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One of the most important intellectuals at work today, Asante is the founding and preeminent theorist of Afrocentricity, an intellectual movement that insists on the study of Africa and African peoples from an African perspective. In 1996 the Utne Reader called Asante “one of the 100 leading thinkers” in the United States. His development of the methodology of Afrocentricity initiated debates, both inside and outside the academy, on the nature of a pluralistic society in a postcolonial age. A prolific writer with an impressive intellectual range, he has authored over 40 books and more than 200 scholarly articles. Asante is professor and former chair of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he created the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies.

Asante was born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr., in Valdosta, Georgia one of sixteen children in a working class family ...

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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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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 ...

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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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Ann Folwell Stanford

Well known for her collections of short stories and her novel, The Salt Eaters (1980), Toni Cade Bambara always insisted that social commitment is inseparable from the production of art. Bambara's early years as a social worker and commitment as a community organizer influenced her work from its earliest beginnings.

Born Toni Cade in 1939 in New York City to Helen Brent Henderson Cade she and her brother Walter grew up in New York New Jersey and the South Bambara s mother whom she credited as one of her major influences gave her room to think dream and write for herself Other influences were rooted in the urban environment in which Bambara grew up She noted especially visiting the Apollo Theater with her father listening to the music of the 1940s and 1950s and hearing the trade unionists Pan Africanists Rastas and others from the Speaker s ...

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Jennifer Wood

writer, activist, screenwriter, and educator, was born Miltona Mirkin Cade to Walter and Helen Cade in New York City. Originally named for her father's employer, she renamed herself Toni in kindergarten, revealing an independent and imaginative streak at an early age. She took the surname Bambara after discovering it signed on a sketchbook in her great-grandmother's trunk in the attic; who this original Bambara was is now unknown. She legally changed her name in 1970 Bambara spent her childhood exploring Harlem Bedford Stuyvesant Queens and Jersey City with her brother Walter Through exploring these areas she developed her sharp eye for political activism and the power of the word the tones of blues and jazz that she would translate into her written work particularly through going to the Apollo Theater with her father and listening to the stories told by those in her community Raised ...

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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 ...

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Adam Meyer

Little remembered today, Edward Wilmot Blyden was the most important African thinker of the nineteenth century, leading one of the most varied careers of any Black man in that era. Born in Saint Thomas, Blyden came to America in 1850 to attend Rutgers Theological College but was rejected because of his race. He subsequently emigrated to Liberia, grew enamored of African life, and became a staunch supporter of his new homeland. Feeling called upon to undermine misconceptions about “the dark continent” and to encourage Blacks throughout the diaspora to repatriate, Blyden spent the remainder of his life serving this cause in several capacities. As a journalist, Blyden edited the Liberia Herald and founded and edited the Negro and the West African Reporter two of the first Pan African journals As an educator he served as principal of Alexander High School Monrovia Liberia s educational commissioner to Britain and America ...

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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 ...

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Maha Marouan

writer and educator, was born David Henry Bradley Jr in Bedford, Pennsylvania, the only son of Reverend David Henry Bradley Sr. and Harriette M. (Jackson) Bradley. His family has been closely involved with the black church for three generations, as he told an interviewer in 1992: “I'm a super preacher's kid. My great-grandfather was a preacher, my grandfather and granduncle were preachers, my father was a preacher. This is the first generation of my family since we liberated ourselves from slavery where there hasn't been a preacher” (Bonetti, 69). This familiarity with the black church and with preachers would influence his work and inspire his characters.

After he graduated from Bedford Area High School in 1968, Bradley entered the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1972 with a bachelor of arts summa cum laude in Creative Writing and was awarded a Thouron British American Exchange Scholarship ...

Article

Author of the award-winning novel The Chaneysville Incident (1981), writer David Bradley is profoundly concerned with personal and community history. Born and raised in Bedford, Pennsylvania, a rural coal-mining town, Bradley is the son of the late Rev. D. H. Bradley, Sr. and Harriet M. Jackson Bradley, a local historian. A National Achievement Scholar in high school and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Bradley began a serious study of nineteenth-century American history while doing postgraduate work in London, England, in 1974.

Having come from a rural background, Bradley was alienated from urban blacks while a student in Philadelphia. He based his first novel, South Street (1975 on his own experience as an outsider in the city The novel centers on the observations and interactions of a young black poet with the local hustlers prostitutes and bar patrons Although ...

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Roger A. Schuppert

educator and author, was born Benjamin Griffith Brawley in Columbia, South Carolina, the son of Margaret Saphronia Dickerson and Edward McKnight Brawley, a prosperous Baptist minister and president of a small Alabama college. Brawley was an exceptionally bright boy, and the family's frequent moves never interfered with his learning. Up until the third grade he was tutored at home by his mother, but he also attended schools in Nashville, Tennessee, and Petersburg, Virginia. During summers, when he was not studying the classics, Latin, and Greek at home, he earned money by doing odd jobs, working on a tobacco farm in Connecticut or in a printing office. One summer he drove a buggy for a white doctor—and studied Greek while the doctor was out. At age twelve he was sent to Virginia to be tutored in Greek and he also studied the language with his father.

By age thirteen Brawley ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

English professor, poet, essayist, and anthologist. Sterling Allen Brown was born in Washington, D.C., into the middle-class family of Sterling Nelson Brown, an esteemed minister and theologian, and Adelaide Allen Brown. He graduated from Dunbar High School in 1918 as class valedictorian, and in the fall of that year he enrolled at Williams College on a minority scholarship. Brown excelled at Williams, studying French and English literature and winning the Graves Prize for an essay titled “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Molière.” He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and graduated from Williams in 1922 as the only student awarded final honors in English. Brown accepted a Clark Fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University, where he studied with, among others, George Lyman Kittredge whose work with the vernacular of the British Isles influenced Brown to take ...

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Florence M. Coleman

educator, literary scholar, and biographer of the English novelist Daniel Defoe, was one of five sons born to Helena Burch in Saint George's, Bermuda. Nothing is known of his father. Charles Burch was educated in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda. Burch met and married Willa Carter Mayer, who at one time served as a professor of education at Miner Teacher's College in Washington, D.C. She also served as a supervisory official of the public schools of the District of Columbia and authored Clinical Practices in Public School Education (1944). Whether or not they had children is not known.

Burch attended Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, from which he was awarded a BA in 1914. Four years later, he earned a MA from Columbia University. Fifteen years later in 1933 he was awarded a PhD in English from Ohio State University He taught ...

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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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Mitch Kachun

novelist, essayist, and teacher, was the married name of an African American woman whose maiden name and place and date of birth are unknown. Collins is best known for her novel The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride, which was originally serialized in the Christian Recorder, the weekly newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, between February and September 1865. Some scholars regard The Curse of Caste as the first non-autobiographical novel written by an African American woman to appear in print.

Nothing is known of Collins's life before April 1864, when a letter to the Christian Recorder mentioned that she was to serve as schoolteacher for the African American children in the small north-central Pennsylvania city of Williamsport. The same issue of the newspaper also printed Collins's first known published work, a nonfiction essay titled “Mental Improvement.” By January 1865 she had ...

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Debra Jackson

writer, temperance advocate, and educator, was born Ada Augusta Newton in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of the three children of Alexander Herritage Newton, a trained mason, and Olivia Augusta (Hamilton) Newton, who was the eldest daughter of Robert Hamilton, the radical abolitionist and owner and editor of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper. When Ada was eight years old her mother died and shortly thereafter her father, a recently licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination, was directed by the AME leadership to manage the church at Pennington, New Jersey. This was the first of dozens of appointments for Newton, and Ada's early years were characterized by constant travel from city to city as her father's ministry took him to all regions of the country. Despite the incessant moving, Ada received a good elementary education.

Ada worked closely with her father on church matters Indeed she ...

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Frances Richardson Keller

Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858?–27 February 1964), author, educator, and human rights activist, was born, probably on 10 August 1858, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Though her paternity is uncertain, she believed her mother’s master, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, to have been her father. She later described her ancestry: “The part of my ancestors that did not come over in the Mayflower in 1620 arrived … a year earlier in the fateful Dutch trader that put in at Jamestown in 1619… . I believe that the third source of my individual stream comes … from the vanishing Red Men, which … make[s] me a genuine F.F.A. (First Family of America).”

In 1867 Anna entered the new St Augustine School in Raleigh Because there were then few teachers for African American pupils she became a student teacher at age nine Functioning ...

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Elizabeth J. West

Born in New York City to Charity and Boston Crum-mell, Alexander grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on freedom, independence, and education. Although his parents had not experienced the privilege of a formal education, they placed Alexander in the Mulberry Street School and hired additional private tutors for him. When Crummell decided to enter the priesthood, he applied for entry into the theological seminary of the Episcopal Church. According to Crum-mell's own account in his 1894 retirement address, “Shades and Lights”, the admissions board denied his application because its policy was to exclude blacks from positions in the church hierarchy. Crummell was then forced to study privately with sympathetic clergy. These early studies shaped the stoic and methodical style that remained evident throughout his long career as writer and orator. Although he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844, it was not until 1847 ...