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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

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

Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

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

Donald Altschiller

historian, author, and university professor, was born in Clinton, Alabama, to Ed Walton and Alice Blakely, sharecroppers. When Blakely was young his mother moved north to secure better employment, and he was raised by a great aunt in the coal‐mining town of Preco, near Birmingham. In 1946 his mother returned to Alabama and moved him and his older sister to Oregon, where Alice Blakely had worked as a seamstress and in the Portland shipyards during World War II.

An avid reader since his early years, Blakely particularly enjoyed Russian literature and studied the Russian language in both high school and college. His interest in revolutions and popular democracy further stimulated his interest in Russian history. He received a BA from the University of Oregon in 1962 where he majored in history and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa He also graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate in the ...

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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

Charlotte Crawford Watkins

Charles Eaton Burch was born on July 14, 1891, in Bermuda. His early education was in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda, and his advanced training was in the United States, at Wilberforce University (B.A., 1914), Columbia University (M.A., 1918), and Ohio State University (Ph.D., 1933). He taught in the academic department of Tuskegee Institute in 1916 and 1917, and from 1918 to 1921 he taught at Wilberforce as an instructor in English. In 1921 he was appointed to the faculty of Howard University, where he served, successively, as assistant professor (1921–1924), associate professor (1924–1936), and professor of English, and as acting head and (from 1933) head of the Department of English until his death on March 23, 1948 In addition to his work as a scholar Burch made two major contributions to Howard University In ...

Article

Flora González

María Campos-Pons's multipanel photographs, installations, and performances often portray a mythic or ironic view of the self-portrait. She often uses her own body as a canvas onto which she inscribes symbolic messages that define her individual self in terms of domestic rituals and her national identity in relation to mythic origins.

Born in Matanzas, Cuba, to parents who labored in and about the sugar industry, Campos-Pons enjoyed the benefits of a universally free education instituted in Cuba after the 1959 revolution headed by Fidel Castro. She received her artistic training at the National School of Art (1980) and the Higher Institute of Art (1985), both in Havana. In 1988 she attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Subsequently, she married Neil Leonard an American and established residency in the United States Her works have been exhibited throughout Europe and the Americas since ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

One profile of Jan Carew calls him “a prolific and versatile writer who has lived in South and North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe and whose work includes novels, poetry, plays for theater, television, and radio, screenplays, essays, and books for children and young adults.” This is a fitting summary of his diverse career.

Carew was born in a small village in British Guiana (now Guyana), the son of a planter. After graduating from the prestigious Berbice High School, he briefly taught there and then worked from 1940 to 1943 for the British Colonial Civil Service in British Guiana. From 1943 to 1944 he worked for the government of Trinidad and Tobago, before leaving the Caribbean to continue his education.

Carew went first to the United States, where he attended Howard University and Western Reserve University now Case Western Reserve University and then to Europe where ...

Article

In the 1940s Portalatín Cartagena was part of a literary group called La Poesía Sorprendida (Surprised Poetry). This group developed universal themes in a style that made comprehension difficult, in part because the group opposed the intellectually and politically repressive dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Although the group's literary journal ceased publication in 1947, this did not hinder Cartagena. With two books of poetry to her credit, she continued her artistic career, defying some traditional female roles.

Cartagena was born in Moca, in the Dominican Republic. She earned a degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and a diploma from the School of Plastic Arts in Paris. She later returned to the Dominican Republic and taught art history. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, Cartagena founded the literary series La isla necesaria, and directed other serial publications.

Much of Cartagena s early poetic ...

Article

Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...

Article

Richard Watts

It would not be inappropriate to refer to Maryse Condé as a “restless soul.” Born the last of eight children, she was raised in Guadeloupe and was sent to boarding school in Paris—partly because of her extreme boredom in local schools—at the age of sixteen. At the Lycée Fénelon in Paris, Condé developed a love of literature that was dormant during her years in Guadeloupe. In Paris she became acquainted with Marxist anticolonial circles, joining the Communist youth movement in the mid-1950s. While attending the Jean Genet play Les Nègres at the end of the decade, she met and fell in love with one of the actors, a Guinean named Mamadou Condé. (She would later say of the man she married in August of 1959 that she fell in love with the character he played in Les Nègres.) They left for Africa in 1960 Condé s husband ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

During the 1960s Roque Cordero gained international recognition as an innovative composer of contemporary classical music. He has received numerous awards for his compositions, including the Koussevitzky International Recording Award in 1974 for his Violin Concerto (1962). Although he employs modern compositional techniques, he strongly identifies with his Panamanian heritage and has sought to create music with both Afro-indigenous character and universal appeal.

Cordero was born and raised in Panama City, Panama. As a teenager, he revealed a talent for musical composition and won several local prizes. In 1939 he wrote his first notable work for orchestra, the Capricho Interiorano. Impressed by the bold experimentalism of the Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg, he aspired to a Western musical education and in 1943 enrolled on a scholarship at the University of Minnesota in the United States. After extensive musical study with composer Ernst Krenek and conductor Dimitri ...

Article

Melvin D. Kennedy

Crogman was born in Philipsburg on Saint Martin, Leeward Islands, on May 5, 1841. Little is known of his first few years except that he was never a slave. He was orphaned at twelve and shortly thereafter was befriended by B. L. Boomer, of a New England shipowning family. Boomer took young Crogman to his home in Middleboro, Massachusetts. In 1855, at the age of fourteen, Crogman began an eleven-year career at sea on one of the Boomer ships. During this period he visited many ports in Europe, India, and South America. These experiences had a profound effect on the keenly observant young man.

With Boomer's encouragement Crogman began preparations in 1866 to secure an education Two years later he entered Pierce Academy in Middleboro He completed with distinction the four year course in English French and bookkeeping in half the time normally required His ...

Article

Léon-Gontran Damas was born into the mulatto (of African and European descent) bourgeoisie of Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, a territory vilified in Damas's day as a penal colony. The area contained significant Native American and nègres bosh (descended from fugitive African slaves) populations. Damas lost his mother in early childhood and received a bourgeois upbringing from his aunt; he would later reject the values of his youth, together with all forms of political and cultural assimilation. As an adolescent Damas attended the Victor Schoelcher High School in Martinique, where he first became friends with Aimé Césaire. After graduating he moved to Paris, where he studied literature, Asian languages, and law. He also collaborated in the production of the now-famous black publications La Revue du Monde Noir, Légitime Défense, and L'Etudiant Noir.

With the support of French anthropologist Paul Rivet Damas ...

Article

Zee Edgell, writer and educator, has produced works that focus on the Belizean independence movement, the country's various ethnic traditions, and the lives of women in her native country, the Central American nation of Belize. She was born Zelma Inez Tucker to a family of Creoles in Belize City. Trained as a journalist in London, she worked as a reporter in Jamaica before returning to Belize. There she met and married Al Edgell, a North American who worked for humanitarian relief agencies, such as the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), Save the Children, and the Peace Corps.

While the couple's work took them to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Somalia, Zee Edgell wrote her first novel, Beka Lamb (1982). Set in 1951 the novel describes the birth of the Belizean independence movement in what was then British Honduras calling particular attention ...

Article

Richard Watts

Franck Etienne, who adopted the creolized spelling Franketienne in 1972, has written strikingly original works in both Creole and French, becoming a key figure in contemporary Haitian literature.

Born to a black mother and a white father, Franketienne grew up in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In a society organized into levels by race, he had the light skin color of the mulatto elite but lacked the money and the family connections that would have let him enter their world. At school, he was called blanc manant (white peasant), an insulting nickname he later embraced.

Franketienne's work reflects his in-between status in Haitian society. He writes about the black middle class in the novel Mur à crever (1968) but also represents rural life in Haiti, as in Dézafi (1975 one of the first novels written in Creole Franketienne s poetry also ...

Article

Russell W. Irvine

educator and emigrationist, was born in bucolic Rutland, Vermont. Freeman's life can be divided into two periods: his thirty-seven-year residence in America and his twenty-five-year stay in Liberia, Africa. In Rutland, he attended the predominantly white East Parish Congregational Church, whose pastor recognized Freeman's precocity and volunteered to prepare him for college. Freeman was accepted into Middlebury College and graduated class salutatorian in 1849. He taught briefly in Boston before accepting an invitation to join the faculty of the newly established Allegheny Institute and Mission Church (later Avery College) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1850. Freeman's appointment at the first state-chartered degree-granting institution for blacks distinguished him as the first college-educated black professor in America. In recognition of his advanced study in mathematics and natural philosophy, Middlebury College voted to award him an M.A. degree in 1852. In 1856 when Avery College s first white president ...

Article

Adam W. Green

academic and writer, was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to Oliver John Golden, an African American agronomist, and Bertha Bialek, an English teacher of Polish-Jewish descent. Communist sympathizers who found life in America as an interracial couple extremely difficult, Oliver and Bertha led an expedition of sixteen African American agricultural experts to the Soviet Union in 1931 in an attempt to assist the USSR's agricultural development, specifically the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Shortly after Golden's birth, her parents were offered work at universities in Tashkent, capital of the then-named Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1937 the family was given an ultimatum by the Soviet government to leave the country or renounce their American citizenship As Golden later wrote Neither my father nor my mother was inclined to take their newly born child back to the racism and intolerance that they had experienced in the United States p 15 ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Chiquinha Gonzaga was born in Rio de Janeiro to an unwed mother of mixed race. After being officially recognized by her father, she received all the trappings of an education befitting the daughter of a military man so that she might serve in the court of Pedro II. After a strict upbringing she married a wealthy commander in Brazil's merchant marines when she was still a teenager; yet, much to her family's chagrin, she swapped an oppressive home life for the bohemian music halls of Rio at the age of eighteen.

Though Gonzaga had performed her first song, “Canção de Pastores,” at a family gathering on Christmas Eve in 1858, her first successful composition, a polka titled “Atraente,” was not published until 1877 In the meantime cut off by her family she managed to build a reputation as a piano teacher and made a living playing in ...