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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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Belinda Cooper

Anton Wilhelm Amo, brother of a slave, was brought to Germany from the Gold Coast in 1707 as a gift from the Dutch West India Company to the Dukes August Wilhelm and Ludwig Rudolf von Wolfenbüttel. Although it was the fashion at the time in Europe to make blacks servants or clowns, the dukes raised and educated Amo as a nobleman. They then sent him to the university in Halle, where he became acquainted with Enlightenment thinkers such as Christian Wolff, Christian Thomasius, John Locke, and René Descartes. His first work, published in 1729 and now lost, concerned the rights of Africans in Europe. Amo received his doctorate in 1734 with a thesis on the duality of body and soul and made his mark as a lecturer in philosophy at the universities in Halle Wittenberg and Jena At a time when many Europeans ...

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Roanne Edwards

As a performer, composer, and scholar of ethnic music, Susana Baca has become a leading expert on Afro-Peruvian musical traditions. Since the 1960s she has explored the distinctive rhythms, tempos, and instruments of the small but influential Afro-Peruvian community that has lived in relative isolation for nearly 500 years along the Pacific Ocean coast of Peru. Her research led to the path-breaking 1995 album The Soul of Black Peru, which presented Afro-Peruvian music to an international audience for the first time.

Baca leads a generation of musicians who interpret the Afro-Peruvian traditions first explored in the 1950s by the renowned ethnomusicologist Nicomedes Santa Cruz. Her performances use Afro-Peruvian rhythms that date back to the seventeenth century, as well as native instruments such as the Andean panpipes and the cajon a wooden box which when rhythmically struck with the hand produces a variety of unusual timbres Baca ...

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

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

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 ...

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

Roanne Edwards

Lydia Cabrera, along with Fernando Ortiz, is widely considered one of the two most important twentieth century researchers and writers on Afro-Cuban culture. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of investigative work on the subject, including her pioneering El monte (1954), subtitled “Notes on the Religion, the Magic, the Superstitions and the Folklore of Creole Negroes and the Cuban People,” and Reglas de congo (1980), a book on Bantu (known as congo in Cuba) rituals. According to Ana María Simo, author of Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait, Cabrera's “is the most important and complete body of work on Afro-Cuban religions” of its time. Cabrera also wrote four volumes of short stories inspired by Afro-Cuban legends and beliefs. Her fiction is rich in metaphor and symbolism and has been compared stylistically with the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca ...

Article

A native of Aracati, in northeastern Brazil, Adolfo Caminha moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1883 to attend the Escola de Marinha (Maritime Academy). He spent much of his life as a naval officer, drawing from his maritime experiences in his writing. Much of his writing draws thematically from the harsh reality of life at sea and reflects a deterministic view of race relations. Together, these qualities recall the two most important historical struggles of nineteenth-century Brazil and Caminha's most ardent causes—the abolition of slavery in 1888, and the founding of the republic in 1889.

His novel Bom Crioulo (1895), in particular, explores these newfound freedoms. A former slave nicknamed Bom Crioulo (crioulo is a term for a black person born in Brazil pursues and seduces Aleixo a white cabin boy after suffering a ruthless flogging for defending the boy against improper advances ...

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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

Pedro Deschamps Chapeaux was born in Havana, Cuba. His notable works include: El negro en el periodismo cubano en el siglo XIX (The Black in Nineteenth Century Cuban Journalism; 1963); El negro en la economía habanera del siglo XIX (The Black in the Nineteenth Century Havana Economy; 1970 ...

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

Leyla Keough

Bernie Grant was a controversial parliamentarian, more at home with grassroots organization and black radicalism than with establishment politics in the House of Commons. Described as “a leader walking the rope between street heroism and government office,” Grant defended his black constituents and articulated their views.

Grant grew up in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, where he attended a Jesuit school. In 1963 he and his parents, Eric and Lily Grant, moved to Great Britain, where Bernie attended Tottenham Technical College and then studied mining engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He left the university because of racist policies that refused to admit blacks into a program of study in mining in South Africa. He worked as a railway clerk and a postal employee until he became a trade union official.

During the 1970s Grant led a campaign against the National Front a white supremacist organization active ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Stuart Hall, a founder of the New Left and of the interdisciplinary field known as cultural studies, has devoted his career to developing a framework for understanding issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural practice and their practical relationship to contemporary British politics.

Hall was born to upwardly mobile middle-class parents in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1951 he won a Rhodes scholarship to Merton College at Oxford University, which he has called “the hub, the motor, that creates Englishness.” He earned a doctoral degree in American literature.

During the 1950s Hall became involved in West Indian and socialist politics. He was a founding member of the New Left Club and its publication Universities and Left Review. This journal merged with social historian E. P. Thompson's The New Reasoner in 1959 and became the New Left Review Hall was its first editor In this journal Hall challenged the failure ...

Article

Aninydo Roy

Commenting on the works of Wilson Harris, Jamaican novelist John Hearne said, “No other British Caribbean novelist has made quite such an explicitly and conscious effort … to reduce the material reckonings of everyday life to the significance of myth.” Born in New Amsterdam, Guyana Wilson Harris is the author of more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. His most well-known works include the novels of The Guyana Quartet (1960–1963); The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990); the book of poems, Eternity to Season (1954, 1978 second edition); and the collection of essays The Radical Imagination (1992). He published his first volume of poetry, Fetish, while serving as a government land surveyor in Guyana in 1951. Palace of the Peacock, the first novel of The Guyana Quartet, appeared in 1960 and ...