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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

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 ...

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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

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 ...

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Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

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Malinda Williams

poet, short story writer, mythologist, and folklorist, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Cornelius A. Bennett, a baker, and Kerene Robinson Bennett, a seamstress. Bennett's father died when she was just seven years old, leaving her mother to support the family. Bennett received a typical colonial education at St. Simon's College (1933–1936) and Excelsior High School (1936–1938), which greatly influenced her later interest in elevating and legitimizing traditional Jamaican culture. Though in high school Bennett began writing poetry in English, she later switched to writing in West Indian English, which linguists would eventually come to recognize as a language rather than just a dialect.

Bennett also began performing versions of her poems to audiences in high school and her success caught the attention of Eric Coverley who would later become Bennett s husband Coverley a draftsman and impresario organized a popular Christmas concert ...

Article

Robin Jones

actor, was born in Texas. Little is known of his early life or how he came to film. He played, often uncredited, a series of African or South Seas characters in mainstream adventure movies such as King Kong and Tarzan. He is best remembered for his role as Big Sam in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind and is an example of an actor making the most of what was available to him in a period of segregation and extreme stereotyping in movies.

Brown's first credited movie role was as Nahalo, an island “native” in the 1923 silent movie South Sea Love. He continued with roles of this ilk, playing natives or Africans in Danger Island (1931), Hell's Headquarters (1932), and Kongo (1932). That same year he had a small part in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang ...

Article

Jonathan Shandell

playwright and actor, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, and raised in New York City. There is no documented record of Browne's early childhood and family life. While living in New York he completed high school in the Bronx at DeWitt Clinton High School, graduated soon thereafter from City College of New York, and gained his first stage experience as a young actor.

In 1935 Browne moved to Seattle Washington where he became active with the Seattle Repertory Playhouse a progressive local theater led by the University of Washington professors Burton and Florence James The following year the Jameses helped establish the Negro Repertory Company NRC Seattle s African American unit of the Federal Theatre Project FTP a nationwide Depression era initiative under the New Deal s Works Progress Administration that provided employment and artistic opportunities for theater artists including many African Americans across the country Browne was an active ...

Article

Cynthia A. Young

writer, director, producer, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His parents’ names are unknown, but his father is believed to have been in military service at the time, while his mother worked as a nurse's aide. At the age of three, his family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, seeking jobs in California's postwar economy. Unfortunately, the end of World War II also meant the end of well-paid wartime jobs, and the Burnetts struggled to find work. Soon after the move, his parents parted, leaving Burnett to be raised by his grandmother.

Burnett's teenage years from 1957 to 1963 overlapped with the civil rights era, which by the early 1970s had profoundly transformed the United States. In Watts and other inner-city ghettos, the struggle to overturn de jure segregation and discrimination promised to address the institutional racism that cut off Watts from the prosperity and progress evident elsewhere ...

Article

The award-winning author of over a dozen plays and novels focusing on the plight of the poor, the role of community, and the struggle of blacks against racism, sexism, and classism, Alice Childress was born in Charleston, South Carolina. She was raised in Harlem, New York, by her grandmother Eliza Campbell, who inspired Childress's early love of art and concern for the poor. Childress attended Public School 81, Julia Ward Howe Elementary School, and Wadleigh High School, which she left after three years.

Childress's playwriting career began in 1943 with her eleven-year association with the American Negro Theatre, where she was instrumental in the organization's development. Childress's plays include Florence (1949), Wine in The Wilderness (1966), and Moms (1987). She was the first black woman to win an Obie Award, for Trouble in Mind (1955 Although best known ...

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Aisha X. L. Francis

activist, actor, and author of plays, essays, screenplays, and fiction. Alice Herndon Childress was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1916. When she was five, her parents separated. They sent Childress to Harlem, New York, to live with her maternal grandmother, Eliza Campbell White. From her grandmother, she gained a love of education, books, writing, and theater. Her formal education ended in her second year of high school, when her grandmother died. In the years that followed, Childress explored theater and writing while working multiple jobs. She gave birth to one daughter, Jean R. Childress, in 1935.

In 1941, she began her theatrical career, acting and working behind the scenes with the famed American Negro Theatre (ANT) in Harlem. Her apprenticeship with ANT lasted until 1952. During this time, she performed in numerous productions, including Theodore Brown's Natural Man written ...

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Evan Mwangi

Moroccan novelist, dramatist, and radio commentator and producer, was born on 15 July 1926 in the French Moroccan town of Mazagan (present-day el-Jadida), near Casablanca. His father was a fairly liberal tea merchant who regarded European education as a vestibule to a better Moroccan society. As a young boy Chraïbi received his early education in a local qurʾanic school, but when the family moved to Casablanca a little later, he joined a French school. In 1946 he left for Paris to study chemical engineering, graduating in 1950. However, he abandoned his graduate studies in neuropsychiatry just before receiving his doctorate. He traveled across Europe and to Israel, settling in France with his first wife, Catherine Chraïbi (née Birckel), and their children.

From 1952 Chraïbi devoted himself to literature and journalism, and in 1954 he began writing for the National Radio and Television Broadcasting System Ranging from epics to comedy ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

playwright, screenwriter, novelist, filmmaker, educator, was born Kathleen Conwell in Jersey City, New Jersey, daughter of Frank and Loretta Conwell. Her father was employed as a mortician prior to being appointed as the principal of a New Jersey school. Conwell attended Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York, where in 1963 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religion. Upon graduating from college she became active with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) initiative to advance voter registration in the South, where African Americans had been historically discouraged from voting. Conwell attended graduate school in Paris, France, where in 1966 she earned a Master of Arts degree in French Literature and Cinema through the Middlebury College program at the Sorbonne.

Upon completing her graduate studies in Paris Conwell returned to New York where she had attended college and promptly began working ...

Article

Steven R. Carter

Born Kathleen Conwell in Jersey City, she was the daughter of Frank and Loretta Conwell. Her father, who had worked as a mortician, became the principal of a high school now named after him and the first black New Jersey state legislator. In 1963, after receiving her BA in philosophy and religion from Skidmore College, Collins worked on black southern voter registration for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1966 she earned an MA in French literature and cinema through the Middle-bury program at Paris's Sorbonne. Joining the editorial and production staff at a New York City Public Broadcasting Service station, Collins worked as a film editor and began writing stories. In 1974, soon after ending her marriage to Douglas Collins, she became a professor of film history and screenwriting at the City College of New York. Adapting Henry H. Roth's fiction for the screen in The ...

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Faith Mkwesha-Manyonga

Zimbabwean novelist, scriptwriter, consultant, and film director, was born in 1959 in Mutoko in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). At the age of two, she left for England with her parents, who were going for further studies, and started her primary education there. In 1965, when she was six, they returned to Rhodesia, where she completed her primary and secondary education at a mission school in Mutare. In 1977, she returned to England to study medicine at Cambridge University, but feeling lonely and alienated, she returned home after three years, without completing her studies, just before the declaration of national independence.

Back in a newly liberated Zimbabwe she worked for a marketing company as a copy editor and then studied psychology at the University of Zimbabwe She was actively involved in the University of Zimbabwe drama club writing and staging plays Dangarembga worked as a teacher after graduating but ...

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Natasha Baafi

screenwriter, director, producer, and novelist, was born in Long Island City, New York. Although Dash grew up in New York City, she often visited the South Carolina Sea Islands. Her father and his family were raised in the Gullah culture, and Dash ate Gullah cooking and heard the Gullah language spoken among them. She was inspired by her uncle, St. Julian Bennett Dash—a tenor saxophone player who introduced Dash to his Bolex and the camera equipment he used to document his tours with his band—to make films. The young Dash explored the equipment and began to experiment with photography.

Dash's film career got an early start when she enrolled in a film production workshop at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1968 At first she thought she had enrolled in a course in photojournalism but she soon learned that it was a motion picture workshop She had accidentally ...

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Virginia Whatley Smith

W. E. B. Du Bois argued in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) that African Americans possessed a unique “double consciousness” because of their “twin rooted” heritage of being both African and American. For William Demby, this dichotomy of racial and national oppositions became an asset rather than a handicap. Born 25 December 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Demby spent his formative years in a middle-class, multiethnic neighborhood where its three African American families resided harmoniously with first-generation immigrants. Individualism prevailed concomitantly with nationalism so that people felt proudly ethnic, but still American, recalls Demby. He never felt divided because of nationalistic practices of discriminating against blacks.

Demby's parents, however, experienced the color problem that Du Bois predicted would be facing the twentieth century. William Demby and Gertrude Hendricks had been aspiring architectural and medical students to Philadelphia s colleges but were denied entrance They lived during the ...

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Jenny Murray

Algerian writer and filmmaker, was born Fatma Zohra Imalhayène in Cherchell, Algeria, on 30 June 1936 to Tahar Imalhayène and Bahia Sahraoui. Her father was a teacher in the French colonial school in Mouzaïaville in the Mitidja region, and her mother was a descendant of the Berkani tribe. Djebar attended the school where her father taught, and from 1946 to 1953 she studied classics and English at the French secondary school in Blida. In October 1953, after passing the Baccalauréat examination, she enrolled in the Lycée Bugeaud in Algiers for the hypokhâgne, the first year of a preparatory course for entrance examinations to the École Normale Supérieure. Djebar moved to Paris in October 1954 to complete Première Supérieure in literature Greek and Latin at the Lycée Fénelon The following year she was offered a place at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure de Sèvres and from May to ...

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Known for her works about women in North Africa’s Islamic societies, Assia Djebar is one of a generation of female writers and directors who provide a view of history in which women have a central role. Primary concerns in her work include voice, memory, and language. Although Arabic was the language of her family, Djebar was educated in French because France, which controlled Algeria at the time, did not allow the teaching of Arabic. Today she writes in French, striving to make the language her own and not that of her country’s colonizers.

Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayen in Cherchell, a small coastal town west of Algiers, Algeria to a schoolteacher father and a mother who died while Djebar was a child She finished her early studies in Algeria then became the first Algerian student to be admitted to the prestigious Lïécole Normale Supérieure de Sèvres in France ...

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Klara Szmánko

poet, novelist, film producer, activist, and radio talk show host, was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Sam Greenlee Sr., was a chauffeur, and his mother a singer and dancer. Greenlee, who identifies himself as a second-generation immigrant from the Deep South, has claimed that he made up for his “non-education in Chicago ghetto non-schools at three universities: Wisconsin, Chicago and Thessalonikki, Greece” (Afterword, Blues for an African Princess). Greenlee received his BS degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1952. He studied at the University of Chicago between 1954 and 1957 and at the University of Thessalonikki for one year (1963–1964 Greenlee professes fluency in Greek Indonesian and Malay and a much more limited knowledge of Arabic French and Italian the languages he mastered while working as a foreign service officer in Iraq Pakistan Indonesia and Greece ...