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Stephen M. Fay

was born on 28 January 1940 in Havana, Cuba, to a middle-class family of Catalan descent. Barnet’s parents owned a successful autoparts business and sent their son to an exclusive American school in the city center. Although educated in an Anglophone and US-centric environment, Barnet was entranced by the popular Cuban culture he witnessed in the solar (tenement building) opposite his family home, where the noisy comings and goings of the residents of African, Chinese, Central European, Middle Eastern, and North African descent gave the young Barnet his first taste of the island’s ethnic and cultural heterogeneity. His initial ambition was to work in television and radio, for which he took classes in the city’s Institute of Advertising in the late 1950s, but the victory of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement and the flight of the dictator Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959 inspired a change of professional direction.

Barnet enrolled ...

Article

Miguel Barnet is the author of Biografía de un cimarrón (Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, 1966), which recounts Esteban Motejo's life as a runaway slave in Cuba and as a soldier in the Spanish-American War (1895–1898). Other works by Barnet include Canción de Raquel Rachel ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

cartographer, ethnographer, and traveler to Africa, was born in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of Heinrich Baumann, who worked at a bank, and a mother, whose name is not recorded. His family had some Jewish ancestry, which would in 1938 prompt the Nazi government of Austria to destroy a monument erected to celebrate his African exploration. Though his parents do not seem to have been very prosperous, his distant relations in the wealthy von Arnstein banking family paid for his secondary education. Baumann attended primary and secondary schools in Vienna, and at the age of seventeen, joined the Imperial Royal Geographical Society based in the same city. He did some geographical research in Montenegro and began to study geography and geology at the University of Vienna, but in 1885 took a leave of absence from school to join an Austrian expedition to Central ...

Article

Rebecca Dirksen

also commonly remembered as Lina Mathon-Fussman or, equally, as Lina Fussman-Mathon, was born in Port-au-Prince on 3 January 1903, one of five children of Charles Mathon, a medical doctor, and Cléante N. Marie Anne Carré Mathon. By all accounts captivated by the piano as a toddler, she was formally introduced to the instrument at the age of 4 by Haitian composer Justin Elie. She subsequently studied the classical music repertoire with the best teachers of the era, including completing advanced studies at the Ecole Notre-Dame de Sion in Paris between 1917 and 1921. Blanchet would eventually cofound the Lycée Musical de Port-au-Prince (a music school) and was later named the first director of the Conservatoire National by Haitian president Paul Eugène Magloire.

A tireless promoter of Haitian folkloric music throughout her life, Blanchet is cited as the first artist to mount stylized Vodou-influenced spektak performances on a ...

Article

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

Jeremy Rich

explorer, the son of Colonel Joseph Burton and Martha Beckwith Burton was born on 19 March 1821 in Torquay, Devon, England. As a military officer in the British Army, Joseph Burton traveled regularly, and his son Richard grew up in France and different Italian states. He showed early in life a tremendous gift for learning languages, and he eventually mastered Arabic to the point he regularly passed for an Arab or Persian or an Indian Muslim. Burton was admitted to Oxford University in 1840, but his wild behavior eventually led to his dismissal in 1842. His taste for adventure led him to join the British colonial army in India, and he first visited Africa en route from England via the Cape of Good Hope to Mumbai (Bombay). From 1842 until 1849, Burton mastered Arabic, Farsi, and Hindustani as he served as a British intelligence officer.

Burton ...

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Ari Nave

Sir Richard Burton spoke twenty-five languages and multiple dialects, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Marathi, Punjab, Arabic, and Hindi. During his travels he observed an enormous range of cultural practices, which he documented in forty-three manuscripts. He also wrote two books of poetry and four volumes of folklore.

Born in Torquay, England, Burton was raised by his English parents primarily in France. He briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1842 for insubordination. He then joined the Bombay army, and served in India (in present-day Pakistan) until 1850. Working as an intelligence officer, Burton learned to impersonate Muslim merchants. His reputation was called into question and his military career cut short, however, when a rival officer spread word that Burton had been investigating homosexual bathhouses in Karachi, failing to divulge that Burton had done so under orders from a senior officer.

After returning to France and ...

Article

Stefania Capone

was born on 12 August 1912 in Salvador da Bahia to Antonio Joaquim de Souza Carneiro, a civil engineer and a professor at the Polytechnic School of Bahia, and Laura Coelho de Souza Carneiro. Édison’s mother died young, around 1922, after giving birth to seven children. In 1925, Antonio Carneiro married Georgina Rocha, who had difficult relationships with her stepsons. Édison grew in a family of African descent that was considered “socially white”—uma familia de “negros broncos,” as stated by Ruth Landes (1994) generally respected and particularly skilled at developing ties with the Bahian elites They were not rich but despite recurrent economic difficulties all the children received a good education two sons followed the path of their father becoming engineers the other three graduated in law including Édison and his elder brother Nelson Carneiro who became a congressman the two daughters became school ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 22 November 1904 in Mexico City to José Covarrubias and Elena Duclaud. José was a civil engineer and government official who helped provide Miguel with access to Mexico’s cultural and intellectual elite. Miguel was born into a family with Spanish, French, and Mexican—but no African—ancestry. He had an elite education, attending the Horace Mann School and the Alberto Correo School in Mexico City. He married the dancer Rosa Rolando (née Rose Cowan, 1898–1870) on 24 April 1930. Although he never officially divorced her, he also married Rocío Sagaón in 1955.

Covarrubias started to draw caricatures as a child. Mexico City newspapers and cultural magazines began to publish them in 1920. With a little support from the Mexican state, Covarrubias left for New York City in the summer of 1923 Mexico s foremost cultural promoter in the United States José Juan Tablada helped ...

Article

Lamonte Aidoo

was born on 10 August 1823 in the town of Caxias in the northeastern Brazilian province of Maranhão to João Manuel Gonçalves Dias and Vicência Ferreira. Among the nation’s most celebrated writers, Dias was one of the foremost proponents of Brazilian Romanticism and the nineteenth-century literary movement known as Indianism.

His father was a Portuguese immigrant and a leader of the Portuguese loyalists against the Brazilians in the final stages of the independence movement Dias s mother was a mixed race woman of Gê Indian and African ancestry and mistress of João Manuel Though Dias is most known for his Indianist or nativist poetry that celebrated Brazil s indigenous populations he never openly acknowledged his heritage Instead his mixed race heritage and the illegitimacy of his birth would haunt him throughout his life as a constant source of shame insecurity and heartbreak When he was 6 years old his father ...

Article

was born in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, on 21 September 1935 to Luc Foucard, a medical doctor, and Isabelle Markez, a Haitian of Dominican birth. She had eight siblings. Known by the sobriquet “Déïta,” this pioneering woman devoted her life to demystifying the mystical ways of Haiti—“mon pays unconnu” (my unknown country), as she would come to call it. Undeterred by social norms restricting the activities of women of her class and background, she spent much of her life conducting fieldwork and interviews among the rural peyizan (peasantry), attending Vodou ceremonies (sacred events of the predominant Afro-Haitian spiritual practice and way of life), profiling the lwa (spiritual entities of Vodou, including ancestral spirits) and elucidating their attendant mythologies, decoding the practices of secret societies, collecting proverbs and stories passed down generation to generation, and learning about the medicinal properties of the island’s native plant species.

Déïta s earliest interactions with Vodou were ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Beninese ethnographer and novelist, was born on 16 April 1890 in the southern Beninese city of Porto Novo to a very wealthy family. His father Alamavo Hazoumé was one of the chief advisors of King Toffa of Porto Novo, a self-proclaimed modern ruler who had collaborated closely with the French government against his rival Dahomey. Alamavo was a fervent believer in Western education, especially after he visited Paris on a diplomatic mission for King Toffa in 1895. His son kept a photograph of his father taken on this trip for the rest of his own life as a precious heirloom.

Alamavo Hazoumé sent his son Paul to mission schools run by French White Fathers missionaries in Porto Novo. There, Hazoumé so impressed his teachers, especially the ethnographer Reverend Francis Aupiais, that after graduating from the mission school, he worked for it as a teaching assistant, from 1905 to 1907 ...

Article

David A. Shefferman

was born on 24 July 1909 in Santiago de Cuba. He was the last of five children born to Flora Crombet and Gustavo Lachatañeré, who was killed by one of the family’s farmhands shortly after Rómulo’s first birthday. His family names mark his roots within the unique Franco-Creole culture that emerged in eastern Cuba during the 1800s following the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Like many in those communities, his paternal grandparents—the Lachataignerais line—adopted Hispanicized spellings, while his maternal lineage included Francisco Adolfo “Flor” Crombet (his grandfather) and other important figures in Cuba’s nineteenth-century independence movements. After earning his high-school degree in 1926, Lachatañeré moved from Santiago to the island’s capital city to begin studies in pharmacology at the University of Havana. He received his degree on 18 November 1929 and began work almost immediately as a laboratory technician in the government-sponsored Institute for Venereal Diseases.

Lachatañeré remained in ...

Article

Geoffrey Roper

British topographer, ethnographer, and philologist in Egypt, was born at Hereford, England, on 17 September 1801, the son of the Reverend Theophilus Lane and wife Sophia (née Gardiner). Having rejected higher education at Cambridge, Edward went instead to London in 1819, and learned the craft of engraving. There he developed an interest in Egypt, possibly stimulated by Belzoni’s spectacular exhibition of Egyptian antiquities in 1821. But he also seems to have shared in the excitement aroused about that time by the decipherment of the hieroglyphs by Jean François Champollion and Dr. Thomas Young.

Having already acquired some knowledge of Arabic, Lane embarked for Egypt in 1825. On arrival at Alexandria, he felt like “an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift up the veil of his bride, and to see, for the first time, the features which were to charm, or disappoint, or disgust him” (Lane, 2000 ...

Article

Garvey Lundy

Jean Price-Mars is considered the foremost Haitian intellectual of the twentieth century. Born on 15 October 1876, in Grande Rivière-du-Nord (Haiti), he died on 1 March 1969, at the age of 93 in Pétionville (Haiti). In a life spanning nearly a century, Jean Price-Mars was a physician, public official, diplomat, ethnologist, and historian of Haiti’s sociological and intellectual development, expounding the contribution of Haiti and Haitians to the cultures of the Americas, and above all a spokesman calling on Haitians to take pride in their indigenous culture and to acknowledge the African roots of their culture.

Price Mars was born to Jean Eléomont Mars and Fortuna Delcour Michel He was only six years old when his mother died of smallpox After his mother s passing Price Mars was warmly guarded by his maternal grandmother At an early age it was decided that Price Mars would be educated at ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean Price-Mars was born in Grande Rivière du Nord, Haiti. After studying medicine, anthropology, and political science in Haiti and Paris, he joined the Haitian diplomatic corps. It was through this work that Price-Mars discovered his oratorical skills, giving a great number of lectures on Haitian culture and politics in the 1910s and 1920s that were gathered in his first published works, La Vocation de l'élite (1919), Ainsi parla l'Oncle (1928), and Une étape de l'évolution haïtienne (1929). Price-Mars subsequently split his time between active politics and more intellectual pursuits throughout the rest of his life. During the tumultuous middle of the century, he remained close to Haiti's ever-changing power élite, running twice for president and being appointed ambassador to Paris by François Duvalier in 1957.

More significantly Price Mars continued to write on the history of Haiti and on the ...

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

Orquídea Ribeiro

Angolan writer, poet, essayist, journalist, and folklorist, was born in Luanda, Angola, on 17 August 1909. He was the son of a Portuguese father, Arnaldo Gonçalves Ribas, and an Angolan mother, Maria da Conceição Bento Faria, a prototype of African ladies of the time, who kept the original sources of her culture alive. He attended primary and secondary school in Luanda, the Lyceum-Seminar of Luanda, and the Luanda Salvador Correia High School. After a short stay in Portugal to study commercial arithmetic, Ribas returned to Angola to work in the Directorate of Finance and Accounting. He resided in various cities of Angola, namely Novo Redondo (Sumbe), and Benguela, Bie, and Ndalatando.

Ribas gradually went blind during his early twenties but remained an indefatigable researcher and writer publishing books and articles on the culture of Angola from oral tradition to religious rites and culinary arts At the age of thirty ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

French filmmaker and ethnographer active in Niger, was born on 31 May 1917 in Paris. His father was an adventurous naval officer who had traveled as far as Antarctica. His mother had a deep love of poetry and painting. Their son would combine his parents’ interests in his later life.

The Rouch family moved often in Jean’s early life, and he spent time in Algeria, Morocco, and Germany. In 1937, he entered the École des Ponts et Chausées to study engineering. Rouch did so at the behest of his father rather than out of a real interest in the subject matter. However, Rouch found plenty of opportunities to take other courses outside of engineering and science.

In his last year of studies Rouch met anthropologist Maurice Griaule whose work on Dogon communities in West Africa would later be one of the most well known and controversial examples of French ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to upper-middle-class mixed-race parents, Roumain attended excellent schools in both Haiti and Europe, where he acquired remarkable language skills (he spoke English, German, and Spanish, in addition to French and Creole) and a profound understanding of European cultures. At a young age, he rejected his parents' cosmopolitanism, returning to Haiti from Paris in 1927 to help found La Revue Indigène. This journal, which was instrumental in the development of a specifically Haitian literary aesthetic rooted in traditional peasant life, published many of Roumain's early poems. Roumain wrote prodigiously and fearlessly during this period, publishing two collections of novellas in 1931 (La Proie et l'ombre and Les Fantoches) that denounced the greed of Haiti's ruling class.

In 1934 Roumain was elected secretary-general of the Haitian Communist Party, which he had helped establish. That same year, Haitian president Sténio Vincent alarmed by the forceful ...