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Article

Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Kellie N. Adesina

magistrate judge, was born Joyce London in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Oscar and Edna London. While attending Cambridge High and Latin School (now called Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School) Alexander was frequently elected as a class officer and eventually became the first African American president of the student council. After graduating from high school she entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the premedicine program. During her years at Howard the ongoing struggle for equality in the United States fueled Alexander's interest in the legal profession, and she decided to change her course of study from the medical to the political sciences, having also received an academic scholarship from the Boston NAACP.

While still at Howard Alexander secured a job from the speaker of the U S House of Representatives Thomas P Tip O Neill During her interview O Neill informed Alexander that if hired she would learn a ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer and judge, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Reverend Joseph C. Melton, a Baptist minister and teacher, and Alian A. Reynolds Melton. She received her early education in the public school system of Danville, Virginia, and at the age of fifteen graduated from the James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1937 she graduated from the neighboring North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College with a bachelor's degree in music. The following year, at the age of eighteen, she married Girardeau Alexander, a surgeon, and had a son, Girardeau Alexander III.

Alexander worked as a mathematics and history teacher and directed music in South Carolina and North Carolina for four years before deciding that music would not be her lifelong vocation Instead she longed for a career in law despite the profession s being largely ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

lawyer and author, was born on 31 July 1945 on Boa Vista Island in the Republic of Cape Verde Germano de Almeida was one of ten children of Anacleto Dias Almeida and Eugenia da Cruz Almeida His father was a carpenter and his mother was a stay at home mother who took care of the children It was very difficult for his parents to support ten children Cape Verde was a small and poor country under Portuguese rule There were not many jobs available When Germano was sixteen years old his father passed away after being sick for many years Germano started working as a carpenter to help his family He was very smart really enjoyed school and because of this Germano was chosen to be his teacher s assistant He wanted to continue with school and be successful even if he did not receive support from his parents ...

Article

Francisco Ortega

Jorge Artel, whose real name was Agapito de Arcos, was born in Colombia, in the colonial city of Cartagena de Indias, once the major entryway for slaves into the Spanish colonies in South America. He grew up surrounded by the drumbeats of the cumbia music, slavery's violent legacies, and the history of resistance embodied in the many maroon communities that dotted the city's borders. In his poetry he evokes those images, especially, as Lawrence Prescott has noted, using the symbol of the drum as the unifying thread essential to the black experience in the Americas. Like other black poets in Spanish America, such as the Afro-Peruvian Nicomedes Santa Cruz (1925–1992) and the Cuban Nicolás Guillén (1902–1989 Artel does not single out race alone as the defining element that has shaped his life and his aesthetic vision For him as for the others class ...

Article

Orquídea Ribeiro

Angolan journalist, novelist, solicitor/lawyer, was born in Golungo Alto, Angola on 13 March 1877. His main work was as a solicitor advising the native population, mostly on issues regarding land expropriation by the settlers. As a journalist and writer, he took an active role in promoting social, economic, and political reforms during the second decade of the twentieth century, protesting against the practice of forced work and denouncing the abuses committed by colonial administrators as well as the preferential treatment given to the settler community. He worked as a judicial solicitor in Golungo Alto at the time that news broke regarding frightful atrocities being committed against white settlers, causing fear and uneasiness. He was arrested in 1917 under the accusation of leading a nativist movement whose purpose was to promote uprisings and spread rebellion in the colony. He narrowly escaped being deported.

A nationalist Assis Júnior was cofounder of ...

Article

Joy Gleason Carew

civil rights lawyer, community activist, editor, and publisher, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the sixth and last son of nine children of Simon Green and Oleona Pegram Atkins. His father was the founder and first president of the Slater Industrial Academy, later known as Winston‐Salem State University. Atkins graduated from the Slater Academy in 1915 and then went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating magna cum laude in chemistry in 1919.

When Atkins obtained his LLB cum laude at Yale University in 1922, he was the first African American to graduate with honors from that institution. While there, Atkins was a member of the debate team and served as a monitor of the Yale Law Library, where he oversaw the indexing of thirty‐one volumes of the Yale Law Journal. In 1921 he was the first African American elected to the editorial board of the Yale ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born in Salvador, Bahia, Rui Barbosa de Oliveira studied at the law academies of Recife and São Paulo, where he met Antônio de Castro Alves, the “Poet of the Slaves,” and future abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco. Barbosa's abolitionist campaign began in 1869, when he organized the conference “O Elemento Servil” (The Servile Element). Although the slave trade had been outlawed on November 7, 1831, slaves who had entered Brazil before that time remained in bondage, and many Africans had since been illegally enslaved. At the Elemento Servil conference, Barbosa condemned slavery on legal grounds by invoking this 1831 law.

In the following years Barbosa frequently challenged the proslavery Conservative Party. During the provincial elections of 1874 he criticized the Free Womb Law, which freed the children of all female slaves, as “a superficial improvement.” In 1884 he joined a reform cabinet led by Manoel Dantas ...

Article

David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Charlotta Bass, born in South Carolina, was the sixth of eleven children of Hiram and Kate Spears. At the age of twenty, she left South Carolina to live with an older brother in Providence, Rhode Island, where she worked for ten years at a local newspaper. Suffering exhaustion, she moved to Los Angeles, California, to recuperate but soon ran out of money and began collecting subscriptions for the Eagle, the oldest black newspaper on the West Coast.

By 1912 she was the newspaper's managing editor. She renamed it the California Eagle and transformed it into a tool for publicizing and attacking racial discrimination. In 1912 she also met her future husband, John Bass, who had founded the Topeka Plaindealer and who had recently been named editor of the California Eagle.

The Basses won widespread attention for their assault on The Birth of a Nation ...

Article

Brian Gilmore

lawyer and educator, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Derrick A. Bell Sr. and Ada Elizabeth Bell. Bell was born during the Great Depression and grew up in the city's black neighborhood known as “the Hill.” Bell's father was employed as a porter in a Pittsburgh department store and also earned extra money through the underground numbers racket. In 1939 Bell Sr. hit the number for $700 and at the urging of his wife purchased a three-bedroom home in a more prosperous neighborhood. Eventually, Bell's father opened his own business hauling refuse.

Throughout his early life Bell had a newspaper route that provided him with spending money and made him aware of the rich diversity of Pittsburgh s middle class black world He met lawyers doctors laborers ministers and postal workers all living and working in the same segregated neighborhoods It was at the urging of one of ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave narrative author, was born Mary Rice to Spotswood Rice, an enslaved tobacco roller, and a slave woman perhaps named Caroline on a large plantation near Glasgow, Missouri. In addition to Mary, Caroline and Spotswood Rice had three sons and two daughters, who lived with their mother on a Missouri riverside plantation owned by Katherine Diggs. Spotswood Rice lived and worked on Benjamin Lewis's plantation nearby. Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in St. Louis in 1937 Bell recalled that slavery was a mighty hard life Her narrative is significant in that it was one of the few of the over two thousand recorded for the Federal Writers Project in which one black woman interviewed another about her life in slavery The historian Paul Escott s analysis of several hundred WPA narratives found that former slaves interviewed by black women reported significantly higher levels of dissatisfaction with ...

Article

George C. Wright

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and his education, are not known. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and was admitted to ...

Article

George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

Article

Martha Pitts

editor, writer, publisher, lawyer, and government official, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Viola (Lovett) Bibb and Joseph D. Bibb, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and a prominent teacher and advocate for the employment of black teachers. Bibb used his earnings from working in the railroad industry and southern factories to pay for his college education; he attended Atlanta University, Livingstone College, and Howard University, and completed his legal training at Yale and Harvard Universities.

After the completion of his formal education, Bibb moved to Chicago, the destination of thousands of job‐seeking African Americans from the South. This mass exodus from the South—the Great Migration—saw blacks pour into urban areas between 1915 and 1925 Chicago and other cities such as Detroit and New York saw their black populations double and triple these cities offered relative freedom from the violence and lack of opportunity in the ...

Article

Eric Young

Paul Biya was born to poor parents of the Bulu ethnic group in southern French Cameroon. After his primary education, Biya briefly entered the seminary, but ultimately attended a French secondary school in Yaoundé. Later he studied in France at the Sorbonne, the Institut des études politiques, and the Institut des Hautes études d’Outre Mer. Returning to Cameroon in 1962, he began serving in administrative positions in the office of the presidency. Biya held a variety of administrative and cabinet posts until President Ahmadou Ahidjo appointed him minister of state in 1970. Five years later, Ahidjo named him prime minister.

In November 1982 Ahidjo resigned and Biya became the second president of Cameroon. Ahidjo, however, retained his position of head of the sole legal party. Conflict ensued as Biya moved away from the autocratic style of his predecessor, but in 1983 Biya prevailed He later ...