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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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Margaret Ann Reid

Johari Amini, born Jewel Christine McLawler to William and Alma (Bazel) McLawler on 13 January 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed her name after her consciousness-raising by Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee), whom she met as a thirty-two-year-old freshman at Wilson Junior College. Johari is Swahili for “Jewel,” and Amini is Swahili for “honesty and fidelity.” Amini believes that the meaning of a name becomes an inherent part of the person carrying that name, and she wanted names that would reflect her personality and her values of honesty and fidelity—values that she lived by and that she wanted her writings to convey.

Amini's meeting Madhubuti was the beginning of a long literary and political association which is demonstrated in her poetic style as well as in her social criticism She was a staff member of the Institute of Positive Education and she was assistant then associate editor ...

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Jessica Falconi

Angolan essayist, poet, and militant anticolonialist, was born in Golungo Alto, Kwanza-Norte province, Angola. The son of José Cristino Pinto de Andrade, one of the founders of the African National League (Liga Nacional Africana), and Ana Rodrigues Coelho, he came to be known as a “Citizen of Africa.” At two years of age, he moved with his family to Luanda, where he completed his primary and secondary school studies. The proto-nationalist ideas of his father, the growing urbanization of Luanda, and the heterogeneous racial and social atmosphere of the Luanda Catholic seminary constituted the primary elements that marked the formation of his personality.

In 1948 he traveled to Lisbon, where he began a course in classics in the Department of Letters and frequented the Casa dos Estudantes do Império (House of Students of the Empire), an institution created in 1944 to support students from the colonies which quickly was ...

Article

Freda R. Beaty

and winner of first James *Baldwin Prize. Raymond Andrews was born near Madison, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children born to sharecropping parents George and Viola Andrews. He helped with the farm work and absorbed the ambience of rural living that was to color his later writings. Andrews left home at fifteen and worked at a variety of jobs while beginning to write. He eventually took a position in New York City with an airline, a job that enabled him to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.

Raymond Andrews's first published piece was an article on baseball, which appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1975. In 1976, Ataraxia, a small journal edited by Phillip Lee Williams and Linda Williams, excerpted a section from the novel Appalachee Red, which was published in its entirety by Dial Press (1978). Appalachee ...

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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 ...

Article

Jennifer Burton

and leading innovator in experimental artistic movements of the 1940s through the 1970s. Born 25 February 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio, Russell Atkins began studying piano at age seven with his mother. From childhood, he exhibited talent in painting, drawing, music, and writing. By age thirteen he had won several poetry contests. Atkins published his first poem in 1944 in his high school yearbook. With the support of prominent literary figures, Atkins published his poetry in journals and newspapers, including Experiment (1947–1951) and the New York Times (1951).

Atkins continued his studies of music, performance, and the visual arts through Cleveland College, Cleveland Music School Settlement, Cleveland Institute of Music, Karamu Theatre, and Cleveland School of Art. Musical training is a key to Atkins's poetic style since musical structures are central in his writing.

In 1950 Atkins cofounded what is probably the oldest black-owned literary magazine, Free ...

Article

Ondra Krouse Dismukes

writer, editor, and scholar, was born in New York City to Dorothy L. Babb and Lionel S. Duncan, both of whom were immigrants from the Republic of Panama. Her parents were part of the larger West Indian community, the “diggers” as many were called, who built the Panama Canal. Babb shared a close relationship with her mother, who instilled in her the value of an education.

Babb attended the Bronx High School of Science, a high school specializing in math and sciences and with some of the best English teachers, whose influence Babb credits for choosing this profession. After graduating from high school in 1973, she enrolled in Queens College of the City University of New York. She graduated with honors in 1977 earning a bachelor s degree in English with a minor concentration in Romance Languages Babb went on to attend graduate school ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...

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Trudier Harris

Baldwin was born in New York City's Harlem to Emma Berdis Jones, who later married David Baldwin, a migrant from New Orleans. The elder Baldwin, a preacher who resented his stepson's illegitimacy, tried to crush the young Jimmy's imaginative spirit. The problematic nature of their relationship would recur in Baldwin's works. The precocious Baldwin haunted Harlem's libraries; such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe profoundly influenced him. As a teenager, he preached in his father's Pentecostal church.

Racist rebuffs when he sought employment in New Jersey, along with fellowship support, contributed to Baldwin's decision to emigrate to Paris in 1948. His first and best-received novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), drew on his own experience. Returning frequently to the United States during the era of the civil rights movement, he marched; wrote Blues for Mister Charles (1964 a play about the ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Ann Rayson

author, was born James Arthur Baldwin in Harlem, in New York City, the illegitimate son of Emma Berdis Jones, who married the author's stepfather, David Baldwin, in 1927. David Baldwin was a laborer and weekend storefront preacher who had an enormous influence on the author's childhood; his mother was a domestic who had eight more children after he was born. Baldwin was singled out early in school for his intelligence, and at least one white teacher, Orrin Miller, took a special interest in him. At P.S. 139, Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Baldwin met black poet Countée Cullen, a teacher and literary club adviser there. Cullen saw some of Baldwin's early poems and warned him against trying to write like Langston Hughes, so Baldwin turned from poetry to focus more on writing fiction. In 1938 he experienced a profound religious conversion at the ...

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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 ...

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Jared A. Ball

law professor, writer, and theoretical pioneer in critical race theory, narrative scholarship, and the economic-determinist approach to race history. As a student and professor of law, Derrick Bell pioneered critical race theory as a tool to explain and challenge the centrality of an apparently immutable racism that permeates every aspect of U.S. society. Bell sees this amorphous yet unremitting racism as essential to the maintenance of the U.S. socioeconomic order. His perspective derives from his personal experience coming of age in an era marked by global struggles for liberation. In his essay “Great Expectations” he vividly describes the effect of government policies on black Americans:

If the nation s policies towards blacks were revised to require weekly random round ups of several hundred blacks who were then taken to a secluded place and shot that policy would be more dramatic but hardly different in result than the policies ...

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

Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities is an anthology edited by Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon providing a multifaceted analysis of neighborhoods of metropolitan Los Angeles that are either currently or historically predominantly black. The contributions selected by the editors highlight the rich history of accomplishment and survival in Los Angeles's community of color as it continuously confronts challenges to the geographical space of the community; shifts in local and national policy; the changing dynamics around race, social class, gender, and sexual identity; shifts in the opportunity structure for residents; and the realities of environmental and economic risk. The volume is organized into four parts: Space, People, Image, and Action It begins with a look at the historical foundations of the black community of Los Angeles and ends with a more contemporary question of now what for readers via series of action research chapters ...

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Kim Jenice Dillon

Born 16 June 1899 in Boston, Marita Bonner graduated from Radcliffe in 1922 and taught high school in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. She married William Almy Occomy in 1930. While living in Washington, she was a member of the “S” Street Salon, a group of writers who met usually at the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson. Encouraged and influenced by writers such as Johnson, May Miller, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, and other major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Occomy began to publish works that embodied her concern for the deplorable conditions facing African American men and women living in an America characterized by racial, class, and gender inequities.

Occomy published two essays that Elizabeth Brown Guillory describes as those that captured the spirit of the Black Renaissance On Being Young A Woman and Colored which won first ...

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Marita Odette Bonner was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, one of the four children of Mary Noel and Joseph Bonner. She was educated at Brookline High School. In 1922 she graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. degree in English and comparative literature. After teaching for two years at Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, West Virginia, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught high school until 1930.

As a member of the literary “S” salon in Washington, Bonner met members of the Harlem Renaissance, including poet Langston Hughes, playwright Georgia Douglas Johnson, and writer Jean Toomer. In 1925 Bonner published her first story, “The Hands,” in Opportunity. In the same year, she wrote the autobiographical essay for which she is best known, “On Being Young—A Woman—and Colored.” As a member of Washington's Krigwa Players she wrote three experimental plays: The Pot Maker ...

Article

Althea E. Rhodes

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, Bonner applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school adviser and was one of the few African American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, Bonner won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a BA in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930 ...

Article

Craig MacKenzie

journalist, novelist, short story writer, and essayist, is one of South Africa’s most enduringly popular writers. He is chiefly remembered for his storyteller figure Oom Schalk Lourens, a backwoods sage who, pipe in hand and a trick or two up his sleeve, beguilingly narrates some of the funniest and yet most moving stories in the entire canon of South African literature.

Born in Kuils River near Cape Town, Bosman spent most of his life in the Transvaal. He was educated at Jeppe High School for Boys, the University of the Witwatersrand, and Normal College, where he qualified as a teacher. In January 1926 the fateful decision was taken by the Transvaal Education Department to dispatch him as a novice teacher to the tiny farm school of Heimweeberg in the Dwarsberg area of the Marico district The next six months in the young man s life were to prove momentous ...