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Ariel Bookman

Nigerian novelist, poet, dramatist, educator, and political activist, was born Christopher Uchechukwu Andrew Abani, on 27 December 1966, in Afikpo, Nigeria. Abani’s life has been dramatically shaped but not defined by the political violence associated with the Nigerian state. Born in the Igbo heartland of southeast Nigeria to an Igbo father and British mother, Abani was six months old when the Biafran War began. His mother fled to Britain with him and his siblings, an experience that he would later narrate in poetic form in Daphne’s Lot (2003). Returning to Nigeria after the war, Abani demonstrated precocious literary talent, publishing his first short story at age ten and finishing his first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), at sixteen. The novel, a political thriller, imagines a Nazi plot to return to power by using unwitting Third World governments as its pawns.

Abani was arrested 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 ...

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Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

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 ...

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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

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

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese educator, novelist, and activist, was born into a well-to-do and ardently religious Lébou family, which had its own mosque in the family compound, bringing the neighborhood together for prayers several times a day. The Lébous, tall, regal, staunchly Muslim, and predominantly fishermen, are a subtribe of the Wolof ethnic group related to the Lébous of Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof) in the northern Sahel region of Senegal. They were the first inhabitants of the city of Dakar (Ndakarou in Wolof) in the Cape-Vert peninsula, composed of the villages of Ngor, Ouakam, and Yoff. Mariama’s father was Niélé Bâ, born in 1892. Her mother died when Mariama was two years old. Hence, she never got to know her nor did she ever see a photograph of her. Niélé Bâ fought as a tirailleur African infantry soldier on the French side in World War I becoming on his return to ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Mariama Bâ, the daughter of Senegal’s first minister of health, was born into a highly educated Muslim family. Bâ’s father had a strong belief in the value of education and, ignoring traditional prohibitions, insisted that his daughter pursue higher education. Bâ attended a prestigious French boarding school near Dakar, passing the entrance examination with the highest marks of all candidates in West Africa that year.

While still a student Bâ began writing essays for local journals and newspapers Her writing revealed her as an articulate and political young woman one essay for example attacked assimilation a French policy encouraging Africans to adopt French identity and culture An active participant in women s organizations the young Bâ found her voice as a spokesperson for African women facing new troubles in the traditional institution of marriage Bâ would later confront these difficulties in her own life when as a ...

Article

Ann Folwell Stanford

Well known for her collections of short stories and her novel, The Salt Eaters (1980), Toni Cade Bambara always insisted that social commitment is inseparable from the production of art. Bambara's early years as a social worker and commitment as a community organizer influenced her work from its earliest beginnings.

Born Toni Cade in 1939 in New York City to Helen Brent Henderson Cade she and her brother Walter grew up in New York New Jersey and the South Bambara s mother whom she credited as one of her major influences gave her room to think dream and write for herself Other influences were rooted in the urban environment in which Bambara grew up She noted especially visiting the Apollo Theater with her father listening to the music of the 1940s and 1950s and hearing the trade unionists Pan Africanists Rastas and others from the Speaker s ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Toni Cade was born in New York City and began writing as a child. She published her first short story in 1959, the year she received a B.A. degree from Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received an M.A. degree in American literature from the City College of New York in 1963. In addition to writing, her diverse career included teaching, social work, documentary filmmaking, and community activism.

Cade added Bambara to her name when she discovered it as a signature in her grandmother's sketchbook. In 1970 Bambara edited the anthology The Black Woman. This work was partially a response to the Civil Rights Movement and the women's movement, and included works by African American poet Nikki Giovanni, American-born Grenadan writer Audre Lorde, African American author Paule Marshall, and Pulitzer Prize-winning African American writer Alice Walker. In 1971 Bambara edited a ...

Article

Alice A. Deck

“It’s a tremendous responsibility—responsibility and honor—to be a writer, an artist, a cultural worker…whatever you call this vocation,” Bambara said in an interview with the critic and scholar Claudia Tate, explaining her proclaimed mission to portray the complex truth and not get trapped in a maze of stereotypes about the black community. Part of a major late-twentieth-century renaissance of African American women writers that included Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, and Paule Marshall, Toni Cade Bambara depicted the black urban experience, adding another image to the larger literary mural these woman presented to the black community.

Article

Aisha X. L. Francis

(b. 25 March 1939; d. 9 December 1995), author, activist, essayist, film critic, and educator. Bambara was born in New York City and raised in and around the New York–New Jersey area. Her given name was Miltona Mirkin Cade, which she shortened to Toni at age five. As an adult she added Bambara to her signature after discovering that one of her grandmothers had used the name in her sketchbooks. In 1970 she had her name legally changed to Toni Cade Bambara. Her mother, Helen Brent Henderson Cade Brehon, to whom Bambara's first novel, The Salt Eaters (1980) is dedicated, encouraged her love of learning and her appreciation for oral history. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater arts from Queens College in 1959 she became a social worker with the Colony Settlement House ...

Article

LaRose M. Davis

was born Leslie Ann Peterson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest daughter of Helen L. Peterson, a homemaker, artist, and community activist, and William T. Peterson, a non-profit administrator. From early on, Banks was an accomplished student. She attended Conwell Middle Magnet School and graduated with honors from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1977. She was accepted into the Wharton School undergraduate business program at the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later, in 1980, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a dual degree in Marketing and Management.

Immediately after graduation, Banks embarked on the first stage of a promising career in corporate sales. Over the next decade, she won positions as a Major Account Sales Representative and at Xerox Corporation (1980–1983), Hewlett Packard Corporation (1983–1986), and Sales Executive at Digital Equipment Corporation (1986–1991). In 1984 ...

Article

Billie Gastic

writer, poet, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sun Fairchild Beam, a security guard, and Dorothy Saunders Beam, a teacher and school guidance counselor. Beam attended Philadelphia's public schools as well as the St. Joseph School for Boys (Clayton, Delaware), Malvern Preparatory (Paoli, Pennsylvania), and St. Thomas More (Philadelphia). In 1972, while still a teenager, Beam was honored with the Philadelphia School District's Volunteer Service Award. He later attended Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, where he studied journalism and earned his BA in 1976. As an undergraduate Beam was active in the local Black Student Union and was a member of the Franklin Independent Men. He was also active in college journalism and radio programming and was awarded the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Award for Broadcasting in 1974.

After graduation Beam remained in the Midwest where he pursued a master s degree ...

Article

Frances Smith Foster

Educating people about their positive potential has long been Candy Boyd's priority. As a high school student, she tried to stop blockbusting in her native Chicago by convincing three of her friends, an African American, a Jew, and a Protestant, to join her in personal visits to more than two hundred white families. She withdrew from college to work as an organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When she finally earned her bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois State University, she became, in her own words, a “militant teacher.” She worked with Operation PUSH, organized neighborhood beautification projects, and used her Saturdays to take students on excursions to parks, theaters, and other neighborhoods.

When Boyd moved to Berkeley California and began teaching in a more diversely multicultural setting her frustration with literary stereotypes and negative depictions of African Americans was exacerbated by her discovery that Asians Latinos and many Euro ...

Article

James C. Hall

Born in Kansas City, Frank London Brown moved to Chicago at age twelve. Educated at Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago, Brown worked numerous jobs to support his literary ambitions. Most significant of these was his work as an organizer and program officer for the United Packing-house Workers of America and other labor unions. Brown was profoundly impacted by the musical culture of African American Chicago, most significantly jazz, but also gospel and blues. A devotee of bebop, Brown published a seminal interview with Thelonious Monk in Downbeat and pioneered in the reading of fiction to jazz accompaniment. Many critics have also noted the importance of a trip Brown made as a journalist to cover the Emmett Till murder case. At the time of his death, he was an accomplished writer on the Chicago scene and a regular contributor to Negro Digest and various literary magazines He was ...

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R. J. M. Blackett

Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy’s St. Louis Times He was also hired out to a slave trader who took coffles of slaves down the Mississippi River for sale in New Orleans Brown s task was to prepare the slaves for sale making sure that they all appeared to be in good health Among other things that meant dyeing the hair of the older slaves ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

Article

Livia Apa

Angolan politician and writer, was born in the Angolan capital of Luanda on 26 July 1944 to an assimilated family. His education was inspired by Portuguese culture; his family, like other assimilated families, assumed that knowing Portuguese would facilitate social mobility in the colonial order. Cardoso spent part of his childhood and youth in Malanje, a city in North Angola, and then returned to study in Luanda. Cardoso soon realized that racism shaped every aspect of life in the colony, and that the educational system was transmitting a sense of cultural alienation and inferiority to its students.

Cardoso thus became an advocate of Angolan independence in the early 1960s. He attended a course in the social sciences at the school of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA, the party that ruled Angola from 1975 through the early twenty first century Some years later Cordoso received ...