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Article

Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

Lesley S. Curtis

from a prominent Haitian family of both European and African ancestry. Céligny’s date of birth is listed as 1801 on a birth certificate filed in 1805, which has created some confusion as to his real age. His father was Alexis Antoine Ardouin and his mother was Lolotte Félix Galez. Birth certificates of his younger siblings reveal that he grew up in close contact with his father, his father’s wife, Suzanne Léger Ardouin, and their seven children, including the famous historian Beaubrun Ardouin and the poet Corolian Ardouin. Céligny married Marie Angélique Liautaud in 1823 and had six children.

Céligny’s most significant work, Essais sur l’histoire d’Haïti (Essays on the History of Haiti) was written and published in sections in the late 1830s. It appeared as a revised collection in 1841, but was only published in its entirety in 1865 sixteen years after the author s death Beaubrun ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

There is little documentation on his life before he moved to mainland France. Even though the surname “Boisson” was common in Cap-Français (now Cap-Haïtien), there is evidence that Joseph belonged to the community of free blacks who advanced through the military on the eve of the Haitian Revolution. He was a captain in the Saint-Domingue Gendarmerie when he was elected to the National Convention, the assembly held in Paris from 1792 to 1795 to draft a new constitution following the overthrow of the French monarchy. Reliable sources mention two sisters: Madeleine, who married a black sergeant of the First Battalion of Colonial Troops, and Marguerite, who was living with a white adjutant from the Battalion of the Cap-Français.

Like other representatives of Saint-Domingue, Boisson traveled first to Philadelphia, and then departed from New York on 20 March 1794 along with two parliamentarians Etienne Laforest a mulatto and Pierre Nicolas ...

Article

Jeremy D. Popkin

an ambitious free man of color in the French colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the Haitian Revolution, played a role in that group’s revolt against white rule in the 1790s, and was involved in all the major episodes of Haitian politics in the country’s first decades of independence. According to the memoirs published by his son Edmond Bonnet in France in 1864, Bonnet was born in Léogane, a few miles west of the present day capital, Port-au-Prince in 1775; other sources put his birth in 1772 or 1773. His paternal grandfather was a merchant from Nantes; his mother, who was responsible for his education, was a négresse libre. Employed as a clerk in a French merchant’s office, he followed the events of the French Revolution in the newspapers that reached the colony and was inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality.

Bonnet joined ...

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

Orquídea Ribeiro

Portuguese soldier, chronicler, and historian, was born in Vila Viçosa, Portugal, the son of the New Christian family of António de Cadornega e Oliveira and Antónia Simões Correia (“New Christian” referring to Iberian Jews who had converted to Catholicism). His mother and sister, Violante de Azevedo, were accused of continuing to practice Judaism, however, and incarcerated during the Spanish Inquisition.

Cadornega and his brother Manuel studied Latin and Portuguese with the Friars of St. Augustine in Vila Viçosa. In 1639 when the boys were of age to enter university their father wanted them to pursue further studies Instead they decided to go to Angola and volunteered for the military They asked the Duke of Braganza the future king John IV to write a letter of recommendation to be presented to the newly appointed Governor General Pedro César de Menezes The brothers boarded the same ship as the Governor General ...

Article

Yusuf Nuruddin

Harold Cruse (8 March 1916–20 March 2005), an iconoclastic social critic and a largely self-educated cultural historian, achieved distinction as the preeminent African American dissident public intellectual of the 1960s. Although he authored several books, his reputation rests largely on his monumental work The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), a flawed yet brilliant, imaginative, sweeping, and provocative polemic. A thematically united collection of essays, Crisis presents a withering assessment of the black intelligentsia for its self-defeating embrace of both liberal and radical integrationist politics, especially its involvement in the Communist Party, of which Cruse was once a member.

Within the Communist Party and other leftist organizations black political interests according to Cruse historically have been subordinated to white political interests including Jewish and white ethnic nationalisms As a remedy Cruse calls upon the black intelligentsia to abandon its bankrupt integrationist strategies and embrace its ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer and educator, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, to parents about whom little is known but who were only briefly married before Harold's father took his young son to New York City during the black migration to the North. The elder Cruse found work as a custodian with the Long Island Railroad; however, he soon realized the he could not care for a small child alone and placed Harold with a foster family in Queens. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s his foster mother, Aunt Henrietta, instilled a love for the black theater in the young Harold, frequently taking him to performances. With the coming of the Depression the family lost their home and was forced to move into an apartment in Harlem, where Cruse became more deeply immersed in black culture. There he would witness performances by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson, and Florence ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Harold Wright Cruse moved with his father after his parents' separation to New York City, where he completed high school. After serving in the quartermaster division of the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York on the G.I. Bill, although he dropped out in his first year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Cruse worked at various part-time jobs and became an active participant in left-wing politics in Harlem, including joining the Communist Party, which he later rejected. He also wrote two plays and a musical during this period, and with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), established the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School in 1965.

Cruse's book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership was hailed by the New York Times as a mind ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

writer, editor, educator, artist, and intellectual, best known as a social critic. Cruse defined the relationships between African Americans and American society. His 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership energized activists intellectually, both within the United States and in a few black nations, and thus contributed to the roots of the so-called black revolution.

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Virginia; his father was a railroad porter. During Cruse's childhood his father and his stepmother divorced, and he was taken to New York to live with his father's sister in Queens. Before graduating from high school, Cruse was introduced to what remained of the Harlem Renaissance, to the country's radicalism of the 1930s, and to a lecture given by the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois all of which provoked his thinking about ...

Article

Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

Article

Bruce Kuklick

a professional philosopher who taught for twenty years at the University of Pennsylvania, was born William Thomas Fontaine in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of William Charles Fontaine, a steelworker, and Mary Elizabeth Boyer, who went by the name of Ballard, having been raised by her grandparents. His grandmother on his father's side, Cornelia Wilson Fontaine Smith, with whom he grew up, had been a slave. Fontaine went to an exclusively black elementary school, Booker T. Washington, and then to Chester High School. At this time he gave himself a second middle name, Valeria, a Latin name connoting physical and mental strength. At age sixteen he matriculated at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and received his BA there in 1930, finishing first in his class. While at Lincoln, Fontaine befriended Kwame Nkrumah, the first black leader of Ghana, and Nnamdi Azikiwe the first black ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

sailor, clerk, attendant, author, and mason, is believed to have been born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, even though there is no substantial proof of that location. Various sources cite the District of Columbia or Maryland as his possible birthplace; nevertheless, it seems more probable that he was born in Virginia due to his family background. Grimshaw's parents were Juliet Grimshaw, a slave, and Robert Tyler, a slave owner. Even though there are limited facts on his personal childhood and education, a historical essay, “Winney Grimshaw, A Virginia Slave, and Her Family” by Richard Dunn, provides a detailed history on the Grimshaw family's enslavement and life on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Grimshaw's surname, which was unusual in nineteenth-century Virginia, may have come from Samuel Grimshaw, who immigrated to Virginia in 1795 from England or from Thomas Grimshaw who lived near Alexandria and later ...

Article

Leon F. Litwack

educator and historian, a leading scholar in the field of African American studies, was born in Chicago. Huggins was the son of an African American father, Winston J. Huggins, a waiter and railroad worker, and a Jewish mother, Marie Warsaw. When his father left the family, his mother moved her two children to San Francisco. Two years later she died, and fourteen-year-old Nathan and his sister were on their own. He divided his time between attending high school and working as a warehouseman, longshoreman, and porter. Drafted near the end of World War II, he completed high school in the army and used the GI Bill of Rights to enter the University of California.

His studies at Berkeley, particularly the classes in the history of the South, slavery, and Reconstruction taught by Kenneth M. Stampp exposed him to a revisionist view of the past that demolished ...

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

Melanie R. Thomas

educator, university librarian, and historian, was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Early Marshall, a carpenter and railroad worker, and Muskogee, Oklahoma, native Mary (Bland) Marshall. Little is known about Marshall's early life, but his father died when “A.P.” was still a boy, and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. There Marshall began his library work experience at one of the public library branches while he attended high school. Marshall prepared himself for a professional career by attending Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Missouri (1934–1938), earning a BA in English and History. He continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, receiving a BS degree in Library Science in 1939.

His foremost contribution to the field of library services was A Guide to Negro Periodical Literature (vols. 1–4, Nov. 1941–Dec. 1946 which he began while working as a library ...

Article

Sean Jacobs

South African parliamentarian and guerrilla fighter for the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), was born on 6 July 1963 in a Coloured section of a government hospital in Durban, a port city on South Africa’s northeast coast. McBride has two sisters. His parents, Derrick and Doris McBride, were both schoolteachers. Doris’s father, Colin Campbell van Niekerk, was an Afrikaner, and her mother Grace the daughter of a Zulu-speaking mother and a Coloured father. Robert McBride grew up in Wentworth, a Coloured township in Durban next to an industrial area and a toxic oil refinery. At his trial in 1987 it also emerged that McBride was related to Major John MacBride, an Irish Republican major who had fought on the side of Afrikaners against the British in the Anglo-Boer War.

McBride was politicized at an early age by his father who introduced him to the history of Coloured ...

Article

colonel in the Nigerian army and first president of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, was born in the town of Zungeru, near Kaduna in Nigeria. The son of Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a prolific businessman and first president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ojukwu was educated at King’s College in Lagos and Epsom College in Surrey before earning a master’s degree in history from Lincoln College, Oxford University.

After returning to Nigeria in 1955, Ojukwu joined the civil service and was initially stationed at Udi, a small village near Enugu, and later at Umuhaia and Aba. After a transfer to Calabar was scuttled, allegedly by interference from his influential father, Ojukwu left the civil service in 1957 and joined the fledgling Nigerian army After a tumultuous start he was given a commission as an officer cadet and sent to Eaton Hall the National Service Officer Cadet School near Chester ...

Article

Eddie Enyeobi Okafor

Although he was born in northern Nigeria, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is an Igbo; he hails from Nnewi in Anambra State in eastern Nigeria. His father, a knight of the British empire, Sir Louis Philippe Odumegwu Ojukwu (1908–1966 , was a multimillionaire and one of the richest African businessmen of his day, who sent his son to the best school in Nigeria, King’s College, Lagos, and later sent him to Epson College in Surrey, England.

The young Ojukwu received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oxford University. At the age of twenty-two, he returned to Nigeria. Contrary to his father’s wish, he joined the colonial government service as a district admistrative officer in a rural Igbo village. In 1957 he joined the Nigerian army as a private. However, after attending the Officer Cadet School in England in 1958 he rose rapidly to higher military ranks lieutenant in ...