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Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

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Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

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Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Tiffany Adams

folklorist, writer, and educator, was born Daryl Cumber in Richmond, Virginia, the only child of Allen Whitfield Cumber, a proprietor of a restaurant and tavern, and Veronica Bell, a teacher. Raised in Charles City, Virginia, she earned her B.A. degree in English in 1957 from Virginia State College (now known as Virginia State University), a historically black institution located just outside of Richmond in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1958 she married Warren Dance and had three children, two sons and one daughter. She continued to pursue her English studies at Virginia State College and earned her M.A. in English there in 1963.

Dance taught at both Virginia Union and Armstrong High School of Richmond before earning her Ph.D. in English in 1971 at the University of Virginia which was by then an integrated institution Although Dance and her family had deep roots in Virginia ...

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Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

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Lisa Finder

historian, lecturer, and administrator, was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children and the only son of Lou Bird Jones Dodson, a dry-cleaning plant worker, and Howard Dodson Sr., a construction worker. During his childhood he was active in the Bethany Baptist Church, the Cub Scouts, and the Boy Scouts. With the encouragement of his parents and teachers, he did well academically throughout his time in the Chester Public Schools.

After completing high school in 1957, Dodson attended West Chester State College, graduating in 1961 with a degree in social studies and English. He then enrolled in a master's program in history and political science at Villanova University, graduating in 1964 Dodson went on to join the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Ecuador South America where he spent two years before continuing with the organization as a deputy director of ...

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Louis M. Abbey

periodontist, public health specialist, and educator, was born Clifton Orin Dummett in Georgetown, British Guiana (later Guyana), the youngest of four children of Eglantine Annabella Johnson, a homemaker, and Alexander Adolphus Dummett, a pharmacist and registered dentist. Clifton attended St. Phillips Elementary School from 1924 until 1930 and Queen's College high school from 1930 until 1936, both in Georgetown, British Guiana. His values were strongly influenced by his father, mother, and uncle, Reginald Johnson, an Edinburgh-trained public health physician in Georgetown. “I came from a family that believed in the equality of man. I respected all peoples and demanded similar respect from those with whom I came in contact” (personal communication with the author).

Right after high school, in 1936 Alexander Adolphus Dummett obtained a student visa for his son to study in the United States at Howard University in Washington D ...

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Juan Eduardo Wolf

was born on 3 May 1900 in the city of Talca in the Maule Region of Chile. He was the son of Blanca Cruz Vergara and Guillermo Feliú Gana, a lawyer and newspaper editor who made his anticlerical Radical Party views known through his editorials. It was Feliú Gana who would impart his patriotism, penchant for history, and interest in editing on to his son.

When Feliú Cruz was three years old, the family moved to the country’s capital, Santiago, where he studied at the Instituto Nacional and the Liceo de Aplicación, both well-known Chilean institutions at the elementary and high school levels, respectively. He published his first article in the Chilean Journal of History and Geography at the young age of sixteen This early success prompted Feliú Cruz to withdraw from the University of Chile s law school to focus on his own interests Despite the lack of ...

Article

Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

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Robert L. Gale

Leon Gardiner was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Blatant racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the very early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning the achievements of blacks, black institutions, and Lynchings of blacks.

From 1908 to 1923 or so Gardiner attended meetings held by Philadelphia s Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature and was encouraged by fellow members in various ways He kept adding to his collection ...

Article

J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...

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Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to James and Odelia Blount Harper Harrison. Her maternal grandparents, Arthur and Tola Harper, came originally from rural North Carolina. Tola Harper, the daughter of slaves, taught in a one room schoolhouse there. During the 1920s, they moved to Norfolk to improve their children's opportunities. When Faye was seven, she discovered a closet full of National Geographic magazines in her family s new house She read them repeatedly marveling at the diversity of human cultures and wondering how they became different As early as fifth grade she excelled at school Her teachers especially respected and encouraged her serious perceptive questions about human societies By high school she was so fascinated by Latin America and the Caribbean that she learned French Portuguese and Spanish One of her teachers tutored her in Spanish language literature A sorority awarded her a scholarship ...

Article

David Michel

librarian, was born in Chicago, the daughter of Fenton W. Harsh and Maria L. Drake Harsh, two graduates of Fisk University. Vivian attended Forrestville Elementary School and completed Wendell Phillips High School in 1908. In 1909 she took the first step toward what would become her life's career—a position, as a clerk, at the Chicago Public Library (CPL).Harsh pursued her education by matriculating at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science (Boston). In 1921 she earned a degree in Library Science and three years later was appointed the head of a local branch of the CPL becoming Chicago s first black librarian She joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History ASNLH which allowed her to remain abreast of literary developments in black history Thanks to a fellowship from the Rosenwald Foundation she pursued advanced studies in library science at ...

Article

Michael Flug

She was called “the Lieutenant” by some of her colleagues and a taskmaster by many of the young people who did their research at the Chicago Public Library branch she headed. Yet Vivian G. Harsh was revered by a generation of prominent black writers and scholars. She was eulogized as “the historian who never wrote,” yet she succeeded in building one of the most important research collections on black history and literature in the United States.

Vivian Gordon Harsh grew up in the world of Chicago’s Old Settlers, the tightly knit community of pioneer black families in the city. The year after she graduated from Wendell Phillips High School on Chicago’s South Side, Harsh began working for the only employer she would ever have, the Chicago Public Library. She started as a junior clerk in December 1909 rising slowly through the ranks during her first fifteen years of service ...

Article

Russell Hopley

literary theorist, poet, anthologist, was born in Masila in the region of Constantine, a city in present-day Algeria, to a family of Arab origin. Hasan al-Qayrawani al-Azdi al-Masili Ibn Rashiq displayed an early interest in Arabic literature, and following his primary education in Masila he was sent to al-Qayrawan in 1015/1016 to pursue his secondary studies. There he was able to study under some of the most eminent literary figures of eleventh-century Ifriqiya (present-day Tunisia), among them the grammarian Abu ʿAbd Allah al-Qazzaz, and the poets Ibrahim al-Husri, Abu Muhammad al-Khushani, and Abu Muhammad ʿAbd al-Karim al-Nahshali. This latter was, like Ibn Rashiq, a native of Masila, and his principal work, al-Mumtiʿ fi ʿilm al-shʿir wa ʿamalih, served as Ibn Rashiq’s introduction to classical Arabic poetry, as it did for an entire generation of North African poets.

An accomplished poet by the age of nineteen Ibn Rashiq became a ...

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Joan F. McCarty

musician, social activist, songtalker, and scholar, was born Bernice Johnson in Albany, Georgia, the daughter of a Baptist minister, the Reverend Jessie Johnson, and a homemaker, Beatrice Johnson. Johnson was steeped in the traditions and culture of the southwestern Georgia community surrounding Mt. Early Baptist Church. Her home church did not have a piano for many years, so she honed her a cappella vocal skills in the school and church choir.

After graduating from high school, she auditioned for the music program at Albany State College and was accepted, enrolling in 1959 as music major. While in college, she served as the secretary of the youth division of the NAACP and became more deeply drawn into the civil rights struggle. Reagon began to attend meetings of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the city and eventually formed a bond with Cordell Reagon ...

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Sowande' Mustakeem

Undoubtedly one of the few professors of history to have a second career as a singer-songwriter, Bernice Johnson Reagon continues to focus her work on sharing the historical legacy of the African American experience amid the relentless quest for freedom and justice within America.

Reagon was born in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children of Jessie Johnson, a carpenter, and Beatrice Johnson, a housekeeper. On days off from her housekeeping job, Beatrice Johnson picked cotton. Jessie Johnson served onSundays as minister at four different rural Baptist churches. Reagon’s musical foundation was largely shaped by the influence of the southwestern Georgia choral tradition in her father’s church, which was part of a tradition dating back to the nineteenth century. Reagon entered Albany State College in 1959 where she studied Italian arias and German lieder as a contralto soloist During this time she became active in the civil ...

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Darshell Silva

(also known as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West, Carlos Ashbie Hawk Westez, Ashbie Hawkins West, and Namo S. Hatirire) activist, linguist, storyteller, performer, and shaman, was born in Newport, Rhode Island. There are varying accounts of Red Thunder Cloud's parentage and upbringing. According to his own account, he was born Carlos Ashibie Hawk Westez. As a young boy, he was brought up among the Narragansett Indians of Rhode Island by his Catawba mother, Roberta Hawk Westez, and his Honduran father, Carlos Panchito Westez. He is believed to have lived among the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island in the late 1930s. His actual home during much of this time was said to be on the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina, but he traveled extensively, visiting many Indian groups. This account of his early life has been challenged by Smithsonian anthropologist and ethnologist Ives Goddard who claimed ...

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Deborah H. Barnes

also wrote under the name Guarionex. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg's vast private collection, now housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (formerly the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library), is one of the outstanding collections of materials concerning the history and culture of people of African descent.

Schomburg was born on 24 January 1874 to an unwed freeborn mulatta, Maria Josepha, in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and raised in Puerto Rico by his mother's family. Although he adopted his surname, there is no evidence that Schomburg's father, Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German-born merchant living in San Juan, acknowledged or supported his son. Little is known about Schomburg prior to his emigration to the United States. Upon arriving in New York in 1891 he settled into the Puerto Rican and Cuban community on Manhattan s east side For most of his ...

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Louis J. Parascandola

bibliophile and champion of black culture. Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father, a merchant, was the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a German immigrant father. It was his mother, a black migrant worker from the Virgin Islands, and his maternal grandparents who early on instilled in him a pride in his African heritage and spurred his interest in black culture. According to a perhaps apocryphal story, hearing the taunts of his white teachers and classmates that blacks had made no significant achievements inspired Schomburg to collect as many works by black authors as he could find.

Schomburg came to the United States on 17 April 1891 and soon gained employment in a law office in New York. He took a position at Bankers Trust Company in 1906 It was during his years as a law clerk and banker that he ...