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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

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The well-known white Cuban Creole author Cirilo Villaverde (1812–1894) published a first version of Cecilia Valdés in 1839 (thirteen years before Uncle Tom's Cabin, in 1852) at the urging of the abolitionist editor and journalist Domingo del Monte. Del Monte had commissioned the novel to be read at his famous tertulia, social gatherings in Havana, where intellectuals presented works to one another and to supporters who would gather to listen. There was the potential of sending the works to England as part of the 1838 dossier that del Monte was preparing for Richard Madden. Madden was the British representative to the International Tribunal of Justice, which oversaw the ban on slave trading and the protection of freedpeople. The purpose of del Monte's circle of liberal planters and professionals was to embarrass Spain into granting abolition and other reforms including Cuban representation in ...

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Kate Tuttle

The son of an Ethiopian father and a mother of French and African descent, Peter Abrahams was considered “Coloured” in the South African racial classification scheme. He grew up outside Johannesburg and began working at the age of nine, never having attended school. He later enrolled, however, after he was inspired by hearing Othello read to him by a coworker. As a teenager Abrahams discovered works by African American writers such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer in the library at the Bantu Men's Social Centre.

Abrahams began publishing his own poems in local newspapers while studying at a teachers’ training college. While enrolled at St. Peter's Secondary School—a fertile political environment—Abrahams became a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (later renamed the South African Communist Party After his failed attempt to start a school for poor African ...

Article

Rob Garrison

Isidro Acea was greatly respected for his bravery and unceremonious nature. Described as a very outspoken man and a charismatic leader, his personal qualities enabled him to gain a position as colonel in the Liberation Army under General Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo y Grajales.

Acea lived during a period of Cuban history when the society was highly politicized around the issue of race, particularly after the War of Independence (1895–1898 Afro Cubans were frustrated by the Cuban administration United States military occupation and Spanish migration all of which exacerbated social inequity for people of African descent in the nation Acea like some other Afro Cuban veterans attempted to connect with the community and gain support by entering the political arena on a pro black platform in the early 1900s The platform lacked patronage particularly because of U S imposed restrictions on male suffrage that required literacy ...

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Richard Newman

George Alexander McGuire (1866–1934) was an Antiguan ordained in the Episcopal Church in the United States who responded enthusiastically to the Black Nationalism of Marcus Garvey. McGuire envisioned an autonomous black church in the Episcopal tradition as a dimension of the Garvey Movement, much as the Anglican Church served as an international aspect of the British Empire. In 1921 he founded the African Orthodox Church (AOC) in New York. It attracted primarily West Indians sympathetic to Anglicanism, but also some Episcopalians and Roman Catholics who saw little future for blacks in American churches.

Garvey himself never joined the AOC, and in fact warned against both religious divisiveness and competing loyalties to his Universal Negro Improvement Association McGuire vigorously promoted a racially identified faith creating nationalist liturgies and calling for the image of a black Christ Unable to secure consecration to the bishopric from recognized authorities ...

Article

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán was born and received his primary and secondary schooling in Veracruz, where there was a strong African influence, before studying medicine in Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos undertook pioneering studies of Indians in Mexico, whose culture and history had largely been viewed with disdain until then. The studies resurrected a degree of interest in and dignity for Indian heritage. Although Vasconcelos argued that much of indigenous culture should be subsumed in a larger Mexican culture, Aguirre Beltrán believed that indigenous cultures were worthy of study for their own sake. After graduating from the University of Mexico with a medical degree, Aguirre Beltrán returned to Veracruz, where he held a post in public health that further sparked his interest in Indian ethnicity and history. In 1940 he published two studies on the ethnohistory of colonial and precolonial Indians in ...

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Carlos Dalmau

A passionate speaker and outspoken critic of United States imperialism and the 1898 invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos spent many years in prison for his role in the pro-independence nationalist movement, during the turbulent years of the 1930s through the 1950s. He opposed the annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States when the island was ceded by the Spanish after the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1895–1898). For Albizu, Puerto Ricans—ethnically mixed and culturally different—were not, and should not be, Americans. Independence was the only legitimate and anti-imperialist solution to the island's status.

From an early age Albizu stood out as an excellent student He grew up in the city of Ponce a municipality in southern Puerto Rico where he received a grant that gave him the opportunity to study chemical engineering at the University of Vermont He later graduated from the Harvard Law School where ...

Article

Richard Watts

Alexis was born into one of Haiti's literary families. His father, Stéphen Alexis, was the author of Le Nègre masqué (1933) and wrote a work on the history of Haiti. After finishing his studies at the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Institute, Jacques Alexis studied medicine in both Port-au-Prince and Paris, France. Returning to Haiti after receiving his degree, he participated in the revolt of 1946. Alexis soon fled Haiti for fear of political persecution. From that point forward, he spent most of his time traveling, visiting the countries of the Middle East, Russia, and China, before settling in Cuba. But the lure of his native Haiti was strong, and he returned clandestinely to the northwest part of the island in 1961, in spite of reservations regarding the corrupt regime of François Duvalier Alexis was arrested and is believed to have died in captivity ...

Article

Like many slaves from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pablo Alí crossed the border to serve in the Spanish colonial army of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) as a means of obtaining his freedom. In 1795Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France. Alí subsequently participated in the War of Reconquest, in which French troops were defeated and Santo Domingo was reunited with Spain (1809). In 1811 the Spanish throne named him first colonel and granted him a gold medal in recognition of his service to the Crown.

In 1820 Alí served as colonel of the Batallón de Morenos (Black Batallion) in Santo Domingo. After learning that his application for Spanish citizenship had been denied, in 1821 Alí pledged his loyalty to the insurrectionists, led by José de Núñez Cáceres and served as their chief military commander That same year ...

Article

Adam W. Green

baseball player and manager, was born Felipe Rojas Alou, in Haina, Dominican Republic, to Jose Rojas, a carpenter/blacksmith and grandson of a slave, and Virginia Alou, a homemaker and Caucasian daughter of a Spanish migrant. The second Dominican-born player in major league baseball, Alou was one of three baseball-playing brothers and became the first Dominican to manage in the big leagues.

Alou grew up with five younger siblings in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot house his father had built in the village of Haina. For much of his childhood, food came from where Alou and his family could scavenge it: using bamboo poles and construction wire to fish in the Haina River or climbing coconut trees and scouring for other fruit. Baseball equipment was scarce in the poor village, and Alou and his brothers would play with lemons or coconut husks for balls and their hands for bats.

Alou traveled to ...

Article

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 ...

Article

John Burdick

The worship of Anastacia began in Brazil in the early 1970s The devotion to her centers upon a striking portrait of a young black woman with piercing blue eyes wearing a face iron an iron face mask that slaves were made to wear as a form of punishment Legend has it that Anastacia was tortured with the face iron when she refused to submit to the lust of her master Legend also has it that before she died she forgave her master and cured his child of a fatal disease Although the Catholic Church denounces the devotion to her as superstition at best and heresy at worst millions of Brazilians of all colors are deeply devoted to this woman whom they regard as possessing in death unparalleled supernatural powers Many of her devotees carry a small medallion of her image around their neck others keep a card with her ...

Article

Marcelino Arozarena is considered one of the founders of poesía negra, or black poetry, in the Caribbean. Born in Havana, Cuba, he published his first poems in the 1920s in the Havana literary journal La Palabra, directed by Communist leader Juan Marinello. Arozarena's famous poem, “Caridá,” asks why Caridad, a mulatto woman (of both African and European descent), has not shown up at a dance. The poet draws on the techniques of negrista or “blackist” poets, such as mimicking musical rhythms, using jitanjáfora (words whose sounds echo their meanings), and folkloric images of Afro-Cuban music and dance.

Arozarena was part of the first wave of negrista poets, which also included his fellow Cubans Ramón Güirao, Alejo Carpentier, and Regino Pedroso; Puerto Rican poet Palés Matos; and Mexican poet José Zacarías Tallet Together with these authors Arozarena helped spark a literary movement ...

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

Born Raymond Quevedo, Atilla de Hun recorded with American record companies beginning in 1934, when he and Roaring Lion (Hubert Raphael Charles, later Raphael de Leon were the first Trinidadian calypsonians to record in New York City During his career he also recorded with the ...

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See also Contemporary Afro-Brazilian Music.

Article

Sabrina Karpa-Wilson

The son of Portuguese parents, Aluísio Azevedo achieved national prominence with the novel O Mulato in 1881 (published in English as Mulatto in 1990). A vehement denunciation of church corruption, the evils of slavery, and racial prejudice amongst the provincial elite in the northern Brazilian state of Maranhão, the novel was well received in the nation's capital, Rio de Janeiro. But it caused such polemic in his native state that the writer decided to relocate to Rio. There, between 1882 and 1895, he struggled to make a living as a professional writer, producing novels, short fiction, plays, and chronicles. He wrote eleven novels all told, moving between romantic melodrama and naturalism. His romantic novels are seldom read today, and his naturalist novel O Cortiço (1890; published in English as A Brazilian Tenement, 1926) is generally considered to be his best work. In 1895 ...

Article

For information on:

Earlier efforts by blacks to return to Africa: See Abolitionism in the United States; American Colonization Society; Black Nationalism in the United States; Crummell; Cuffe; Delany; Garnet; Garvey; Liberia.

Support for repatriation to Africa: See Downing; Race ...

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Article

Joaquín Balaguer was born in Villa Bisono in the Dominican Republic, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. After studying law in the capital city of Santo Domingo, he earned a doctorate at the University of Paris. In 1930 he became involved in a conspiracy that resulted in Rafael Leónidas Trujillo seizing the presidency. During Trujillo's long and dictatorial regime, Balaguer served in various ambassadorial posts abroad and also served as the Dominican Republic's minister of education and vice president. After Trujillo's oppressive rule officially ended, the country was led by a series of puppet leaders, with Trujillo pulling their strings. Balaguer began his presidency in 1960 as one such puppet. Trujillo, however, was assassinated in 1961. Balaguer remained president but faced massive popular protests for a return to democratic rule. In 1962 a general strike forced Balaguer from power He spent the next three years ...