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LeGrace Benson

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1946 to parents whose given names are not definitively known His carpenter father died when he was 5 years old leaving Bazile and five siblings in the care of their widowed mother Reared as a devout Catholic Bazile remained so throughout his life attending church each Sunday until his final days Bazile lived most of his life on Rue des Césars in Port au Prince where he arrived with his mother and siblings at a time when the neighborhood was becoming densely populated Many people migrating from the countryside into the city in search of work during this time were Vodou practitioners who were also baptized as Catholics Bazile went to the local Catholic school with the intention of becoming an accountant He excelled in mathematics and geometry skills that he would put to use a few years later as an artist He ...

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

Christopher Tiné

Not much is known about Frédéric-Bruly Bouabré’s early life. He was raised in the Daloa department of western Côte d’Ivoire, and the local Kru culture and community were an important part of his childhood. In 1948, when Bouabré was twenty-four, the as yet undistinguished young man had a celestial vision in Dakar. According to Bouabré, the heavens opened themselves to him and he understood that he was to use his artistic talent to maintain and share the culture of his people, which is rooted in nature and folklore. After his vision Bouabré considered himself reborn as Cheik Nadro, or “he who does not forget,” and has devoted his life to his drawing and other creative projects.

Bouabré s drawings often form a series They are generally small and rectangular and have a border of narrative text around them In this regard many of his drawings strongly ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

activist, listed in some records and Philadelphia city directories by the names of Burgoe, Berge, or Burgu, was evidently a free African American by the time his name appears in public records, when he was already over fifty years of age. No information about his precise date or place of birth, status at birth, parentage, marriage or children, or date of death has come to light. The 1790 census records show that he shared a house at 19 Cresson Alley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with three other free African Americans, possibly his family. Over a decade later he is listed in the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church Birth and Baptismal Register as an adult of sixty-five years, who was baptized on 23 January 1803. No other persons named Burgaw appear in the records spanning the years 1796–1837 which suggests that his immediate family had already dispersed by this time or ...

Article

LeGrace Benson

was born in the Bel Air district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a center of Vodou spiritual activity where a number of artists created sequined ritual flags and bottles essential to Vodou ceremonies. He grew up in the lakou (extended family) of the oungan (Vodou priest) Ceus “Tibout” St. Louis, leader and primary teacher of sequin artists. Spiritually precocious, Cédor became an oungan while still in his teens, and set up his own Vodou ounfò (temple) close to that of his mentor, Tibout. He continued to serve Tibout’s ounfò as manager and director, and was leader of a noted Rara band, a traditional Haitian musical genre. He married Marquis St. Louis, Tibout’s daughter, who was also skilled in the delicate stitching required to make the ritual objects.

By the time of Cédor s childhood and youth the Bel Air district once a semirural section of the rapidly expanding capital of Haiti was ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

missionary and founding father of the state of Liberia, was born in Hicksford, Greensville County, Virginia, the elder son of John Day Sr., an affluent furniture maker, farmer, and landowner, and Mourning Stewart Day. The Days were free African Americans, and Day's father, as early as the 1789 election, was accorded voting status.

In an era when formal education for African Americans was rare, Day reaped the benefits of being the offspring of two prominent families. His father arranged for him to board in Edward Whitehorne's home, and Day, along with the Whitehorne children, attended Jonathan Bailey's school. While residing with the family, Day received some level of religious instruction from Whitehorne. In 1807 Day's father, who had been residing in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, purchased a plantation in Sussex County, Virginia, near the Whitehorne residence, and Day then attended William Northcross's school.

At the age of nineteen ...

Article

De Witt S. Dykes

minister and registered architect, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the second male and the fifth of six children born to Mary Anna Wade, a homemaker, and the Reverend Henry Sanford Roland Dykes, a lay minister in the Methodist Church (later the United Methodist Church), a brick mason, and construction contractor.

In the early 1900s the family moved to Newport, Tennessee, which was a racially segregated small town with a semirural atmosphere. Henry Dykes served as a circuit riding minister, conducting services on alternate Sundays at Methodist churches in three communities, including one at Newport, but earned enough to support his family as the head of a construction firm on weekdays until his death in 1945 Henry Dykes taught brick masonry and construction skills to not only his sons but also others By age fourteen Dykes had become a master mason by age seventeen he was a ...

Article

Born in Lafayette, Alabama, Sister Gertrude Morgan became an evangelist and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1939. She took the title “Sister” in the 1950s when, with two other street missionaries, she founded a church and an orphanage.

Morgan began painting in 1956, concentrating primarily on religious visions and biblical scenes. She believed that she was mystically married to Jesus Christ which she symbolized by dressing entirely in white Her paintings frequently depicted her with Jesus as bride and groom often with herself in black before and in white after the marriage As a street preacher Morgan eschewed the formal art world preferring to make folk art with any material at hand including Styrofoam cardboard lamp shades and jelly jars Her work frequently includes calligraphy which communicates a spiritual message or a biblical verse All her inspiration she felt came from God saying He moves ...

Article

Sylvie Kandé

multimedia artist, philosopher, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Daniel Robert, a lawyer, and Olive Xavier Smith Piper, an administrator. Belonging to a light-skinned African American family, she was confronted early on by challenges that ultimately gave her work some of its unique characteristics, namely the firm assertion of her black identity, her unremitting fleshing out of racial stereotypes, and her commitment to cross-cultural bridge-building. Her involvement with the arts began in childhood: a piano prodigy and ballet dancer, she also took classes at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Her political consciousness was first shaped in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which she joined in 1962, and by the events surrounding the March on Washington in 1963, commemorated in her 1983 poster Think about It She graduated from New Lincoln School in ...

Article

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...

Article

Josepha Sherman

artist and preacher, was born to a West African father and a Cherokee mother in Africa, although the exact date was not recorded. After two years the family moved to the United States and settled on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, where Sparrow s maternal grandfather lived Sparrow later claimed the man was a tribal chief Sparrow grew up in an area that was settled by Cherokees and the descendants of slaves At seven he began preaching to the forest animals then he began speaking in tongues and speaking to his family s Pentecostal church In his youth he drew stick figures in the sand then recorded images on scraps of paper One day he discovered pieces of plywood and began to use them to for his sketches A passing man offered to buy one but Sparrow angrily refused he had not made pictures to sell ...

Article

Mersha Alehegne

third Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, was born on 18 September 1917 in Mahedere Maryam, Gonder; his birth name was Melaku. His parents were Welde Mikael Wondimu and Zewditu Kasa. Welde Mikael met Zewditu in Yerez, Gojjam, when he was in a military service in the area, and took her to Mahdere Maryam, Gonder, where she gave birth to Tekle. But because of the natural death of the father, Zewditu went back to her place of origin with the baby.

Tekle began traditional church education near his home and later, after the death of his mother, in Yerez Michael near Bichena, Gojjam, where he studied church poetry (qene) under Memher Lisane Werq He then went back to Mahedere Maryam the place of his birth and baptism and started serving as deacon But when he did not find things as he wished them to be he ...

Article

Timothy M. Broughton

grassroots organizer, architect, and minister, was born Jasper Jacob Thomas in Mobile County, Alabama, the youngest of three boys. Little is known about Thomas's mother; his father, whose name is not known, was a successful construction worker, a trade that quickly became one of Thomas's passions. Thomas married Mary Whisper in the early 1900s, and they had seven daughters. Thomas also had a son prior to this marriage, but there is no information about the details of this union.

Thomas traveled widely, visiting England and France. In Africa he learned about different architectural styles and cultural, social, and political organization. He admired and corresponded with Marcus Garvey, and in Mobile he publicly organized and supported black pride and self-sufficiency projects.

In 1948 Thomas was instrumental in both organizing and directing the strategy for defeating the Boswell Amendment the most racially discriminatory voting law passed in ...