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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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Mary Jane Lupton

autobiographer, poet, educator, playwright, essayist, actor, and director, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on 4 April 1928. Her pen name derives from having been called “Maya” (“My”) by her brother Bailey and from having being married for nearly three years to Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor whom she met while she was a salesgirl in a record store. After the marriage to Angelos ended in divorce, she performed as a calypso dancer at The Purple Onion, a San Francisco night club, where she took the stage name that she still uses.

Maya Angelou s mother Vivian Baxter was a blackjack dealer and a nurse her father Bailey Johnson Sr was a doorman a cook and a dietician for the United States Navy Their marriage ended in divorce When Maya was three and Bailey was four the children with name tags on their wrists were sent ...

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Stefanie K. Dunning

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. Because her brother Bailey could not say her whole name as a child, Marguerite became Maya. Angelou's life is synonymous with her work; she has published a series of five autobiographies, her most famous being I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). In each of these five works, Angelou writes about particular and important parts of her life. Yet not only does each book elucidate periods in Angelou's own life, but these books also paint a picture of the time she is writing about within the black community. Angelou's work demonstrates that the personal is political and that the events that shape and inform an individual life are often related to large political movements and events that affect an entire community.

Long before the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

The wit, wisdom, and power of Angelou's work have made her one of the most beloved contemporary American writers. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Later she chose a new name for herself by combining her childhood nickname, Maya, with a version of her first husband's last name. Her family moved to California soon after her birth, but her parents divorced when she was three, and she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to be raised by her paternal grandmother. When Angelou was seven, her mother's boyfriend raped her. The trauma of this made Angelou unable to speak for five years. During this period she began to read widely.

Angelou returned to California during high school and took drama and dance lessons. As a teenager, she became San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor. She gave birth at age sixteen to her only child, Guy Johnson To ...

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Carolyn Wedin

author and performer. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson, Angelou was given her shortened first name, Maya, by her brother Bailey. She later modified the name of her first husband, Tosh Angelos, to whom she was married from 1952 to 1955, to form her last name. Her parents divorced soon after her birth, and in 1930 she and her brother were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, where they were raised for most of the next ten years by their paternal grandmother, Anne Henderson (or “Momma”). After Angelou's graduation with honors in 1940 from Lafayette County Training School, she and her brother were put on a train for San Francisco, where they were to live with their recently remarried mother. In 1944 the unmarried sixteen-year-old Angelou gave birth to her only child, Clyde Johnson, later Guy Johnson ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

writer, poet, and performer, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second of two children of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a naval dietician, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a card dealer who later became a registered nurse. Her parents called her “Rita,” but her brother, Bailey, who was only a year older, called her “My Sister,” which was eventually contracted to “Maya.” When Maya was three years old, she and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom Maya often referred to as “Mother.”Mrs. Henderson was a strong independent black woman who owned a country store in which Maya lived and worked Maya was a bright student and an avid reader she absorbed the contradictory messages of love emanating from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and of hatred revealed in the pervasive mistreatment of ...

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Ama Mazama

scholar and author, was born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. in Valdosta, Georgia. He was the first son of Lillie Wilkson, a domestic worker, and Arthur L. Smith, a railroad worker. The family grew over the years and eventually included sixteen children.

Valdosta, a small southern town also known as the Azalea City, was the arena in which young Arthur first saw the abuses and injustices suffered by black people under segregation. He picked cotton during the summer to help his family, a task representing for him not only the injustices of the present but also the awful, backbreaking conditions that his ancestors had to endure for hundreds of years during slavery. While shining shoes at age eleven, he was spat upon by a white man, an experience he would later recall in describing his growing determination to fight against racism.

Identified early in life as possessing exceptional intellectual ...

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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian poet, diplomat, military commander, and politician, was born in Cairo on 6 October 1839. His family claimed descent from a medieval Mamluk royal line, but his surname (nisba) refers to the district of Ityay al-Barud in Lower Egypt, of which his ancestors had once been tax farmers (multazims). His father, an artillery officer under Muhammad Ali, died in Sudan when al-Barudi was only seven years old. After primary education, al-Barudi entered the Military Training School in Cairo, in 1851, and graduated from it in 1855 with the rank of bash-jawish (sergeant-major). During the reign of the viceroy Saʿid (r. 1854–1863), he served in Istanbul as a diplomat and during this time acquired a lifelong enthusiasm for literature.

In 1863 the new viceroy, Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 visited Istanbul and recruited al Barudi as commander of his Viceregal Guard in Cairo with the ...

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Geoffrey Roper

Moroccan Arabic writer, journalist, and diplomat (not to be confused with the francophone writer Abdelmajid Benjelloun, born in 1944), was born in Casablanca. At the age of five months, he was taken by his parents to Manchester, where his father worked as a merchant. He attended primary school there, and became the darling of a small community of immigrants. The loss of both his mother and his sister while he was still young had a profound effect on him, reinforced by his reading of Charles Dickens; the emotional consequences of this loss can be found in his writings.

He returned to Morocco with his father at the age of nine They took up residence in Fez where Bin Jallun received his secondary education and then enrolled in the ancient Islamic university of the Qarawiyin The pervasive atmosphere there was one of traditional Arabic learning and culture and this made a ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Politics … is a part of life and poets are interested in life … if politics is a part of life, we shall become involved in politics.” In this quote from a 1978 interview, Martin Carter expressed the views on poets' political and social responsibilities that shaped his entire career. Carter was born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). After graduating from Queens College, he took a job with the British Civil Service in Guiana. However, he soon became involved with the political struggle to free his country from British colonial rule.

In 1953 Carter was jailed for supporting Guyanese activist Cheddi Jagan. While Carter had already self-published several books of poetry before his imprisonment, it was his book from that period, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (1954 that became his most famous His militant idealistic portrayal of his country s political struggles became a ...

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Lucilda Hunter

poet, dramatist, musician, artist, was born prematurely on 11 May 1904 in Axim in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Her father was Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, a journalist, educator, and Pan-African activist of Fante origin, and her mother was his second wife, Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford, a Sierra Leonean–born feminist, writer, and educator.

Gladys Casely-Hayford spent the first five years of her life between the Gold Coast and England. Her mother first took her there in 1906 to consult a specialist about a congenital hip defect that had made her left leg weak and misaligned, creating mobility problems. A second visit to England was for her mother’s own health and family reasons. Both visits lasted for months and might have contributed to the failure of her parents’ marriage, which ended with a legal separation agreement in 1914 Gladys went to Freetown when her mother returned to Sierra Leone and attended the ...

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Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Michael Mizell-Nelson

poet, historian, civil rights activist, college instructor, and small businessman, was born in Houma (Mechanicsville), Louisiana, to Emanuel Banks Christian and Rebecca Harris. Christian was born into a family of teachers; both his father and grandfather had taught in rural Louisiana. The latter was a former slave who served as a director of the Lafourche Parish public school system during Reconstruction. Christian's mother died when he was three, and his father, who had tutored him, died ten years later. Little else is known of his early education. He moved with his siblings to New Orleans in 1919, where he worked as a chauffeur before opening his own dry cleaners business. During the 1920s he started writing and publishing poetry, and he studied in the evening division of the New Orleans public school system. The publication of more than a dozen of Christian's poems in Opportunity during the ...

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John Henrik Clarke was a central figure in late-twentieth-century vernacular American black nationalism. As a teacher, writer, and popular public speaker, he emphasized black pride, the African heritage—especially communalism—and black solidarity. From the rural South he rode a freight train to the North, where he actively participated in the literary and political life of Harlem, New York in the 1930s. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, the black bibliophile, was a major intellectual influence. Largely self-educated, Clarke became professor of Africana and Puerto Rican Studies at New York's Hunter College and president of Sankofa University, an on-line Internet school.

Born to sharecropping parents, Clarke grew up in Columbus, Georgia, and aspired to be a writer. He produced poetry, short stories (notably “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black”), and books on African history (The Lives of Great African Chiefs) and on Africans in the diaspora (Harlem U.S.A An original member ...

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Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...

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Rochell Isaac

educator, nationalist, Pan-Africanist, writer, historian, and poet. Born John Henry Clark to Willie Ella Mays and John Clark, a sharecropper, Clarke changed his name, legalizing Henry to Henrik and adding an “e” to Clark, thereby cementing his admiration of the Scandinavian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The Clark family moved from Union Springs, Alabama, to Columbus, Georgia, when Clarke was four years old. Clarke's mother, a laundrywoman, died of pellagra, a diet deficiency, when Clarke was still very young. With his mother's illness and subsequent death, the Clark family began to feel the effects of poverty.

Though he clearly demonstrated academic ability along with a strong desire to learn and excel Clarke s academic goals encountered much resistance As a teenager Clarke held a number of menial jobs he was a part time student and a part time farmer and worker As a result he ...

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Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...

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Alice Knox Eaton

poet, journalist, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the oldest of four children of Charles E. Cobb Sr., a Methodist minister, and Martha Kendrick Cobb. His father's ministry kept the family on the move, and they lived in Kentucky, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and other states. Cobb attended Howard University in 1961 and 1962, leaving after his freshman year for Mississippi to organize and register black voters as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Five years in southern cities with SNCC provided Cobb with a sense of purpose, of “determining and doing a work that is mine … living a life that is mine” (“Whose Society Is This?,” quoted in Williams). In his first volume of poetry, In the Furrows of the World (1967 Cobb chronicles the often violent struggles of the civil rights movement with poems and photos of protests lynchings ...

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Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Massillon Coicou is considered one of the greatest poets in Haitian literature. His works include intimate love poems (Passions) as well as poems with nationalist themes (Poésies Nationales). His poem “Impressions” reflects the metaphysical preoccupations of the author. His two theatrical plays, Féfé Candidat and Féfé Ministre, offer a caustic tableau of Haitian politics, in which Coicou revealed his lack of consideration for political puppets. Other works include Oracle (1893), Liberté (1894), The Son of Toussaint Louverture (1895), and Emperor Dessalines (1906).

Born in Port-au-Prince, Coicou studied at the religious institution of the Frères de l'Instruction Chrétienne (in Saint Louis de Gonzague) and then at the Lycée National. After serving in the army, he worked as a public servant and as a teacher.

President Tiresias Simon Sam on friendly terms with Coicou s family appointed Coicou ...