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Mary Krane Derr

poet, writer, educator, and chiropractor, was born Jewel Christine McLawler in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of six children born to William McLawler, a minister, and Alma Bazel McLawler, a gospel songwriter. During her childhood, Jewel McLawler's elders, especially the religious poet Frances Theresa Smith, her grandmother on her mother's side, encouraged her to cultivate her precocious intelligence. As a preschooler Jewel learned to read, memorize poetry, and excel in math. The Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black newspaper, reported on her rapid progression through school.

At age twelve, Jewel graduated from McCosh Elementary School on Chicago's South Side. At sixteen she finished Englewood High School and married her first husband. She had two children with him: a son, Kim Allan, and a daughter, Marcianna called Marci She returned to school at age thirty two when she found herself ...


Jeff Loeb

Barry Beckham began his first novel, My Main Mother (1969), while he was a senior at Brown University, completing it while living in New York City. He returned to Brown in 1970 as a visiting lecturer in English and, after being appointed to a professorship, remained there for seventeen years, several as director of the graduate creative writing program. In 1972, his second novel, Runner Mack, was nominated for the National Book Award, and his play Garvey Lives! was produced in Providence. In 1974, he was commissioned to write a biography of New York playground basketball legend Earl Manigault. The book The book was published in 1981 as a “novelized biography,” Double Dunk. In 1987, Beckham moved to Washington, D.C., teaching at Hampton University for two years. Partly because of difficulties with publishers over another of his projects, The Black Student s Guide ...


E. Renée Ingram

educator, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of Josephine Beall Willson Bruce and the U.S. senator Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Republican of Mississippi. When Senator Bruce was to take his oath of office, Mississippi's senior senator James Alcorn refused to escort him to the front of the Senate chamber. An embarrassing silence fell over the chamber until Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York extended his arm to Senator Bruce and escorted him forward. Senator Bruce was so grateful for the courtesy that he named his son for the gentleman from the Empire State.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce Sr. attended the M Street High School in Washington, D.C., and subsequently spent two years (1896–1898 at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter New Hampshire He won distinction in scholarship and journalism was a member of the Golden Branch the oldest debating society in country ...


Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...


Adah Ward Randolph

educator, politician, activist, pastor, author, and Masonic leader, was born in Essex County, Virginia, to free parents of mixed white and black ancestry. In 1831 Virginia outlawed the education of free blacks, and many of them migrated to other states, including Ohio. The Act of 1831 may account for the migration of Ferguson's family to Cincinnati, which Ferguson listed as his home when he attended Albany Manual Labor Academy (AMLA) in Albany, Ohio. While it is unclear how Ferguson attained an elementary education, the Albany Manual Labor University records list T. J. Ferguson of Cincinnati as a student in the collegiate department during the 1857–1859 academic year. James Monroe Trotter, veteran of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment and musicologist, also attended AMLA. Incorporated as a university in 1853 Albany Manual Labor University AMLU offered an integrated education which accepted students regardless of color ...


Kimberly M. Curtis

historian and activist, was the sixth child born to Willis Hamilton Greene, a teamster, and Harriett Coleman Greene in Ansonia, Connecticut. Lorenzo Johnston Greene attended Ansonia's public schools and participated in his high school's debate team and German club. In 1917 he became Ansonia High School's first African American graduate and the first recipient of the school's History Prize.

After working several jobs to earn money for college, Greene began undergraduate studies in medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C. During his senior year, however, he enrolled in Greek and English history courses, which inspired him to become a historian. In 1924 he received an AB from Howard and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University's Graduate School. Greene received an MA in history from Columbia in 1926 and continued graduate studies there in pursuit of a PhD in history.

From 1928 to 1933 Greene ...


David Borsvold

composer and university professor, was born Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III in Rochester, New York, the only child of Phyllis Hailstork, a civil servant in the State of New York Estate Tax Department, and Adolphus Hailstork II, whose occupation is unknown. He grew up primarily in Albany, New York, his musical education beginning with childhood piano lessons. Hailstork also studied the organ, the violin, and voice. As a student at Albany High School, he conducted a boys' choir and began to compose music. He received his high school diploma in the spring of 1959.

Hailstork continued his musical education at Howard University. Entering in the fall of 1959, he studied composition under Mark Fax and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1963. In the summer of that year he received a Lucy Moten Travel Fellowship and went to France ...


Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, actor, singer, and educator, was born Jester Joseph Hairston in Belews Creek North Carolina the only son and first of two children born to his parents names unknown He was the grandson of former slaves When Hairston was a year old the family moved to Kunersville Pennsylvania where his father obtained work in the steel mills His sister was born about six months later and when she was three days old their father died of pneumonia As a child Hairston is said to have loved music Although he was a small framed boy he played basketball and football in high school and college His church presented him with a scholarship to attend Massachusetts Agriculture College now known as The University of Massachusetts in Amherst Massachusetts where his educational aspirations were to study landscaping design After his scholarship ran out ...


Yvette Walker

poet, essayist, critic, publisher, and educator. Don L. Lee was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was raised in Detroit by his mother, Maxine Lee, who died of a drug overdose when he was sixteen years old. He has attributed his early race consciousness and self-awareness to his upbringing by his mother and his time as an apprentice and curator at the DuSable Museum of African History in Chicago in 1963. Influenced by the poets Amiri Baraka and Gwendolyn Brooks, Don L. Lee emerged as a major literary artist of the 1960s. His formal education includes undergraduate studies at various universities in Chicago and graduate school at the University of Iowa. Lee took a Swahili name, Haki R. Madhubuti, in 1973.

Madhubuti is one of the defining artists of the Black Arts Movement a cultural phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s ...


Joshunda Sanders

author, poet, and retired professor at Eastern Michigan University was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to Clarence Marcellus, a Baptist minister, and Maude Hilton Long, a former teacher.

Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett was the youngest of three children and her parents' only daughter. Before Madgett turned two years old, her family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, and she graduated from Ashland Grammar School there. Influenced by her parents' love of education and her father's vast library, Madgett discovered her love for poetry as a girl. “I discovered Alfred Lord Tennyson and Langston Hughes at about the same time [while] sitting on the floor of my father's study when I was about seven or eight,” Madgett said as quoted in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. “I think my early poetry represents something of the variety of interest and style that these two widely divergent poets demonstrate.”

Her ...


George F. Wedge

born Naomi Cornelia Long. In “He Lives in Me,” a poem in Adam of Ifé (1992) honoring her father, Clarence Marcellus Long, Sr., Naomi Long Madgett states the principles that underlie her own achievements: faith, integrity, and personal and social responsibility. As a child, she had free access to his book-lined study, discovering early her love of poetry. When she was fifteen, her first collection, Songs to a Phantom Nightingale (1941), was accepted for publication, though two years had elapsed before it appeared. Two editions, containing additional early poems, have been issued: Phantom Nightingale, Juvenilia (1981) and Remembrances of Spring: Early Collected Poems (1993). The second of these also includes her second collection, One and the Many (1956).

Between her first two collections, Madgett completed a BA (Virginia State University, 1945 married settled in Detroit Michigan worked briefly for ...


Leonard L. Brown

musician and school founder, was born in Braidwood, Illinois. His parents' names are unknown. He spent his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, where his family moved when he was a young child. Matthews early expressed an interest in music, and historical accounts credit his mother as his first piano teacher, although he later took lessons from local teachers. A trip to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 exposed Matthews to the major African American performers of ragtime, the dominant popular music then. Upon returning to Springfield, Matthews learned ragtime from local performers.

Sometime in 1907 or 1908 Matthews settled in St Louis where he remained for the next seven or eight years with some excursions to Chicago While in St Louis he studied theory arranging composition and organ at the Keeton School of Music He developed into an excellent pianist composer and arranger and his reputation led to his being ...


Frances Smith Foster

scholar, teacher, editor, and author, was born Nellie Yvonne Reynolds in New York City, the daughter of Harry, a taxi driver, and Nellie Reynolds, a homemaker. Graduating cum laude from Queens College in 1969 with a BA in English, McKay was accepted into the PhD program at Harvard University for British and American Literature.

McKay was part of the first cohort of African American graduate students determined to include the literatures, histories, and religions of African Americans in their research and study. However, McKay often reminisced about Harvard not having any black literature class and how her graduate colleagues taught one another. Not only did they have to teach one another but they also had to create their own bibliographies and share the few extant copies of the books. McKay dedicated her life to filling this void.

In 1973 she began teaching at ...


J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada

Nigerian writer, publisher, and educator, was born Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa on 13 January 1931 in Oguta, eastern Nigeria, during British colonial rule. Her parents, Christopher Ijeoma and Martha Nwapa, were teachers who sent their daughter to elementary school at the Church Mission Society (C. M. S.) Central School in Oguta between 1936 and 1943. She then attended Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls’ School near Port Harcourt and the C. M. S. Girls’ School. After studying at Queen’s College, Lagos, for two years, she briefly taught at Priscilla Memorial Grammar School, Oguta. She earned her BA in 1957 from University College, Ibadan, and continued her studies in Scotland, earning a postgraduate diploma in education in 1958 from the University of Edinburgh.

After returning to Nigeria in 1959 Nwapa worked as a women s education officer in Calabar She taught geography and English at Queen s School in Enugu and ...


Lynn Orilla Scott

Among contemporary African-American writers, Ishmael Reed is one of the most innovative, prolific, and controversial. To date he has published nine novels, five collections of poems, four collections of essays, and four plays. He has also authored three television productions, an opera, and a “gospera.” Some of his poetry has been set to music and produced on record. A sampling of his fiction, poetry, and essays has been collected in The Reed Reader (2000). As a teacher, a cultural activist, and especially an editor and publisher, Reed has been an advocate of multiculturalism in American literature since the early 1970s. His experimental work, which draws from myth, history, popular culture, and African-American oral culture, can be classified as “populist postmodernist.” The most characteristic attribute of his work is its aggressive, provocative, and sometimes outrageous humor.


Benjamin R. Justesen

journalist and educator, was born in Brandenburg, Kentucky, a son of the slaves Henry and Frances Steward, who were freed before the Civil War. In about 1860, the Stewards moved to Louisville, where William attended a private school run by the Reverend Henry Adams, pastor of the First African Church, who became one of the strongest influences in young Steward's life.

As a young man, Steward served as a schoolteacher at Frankfort and Louisville, before working for railroad companies, and in 1876 he became the first African American letter carrier for the Post Office Department in Louisville An active member of the Fifth Street Baptist Church in Louisville he was longtime secretary of the General Association of Colored Baptists of Kentucky He also became active in local Republican politics becoming the first black man to serve as a city precinct judge of registration and elections ...


Stephen Truhon

educator and psychologist, was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Both of his parents (Reverend Patrick Henry Thompson and Mrs. Sara Estelle [Byers] Thompson) taught at Jackson College. After completing his high school education at Wayland Academy in Virginia, he enrolled at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, in 1914 and earned his bachelor's degree in 1917. He received a second bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1918. He was drafted into the army and was stationed at first at Camp Grant in Illinois. He later served in France, rising to the rank of infantry personnel regimental sergeant major.

After his discharge he returned to the University of Chicago, where he earned his master's degree in 1920. From 1920 to 1921 he served as psychology instructor at Virginia Union University. He was director of instruction at the Alabama State Normal School from 1921 ...


Mussie Tesfagiorgis

prominent Eritrean intellectual, teacher, and educator, was born in the village of Shimanegus Tahtay in Hamasen. Yeshaq’s father, Qeshi Tewelde Medhin Gebre Medhin, a priest in the Orthodox Tewahdo Church, was also one of the few popular Eritrean intellectuals of his time. Apart from Tigrinya (his mother tongue), Qeshi Tewelde Medhin Gebre Medhin had mastered many other languages and was fluent in Geez Tigre Amharic Hebrew Italian and Swedish He also possessed a rudimentary knowledge of Latin German Greek and English and was one of the few Eritrean intellectuals who translated the Holy Bible into local languages particularly Tigrinya and Tigre As a young child Yeshaq was among the small minority of advantaged Eritreans who were allowed an elementary education under the Italian colonial administration and went to Swedish missionary schools in Geleb near Keren and Asmara After completing his elementary education Yeshaq was among the extremely few privileged ...


James Jankowski

Egyptian teacher, scholar, and publisher, was born on 2 April 1885 to a peasant family in the village of Kafr Dumayra, Daqahliyya Province. His educational background was unusually diverse. He received his early education at his village kuttab, from which he moved on to study at al-Azhar. While working as a teacher of Arabic at the École des Frères in Khoronfish from 1907 until 1914, he also studied at the new Egyptian University in Cairo and at the Law School in Cairo, from which he received a license in 1912. He later continued his legal studies in Paris, where he received his license en droit in 1925. Fluent in French and Arabic and with experience in both the indigenous and the western educational systems, Zayyat was well situated to serve as a cultural commentator and interpreter.

From 1922 to 1929 Zayyat headed the Arabic Department at ...