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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 ...

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Fred Rohner

an Afro-Peruvian woman from a working-class background who played an important role in promoting Afro-Peruvian folklore. She was born in Barranco (Lima) on 21 July 1891 and, after living the first years of her childhood in this seaside district, moved with her family to Rímac. Her house was demolished as part of the construction of the Santa Rosa Bridge (which allowed a new path of communication between Rímac and downtown Lima), so Victoria and her family had to relocate to Barrios Altos, where they lived close to the church of Santo Cristo. Her brother Miguel became famous in the early decades of the twentieth century because, during a revolt against President Augusto Leguía, he was the insurgent who threatened the president with a rifle at Inquisition Square.

From a family dedicated to cultivating Afro Peruvian folklore she was a relative of brothers Elías and Augusto Ascuez her home in Rímac ...

Article

Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar

was born on 7 February 1954 in Lima, Peru. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, who taught her to sing when she was 3 and nurtured her dreams of becoming an artist from an early age, encouraging her to perform at school events as well as on children’s programs on radio and television. Born María Angélica Ayllón Urbina, the artist adopted her grandmother’s name as her stage name upon launching her solo career. Cherished by fans on two continents, Ayllón has released over thirty albums and has become a successful artist with a solid foundation in Peruvian “Creole” and Afro-Peruvian musical styles.

Ayllón began performing in the early 1970s in commercial venues in Lima that had a reputation for showcasing Creole music. She began her career alongside notable artists, and in 1973 she became the lead singer of Los Kipus a musical trio They toured Peru performed for ...

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

Elvin Holt

teacher, historian, and folklorist, was born in Goliad, Texas, one of five children of John Henry Brewer, a cattle drover, and Minnie Tate Brewer, a teacher. John Mason grew up with his three sisters, Jewel, Marguerite, Gladys, and his brother Claude in a household that provided a fertile environment for his imagination. His father told exciting stories about his adventures on the cattle drives from the Media Luna Ranch in Texas to the cattle market in Kansas. His mother, a teacher in Texas for over forty years, read the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar to John Mason during his early childhood. As an adult poet, Dr. Brewer would write dialect verse in the manner of Dunbar. Dr. Brewer's love for the oral tradition in African American culture was also nurtured by his grandfathers, Joe Brewer and Pinckney Mitchell, who told him folktales. John Mason ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was the first of three children born to Thomas Reginald “Reggie” Carr and Cecilia Behamie Carr, a devout Roman Catholic family at Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 7 March 1902. His father was a British estate owner, and his mother was a direct descendant of King David, a Mandingo who came to Trinidad during the nineteenth century. His siblings were Emelda Candella, born in October 1903, and Dorothy Victoria, born 23 December 1905.

Belmont was one of the places where survivors of the British slave trade gathered with Africans who the British had seized on slave ships in international waters and relocated to Trinidad, in an effort to enforce international compliance with the 1808 abolition of the British slave trade. During the period immediately prior to 1834 they lived nearly in near isolation, more or less living out their lives as Africans from the old country.

Carr attended ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born in Puerta de Tierra, a poor urban area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 8 July 1908. He was the son of Leonor Atiles, a laundry woman, and Modesto Cepeda Robles, a field laborer. Rafael Cepeda is known as “El patriarca de la bomba y la plena” (the patriarch of bomba and plena), two of Puerto Rico’s most traditional forms of African-derived music and dance. This title was bestowed on him for his lifelong contributions to the preservation of these musical forms, as well as for successively passing on these traditions to his sons and daughters, whom he incorporated as an integral part of his folk- and community-based groups.

Among Cepeda’s ensembles, Ballet Folklórico de la Familia Cepeda (1975) stands out as the most important, due the influence this group had in shaping traditional bomba performance The Cepeda family is generally considered as ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born on 27 March 1960, in the coastal town of Loíza, Puerto Rico. Over the course of his professional career, Cepeda has developed innovative musical concepts such as “Afrorican Jazz” and “bomba sinfónica,” which have maintained him at the forefront of both the Latin jazz and classical music scenes in Puerto Rico and abroad. His eclectic style of performance and composition reflects a fusion of the musical realms of jazz, classical, world, and traditional Afro–Puerto Rican music styles, primarily bomba and plena. As a performer he has collaborated and toured with a wide array of artists, among them Lester Bowie, David Murray, Celia Cruz, Batacumbele, Zaperoko, and Tito Puente. William Cepeda has also dedicated himself to the preservation of Puerto Rico’s traditional folk culture through his independent record label, Casabe Records, and various educational projects.

Cepeda grew up in Loíza a town known for its ...

Article

Aida Ahmed Hussen

musician, author, and educator, was born Maud Cuney in Galveston, Texas, to Norris Wright Cuney, a prominent Republican politician and entrepreneur, and Adelina Dowdie Cuney, a public school teacher, soprano vocalist, and community activist. Both of Cuney's parents were born slaves of mixed racial parentage, and both gained freedom, education, social clout, and considerable financial advantage as the acknowledged offspring of their fathers. This, in addition to Norris Wright Cuney's political success with the Texas Republican Party, situated the Cuney family solidly among the Texan black elite. Cuney describes her early home life as one that was comfortable and markedly pleasant, and she praises both of her parents for instilling in her and in her younger brother, Lloyd Garrison Cuney, the values of education, racial pride, and social obligation.

Following her graduation from Central High School in 1890 Cuney moved to Boston Massachusetts where she enrolled ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Maude Cuney was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Norris Wright and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. After graduation from the Central High School, Galveston, she received a musical education at the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts. Later she studied under private instructors such as Emil Ludwig, a pupil of Russian pianist and composer Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein, and Edwin Klare, a pupil of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. She then served for a number of years as director of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute of Texas and at Prairie State College in Prairie View, Texas. In 1906 she returned to Boston and married William P. Hare, who came from an old and well-known Boston family. She died there in 1936 and was buried in Galveston in the grave between her father and mother in Lake View Cemetery (Houston Informer ...

Article

Lynda Koolish

Maud Cuney-Hare is remembered for her literary accomplishments as a gifted playwright, biographer, and music columnist for the Crisis. Born in Galveston, Texas, on 16 February 1874, to teacher and soprano Adelina Dowdie and Norris Wright Cuney, an important Texas political figure who was the (defeated) Republican candidate for the 1875 Galveston mayoral race, Maud Cuney-Hare was educated in Texas and became musical director at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute in Austin, Texas. She held other church and college teaching positions before returning to Boston and devoting her life to performance, scholarship, and literary pursuits. She championed the 24 May 1917 Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaging of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel (1916), which, according to critic Robert Fehrenbach was the first time a play written by an Afro American that dealt with the real problems facing American Blacks in contemporary white racist society was ...

Article

Felicia A. Chenier

black theater organizer, writer, director, folklorist, chorographer, and educator, was born in Houston, Texas, the only daughter of Gerthyl Rae and Harvey G. Dickerson, an army officer. As a military child Dickerson traveled extensively with her parents and brother, Harvey. After graduating high school in Syracuse, New York, Dickerson studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there she studied theater and was mentored by noted educator and writer Owen Dodson, who was then the Drama Department chair. Noteworthy of her experiences at Howard is her discovery of writings by Zora Neale Hurston. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from Howard in 1966, Dickerson received a master of fine arts (MFA) from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, in 1968 During the same year she returned to Howard as an assistant professor of drama and staged her directorial ...

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

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

folklorist, educator, was born in Flemington, New Jersey, the middle of three children of the Reverend Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister who died when Arthur was four, and Bella Huff, a white woman and widow with three children. He was also a half-brother to the author Jessie Redmon Fauset, whose mother was Annie Seamon, Rev. Fauset's first wife and mother to seven of their children. Fauset grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attending Central High School and then the School of Pedagogy for Men, graduating in 1917. Beginning in 1918 he taught elementary school in the Philadelphia public school system and eventually became principal of the Joseph Singerly School in 1926, a position he held for twenty years. Alain Locke became Fauset s mentor encouraging him to pursue higher education and arranging a loan that enabled him to study ...

Article

Ruth Graham Siegrist

missionary, educator, social worker, and author was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of the Rev. David Andrew Graham, a Methodist minister, and Etta Bell Graham. His father's pastorates took the family from New Orleans to Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Nashville, Colorado Springs, and Spokane. Graham attended the University of Washington and the University of California at Los Angeles.

While a student at UCLA, Graham learned about the need for missionary teachers in Liberia, West Africa, and felt he was called there to serve. He left for Liberia in 1924 to teach at Monrovia College, a Christian boys' school.

Going to Africa changed Graham s life He realized he had gone with a false concept of what African people were like He decried the fact that all he had read or seen had described Africans in stereotypical terms as savages at best stupid and ...

Article

Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born Gregorio Hernández Ríos on 17 November 1936 in the westernmost Cuban province of Pinar del Río. His family moved to Havana when he was a small boy, to a shantytown on the outskirts of the capital called Las Yaguas. Hernández’s father, Isidro, made his living as a bottle collector, buying empty bottles from residents to resell at bottle collection companies. Like many ambulant vendors at the time, Isidro used the folkloric tradition of the pregón, or street vendor’s call, which entailed going door to door using catchy song phrases to hawk one’s wares (one of Cuba’s most famous songs, “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vendor), is based on a pregón). Thus, Hernández was introduced early in his life to a popular sung folkloric tradition, and it was not long before the seven-year-old was creating and singing his own pregones He also began attending rumba parties at ...

Article

Bruce Nemerov

sociologist and folklorist, was born in Cuero, DeWitt County, Texas, the eldest child of Wade E. Jones and Lucinthia Jones. His parents were literate and before Lewis's tenth birthday they were farming near Navasota in Grimes County, Texas. His upbringing would inform his later sociological and folkloric interests regarding the status of African Americans in the rural South.

Jones was admitted to Fisk University in 1927. In 1931 he received his AB degree. At Fisk he came under the influence of Charles Spurgeon Johnson, head of the Social Sciences Department. He did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago as a Social Science Research Council Fellow (1931–1932).

Upon his return to Fisk, Jones was an instructor in the Social Sciences Department and served as a research assistant and supervisor of field studies for Charles S. Johnson In this capacity Jones collected data in ...

Article

was born in the Vere district of the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, on 28 September 1927 to the teachers Richard James Mahoney Lewin and Asanath Sylvia Lewin. The elder of two daughters, she grew up in the rural village of Hayes in South Clarendon, and was surrounded by music from an early age. Her father was headmaster, choirmaster, and music and history teacher at the village school she attended. Her mother was a staff member at the school, and also played the piano. Lewin was raised hearing a variety of musical styles, including Jamaican folk music and European classical music “from Handel and Mozart, Haydn and Elgar” (Lewin, 2000, p. 4).

Lewin learned to play both the piano and violin at an early age and she won one of the Vere Scholarships to attend Hampton High for Girls an elite grammar school in neighboring St Elizabeth From there ...

Article

Angelina Tallaj

was born on 2 August 1930, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His parents were Félix Enrique Lizardo Echavarría and Cruz María Barinas Uribe. His early interest in folklore led him to interrupt his medical training to attend folklore workshops in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. He then studied ethnography in Sweden from 1964 to 1967 and art history at the University of Copenhagen from 1969 to 1973. He headed the Escuela de Bailes Folklóricos of the Dirección General de Bellas Artes and founded the Ballet Folklórico Dominicano in 1975 and the Ballet Folklórico Nacional in 1981. He also served as secretary of the Dominican Folklore Society and director of the Revista Dominicana de Folklore.

Lizardo was a prolific researcher of Dominican folklore and he published eight books and hundreds of newspaper and journal articles on the subject His legacy as a creator of Dominican folk dance choreography ...