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Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili novelist, was born in Makunduchi village in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) in 1918. Even though he was a Muslim, he was educated in a missionary school. After completing his secondary education in 1938, he worked for the Civil Health Department and edited the Swahili Bulletin in the Department of Agriculture on his island. His complete biography remains obscure. He lost all his family in January 1964 during the bloody revolution that overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar and his mainly Arab government but took a heavy toll of victims among the population as well.

Abdulla’s first novelette, Mzimu wa watu wa kale (Graveyard of the Ancestors, 1960), aroused lively interest among the critics for its innovations: the abandonment of the folktale tradition, omnipresent in Swahili fiction of those days, and the concern for literary style. It won first prize in the East African Literary Competition of 1957 ...

Article

The well-known white Cuban Creole author Cirilo Villaverde (1812–1894) published a first version of Cecilia Valdés in 1839 (thirteen years before Uncle Tom's Cabin, in 1852) at the urging of the abolitionist editor and journalist Domingo del Monte. Del Monte had commissioned the novel to be read at his famous tertulia, social gatherings in Havana, where intellectuals presented works to one another and to supporters who would gather to listen. There was the potential of sending the works to England as part of the 1838 dossier that del Monte was preparing for Richard Madden. Madden was the British representative to the International Tribunal of Justice, which oversaw the ban on slave trading and the protection of freedpeople. The purpose of del Monte's circle of liberal planters and professionals was to embarrass Spain into granting abolition and other reforms including Cuban representation in ...

Article

Mary T. Henry

bishop, civil rights leader, and educator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Rev. Eugene Avery Adams and Charity Nash Adams. He and his three siblings, Avery, Charity, and Lucy Rose, were raised in a spiritual and intellectually stimulating home. His father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and social activist, in the 1920s organized the first African American bank in Columbia and the first modern statewide civil rights organization in South Carolina. None of these activities went unnoticed by young John and they helped to define his later focus and commitments. Adams was educated in the segregated Columbia school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His undergraduate work was completed at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned an AB degree in History in 1947 After studying at Boston University School of Theology he received a bachelor of ...

Primary Source

Following the Civil War newly formed all black infantry regiments known as the Buffalo Soldiers served on the rolling Western frontier protecting settlers and clearing a path for the construction of railroads and towns For many African American men volunteering in the army for $13 a month was a substantial improvement over their prospects back home But more than that the participation of these soldiers in the expansion west helped to establish African American communities where none had existed before And in the case of Squadron Major Eugene P Frierson of the Tenth Cavalry the experience was an opportunity for adventure despite the hardships and continued discrimination from the whites whom the Buffalo Soldiers were protecting Frierson wrote a serialized story based on his time in the army one of the episodes is reproduced below Although it places little emphasis on character development plot or major themes the story carries ...

Article

Richard Watts

Alexis was born into one of Haiti's literary families. His father, Stéphen Alexis, was the author of Le Nègre masqué (1933) and wrote a work on the history of Haiti. After finishing his studies at the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Institute, Jacques Alexis studied medicine in both Port-au-Prince and Paris, France. Returning to Haiti after receiving his degree, he participated in the revolt of 1946. Alexis soon fled Haiti for fear of political persecution. From that point forward, he spent most of his time traveling, visiting the countries of the Middle East, Russia, and China, before settling in Cuba. But the lure of his native Haiti was strong, and he returned clandestinely to the northwest part of the island in 1961, in spite of reservations regarding the corrupt regime of François Duvalier Alexis was arrested and is believed to have died in captivity ...

Article

Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

Article

Onita Estes-Hicks

librarian, Harlem Renaissance cultural worker, and playwright, was born Regina Anderson in Chicago, the daughter of Margaret (Simons) Anderson, an artist, and William Grant Anderson, a prominent criminal attorney. She was reared in a black Victorian household in Chicago's Hyde Park district, amply provided for by a father who counted W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson among his friends and clients. Regina attended normal school and high school in Hyde Park, studying later at Wilberforce University and the University of Chicago, and eventually receiving a degree in Library Science from Columbia University's School of Library Science.

The Chicago of her youth and early adulthood struck her as provincial, yet it was flavored by migrants from the deep South and enlivened by the voice of Ida B. Wells whose writings on lynching gave Anderson an understanding of the link between race and violence ...

Article

Kameelah L. Martin

novelist, journalist, and educator, was born in Macon, Georgia, the youngest child of Walter J. McElroy, an entrepreneur and business owner, and Nellie Lee McElroy, a teaching assistant. Ansa grew up surrounded by storytellers. Her grandfather was one, and the patrons of her father's neighborhood juke joint often shared the tales of their seedy lives.

This love of storytelling remained with Ansa as she pursued a BA in English at the historically black Spelman College in Atlanta. There, Ansa was introduced to the writing of Zora Neale Hurston by her professor Gloria Wade‐Gayles, an introduction that continued to shape Ansa's appreciation for the art of storytelling and folk tradition in the African American community, and one that would influence her own writing style tremendously. After completing her degree in 1971 Ansa became the first African American woman hired to work for the Atlanta Constitution (later the Atlanta ...

Primary Source

Founded in 1900, the Colored American Magazine was intended to provide a voice to previously neglected African American writers and to act as an engine of social reform in the bleakest days of the Jim Crow era. The work of Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930) sought to satisfy both goals. During the first few years of the magazine’s existence, Hopkins was one of its most prolific contributors, publishing several serialized novels, short stories, essays, and biographies. Trained as a journalist, Hopkins saw her popular fiction as a means to criticize racism and segregation. As Hazel V. Carby points out (The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins Oxford University Press 1988 Hopkins both utilizes the strategies and formulas of nineteenth century dime novels and story papers and reveals the limits of these popular narrative forms for black characterization Although her stories contain formulaic structures and elements of melodrama her use of strong ...

Article

Orquídea Ribeiro

Angolan journalist, novelist, solicitor/lawyer, was born in Golungo Alto, Angola on 13 March 1877. His main work was as a solicitor advising the native population, mostly on issues regarding land expropriation by the settlers. As a journalist and writer, he took an active role in promoting social, economic, and political reforms during the second decade of the twentieth century, protesting against the practice of forced work and denouncing the abuses committed by colonial administrators as well as the preferential treatment given to the settler community. He worked as a judicial solicitor in Golungo Alto at the time that news broke regarding frightful atrocities being committed against white settlers, causing fear and uneasiness. He was arrested in 1917 under the accusation of leading a nativist movement whose purpose was to promote uprisings and spread rebellion in the colony. He narrowly escaped being deported.

A nationalist Assis Júnior was cofounder of ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Sara E. Hosey

novelist and columnist, was born in Mobile, Alabama. Raised primarily by her mother, Tommie Letitia Austin, and her grandmother, Rebecca Stallworth, Doris Jean was five years old when her family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. Reverend Ercell Webb, her high school teacher, encouraged Austin to write, and Austin's early life in New Jersey provided a geographical and temporal backdrop for her only novel, After the Garden (1987).

Austin transformed the trials of her young adulthood into fodder for her writing Before she was thirty Austin s mother and grandmother had died of cancer she had lived through two divorces she had been diagnosed with and overcome cancer herself and she had struggled with alcoholism She also recovered the memory of the rape that she had survived when she was a child Austin drew on these sources of pain for both her fiction and her nonfiction ...

Article

Originally published anonymously in 1912, James Weldon Johnson's novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man advances the narrative of the “tragic mulatto” who passes for white beyond the constraints imposed by the form as it was practiced in nineteenth-century American literature. Though in some ways conforming to the conventional novel of passing in suggesting that a mixed racial heritage makes a person incapable of functioning in either the black or the white world, Johnson's novel turns this notion on its head by invoking double consciousness, as his narrator makes clear:

It is this too which makes the colored people of this country in reality a mystery to the whites It is a difficult thing for a white man to learn what a colored man really thinks because generally with the latter an additional and different light must be brought to bear on what he thinks This gives to ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean Louis Baghio’o is the pen name of Jean-Louis Victor, a native of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, once colonized by France. His novels and poems deal with the complex racial and cultural legacy of French colonialism in the Caribbean.

Unlike the more revolutionary works of his friends and fellow writers Léon-Gontran Damas, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Jacques Rabemananjara, Baghio’o’s writings explore the lives of the mulatto, or mixed-race, middle class. His most important work, Le Flamboyant à fleurs bleues (The Blue-Flame Tree, 1973 describes four centuries of such a family s life on Guadeloupe focusing on the nineteenth century when the family acquires land and enters into direct rivalry with the white plantation owners who were formerly its masters Baghio o uses this family with its mixture of Africans East Indians Carib Indians and Europeans as a metaphor for the Creoles of Guadeloupe who must fight to ...

Article

DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...

Article

Greg Miller

As a teenager James Baldwin abandoned the pulpit after a year and a half but it would be fair to say that he always remained a preacher For Baldwin the life of an artist was a higher vocation and he plunged into that life with inexhaustible at times desperate fervor While he insisted that the writer s primary responsibility is to his or her craft he was equally adamant that the writer has an obligation to serve as witness for society in doing so the writer plays an essential role in the construction of a better future Baldwin certainly demanded of himself this double purpose and when the two are in accord often in his essays occasionally in his fiction it is easy to see his work as among the most important in twentieth century American literature For many though Baldwin s early promise as a novelist was never fully ...