where in 1960 he finished a course in agronomy. During these Portuguese years, he kept himself at a distance from the group of young nationalist students from the colonies, who tended to congregate around the Casa dos Estudantes do Império in Lisbon, to discuss and denounce the iniquity of the Portuguese colonial system.

Carvalho returned to Angola in 1960. He was living in the province of Uìge when, in 1961, the anticolonial activity of the Movimento Popular para la Libertação de Angola (MPLA) began, which would lead to Angola eventually achieving independence in 1975 In those years Ruy Duarte de Carvalho worked as a coffee grower and ...

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Paulette A. Ramsay

was born in the predominantly black province of Esmeraldas, but lived most of her life in Quito, along with her husband, the distinguished Afro-Ecuadorian writer Nelson Estupiñan Bass (1912–2002). During the 1900s and early 2000s, the two traveled extensively throughout the United States promoting their literary works as well as the history and culture of Afro-derived people of Esmeraldas. Chiriboga is highly esteemed for her research on Ecuadorian people of African descent and for her involvement in the women’s movement in Ecuador. Regarded as the most prolific and important black woman writer in Ecuador, her published works include both fiction and nonfiction.

Chiriboga studied biology at the Universidad Central in Quito but later developed a deep love for anthropology and this interest facilitated her research into her African derived heritage in particular the Afro Ecuadorian oral tradition Chiriboga has thus explained her commitment to unearthing important cultural information ...

Article

Marilyn Demarest Button

educator, administrator, writer, and activist, was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Thomas Cornelius Cuthbert and Victoria Means. She attended grammar and secondary school in her hometown and studied at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Boston University, where she completed her BA in 1920.

Following her graduation, Cuthbert moved to Florence, Alabama, and became an English teacher and assistant principal at Burrell Normal School. Promoted to principal in 1925, she began to lead students and faculty in bold new perspectives on gender equality and interracial harmony.

In 1927 Cuthbert left Burrell to become one of the first deans of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. In her essay, “The Dean of Women at Work,” published in the Journal of the National Association of College Women (Apr. 1928 she articulated her belief that covert sexism at the administrative level of black colleges limited their ...

Article

Carol Baker Sapora

anthropologist, writer, and educator, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the daughter of Georgia Fagain and Moses Stewart. Day was of African American, Indian, and European descent. The Stewart family lived several years in Boston, Massachusetts, where Caroline attended public schools. After her father's death, Caroline and her mother moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, where Georgia Stewart taught school and married John Percy Bond, a life insurance executive. The couple had two children, and Caroline adopted Bond's name. She attended Tuskegee Institute and in 1912 earned a bachelor of arts degree from Atlanta University. She taught English at Alabama State College in Montgomery for a year and then worked for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Montclair, New Jersey. In 1916 she began studying English and classical literature at Radcliffe College of Harvard University, earning a second bachelor's degree in 1919 At Radcliffe she impressed her anthropology professor ...

Article

Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...

Article

Dawne Y. Curry

In 1923, Cheikh Anta Diop one of the most famous theoreticians of the twentieth century was born in a small village in the West African country of Senegal As an anthropologist historian Egyptologist politician and author Diop devoted his scholarly life to understanding human evolution Diop believed that humankind originated in Egypt and he devoted his life to proving this hypothesis This idea was unthinkable at the time Widely held beliefs about European influence and contributions to society included racist stereotypes that colored perceptions of Africa s genesis Diop who matured during an age of European imperialism African independence movements and neo colonialism never wavered in his commitment to African people His articles and many books reflect this profound devotion In fact Diop s greatest contribution to scholarly endeavors lies in his tireless search for physiological and genetic evidence to support his thesis Using mummies bone measurements and ...

Article

Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Nellie Y. McKay

Born in Notasulga, Alabama, Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, where her father was three-term mayor of that first all-black incorporated town. Her mother's death in 1904 ended her stable family life. While a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (1918–1924), she published her first stories. In New York City by 1925, among the Harlem Renaissance writers, she produced prize-winning stories and studied at Barnard College with the anthropologist Franz Boas One of the few Harlem writers of the period born in the South she genuinely loved and appreciated black rural people and culture especially oral culture In the late 1920s and 1930s she returned to the region and went to Haiti and Jamaica as well to study and collect black music folklore poetry and other facets of black culture Best known for the skillful blending of anthropology and literature in her four ...

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Susan Butterworth

The oral tradition of southern black folklore was an art and a skill handed down from Africa, preserved through slavery, and still thriving in the early years of the twentieth century, when Zora Neale Hurston came of age. The tradition was preserved through generations of rural southern culture and began to decline when the black workers left the agricultural South for the cities of the North. Zora Neale Hurston was singularly placed to record this material as folklore and to transform it to art through fiction. Zora Hurston's place and date of birth are obscured by the selective secrecy and mythology that veiled her personal life. Hurston wanted her contemporaries to believe that she was born 7 January 1901 in Eatonville, Florida. Birth records revealed years later, however, that she was born in 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama.

Article

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

Despite Zora Neale Hurston’s ambivalent association with the New Negro movement and the fact that her first novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), was published at the denouement of the Harlem Renaissance, she remains the most well-known novelist of the era. An extremely prolific author, she published in nearly every genre. Her repertoire includes four novels, an autobiography/memoir, two ethnographies, a play, and numerous short stories. Her unapologetic centering of black folk culture within her writing, her distinctive trickster-like persona, and her unrelenting exploration of gender, class, poverty alongside the color line, not to mention a rare gift for storytelling and narrative, make her one of the most influential and visionary writers of the twentieth century.

Shortly after her arrival in New York in 1925, her short story “Spunk” appeared in Alain Locke’s era-defining anthology The New Negro and she won two other writing awards ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

writer and anthropologist, was born Zora Lee Hurston in Notasulga, Alabama, the daughter of John Hurston, a Baptist minister and carpenter, and Lucy Ann Potts. John Hurston's family were Alabama tenant farmers until he moved to Eatonville, Florida, the first African American town incorporated in the United States. He served three terms as its mayor and is said to have written Eatonville's ordinances. Zora Neale Hurston studied at its Hungerford School, where followers of Booker T. Washington taught both elementary academic skills and self-reliance. Growing up in an exclusively black community gave her a unique background that informed and inspired much of her later work.Much of the chronological detail of Hurston's early life is obscured by the fact that she later claimed birth dates that varied from 1898 to 1903. Most often she cited 1901 as her birth year, but the census of 1900 lists ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

This quotation from her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928 portrays Zora Neale Hurston s joyfully contrary view of herself in a world where being black was often perceived as a problem and portrayed that way even by black writers Hurston considered her own blackness a gift and an opportunity As an anthropologist and writer she savored the richness of black culture and made a career out of writing about that culture in ...

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Cheryl A. Wall

In February 1927, Zora Neale Hurston left New York City aboard a southbound train. Her destination was Eatonville, Florida, her hometown, where she began collecting folktales, spirituals, sermons, work songs, blues, and children's games. To Hurston this frequently disparaged folklore was priceless; it constituted the “arts of the people before they find out that there is any such thing as art.” At a time when the Great Migration, the movement that brought blacks by the hundreds of thousands from the rural South to the urban North, seemed a sign of racial progress, as did the poetry and fiction of the burgeoning Harlem Renaissance, Hurston moved against the tide. Crisscrossing Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana, Hurston spent the next six years documenting the art of “the Negro farthest down,” who, she contended, had made the greatest contribution to American culture.

Her years in the field culminated with the 1935 publication ...

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Tiffany Ruby Patterson

Born in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston, a minister, and Lucy Potts Hurston. In her autobiography, Hurston described her childhood as a safe and secure world where her imagination was unencumbered by the restrictions of race or gender and where she had the opportunity to develop her own individuality. This idyllic childhood was shattered by the death of her mother around 1904 and the disintegration of her family. Hurston’s father sent her off to boarding school, and her sisters and brothers scattered into marriages, schools, and journeys of their own. Her father’s remarriage several months after her mother’s death catapulted Hurston out of the safe world of Eatonville.

Article

OluwaTosin Adegbola

novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Some records list Baltimore, Maryland, as Hurston's birthplace, others Notasulga, Alabama, and still others Eatonville, Florida (the setting of many of her writings). What is agreed upon in various accounts is that her roots are in Notasulga by way of her parents, her upbringing was in Eatonville, and her college education and some of her life was spent in Baltimore. Like her place of birth, there are also various biographical accounts of Hurston's date of birth; she herself variously used 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1903. As a point of record however, the 1900 Census proves her birth year as 1891. The fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Potts Hurston she moved with her family to Eatonville when she was three years old Eatonville was the first incorporated black community in the United States ...