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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...


Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian social activist and writer, was born in Alexandria on 1 December 1863 to an Ottoman-Kurdish father, who served as an administrator in Kurdistan before working in the Egyptian army, and an Upper Egyptian mother, the daughter of Ahmed Bek Khattab, who belonged to a prestigious family in Egypt. Amin attended Raʾas Al Tin primary school in Alexandria and high school in Cairo, after which he studied at the School of Law and Administration in Cairo and was there granted his BA degree in 1881. Four years later, he received another degree in Law from the University of Montpellier in France. He worked as a lawyer shortly after his graduation and then traveled on a scholarship to France, where he enrolled in the University of Montpellier. In 1885 he completed his four year study in law with distinction upon returning to Egypt he worked in the judiciary He ...


Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian patriot from Gojjam who resisted the Italian Fascist occupation, was born in the Borena district of Wello province. His father, Basha Zelleqe Laqew, had been a member of Lij Iyasu Mikael’s bodyguard. His mother, Weyzero Taytu, came from nearby Borena-Sayent. Upon Lij Iyasu’s overthrow in 1916, Zelleqe, with two sons, Belay and Ejjegu, moved to Chaqeta, near Taytu’s birthplace. The family ran into difficulty in 1924, when it came into armed conflict with the local governor. Zelleqe was killed, and subsequently hanged, wherupon Belay, Ejjegu, and several kinsmen fled into the lowlands bordering the Blue Nile, where they became shiftoch, or bandits, bent on revenge.

Belay’s fortune was greatly affected by the Italian invasion. After fifteen years of fighting as a shifta he determined to join the struggle against the external enemy An opportunity came when he learned that an Italian military convoy was traveling ...


Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonialist leader, was born in Rabat. Although he was raised in a family of modest income, he managed to attend a French elementary school for children of notable families at the age of nine. In 1938, he graduated from Moulay Youssef High School in Rabat. He attended Algiers University in Algeria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1942. He returned to Morocco and taught mathematics at Gouraud High School and then joined the teaching faculty at the Royal College. In La mémoire d’un roi: Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, the late King Hassan II, who was one of Ben Barka’s students, described him as a man with “a vast knowledge, a charming personality, and a passionate nature” (p. 108).

The year 1935 marked the beginning of Ben Barka s involvement in the national movement for independence He was the youngest member of ...


Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonial leader, was born in a remote, small village in the region of Oujda, a major city on the border with Algeria. He was raised in a low-income family. He attended elementary school and high school in Oujda, where he met Abdelaziz Bouteflika, later the president of Algeria.

When Benjelloun graduated from high school in 1955, he moved to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, to study at the Scientific Institute. In Rabat he met leading members of the national movement for independence such as Mohamed Elyazghi, who is currently a key figure in the USFP (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires). At the end of his first year in college, which coincided with the year the country gained its independence from the French Protectorate (1956 Benjelloun who chose to follow a career in the postal service and communication seized an opportunity to get into a two ...


James Kilgore

Zimbabwean freedom fighter and politician, grew up in a politically minded family. Her father, a bricklayer, was frequently detained by the white minority government, and Dongo recalled visiting him in prison when she was just seven years old. At fifteen she left secondary school and walked two hundred miles to Mozambique to join the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU, later ZANU-PF, for “Patriotic Front”). ZANU was conducting a liberation war against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith, leader of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). Dongo trained as a medical assistant. She took the Chimurenga (“liberation war”) name of “Tichaona Muhondo” (“We shall see on the battlefield”).

At independence in 1980 she returned to Zimbabwe, completed a typing course, and worked as the Secretary for Women’s Affairs in the national headquarters of ZANU-PF in Harare. In 1983 she took a position in the Ministry of State Security ...


Herman Giliomee

the first person to promote Afrikaans as a language of literary expression and vehicle of a new political consciousness, was born in Daljosafat near Paarl (in present-day South Africa) on 9 October 1847. He was the son of David Petrus du Toit and Helena Elizabeth Du Plessis. Stephanus (or “S. J.,” as he was called) du Toit, grew up on his father’s wine farm, Kleinbosch. He attended a Dutch school at a time when English dominated in education, government, and the professions. He studied to become a minister in Stellenbosch and was strongly influenced by the writings of John Calvin.

Du Toit was short in stature with a bold forehead and piercing eyes He was excessively ambitious and quarrelled with many As a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church in Paarl Du Toit soon became interested in the promotion of Afrikaans a language forged by colonists slaves and free ...


Nigerian academic researcher and Pan-African activist, was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1893. He was the son of I. O. Fadipe, a pastor at the Baptist mission in Abeokuta. His mother, like many women in Yoruba communities, worked as a trader.

After attending the Church Missionary Society (CMS) primary school in Abeokuta, Fadipe graduated from the CMS grammar school in Lagos and found work as a clerk for the colonial government. With low pay offered to junior African office workers, Fadipe set about finding a more lucrative position. He succeeded in finding a new position as the personal secretary to the manager of Barclays Bank in Lagos. Fadipe knew full well how few opportunities for higher learning existed in Nigeria in the early twentieth century, so he convinced his mother to pay for him to enter a university in England. In 1925 Fadipe was admitted to the London School ...


Stephen J. Rockel

, Tanzanian leader, was mtemi (chief) of Unyanyembe, the most important of the nineteenth-century Nyamwezi chiefdoms in central Tanzania before the rise of Mirambo’s empire. Unyanyembe, with its rapidly growing town of Tabora, was to become one of the major commercial centers in East Africa during a period of rapid economic growth based on long-distance caravan trade.

In the early nineteenth century Unyanyembe was still a small chiefdom, and Tabora did not yet exist. Around 1840 Fundikira’s father, Swetu, son of Sambwe, from the Nyangwila section of the Kimbu (a related ethnic group who are southern neighbors of the Nyamwezi) moved with his people to the northwest and annexed the area around what was to become Tabora, setting up his capital at Itetemia. Thus the ruling house in Unyanyembe retained a strong Kimbu identity, and Kimbu rituals dominated.

Swetu died in the early 1840s just as a great expansion in ...


Goolam Vahed

lawyer and political leader, was born on 2 October 1869 in Gujarat, India. He married Kasturbai Makhanji in 1883. After the birth of their son Harilal in 1888, Gandhi went to London, where he qualified as a lawyer in 1891. He was making a modest living in Gujarat when he was approached in 1893 by a trader from South Africa, who wanted Gandhi to represent his company in a legal matter. While Gandhi was in Natal, a bill was introduced to disenfranchise Indians, and his benefactors persuaded him to extend his stay to help them lobby against the bill. That stay was to last twenty-one years, as the government intensified the passage of anti- Indian racist legislation. Gandhi formed the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 with himself as secretary and it was this organization that led the political struggle of Indians in South Africa for the ...


Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual, educator, administrator, and interpreter, was born in the Gondar region of northwestern Ethiopia around 1855. He got his first exposure to Western education through the German missionary J. Mayer, who was then resident in Ethiopia. He accompanied Emperor Tewodros II to his final stronghold, Maqdala, where the emperor committed suicide in April 1868 as troops led by the British commander General Robert Napier stormed his fortress. As someone who saw that visionary emperor at close range, Gebru was to continue to harbor an abiding admiration for his idealism. Taken out of the country by the conquering troops, Gebru was patronized by the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was educated in different CMS outposts, including Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Basel (Switzerland).

Returning to his native Ethiopia in 1879 Gebru did missionary work first in Gondar and then after another trip abroad in Wallaga in western ...


Efraim Barak

Egyptian intellectual, writer, reformer, and lecturer of philosophy, was born in Cairo on 13 February 1935. His father was a professional musician. In the early 1950s, he joined the Muslim Brothers and was active in student politics at the University of Cairo, where he studied philosophy. In 1956, after earning his BA, he moved to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Sorbonne. In 1966, after receiving his PhD in philosophy, he returned to Cairo where, after a year, he began teaching at the local university. At the same time, he translated into Arabic some of the works of Western philosophers, such as Spinoza, Lessing, and Sartre, and published several articles in the journals al-Katib (The Writer) and al-Fikr al-Muʿasi (Modern Thought).

From 1971 to 1975, Hanafi worked as an external lecturer at Temple University in Philadelphia. From 1979 to 1980 he supervised the ...


Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian teacher, poet, writer, jurisconsult, magistrate, and reformer, was born in Tunis in 1814 or 1815 at the end of the reign of Hamouda Pasha. Mahmoud Kabadou was the son of Mohamed Ben Mahmoud Ben Amor Kabadou, a member of an Andalusian family that had settled in the Ottoman province of Tunis in 1607. Kabadou’s mother came from the southern Tunisian village of Sfax, where his father lived and worked for a year as an artisan making hunting tools; he decided to move with his wife to Tunis before their child was born. Mahmoud Kabadou grew up in modest familial and social circles. He attended the local school to study the Qurʾran, Arabic, jurisprudence, and religious law. He soon became interested in philosophy, theology, poetry, Arabic literature, and mysticism. He was greatly moved by the mystic Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi.

His interest in deep reading led him to move to ...


Jabari Adams

Maulana Karenga, born 14 July 1941, is an African American scholar, author, and political activist. Born on a poultry farm in Parsonsburg, Maryland, Karenga is the fourteenth child of a Baptist minister. Karenga moved to California in the late 1950s to attend Los Angeles City College. He was admitted to UCLA as part of a federal program for high school dropouts. At UCLA, he received a master’s in political science and African American studies. Karenga holds two doctorates: The first is in Political Science, with emphasis on the theory and practice of nationalism, awarded at United States International University; his second is in Social Ethics, with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt, awarded by the University of Southern California. He also holds an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa.

Known also as Ron Karenga he has been a ...


A. Kia Sinclair

creator of the holiday of Kwanzaa. Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga was born Ronald McKinley Everett in Parsonsburg, Maryland. Karenga left Maryland in 1958 and relocated to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles, Karenga developed into a key intellectual, political, and cultural figure. Karenga attended Los Angeles City College, where he became the first black to serve as student-body president. He received his BA and MA degrees in political science and African studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Karenga received two PhDs, the first in political science from the United States International University (1976) and the second in social ethics from the University of Southern California (1993). Karenga was also awarded an honorary PhD from South Africa's University of Durban-Westville.

In the 1960s with the Black Power movement on the rise African Americans were asserting their blackness by sporting Afros and dashikis and by abandoning the ...


Jeremy Rich

Kongolese religious and political reformer, was born to a wealthy noble Kongo-speaking family in Kibangu, a mountainous region located in present-day Angola. Little is known of Kimpa Vita’s immediate family, but she grew up during a period of fragmentation and civil war. The relative stability of the Kongo kingdom in the sixteenth century had collapsed in the wake of the Portuguese invasion from Angola to its south in the 1660s. By the late seventeenth century, the old kingdom had divided into a range of competing noble families, each claiming to be the rightful dynasty that could rebuild the shattered fragments of Kongo into a single state. Kimpa Vita’s father served as an officer in the army of King Álvaro X, whose pretentions of being the true monarch of Kongo did not correspond with the tiny amount of territory around Kibangu that he actually controlled.

Amid this chaotic political landscape Kimpa ...


Nick Nesbitt

Hégésippe Légitimus was the son of a fisherman who lost his life at sea. He grew up in Pointe-à-Pitre and attended the lycée Carnot, where he came in contact with the ideas of the French socialist theoretician Jules Guesde. This political awakening led him to form a “Committee for Republican Socialist Youth.” After witnessing a mulatto overseer mistreat a black youth, he publicly took the defense of the latter in his first political gesture.

Légitimus entered public politics when Guadeloupe was in the throes of an extended economic crisis after the relative prosperity of the Second Empire (1852–1870). Following the abolition of slavery in 1848, this earlier period saw both the consolidation of sugar plantation capital in the hands of metropolitan owners and a rapid increase in economic activity following the lifting of foreign trade restrictions in 1861 The need for inexpensive labor however outlived ...


Ari Nave

Thomas Mapfumo created Chimurenga Music, a new style that drew on Shona traditions of music as a form of resistance to confront colonial oppression in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), then under white-minority rule. Raised in the rural household of his grandparents, themselves traditional musicians, Mapfumo learned traditional Shona music from an early age. The young Mapfumo played the mbira (thumb piano) and drums during his grandmother’s performances at beer parties.

To obtain a better education, Mapfumo moved to Salisbury (present-day Harare). His musical repertoire expanded as he discovered other African, European, and American musical styles—including the music of Nat “King” Cole, Otis Redding, and Elvis Presley. In Salisbury, he sang in a number of local bands, covering popular tunes by Sam Cooke and the Beatles, whose lyrics he sang in Shona. In 1973 Mapfumo formed the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band most of the band members worked in ...


Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on 2 July 1945 to a family belonging to the Shona ethnic community. His hometown was located close to Harare (then Salisbury), the capital of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Mapfumo lived a fairly traditional rural lifestyle as a child. His grandparents raised him for his first ten years. As a young child on a rural farm, he watched over his family’s cattle herds and became familiar with older Shona musical styles. He became interested in songs particularly accompanied by ngoma drums and the mbira thumb-piano, which became his signature instrument later in his career.

When he was ten his father brought him to live at the family home in the Mbare township in Harare to attend school In the early 1960s the adolescent Mapfumo was exposed to the growing political crises over Southern Rhodesia s future While African political groups wanted the ...


Leland Conley Barrows

Réne Maran (1887–1960), French citizen of Guianese parentage, author, poet, and sometime French colonial official, reflected in his writings, attitudes, and actions the “double-consciousness” phenomenon identified by W. E. B. Du Bois. Much of his life was characterized by a tenacious will to participate fully in French culture and civil society while identifying with and defending the African world of his ancestors that he began to discover when he accepted a posting in the colonial bureaucracy in Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic) in 1909.

Maran is best remembered for his novel Batouala: veritable roman nègre, which he published in 1921 and which almost immediately won the Prix Goncourt. Never before had a black novelist won this most prestigious of French literary awards.

The novel which is set among the Banda people of Ubangi Chari is constructed around a love triangle involving Batouala a powerful ...