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Article

Roanne Edwards

Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of a railway engineer, and grew up in Waycross, Georgia. The harassment of his parents by the Ku Klux Klan impelled him early on to become a writer so that he could “truthfully portray the black man's experience.” At Howard University, under the tutelage of drama critic Alain Locke, Davis developed his theatrical talent, performing in a 1941 production of Joy Exceeding Glory with Harlem's Rose McClendon Players. Following his theater debut, however, he received few job offers and for nearly a year found himself living on the street.

Davis never lost his sense of purpose. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to New York, New York, where he won the title role in Robert Ardrey's play Jeb (1946). In 1948 he married fellow performer Ruby ...

Article

Cassandra Jackson

Born in Cogsdell, Georgia, Ossie Davis grew up in nearby Waycross. He studied at Howard University for three years, then traveled to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the encouragement of Alain Locke, Davis obtained a position with the Rose McClendon Players of Harlem, while writing in his spare time. The following year, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Medical Corps and in Special Services. While stationed in Liberia, he wrote and produced Goldbrickers of 1944, a musical variety show. Discharged in 1945, Davis returned to New York and gained the lead role in the play Jeb, which propelled his stage career. Also starring in the play was Davis's future wife, Ruby Dee, with whom he would continue to costar in plays and later in film. Among Davis's stage, film, and television credits are The Joe Louis Story ...

Article

Niambi Lee-Kong

actor, playwright, producer, director, and civil rights activist. Ossie Davis, though commonly known for his work in the dramatic arts, was a humanitarian and activist who used his talents and fame to fight for the humane treatment of his people and for recognition of their contributions to society.

Raiford Chatman Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, to Kince Charles Davis and Laura Cooper Davis. Though neither parent was formally educated, Davis's father was a preacher and a railroad construction engineer. Davis's name “Ossie” came from a clerk's misunderstanding the pronunciation of the initials “R. C.” when recording his birth.

In 1935 Davis graduated from Central High School in Waycross, Georgia. He then attended Howard University, where he met Alain Locke a professor of philosophy who had been the first black Rhodes scholar Locke recognized Ossie s talent introduced him to black theater and encouraged ...

Article

Rodney Saint-Eloi

was born on 27 November 1915 in Saint-Marc, Haiti. He studied in law and literature at the Université de Port-au-Prince. After completing his degree, he worked as a literature teacher and as a journalist and the editor-in-chief of the quotidian Le National. He published two collections of poetry: Message (1946) and Symphonie en noir majeur (1962). His poetry is marked by the desire to express the inexpressible, an aspiration reflected in Fouché’s definition of poetry: “Poezi se tout pawòl ki pa di/tout mo ki pa ekri” (Poetry is any unspoken phrase, any unwritten word)—hence the desire to remove one’s metaphorical mask, to name the real, and to make it transparent. At the heart of this approach were struggles for social justice and a democratic society. Art, for Fouché, was the way through which the world could be transformed.

Passionate about theater Fouché played an active ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

Belgian Africanist anthropologist and filmmaker, was a member of the first postwar cohort of Belgian anthropologists who were given “modern” professional training in the field as it began to emancipate itself from the concerns of the Belgian colonial administration in the Congo. Others in this cohort included historian Jan Vansina, who became one of the most illustrious Africanists of his generation, as well as the anthropologists Daniel Biebuyck and Jacques Maquet. Heusch was the only one among them to remain in Belgium, leading, from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), Belgian (francophone) academic anthropology and training subsequent generations of anthropologists in the 1970s and 1980s.

Heusch was born in Brussels in 1927 to a well to do family From his own telling his formative years were spent as a lonely and studious teenager whose mother had passed away when he was 11 inside his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Schul

Gordon Parks's first two publications-Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: The Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948)-while written primarily for the professional photographer, reveal an aesthetic and a social commitment that structures the astonishing diversity of his subsequent work. Embodying his conviction that the photographer must combine technical intelligence, especially in the use of light, with a sensitive response to people, both works are photographic portfolios representing a cross-section of American lives—rural and urban, wealthy and leisured, poor and laboring.

Frequently identified as a Renaissance man, given the range of his accomplishments and the variety of media he has used, Parks was also the first African American to work for Life, Vogue the Office of War Information and the Farm Security Administration and one of the first African Americans to write direct produce and score a film While the commercial success of his ...

Article

Ann Wilde

photographer, poet, writer, composer, and filmmaker. Born the fifteenth and final child of a farming family in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on 30 November 1912 Parks attended a segregated school where he was often stoned beaten and called derogatory names Three of his close friends had been killed because of racial violence and he was distinctly aware of the constant threat that faced him simply because he was African American and lived in the United States Parks s mother died when he was sixteen after which complying with his mother s wishes Parks moved to Minneapolis to live with his sister and brother in law Unwelcome in his brother in law s home Parks spent the winter homeless but managed to finish high school by working odd jobs He believed above all that the difficulty of his experiences ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of a dirt farmer and the youngest of fifteen children. He left home when he was fifteen, shortly after his mother's death. After an unhappy attempt to move in with a married sister in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Parks ended up spending a frigid winter homeless, an experience that sensitized him to the plight of the poor and that he would draw on in later photography and films. At the time, his hunger and loneliness nearly led him to a life of crime; however, he managed to struggle through high school for a while, working odd jobs herding cattle, carrying bricks, and even touring with a semiprofessional basketball team.

Working as a waiter on the Northern Pacific Railroad, Parks saw magazine photos produced by the Farm Security Administration, a federally funded project that chronicled the Great Depression in rural and ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

Academy Award–winning American actor, civil rights activist, and ambassador. Sidney Poitier pioneered portrayals of African American men on the movie screen during the mid-twentieth-century civil rights movement. He was the first black actor to be nominated for an Academy Award and the first black man to play a romantic lead in major Hollywood films. His on-screen work in the 1950s and 1960s and his directorial work in the 1970s and beyond inaugurated a new era of black film: an era in which filmmaking was taken out of the hands of the studios and was seized by a new generation of filmmakers who wanted to show America's internal conflicts.

Born on 20 February 1927 on the seas east of Miami Poitier grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas As a boy he went to the theater for the first time in Nassau At about age fifteen he moved to ...

Article

Sada Niang

Senegalese actor, writer, filmmaker, and political activist, was born on 1 January 1923 in Casamance, in present-day Senegal. His father, Moussa Sembène, was a fisherman, a respected elder in Ziguinchor, and a devout Muslim yet a man with a strong sense of his personal freedom. Both father and mother (Ramatoulaye Ndiaye) belonged to the Lebou ethnic group from the Dakar-Rufisque area. Sembène was born a French citizen. His relatives were landowners in present-day Dakar Plateau (downtown Dakar), teachers, religious leaders, and construction contractors.

Sembène grew up in Casamance As a teenager he attended school in Ziguinchor for a few years but was soon dismissed for assaulting a teacher who demanded that he sing the Marseillaise in Corsican Moussa Sembène supported the decision of his son taking him fishing for a time before deciding that the young Sembène would be better off with relatives in the big city In prewar Dakar ...

Article

Ousmane Sembène is a pioneer and foundational figure in the history of African cinema. During a career that spanned fifty years, Ousmane Sembène revolutionized African film through changes in film subject and filmic language. His film style influenced many film directors and set standards for the premier organization of African film directors: the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes (FEPACI).

Born in 1923 in the Cassamance region of Senegal, Ousmane Sembène received little formal education. He was dismissed from primary school after he struck the headmaster. In 1942 he enlisted in the French colonial army and fought in World War II. His experiences in Europe made him keenly aware of the inequalities of the colonial system, and after returning to Senegal he participated in anticolonial movements, such as the Dakar-Niger railroad strike in 1947. The following year he moved to France.

Sembène first became interested in writing when he realized that ...

Article

Nicola Cooney

Solano Trindade was born in 1908 in Recife, a town in northeastern Brazil, the son of a mulatto cobbler and a mestizo (of indigenous and European descent) woman. His interest in folklore and popular arts was instilled at an early age, as he would routinely accompany his father to local folk dances and read aloud to his illiterate mother.

After some advanced schooling, Trindade became a Presbyterian deacon and began to write poetry. His early works were mystical writings, and his black poetry would evolve soon thereafter. In 1936 Trindade published his first book, Poemas Negros, and founded the Frente Negra Pernambucana (Black Front of Pernambuco) and the Centro Cultural Afro-Brasileiro (Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center). These groups united a group of contemporary black writers with a view to collecting and disseminating the work of fellow Afro-Brazilian poets and painters. In 1959 Trindade founded the Teatro Popular Brasileiro Brazilian ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

One of the founding figures in African filmmaking, Paulin Vieyra was responsible for dismantling barriers blocking the birth of film in Africa. Not only famous for these achievements, Vieyra was also influential as a film critic and film historian and did much to promote African cinema abroad.

Vieyra was born in Porto Novo, Benin, where he spent his early childhood. His father, a high-ranking civil servant in the French colonial administration, sent him to school in France at the age of ten. An excellent student, Vieyra was admitted to the University of Paris. When a bout of tuberculosis sent him into the hospital, Vieyra met film school students there who encouraged him to enroll in film school. He was admitted to l’Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris and in 1955 became the first African to graduate from the school.

After graduation Vieyra organized the film group Le Groupe Africain ...

Article

Samba Gadjigo

Beninese filmmaker and film critic, was born the oldest of eight children in Porto Novo, Benin (former Dahomey), on 30 January 1925. Vieyra’s great-grandfather, a Muslim Yoruba, was a member of a Bida royal family in Nigeria that was sent to Brazil as slaves. Following the 1835 Muslim slave rebellion in Bahia and emancipation in Brazil, Vieyra’s great-grandfather settled in the former Portuguese slave port of Porto Novo (New Port), which was said to be a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo. He brought with him a mulatto wife, the daughter of his former Jewish Portuguese master and a black slave, and the Portuguese last name Vieyra.

Vieyra’s father was a Yoruba railroad administrator. His mother, originally from Sierra Leone, was a merchant. In 1935 they sent Paulin then ten to France to attend boarding school During the war his school was closed Moving from family to ...