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Paul Hanson

Roger Abrahams is an interdisciplinary social scientist working in folklore, literature and anthropology, but equally engaged with sociology, sociolinguistics, and history. His research interests range from the cultural forms and practices of the African diaspora, American colonial history, and Appalachian folksong to North American display events and the role of African American Vernacular English in American education. Abrahams is best known, however, as a scholar of the African diaspora. Foundational to Abrahams’s success in such an expansive and comparative endeavor is his sustained reflexive intellectual development, his skill in vitalizing and building institutions and institutional bridges, and his dialectical thinking.

Abrahams was born on 12 June 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1955 he graduated with a BA in English from Swarthmore College. Abrahams went on to earn an MA in Literature and Folklore from Columbia University in 1959; and in 1961 he received his PhD in Literature and Folklore ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

pioneer in discrediting the racist concepts that characterized early twentieth-century anthropology and other social sciences. Franz Boas was born in Minden, Germany. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Kiel in 1881, but he soon shifted interest into the field of human geography. In 1883 he conducted his first fieldwork, among the Inuit people of Baffin Island. In 1887 he began research among the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. In 1899 he became the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University. When Boas began his anthropological work, anthropology was far from being a scientific field. It was infested with racist practitioners and amateurs. Boas held that too often people developed theories and then sought to gather information to prove their theories.

Article

Carlos Agudelo

was born on 20 February 1945 in Barranco, a community of Toledo District in southern Belize, to Eugenio P. Cayetano, a primary school teacher, and his wife, Manuela (Marin) Cayetano, a homemaker. Cayetano received his primary education at several schools, because his father, as a teacher, was posted in various communities across Belize, including St. Joseph Primary School in Barranco, Douglas Roman Catholic School in Rio Hondo of Orange Walk district, and San Miguel Roman Catholic School in San Miguel of Toledo district.

As his parents could not afford to send Roy to high school, he availed himself of the pupil–teacher system that existed in those days and became an apprentice teacher before ending up at the Belize Teachers’ College between 1965 and 1968. Cayetano then pursued advanced teacher training at the University of Leeds in England in 1969 and 1970 followed by an A B and M ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

educator and college president. Johnnetta Betsch was born in Jacksonville, Florida, into a middle-class family. A precocious learner, she entered Fisk University at the age of fifteen, transferred to Oberlin College the next year, and earned a degree in anthropology in 1957. Continuing her study of anthropology, she then attended Northwestern University, earning an MA in 1959 and a PhD in 1967. In 1960 Betsch married Robert Cole, a white economist whom she met at Northwestern; they had three sons and divorced in 1982. In 1988 she married Arthur J. Robinson Jr.

Cole held teaching positions at Washington State University, at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she remained for thirteen years, 1970 to 1983, both as a professor and later as an associate provost She also taught at Hunter College of the City University ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

anthropologist, educator, and college president, was born Johnnetta Betsch in Jacksonville, Florida, the second of three children to Mary Frances Lewis, an English teacher, and John Thomas Betsch Sr., an insurance executive. Johnnetta grew up in one of Florida's most prominent African American families; her great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, co-founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, Florida's first insurance company. An ambitious and civic-minded businessman, Lewis established several black institutions, including the colored branch of the public library, the Lincoln Golf and Country Club, and the seaside resort known as American Beach, the only beach allowing blacks in north Florida. Johnnetta's childhood was shaped by competing influences: her supportive family and community, and the racist attitudes and institutions of the Jim Crow South. Educated in segregated public and private schools, Johnnetta credits the influence of her teachers and her family friend Mary McLeod Bethune with encouraging her ...

Article

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Johnnetta Betsch Cole was the seventh president of Spelman College (1987-1997), the oldest college for black women in the United States. Under her leadership, Spelman became the first historically black college or university to receive top ratings by U.S. News & World Report and Money magazine. During her presidency she raised over $113 million in the Capital Campaign Fund, which was the largest sum ever raised by a historically black college or university. After leaving the Spelman presidency in 1997, she joined the faculty at Emory University, where she was professor of anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies for four years. She also has the distinction of being the only black woman to have been president of the only two historically black colleges for women. In July 2002 she was appointed president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, becoming its fourteenth president.

Cole ...

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

William Allison Davis was born October 14, 1902, in Washington, D.C., to John Abraham Davis, a government employee, and Gabrielle Dorothy Beale Davis, a homemaker. As a child, Davis was exposed to an array of intellectual and cultural interests, including the works of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and other writers. Davis attended M-Street High School (later renamed Dunbar High School), which was known for its talented faculty and rigorous curriculum.

Davis received his B.A. degree in 1924 from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was named class valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude, and earned membership in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After graduation he applied for a teaching assistantship at Williams, but he was denied the position. Undaunted, Davis applied for admittance to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard accepted him, and in 1925 he received his M.A. degree in English.

Davis then ...

Article

Jayne R. Beilke

social anthropologist, psychologist, and educator, was born William Allison Davis in Washington, D.C., the son of John Abraham Davis, a federal employee, and Gabrielle Dorothy Beale, a homemaker. His younger brother John Aubrey Davis became a civil rights activist and educator. He also had a sister, Dorothy. Davis enrolled at Williams College in Massachusetts, where segregationist policies prevented him from living on campus. He earned a BA in English and was the valedictorian of the class of 1924. From 1925 to 1932 he taught English literature at Hampton Institute, an historically black school in Virginia. One of his students at Hampton was the sociologist St. Clair Drake Jr., who later collaborated with Davis and Gunnar Mydal on The Negro Church and Associations in the Lower South: Research Memorandum [and] The Negro Church and Associations in Chicago (1940).

Davis earned an MA ...

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

Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall

anthropologist, educator, sociologist, was born Ellen Irene Diggs in Monmouth, Illinois, to Henry Charles Diggs and Alice Scott. Her working-class parents lived in a community of about ten thousand, about two hundred of whom were black. They supported their precocious child, one of five, who read voraciously and achieved the highest grade average in her school. Recognizing her ability, the Monmouth Chamber of Commerce awarded her a scholarship to attend Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. In 1924 she transferred to the University of Minnesota, which offered a far larger number of courses, where she majored in sociology and minored in psychology. She received an AB degree in 1928 and then attended Atlanta University, a premier institution for the education of African Americans founded in 1865 and located in Atlanta, Georgia. The institution began to offer graduate degrees in 1929 and in 1933 under the direction ...

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Frank A. Salamone

anthropologist, was born in Syracuse, New York, to Huldah Hortense Dabney, a schoolteacher, and James Lowell Gibbs Sr., executive director of a community center. He attended public primary and secondary schools in Ithaca, New York. He continued his education in Ithaca, receiving a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Cornell University in 1952. During the 1953–1954 school term he attended the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, where he was enrolled under the faculty of archaeology and anthropology. In addition Gibbs received a number of other graduate fellowships and honors, including a National Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. From 1956 to 1958 he was a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training Fellow, and in 1958–1959 he was a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow. Gibbs received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1961 His dissertation Some Judicial Implications of Marital Instability among the Kpelle examined a West ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, educator, author, and wood sculptor, was born in Orange, New Jersey, to Stanley and Mabel Harper Gwaltney and into a thriving, extended family environment that also included his brother, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Gwaltney became blind by the age of two months. His mother taught him the alphabet and the names of animals with homemade cardboard shapes, encouraged him to play the piano, and gave him pieces of wood to carve as he saw fit. Throughout his life, Gwaltney carved “ritually inspired” wood sculptures, taking as his role model his great uncle Julius in Virginia. This relative was known locally for his ritual wood carving in “the tradition of the Old Time Religion … the translation into wood sculpture … of that Core Black theology … a largely undocumented and clandestine art” (Freeman, p. 70). Concerned about John's need for formal education, Mabel Gwaltney ...

Article

Thomas E. Carney

cultural anthropologist. Melville Jean Herskovits was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio, the son of Herman and Henrietta Hart Herskovits, Jewish immigrants from Europe. Originally he intended to pursue a career in religion and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and Hebrew Union College. In 1917, World War I interrupted his education, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Upon his return from the service, he went to the University of Chicago, where he received his BA in history in 1920. He then changed his focus for his graduate studies: he studied anthropology at Columbia University, receiving his MA in 1921 and his PhD in 1923. He began his teaching career at Howard University, where he taught from 1925 to 1927; in 1927 he married Frances S. Shapiro, who died in 1972 Then Herskovits moved to Northwestern University for the remainder of his ...

Article

Jerry Gershenhorn

From the 1920s to the 1960s, American anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits confronted questions about race and culture in innovative and groundbreaking ways, undermined hierarchical ways of thinking about humanity, and underscored the value of human diversity. His research in West Africa, the West Indies, and South America documented the far-reaching influence of African cultures in the Americas and showcased the vibrancy of African American cultures. After World War II, he played a key role in the development of African Studies programs in the United States, founding the first major interdisciplinary program in African studies at an American university, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Born in 1895 in Bellefontaine Ohio to Jewish immigrant parents his father from Hungary and his mother from Germany Herskovits grew up in an assimilated middle class Jewish family He was faced with questions about his identity and his place in American society foreshadowing ...

Article

Chris Saunders

South African anthropologist, teacher, educational administrator, and politician, was born near Kimberley in 1901 of Tswana Christian parents. He was educated at the United Mission School in Kimberley and then in the Eastern Cape at Lovedale Missionary Institution and the University College of Fort Hare, where he met his future wife, Frieda Bokwe, daughter of one of the most distinguished Africans of his generation, the Reverend John Knox Bokwe. Matthews taught in Natal at Adams College and there earned a law degree through private study with the University of South Africa. He won a Phelps-Stokes scholarship to go to Yale University, where he completed a master’s thesis in 1934 on Bantu Law and Western Civilization in South Africa A Study in the Clash of Cultures In this he criticized indirect rule and implicitly the racial segregation system in South Africa He turned down the idea of studying for a ...

Article

Raimundo Nina Rodrigues was born in Vargem Grande, Maranhão, Brazil. Trained as a medical doctor, he graduated from the medical school of Bahia. He was also interested in the study of anthropology, sociology, and criminology. He became a professor of general pathology and forensic medicine at the medical school in the early 1890s and was a pioneer in Afro-Brazilian ethnology and forensic medicine. Rodrigues founded the Forensic Medicine magazine and was a member of the Forensic Medicine Society of New York and of the Société de Medico-Psychologique de Paris.

Rodrigues identified two distinct African “cults,” which he termed the Iorubanos and the Malês. He devoted most of his attention to the Iorubano cults, which he felt were more strongly influenced by Catholicism. These originated from the CandombléGêgê-Nagô, whereas the Malês were thought to be more associated with Islam.

Among his most important works were O ...

Article

Rochell Isaac

writer, educator, cultural activist, and publisher. Ishmael Scott was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Henry Lenoir, a fund-raiser for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and Thelma Coleman, a department store salesperson. Thelma Coleman later married Bennie Reed, an automobile factory worker, and he gave Ishmael his surname. The family moved to Buffalo, New York, in 1942, and Reed attended Buffalo Technical High School from 1952 to 1954 and graduated from East High School in 1956.

Reed had begun composing stories in the second grade, and by age fourteen he had started contributing a regular jazz column to a local black newspaper, the Empire Star Weekly. Reed studied briefly at Millard Fillmore College in Buffalo and then transferred to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he majored in American studies, but by 1960 he was forced ...

Article

Lynn Orilla Scott

Among contemporary African-American writers, Ishmael Reed is one of the most innovative, prolific, and controversial. To date he has published nine novels, five collections of poems, four collections of essays, and four plays. He has also authored three television productions, an opera, and a “gospera.” Some of his poetry has been set to music and produced on record. A sampling of his fiction, poetry, and essays has been collected in The Reed Reader (2000). As a teacher, a cultural activist, and especially an editor and publisher, Reed has been an advocate of multiculturalism in American literature since the early 1970s. His experimental work, which draws from myth, history, popular culture, and African-American oral culture, can be classified as “populist postmodernist.” The most characteristic attribute of his work is its aggressive, provocative, and sometimes outrageous humor.

Article

Robert Elliot Fox

Ishmael Reed is one of the most original and controversial figures in the field of African American letters.

Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on 22 February 1938, but he grew up in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from high school in 1956, he enrolled as a night student at Millard Fillmore College but transferred to the University of Buffalo as a day student with the assistance of an English teacher who was impressed with a story Reed had written. For financial reasons, however, Reed eventually withdrew without taking a degree. He remained in Buffalo for some time, working as a correspondent for the Empire Star Weekly, a black community newspaper, and serving as cohost of a local radio program that was canceled after Reed conducted an interview with Malcolm X.

Moving to New York City in 1962 Reed served as editor of a Newark ...