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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 ...

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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 ...

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Mpalive Msiska

Nigerian novelist, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on 15 November 1930 at Saint Simon’s Church, Nneobi, near Ogidi, in British colonial Nigeria. His father, Isaiah Okafo Achebe, was a teacher and evangelist and his mother, Janet Anaenechi Iloeghunam, was from the Awka area of eastern Nigeria. Until the age of five, Achebe was brought up at a church school, where his father taught. When his father went into semiretirement in 1935 in Ogidi, Achebe became a child of two worlds, the modern world and the world of indigenous tradition. He began primary school at Saint Philip’s Central School at Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, moving on to Nekede Central School near Owerri in 1942. Achebe developed into a studious young man, passing entrance examinations for two prestigious secondary schools.

It was at Government College Umuahia which had a good library and extremely able and dedicated teachers that Achebe cultivated his love of ...

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Terza Silva Lima-Neves

lawyer and author, was born on 31 July 1945 on Boa Vista Island in the Republic of Cape Verde Germano de Almeida was one of ten children of Anacleto Dias Almeida and Eugenia da Cruz Almeida His father was a carpenter and his mother was a stay at home mother who took care of the children It was very difficult for his parents to support ten children Cape Verde was a small and poor country under Portuguese rule There were not many jobs available When Germano was sixteen years old his father passed away after being sick for many years Germano started working as a carpenter to help his family He was very smart really enjoyed school and because of this Germano was chosen to be his teacher s assistant He wanted to continue with school and be successful even if he did not receive support from his parents ...

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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” In this statement from his 1972 essay “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin sums up a philosophy that drove much of his work. Baldwin was continually conscious of the hypocrisies and injustices in the world around him, and as a writer he strove to make his audiences aware of the possibility that people could do, and be, better. An expatriate most of his adult life, Baldwin nevertheless wrote tirelessly about the contradictions inherent in American identity, and especially about the state of American race relations. He came to be respected as one of the most insightful intellectuals in the Civil Rights Movement and as a leading figure in the African American literary tradition.

Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924 Shortly ...

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Carolyn Wedin

writer and civil rights activist. James Arthur Baldwin was born James Arthur Jones in Harlem Hospital in New York City to Emma Berdis Jones. He was adopted by Jones's husband David Baldwin, a Baptist preacher and factory worker, in 1927.

By the time of his death Baldwin had become a kind of prophetic spokesperson—as both artist and activist—for black life and black history in America, a strong critic of the country he loved. This he accomplished with considerable reflective time spent outside the country, especially in France and Turkey; with wide-ranging artistic and literary contacts; and with a consummate skill in several literary genres, especially the essay, the novel, and the play.

Home life for Jimmy was hectic and demanding He moved frequently between crowded apartments in Harlem with his overworked mother his angry stepfather David Baldwin s mother and oldest son and eight brothers and sisters ...

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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 ...

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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.

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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

Shannon Oxley

Congolese (Brazzaville) novelist, politician, musician, and journalist, was born in Simiti, the regional capital of Lekoumou, Congo, on 17 February 1934. Bemba had a wife named Yvonne, and together they had a son, Richard (date of birth unknown). Little else is known about his personal life.

Bemba lived in Brazzaville for most of his life, where he worked as a journalist for La Semaine Africaine (African Week), a weekly newspaper, for over thirty years. Bemba’s contributions for La Semaine Africaine span the period from 1964 to 1995 He also began writing fiction in the form of short stories many of which gained national exposure for their portrayals of average Congolese women and men Bemba wrote in the French language and his work has won numerous awards including his acclaimed short story Le chambre noir 1963 The Black Room which was named Best New Literature by the literary magazine ...

Article

Born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala in Mbalmayo, a town near Yaoundé, he adopted the pen name Eza Bota with his first work and thereafter used the pseudonym Mongo Beti. Educated in Catholic mission schools and then at a French lycée in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Beti went to France in 1951 to study literature at the University of Aix-en-Provence. He published his first novel, Ville cruelle, in 1954. This work introduces the major themes of his early writing: the social disorientation caused by colonialism, and the African’s revolt against traditional village life, especially its patriarchy.

With his second novel, Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (1956; The Poor Christ of Bomba, 1971 Beti established himself as an important Francophone French language writer The novel was banned in Cameroon however because it presumes a complicity between missionaries and the government in maintaining colonialism Written in the form of ...

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

Kate Tuttle

The son of an Afrikaner magistrate, André Brink grew up moving from village to village in rural South Africa, each characterized, he says, by “conservative Protestantism … generosity and narrow-mindedness.” After receiving master’s degrees in English and Afrikaans from Potchefstroom University, Brink went to Paris in 1959 to study at the Sorbonne. By his own assessment, the 1960Sharpeville massacre in South Africa (in which the police killed at least sixty-nine innocent protesters) sparked in him a new political awareness and prompted him to return home in 1961.

Brink began to write fiction while lecturing at Rhodes University. Two novels published in the early 1960s were largely apolitical, but his views on writing changed after he spent 1968 in Paris where he witnessed student uprisings Brink came to believe that in a closed society the writer has a specific social and moral role to fill His next ...

Article

James Smethurst

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas. As an infant she moved with her parents, David and Keziah Wims Brooks, to the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, where she resided for the rest of her life. Brooks was educated at Chicago public schools and Wilson Junior College. The major early influence on Brooks's literary career was her mother, who encouraged Brooks to give dramatic recitals when she was just four years old. Largely through her mother's urging, the teenage Brooks met leading black writers James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, who encouraged her to write poetry. By age sixteen Brooks had already published poetry in the Chicago Defender, the leading African American newspaper of that time.

Brooks s writing further developed as she participated in the vibrant literary scene of the South Side during the late 1930s and early 1940s This milieu included important black ...

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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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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 ...