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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

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

Miguel Algarín was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. His family emigrated from Puerto Rico to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, when he was nine years old. The Lower East Side's Latin urban landscape served as the foundation for his literary career. Algarín obtained his B.A. in romance languages from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and his M.A. in English literature from Pennsylvania State University in 1965. He completed his doctoral studies in comparative literature at Rutgers University. He served as an instructor at Brooklyn College and New York University before becoming an assistant professor and chair of the Puerto Rican Studies department at Rutgers University. He is currently a professor emeritus at Rutgers.

While Algarín is a popular educator he is best known as one of the most active authors in the Puerto Rican poetic movement that flourished in New York City in the ...

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

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

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

Mohammah Baquaqua was born in 1824 in Zoogoo, (probably a small village in present-day Angola) in central Africa, to a fairly prosperous family. He was raised in an Islamic household and was sent by his father to the local mosque to study the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred text central to Islamic worship. Unsatisfied with school, he left to learn the trade of making needles and knives with his uncle in another village. Baquaqua was captured and enslaved after a struggle for the succession of the local throne. His brother managed to find someone who was able to purchase Baquaqua's freedom. Baquaqua returned to his hometown and became a bodyguard to the local king, where he noted the corruption of the royal armed forces that looted the citizens of the city.

A group of individuals apparently envious of his close association with the king engineered Baquaqua s capture and ...

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

Miguel Barnet is the author of Biografía de un cimarrón (Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, 1966), which recounts Esteban Motejo's life as a runaway slave in Cuba and as a soldier in the Spanish-American War (1895–1898). Other works by Barnet include Canción de Raquel Rachel ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Dubbed by the literary critic Richard Jackson the “dean of Afro-Uruguayan poets,” Pilar Barrios was a key figure in the development of the Uruguayan black press. Barrios was born in Montevideo. He got his start writing poetry for Nuestra Raza, the longest-running black periodical in Uruguay, founded by his sister María Esperanza Barrios in 1917. Thanks to their efforts, those of another contributing brother, Ventura, and a host of illustrious black writers like Elemo Cabral, Juan Julio Arrascaeta, and Virginia Brindis de Salas, the journal defended black intellectual potential and achievements in art, music, and science. The same motive would continue to dominate Barrios' own poetry throughout his lifetime.

With the help of Nuestra Raza, Barrios began to publish books of poetry. The first, titled Piel negra (1947 Black Skin focused on a variety of themes including black pride liberty ...

Article

Valerie Belgrave's best-known work is Ti Marie (1989). Belgrave is also a visual artist whose has exhibited her dyed works in Trinidad and Canada.

See also Literature, English-Language, in the Caribbean.

Article

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

Dantès Bellegarde was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1877. His family had long been at the center of Haitian politics. Bellegarde's mother was Marie Boisson and his father Jean-Louis Bellegarde. His maternal great-grandfather, Jacques Ignace Fresnel, was named judge by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader of the Haitian Revolution, who became the first leader of the independent state in 1804 and soon proclaimed himself Emperor Jean-Jacques I. This same great-grandfather was later minister of justice under President Jean-Pierre Boyer, who ruled all of Haiti from 1820 to 1843. Bellegarde's paternal grandfather, Jean-Louis de Bellegarde, was a duke and marshal in Haiti's second empire during the rule of Faustin Soulouque, who declared himself emperor and ruled from 1847 to 1859. Bellegarde's aunt, Argentine Bellegarde (1842–1901), was a noted educator and an early feminist. Bellegarde married Cécile Savain (1875–1965 ...

Article

Peter Hudson

While Louise Bennett was not the first writer to use Jamaican dialect, the facility with which she reproduces it in her writing and performances has marked her as a pioneer. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bennett was the daughter of baker Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who died when she was seven years old, and dressmaker Kerene Robinson. Bennett, known as Miss Lou, studied social work and Jamaican folklore at Friends' College, Highgate, Jamaica. In 1945 she received a British Council Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

Bennett began writing in dialect in the late 1930s, inspired by the language she heard spoken by Jamaicans on the streets of Kingston. Soon after she began writing, she staged public performances of her poems. In 1942 her first collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was published. Starting in 1943 Bennett contributed a weekly column to ...

Article

Born in a Jamaican village, James Berry worked in America as a teenager but moved to London in 1948. He worked in the International Telegraphs Department of the Post Office from 1951 until 1977, when the award of a C. Day Lewis Fellowship allowed him to write full-time. His work reflects the transcultural insecurity of being “black British,” on the one hand rehabilitating West Indian folklore and dialect, on the other graphically describing the immigrant experience. In Lucy's Letter and Loving (1982), the speaker, Lucy, is an uneducated Jamaican woman, who feels alienated in Britain. Chain of Days (1985) was written, it seems, in the spirit of the younger performance and “dub” poets who followed in Berry's wake, but Berry had long been a powerful reader of his work in its own, generally more restrained terms. Other volumes of his verse include Fractured ...

Article

Rafael de Boissiere's best-known collections of short stories and novels include Crown Jewel (1952), Rum & Coca-Cola (1956), and No Saddles for Kangaroos (1964).

See also Literature, English-Language, in the Caribbean.

Article

Dionne Brand's writing reflects the racial and gender discrimination faced by black women and features resilient female characters. Some of her more important works include Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (1984), Sans Souci and Other Stories (1988), and In Another Place, Not Here (1996 ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Poet Gabriela Mistral, the 1945 Chilean Nobel Laureate, praised Virginia Brindis de Salas's poetry in a letter, claiming that as far away as Los Angeles, her poems were establishing important pan-American links among black people. Despite Mistral's assessment, as literary critic Carroll Young states, there is but one other indication that her work was available outside of Uruguay: a 1954 German translation of her poem “Tango número tres.” Little is known about her life. She was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and claimed to have been the niece of Claudio Brindis de Salas, the famous Cuban violinist who had then settled in Buenos Aires. Active in the small but thriving black Uruguayan community, she published a number of poems in Nuestra Raza (the important black Uruguayan journal), before her first book appeared in 1946, Pregón de Marimorena The Call of Mary Morena Her second volume ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Writer Erna Brodber was raised in rural St. Mary, Jamaica, by parents who were social activists in their small community. After graduating from high school in Kingston, she worked as a civil servant and teacher in Montego Bay before entering the University of the West Indies (UWI), where she received a B.A. degree in history in 1963. Brodber then taught at a private girls' school in Trinidad for one year before continuing her education. She earned a M.Sc. degree in sociology from UWI in 1968 and received a scholarship to study at McGill University in Canada and the University of Washington.

While living in the United States, Brodber was greatly influenced by the Black Power Movement and the women s movements of the late 1960s After returning to Jamaica she became a lecturer in sociology at UWI and earned an international reputation for her research serving ...