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Ann Biersteker

Kenyan poet, is East Africa’s most renowned contemporary Kiswahili poet, even though he has published only one collection of poetry and one epic poem. He is a political activist and scholar and teaches Swahili at Leipzig University in Germany.

Abdilatif ʿAbdalla was born in 1946 in Mombasa, Kenya. He was raised by his grandfather Ahmad Basheikh bin Hussein, who was a poet and teacher. ʿAbdalla attended primary school in Faza and Takaungu and did secondary studies through the British Tutorial College. He worked briefly as an assistant accountant for the Mombasa City Council. In the late 1960s Abdalla wrote and distributed a political pamphlet, Kenya Twendapi? (Kenya, Where Are We Headed?), in support of the opposition party the Kenya People’s Union (KPU). During the government crackdown on KPU activities, ʿAbdalla was arrested on 20 December 1968 and detained for three years He was held first in Kamiti prison ...

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Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

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Mpalive Msiska

Nigerian novelist, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on 15 November 1930 at Saint Simon’s Church, Nneobi, near Ogidi, in British colonial Nigeria. His father, Isaiah Okafo Achebe, was a teacher and evangelist and his mother, Janet Anaenechi Iloeghunam, was from the Awka area of eastern Nigeria. Until the age of five, Achebe was brought up at a church school, where his father taught. When his father went into semiretirement in 1935 in Ogidi, Achebe became a child of two worlds, the modern world and the world of indigenous tradition. He began primary school at Saint Philip’s Central School at Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, moving on to Nekede Central School near Owerri in 1942. Achebe developed into a studious young man, passing entrance examinations for two prestigious secondary schools.

It was at Government College Umuahia which had a good library and extremely able and dedicated teachers that Achebe cultivated his love of ...

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Christine Matzke

Eritrean lawyer, writer, and researcher, was born on 19 October in the southern Eritrean market town of Adi Quala. His father was Tesfai Gebremichael, a government employee, his mother, Hiwet Tesfabruk, a housewife. Alemseged was the sixth of seven siblings, four boys and three girls. From the age of six he attended various elementary and secondary schools in Eritrea and Ethiopia before matriculating in 1962 from Haile Selassie Secondary School in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. After a nine-month work experience as a junior clerk with Ethiopian Airlines in Asmara (to avoid forced conscription into the Ethiopian military academy), he joined the Faculty of Law at Haile Selassie I University in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, graduating in September 1969 with an LLB (bachelor of laws). Thereafter Alemseged was briefly employed as a legal expert in the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance, a post he left in May 1970 to pursue ...

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David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

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Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...

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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 ...

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Tasha M. Hawthorne

Angelou’s creative talent and genius cut across many arenas. One of the most celebrated authors in the United States, Angelou writes with an honesty and grace that captures the specificity of growing up a young black girl in the rural South.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey, a doorman and naval dietician, and Vivian, a registered nurse, professional gambler, and rooming house and bar owner, Angelou spent her early years in Long Beach, California. When she was three, her parents divorced, and she and her four-year-old brother, Bailey Jr., were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou recalls in vivid detail this lonely and disconcerting journey to Stamps.

Under the watchful and loving gaze of her grandmother Angelou lived a life defined by staunch Christian values and her grandmother s ...

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Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

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 ...

Article

McKay Jenkins

tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father to play football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten years old he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, R. Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured the talents of Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win Wimbledon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful. Johnson was an exacting coach he had his charges practice hitting tennis balls with broom handles to develop their hand eye coordination But his lessons extended beyond tennis he also ...

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Michelle S. Hite

tennis player, activist, broadcast journalist, and humanitarian. Born in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. was the son of Arthur and Mattie Ashe. Arthur experienced a traumatic loss at age six when his mother died suddenly. He turned inward and toward books and learning. An excellent student, he graduated first in his high school class. Given his appetite for books, success as a student was likely; however, given his physical stature, his success as a tennis player was a surprise. Though physically small, the skills he honed on the public recreational courts, maintained by his father, helped mold him into a top player.

Coming of age in segregated Richmond Virginia shaped Ashe s early tennis experiences and informed his political consciousness He was not allowed to compete on the city s best courts or in the city s top tournaments To improve his game he ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Mattie and Arthur Robert Ashe Sr. He began playing Tennis at the age of ten under the guidance of Dr. Walter Johnson, a prominent coach of African American youth from Lynchburg, Virginia. With Johnson's coaching, Ashe won three American Tennis Association (ATA) boy's championships, becoming the first African American junior to be ranked by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA).

Between 1960 and 1963 Ashe won three ATA men's singles titles, became the first African American on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, and the first African American to win a USLTA national title in the South. His achievements earned him a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he attended from 1961 to 1966 earning a bachelor s degree in business administration While in college Ashe won the U ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

journalist and president of Nigeria, was born into the family of Obededan Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, a clerk with the Nigerian Regiment of the West African Frontier Force in the northern Nigerian Hausa town of Zungeru. Later known affectionately as Zik, as a child, Nnamdi learned Hausa before his parents sent him to Onitsha, their Igbo hometown, for his primary education in 1912. In 1918, he graduated from Christ Church School, Onitsha, and he briefly taught there as a pupil teacher (1918–1920).

His education also took him to the Efik town of Calabar where he enrolled in the prestigious Hope Waddell Training Institute Following his father s transfer to Lagos Nnamdi moved with the family and enrolled at the Wesleyan Boys High School Lagos a predominant Yoruba town By the time he graduated from high school Nnamdi had acquired three major Nigerian languages Hausa Igbo and Yoruba and ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

A renowned Nigerian nationalist, a powerful orator and philosopher, a frontline politician, and a first-class journalist, Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in 1904 into the family of Obededan Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, a clerk with the Nigerian Regiment of the West African Frontier Force in Zungeru town of northern Nigeria. Nnamdi started his primary education in 1912. His education took him to Onitsha (his hometown), Calabar, and Lagos. After his secondary education, he joined the Treasury Department in Lagos as a clerk in 1921. Armed with a sense of dignity and self-worth his father instilled in him, and strong encouragement from the Rev. James Kwegyr Aggrey, a distinguished black minister and activist, Azikiwe left Nigeria in 1925 for further studies in the United States. By 1934 Azikiwe had earned an Associate Degree a Bachelor s two Master s and ABD degrees from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania Howard University in Washington ...

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Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese educator, novelist, and activist, was born into a well-to-do and ardently religious Lébou family, which had its own mosque in the family compound, bringing the neighborhood together for prayers several times a day. The Lébous, tall, regal, staunchly Muslim, and predominantly fishermen, are a subtribe of the Wolof ethnic group related to the Lébous of Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof) in the northern Sahel region of Senegal. They were the first inhabitants of the city of Dakar (Ndakarou in Wolof) in the Cape-Vert peninsula, composed of the villages of Ngor, Ouakam, and Yoff. Mariama’s father was Niélé Bâ, born in 1892. Her mother died when Mariama was two years old. Hence, she never got to know her nor did she ever see a photograph of her. Niélé Bâ fought as a tirailleur African infantry soldier on the French side in World War I becoming on his return to ...

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Marian Aguiar

Mariama Bâ, the daughter of Senegal’s first minister of health, was born into a highly educated Muslim family. Bâ’s father had a strong belief in the value of education and, ignoring traditional prohibitions, insisted that his daughter pursue higher education. Bâ attended a prestigious French boarding school near Dakar, passing the entrance examination with the highest marks of all candidates in West Africa that year.

While still a student Bâ began writing essays for local journals and newspapers Her writing revealed her as an articulate and political young woman one essay for example attacked assimilation a French policy encouraging Africans to adopt French identity and culture An active participant in women s organizations the young Bâ found her voice as a spokesperson for African women facing new troubles in the traditional institution of marriage Bâ would later confront these difficulties in her own life when as a ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist who was instrumental in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Ella Josephine Baker grew up in Littleton, North Carolina, listening to her grandparents’ stories about slavery and their struggle to support themselves and their families after Emancipation. Her maternal grandparents were farmers who had managed to acquire their own land, whereas her paternal grandparents, like many former slaves, were landless tenant farmers. Baker's parents, Blake and Georgianna Ross Baker, met in secondary school and were determined to use their educations to establish better lives for themselves and their children. Blake Baker worked as a waiter on a steamship, a job that required frequent travel away from his wife and three children. Before her marriage in 1896 Georgianna Baker worked as a schoolteacher Later she worked as a housewife occasionally taking in boarders to earn extra income and she was actively involved in the local Baptist ...

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Sharon Carson

Although she spent most of her adult life living in France and touring the world, Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri. After a difficult childhood, she left home at thirteen, starting her dance career with a vaudeville troupe called the Dixie Steppers. In the early 1920s, she worked in African American theater productions in New York such as Shuffle Along and Chocolate Dandies. In 1925 Baker left for Paris to begin her long international career with companies like Revue Nègre, Folies Bergères, and, later, the Ziegfeld Follies.

As her career evolved, Baker increasingly focused on political concerns. During World War II Baker toured North Africa while providing information to French and British intelligence. Later she used her considerable fame to advance civil rights issues during her frequent visits to the United States. In 1951 the NAACP honored her political work by declaring an official Baker Day ...

Article

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 ...