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Article

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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 20 January 1908 in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, to Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, a medical doctor, and Pilar Beltrán Luchirí, the descendant of Ignacio María Luchichí, a well-known writer in the surrounding Papaloapan basin of southern Mexico. Though born into an elite family with no African ancestry, Aguirre Beltrán had a major impact on how we understand the African heritage of Mexico. In addition, he was interested in social issues, had an affinity for anarchism, and read scholars such as Georg Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City to continue his preparatory studies, and in 1927 he enrolled in medical school at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico). Having finished his thesis, “El metabolism basal en lasnefrosis” (Elemental Metabolism in Nephrosis), he graduated in 1931. He married Judith Avendaño, and they had five children.

After finishing medical school Aguirre ...

Article

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán was born and received his primary and secondary schooling in Veracruz, where there was a strong African influence, before studying medicine in Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos undertook pioneering studies of Indians in Mexico, whose culture and history had largely been viewed with disdain until then. The studies resurrected a degree of interest in and dignity for Indian heritage. Although Vasconcelos argued that much of indigenous culture should be subsumed in a larger Mexican culture, Aguirre Beltrán believed that indigenous cultures were worthy of study for their own sake. After graduating from the University of Mexico with a medical degree, Aguirre Beltrán returned to Veracruz, where he held a post in public health that further sparked his interest in Indian ethnicity and history. In 1940 he published two studies on the ethnohistory of colonial and precolonial Indians in ...

Article

Juan Navarrete

was born in Arica, Chile, to an Afro-Chilean family that traces its roots to the slave community in the Azapa Valley. His early education took place in the public schools of Arica, and he later studied business administration at the Corporación Santo Tomás in the same city. Báez has received numerous postgraduate certificates in community organization, leadership, and human rights in Chile and abroad. He has been one of the most outstanding leaders and organizers of the black community of Arica, particularly through his rediscovery and promotion of the African roots of this northern Chilean city.

In 2003 Báez formed Lumbanga a community group that derives its name from a neighborhood on the northern fringes of the city and the scene for much of the culture and many of the customs of the Afro Chilean population which include dress styles dances and music reminiscent of Africa Lumbanga holds weekly ...

Article

and founding member of the mizik rasin (roots music) group Boukman Eksperyans (née Mimerose Pierre) was born on 13 November 1956 in Ouanaminthe, Nord-est, Haiti, near the border with the Dominican Republic. Her parents, Emelie Pierre (née Charles-Pierre) and Ovide Pierre, a justice of the peace, encouraged her schooling, but during vacations from school, she learned guitar from her brother and began to sing, with special emphasis on the songs in Spanish that were common in the border region. Although her parents were devout Catholics, Manzè discovered that her grandmother had been a manbo (female Vodou priest).

Manzè is best known for fronting Boukman Eksperyans with her husband Theodore Lòlò Beabrun Jr cowriting and coproducing several of the group s albums Her creative output as a performer and writer reveals the influences of Vodou theology her studies in cultural anthropology and her embrace of social activism all of which resonated ...

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

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 ...

Article

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

Edison Carneiro was born and lived in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia. Unlike many mestiços (people of indigenous and European descent) from his generation who denied their African origins, Carneiro dedicated his studies to the customs and traditions of the descendants of Africans in Brazil, particularly regarding religious ritual. This was pioneering work at the time, when African religions were still repressed by the Brazilian government. Carneiro is considered to be the first person to systematically record the practices, beliefs, and history of the Afro-Brazilian people. Among the rituals developed by Afro-Brazilians, Carneiro identified the Nagô rituals as the only authentic variant of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, as opposed to the Bantu rituals. In his search for the pure African religion, he considered the Bantu sect to be a degenerated form of African religion.

Carneiro combined his studies with a strong political activism He participated in the ...

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 ...

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

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

Jeremy Rich

located just outside the large city of Manchester in Great Britain. His mother, Muriel (née Braudo), belonged to a prosperous Jewish family from Gwelo, Zimbabwe, and worked as a cabaret singer. His father, Denis, was from England originally, but the couple wed in Johannesburg, South Africa. Six months after Clegg’s birth, his parents divorced. Muriel took Clegg briefly to Israel before returning to her parents’ family farm in Zimbabwe.

Though his mother showed relatively little interest in African culture, Clegg as a boy became friendly with the Ndebele son of a chauffeur who worked for the Braudo farm. While his mother toured clubs with bands, Clegg was left in a strict boarding school. In 1960, Clegg moved to South Africa with his mother and his stepfather, reporter Dan Pienaar. The family moved to Zambia in 1965 after Pienaar obtained a position as a journalist for a newspaper there ...

Article

Robert Fay

William Montague Cobb was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Elmer and Alexzine Montague Cobb. After earning an A.B. degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1925, Cobb entered Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1929. He then earned a Ph.D. degree in anatomy and physical anthropology from Western Reserve University in Ohio in 1932. Cobb taught at Howard University from 1932 to 1973, chairing the Department of Anatomy from 1947 to 1969. In 1969 he was awarded Howard's first distinguished professorship.

Cobb was an authority on physical anthropology and published over 600 related articles in professional journals. He contributed to E. V. Cowdry's Problems of Aging: Biological and Medical Aspects, Gray's Anatomy, Henry's Anatomy, and Cunningham's Manual of Practical Anatomy Cobb also dispelled myths about African American biological inferiority in the ...

Article

Paul A. Erickson

physical anthropologist and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Elmer Cobb, a printer, and Alexzine Montague. Experiencing racial segregation in education, he graduated in 1921 from Dunbar High School, an elite college-preparatory school for African Americans. Cobb attended Amherst College, where he pursued a classical education in arts and sciences, graduating in 1925. After graduation he received a Blodgett Scholarship to study biology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory in Massachusetts. There he met the Howard University biologist Ernest Everett Just and decided to attend Howard University's College of Medicine. At the time, Howard was undergoing a transformation as-its first African American president, Mordecai Johnson, attempted to place the university under greater African American control. Showing great academic promise, Cobb was groomed to become a new member of the faculty. After receiving his medical degree in 1929 he was sent to ...

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 ...