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Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

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John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Elisabeth Bekers

daughter of El Hadj Ibrahima Sory Barry of Dara (1884?–1978), the last almamy, or king, of the Fulani of Fouta Djalon, and his third wife, Diello, was born in Mamou, Republic of Guinea (Guinea-Conakry), in 1948 Kesso meaning virgin in Fulani enjoyed a happy childhood in the royal slave sustained and polygamous household of her father until the age of six when she moved to Sogotoro with his authoritarian sister For four years her aunt tried to reform her impulsive headstrong niece through hard work and discipline but to little avail Upon her return to Mamou Barry quickly made her reputation as a revolutionary princess She joined her brothers in typically male activities such as hunting and tax collecting frequenting the cinema and joyriding in her father s car once almost killing a child On her own initiative she attended Mamou s qurʾanic school and its public primary ...

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

Highly regarded for her science-fiction novels and short stories, Octavia Butler was born in Pasadena, California. A shy and dyslexic child, Butler was raised in Pasadena and attended John Muir High School. She then studied for two years at Pasadena City College before completing additional coursework at California State College and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Butler read avidly as a youth and began writing short works of fiction at the age of ten. Her first novel, Patternmaster, was published in 1976 as part of a series that includes Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), and Clay's Ark (1984). Though best known for her novels, Butler has won awards for her short stories, including a Hugo for “Speech Sounds” (1983) and both a Hugo and a Nebula for “Blood-Child” (1984 ...

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Barbara Bair

writer, educator, and feminist, was born Adelaide Smith on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Of mixed Hausa, Fanti, West Indian, and British heritage, she was born into the social world of the Creole professional elite, the daughter of court registrar William Smith and his second wife, Anne. Adelaide Smith moved with her family to England at the age of four (in 1872), and grew to adulthood in Britain. She was educated at the Jersey Ladies’ College, which her father had helped to found. The leaders of the school served as role models for the young Adelaide, who carried the message of female ability she learned at the college into her own adult life. The experience also influenced her lifelong dedication to education as a medium of social change for African women and girls.

Adelaide studied music in Germany for two years before her family s financial circumstances ...

Article

Livia Apa

contemporary Mozambican writer, was born on 4 June 1955 in Manjacaze, province of Gaza, in the south of the country. At the age of six she moved to the outskirts of Maputo with her parents. Her father was a day laborer who ended up working as a street tailor in the capital. Her mother was a peasant. The family never assimilated. The father, who from a young age had been subjected to the xibalo, the regime of forced labor imposed by Portuguese colonialism, was a staunch anticolonialist and never allowed his children to speak Portuguese at home, obliging them to use only chope, their mother tongue.

Paulina studied in a Catholic missionary elementary school and then in secondary schools where there were few other black students forcing her to improve her as yet scant knowledge of Portuguese and to make contact with the values of the colonial regime ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Julia Ringwood Coston was born on Ringwood Farm, in Warrenton, Virginia, and this is apparently the origin of her maiden name. At an early age she was brought to Washington, D.C., where she attended public school. Though she almost completed school, she had to withdraw when her mother's health failed. She became the governess in the family of a Union general and continued her studies. In the spring of 1886 she married William Hilary Coston, then a student at Yale University. He had published A Freeman and Yet a Slave (1884), a pamphlet of eighty-four pages, and may have broadened her formal education. A longer version of the same book was published in 1888 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, which may suggest that they lived there at the time.

The Costons settled in Cleveland Ohio where William Coston became the pastor of Saint Andrew s Church and ...

Article

Josephine Dawuni

Ghanaian journalist, writer, political and gender activist with ancestral roots in both Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born to Francis Thomas Dove, an accomplished barrister at law and Madam Eva Buckman, a Ga businesswoman. In 1933, Mabel Dove married Dr. J. B. Danquah, a leading figure of the anti- imperialist independence movement; the couple had one son. Mabel Dove Danquah’s formative years began in Sierra Leone, where at the early age of six, she attended the prestigious Annie Walsh Memorial School, the oldest girls’ school in Sierra Leone. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Sierra Leone, she went to England, where she attended the Anglican Covenant in Bury and then St. Michael’s College. She then proceeded to take a four-month course at Gregg Commercial College in secretarial training.

In 1926 at the age of twenty one Danquah took her first job as a shorthand typist with Elder ...

Article

Marilyn L. Geary

television journalist, was born Belvagene Davis in Monroe, Louisiana, to Florence Howard Mays and John Melton, a lumber worker. She grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California, with her mother's family. As a child, Belva lived in housing projects, all eleven family members cramped into two small rooms. In 1951 she graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California. Although her grades were exceptional and she was accepted into San Francisco State University, she could not afford the tuition. Instead she began work in a clerical position with Oakland's Naval Supply Center.

In 1950 she married her boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Frank Davis Jr. and they moved to Washington, D.C., where Frank was stationed in the air force. Belva Davis took a job with the Office of Wage Stabilization. The couple's first child, Steven, was born in 1953 Frank s next station was Hawaii but after two ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer, journalist, and diplomat, was born on the campus of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Oglethorpe Laboratory Elementary School, a practice school on the campus. Davis's professional career began in high school and continued until his retirement in 1985. He was first introduced to photography by William (Bill) Brown, an instructor at the Atlanta University Laboratory High School where Davis was a student. Throughout high school and later as a student at Morehouse, Davis supported himself through photography assignments from local newspapers and public relations firms.

Davis's college education was suspended in 1944 when he joined the armed forces during World War II and fought with the Ninety-second Infantry Division in Italy. After his tour, Griffith returned to Atlanta in 1946 and continued his college studies. He befriended writer and professor Langston Hughes and civil rights activist and ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Alice Nelson was born into a mixed Creole, African American, and Native American family in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from the two-year teacher training program at Straight College (now Dillard University) in 1892 and taught school at various times throughout her life. Dunbar-Nelson published her first book, a collection of poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews called Violets and Other Tales in 1895. Paul Laurence Dunbar, the well-known poet, began to correspond with her after admiring her poetry (as well as her picture) in a Boston, Massachusetts, magazine. They married on March 8, 1898.

The Dunbars moved to Washington, D.C., where they were lionized as a literary celebrity couple. Dunbar-Nelson's second collection of short fiction, The Goodness of St. Rocque, was published in 1899 as a companion to her husband's Poems of Cabin and Field While Dunbar was known for his ...

Article

Elisabeth Bekers

Egyptian feminist, physician, fiction writer, and political activist, was born in the village of Kafr Tahla, near Cairo, Egypt, on 27 October 1931. She was the second of nine children born to al-Sayed El Saadawi (1897–1959), a peasant family’s son who became an inspector in the Ministry of Education, and Zayneb Hanem Shoukry (1913–1958), daughter of an impoverished feudal family descending from Grand Vizier Talaʿat Pacha of Istanbul. Both of her parents were anxious to have their daughters as well as their sons educated. Nawal El Saadawi began her schooling at Muharram Bey Girls’ School in Alexandria, where the family briefly lived until al-Sayed was transferred to the small district town of Menouf in the Nile Delta in punishment for his participation in anti-British and antiroyal demonstrations. From 1938 until 1948 the El Saadawis remained in Menouf where Nawal attended the English primary school Despite his aversion to ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta was born near the city of Lagos, Nigeria. Both of her parents died when she was young; her father was killed while serving the British army in Burma. After completing a degree at the Methodist girls’ high school in Lagos, Emecheta married Sylvester Onwordi at the age of sixteen. The couple moved to London, England, and during the next six years, Emecheta bore five children while supporting the family financially. She began to write during this time, but as she later said in an interview, “The first book I wrote, my husband burnt, and then I found I couldn’t write with him around.”

Emecheta left her husband in 1966, supporting herself for the next few years by working at the library in the British Museum. She enrolled at the University of London, where she received a degree in sociology in 1974 Her first ...

Article

Otesa Middleton Miles

photojournalist, was born Sharon Camille Farmer in Washington, D.C., the eldest of two children of George Thomas Farmer and Winifred Lancaster Farmer both public school principals Farmer s father who also was a physical education instructor and high school football coach instilled a love of sports in his daughter With devoted parents who were heavily involved in their children s lives the community and the school system Farmer grew up taking dance and music lessons and participating in other such cultural activities such as the D C Youth Symphony Orchestra At Anacostia High School Farmer wrote for the school s newspaper which offered her a glimpse into the career that would one day bring her national acclaim Although Farmer wanted to attend a local college her parents pushed her to leave her comfort zone She chose Ohio State University because of its football prowess and well regarded music ...

Article

Osire Glacier

first Moroccan female journalist and pioneer of the Moroccan modern feminist movement, was born on 19 June 1919 into an elite family in Fez. The most important privilege that Malika’s social conditions offered her was undoubtedly education. While the vast majority of children, boys and girls alike, did not have the opportunity to go to school, al-Fassi studied with the best professors in Morocco. Her father, el-Mehdi al-Fassi, was a strong defender of the principle of education for all. In the struggle against the French presence in Morocco, he believed that education would help increase nationalist awareness. Thus, he wanted his children to be educated, particularly his daughter Malika. Since no schools opened their doors for girls at the time, el-Mehdi al-Fassi turned part of the family house into a school and hired al-Qarawiyyin’s most renowned professors as his daughter’s teachers.

Malika al Fassi was a bright student and a ...

Article

Marilyn Booth

Lebanese- Egyptian novelist, biographer, and early writer on gender politics and reform in Egypt, was born possibly as early as 1846 or as late as 1860 in the town of Tibnin in the predominantly Shiʿi region (and intellectual center) of Jabal ʿAmil in south Lebanon. Born into a family of limited means about whom we know little, Fawwaz apparently became part of the household of ʿAli Bek al-Asʿad, a local feudal ruler; she worked for or caught the notice of ʿAli Bek’s wife, Fatimah bint Asʿad al-Khalil, who wrote poetry and had considerable religious learning, and who seems to have taught Zaynab to read and write.

Sources disagree about the precise trajectory of Fawwaz s life as a young woman They also disagree about the details of her marriage s and when and how she moved to Cairo perhaps by way of Beirut and Alexandria She may have been married ...

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Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, author, editor, and professor, grew up in Yonkers, New York. Her parents were Curtis G. Giddings and Virginia Stokes Giddings, and both were college educated. Her father was a teacher and guidance counselor, and her mother was employed as a guidance counselor as well. The family's neighborhood was integrated, and Giddings was the first African American to attend her private elementary school, where she was the victim of racial attacks. Even now, Giddings regrets that she allowed herself to be silenced by these attacks. This, no doubt, is what compelled her to develop her voice as a writer. Giddings graduated from Howard University with a BA in English in 1969, and she worked as an editor for several years. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at Random House from 1969 to 1970 and then she became a copy editor at Random ...

Article

Stanley Bennett Clay

novelist and activist, was born Everette Lynn Williams in Flint, Michigan, the son of Etta Mae Williams and James Jeter, factory workers. When he was three, he moved with his mother to Little Rock, Arkansas, where they resided with Ben Odis Harris, his mother's new husband. The Harris family eventually had three other children, all girls. Until age twelve, Harris believed he also was one of Ben Harris's biological children.

The Harrises lived modestly and, on occasion, turbulently. While Etta Harris worked two factory jobs and attended classes at Capital City Business College work for Ben Harris a sign painter and sanitation truck driver was scarce The frustration led to heavy drinking and when Ben Harris drank he was often verbally and physically abusive toward his wife and son Harris s three sisters were usually spared their father s wrath while Harris a soft capricious ...

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Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...