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Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese intellectual, educator, political leader, and women’s advocate, was born on 1 January 1932 in the city of El Obeid, Province of Kordofan, and raised by an Islamic family. Her grandfather, al-Shaykh Mohammed al-Badawi, was a prominent Islamic scholar, and his house in Omdurman was a gathering place for well-known Islamic scholars from North Africa, such as al-Shaykh Mohammed Abdu of Egypt. Al-Badawi’s father, al-Fatih Mohammed al-Badawi, was a district commissioner who replaced the position of the British officer after Sudan independence in 1956. Although girls’ formal education was boycotted by the masses for being based on Western values, he was an open-minded and progressive individual with liberal ideas regarding girls’ education. In this atmosphere al-Badawi and her two sisters were raised.

As a district commissioner al Badawi s father s moved and worked in different regions of Sudan This situation compelled al Badawi to receive her elementary intermediate ...

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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 ...

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Francesca Gamber

civil rights and gay rights advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bill Boykin, a bus driver and salesman, and Shirley, a federal employee. Shortly after the birth of his sister Krystal in 1966, the family moved from inner-city St. Louis to the predominantly white suburb of Florissant, Missouri. As he grew up, Boykin displayed an interest in politics, becoming student body president in the fifth grade and dreaming of the White House.

Boykin's parents separated when he was in elementary school, and both left the St. Louis area in 1980. Boykin moved with his father and sister to Clearwater, Florida, where his father opened a black beauty-supply business. Boykin attended Countryside High School, where as a senior he was elected student government president, and graduated in 1983 He enrolled in Dartmouth College in Hanover New Hampshire that fall and joined the track team and ...

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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 ...

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Agnes Leslie

first Botswana female to serve as a cabinet minister and member of parliament in Botswana, was born in Serowe, when Botswana was called the Bechuanaland Protectorate. She was the daughter of Moruti Tibe Chiepe and S. T. Chiepe (née Sebina). Her father died when she started primary school. Her father’s cousins wanted her to leave school and get married, but her mother insisted that she stay in school. Chiepe attributes her success to her mother’s determination to see her educated. She attended Serowe primary school near her home, finishing in the late 1930s with high honors She was the best student in the country and was offered a scholarship to study at Tiger Kloof Post Secondary School near Vryburg in the Cape Colony South Africa Chiepe was one of the first girls to attend the school which was three hours from her home The scholarship lessened the financial pressure ...

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Elizabeth Ammons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a slave, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white master, George Washington Haywood, with whom neither she nor her mother maintained any ties. At age nine she received a scholarship to attend the St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute for newly freed slaves, and in 1877 she married an instructor at the school, a Bahamian-born Greek teacher named George Cooper. Left a widow in 1879, she never remarried. She enrolled in 1881 at Oberlin College, where educator and activist Mary Church (later Terrell) also studied, and elected to take the “Gentleman's Course,” rather than the program designed for women. She received her bachelor's degree in 1884 and after teaching for a year at Wilberforce University and then returning briefly to teach at St Augustine s she went back to Oberlin to ...

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Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, farmer, public official, and three-term state legislator, was born a slave in Granville County, North Carolina, near the county seat of Oxford, to unnamed unknown parents. Little is known of his childhood, except that he received a limited education before the Civil War, probably because of his preferred status as the property, and possibly the son, of a prosperous white planter named Benjamin Crews. One account of Crews's early life says he was taken from his slave mother “at the age of two years and reared by a white family whose name he bore” (Edmonds, 102). He is also said to have attended both private and public schools in Oxford, where he grew up.

By 1870 Crews's education had enabled him to begin work as a schoolteacher in Oxford, even as he also ran his own farm and worked as a carpenter. Beginning in 1874 Crews embarked ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

first woman mayor of the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown, was born into a prominent old Krio (then spelled Creole) family on 7 January 1918 in Freetown. Young Constance grew up in a household deeply involved in local politics and culture. Her parents were Johnnie William Horton, sometime city treasurer, and Regina Elizabeth (Awoonor-Wilson) Horton, a granddaughter of a recaptive from Keta, Gold Coast (now Ghana). Constance was the youngest of their three children, all girls, but she also had two half brothers, one of whom was Asadata Dafora, who won acclaim in the 1930s for introducing African dance drama to the New York theater. Her paternal family traced its ancestry back to James Beale Horton (1835–1883), better known as Africanus Horton, the son of an Igbo recaptive who was influential in the British colonial service and the outspoken author of West African Countries and Peoples (1868 ...

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

Alexis Cepeda Maule

minister and politician, served thirty-six years (1943 to 1979) in the Illinois State House of Representatives for the 22nd District and acted as associate pastor at Chicago's Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Corneal was born on a farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi, to a white landowner and an African American former slave named Pearl Darden. After attending primary school at Sisters of the Holy Ghost, a Roman Catholic School, Davis graduated from Magnolia Public High School. At Magnolia there had been one teacher who taught all the subjects.

Davis attended Tougaloo College, a historically black institution near Jackson, Mississippi. Established in 1869 by the Home Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ Tougaloo offered a first class liberal education to African Americans At Tougaloo he read the newspaper almost every day and participated in the debate society which would help his oratory skills in his later ...

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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

Richard A. Bradshaw

prime minister (1974–1976) of the Central African Republic (CAR), prominent business leader, and women’s rights activist, was born in Bangui, then in the territory of Ubangi-Shari in French Equatorial Africa, in 1925. She belonged to the Mbaka (Ngbaka) ethnic group from the Lobaye region in southwestern CAR. Although she attended elementary school, she never became proficient in French and so almost always spoke in the CAR’s national language, Sango, in which she delivered impassioned speeches at political rallies. Domitien married the European owner of a coffee plantation, and after he passed away, she married Jean Baka, a mayor in the Lobaye region. She became a wealthy businesswoman who owned plantations and conducted commerce in cloth and agricultural products. In the early 1950s she joined the Mouvement d Évolution Sociale d Afrique Noire MESAN Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa and supported Barthélemy Boganda and President David ...

Article

James Kilgore

Zimbabwean freedom fighter and politician, grew up in a politically minded family. Her father, a bricklayer, was frequently detained by the white minority government, and Dongo recalled visiting him in prison when she was just seven years old. At fifteen she left secondary school and walked two hundred miles to Mozambique to join the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU, later ZANU-PF, for “Patriotic Front”). ZANU was conducting a liberation war against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith, leader of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). Dongo trained as a medical assistant. She took the Chimurenga (“liberation war”) name of “Tichaona Muhondo” (“We shall see on the battlefield”).

At independence in 1980 she returned to Zimbabwe, completed a typing course, and worked as the Secretary for Women’s Affairs in the national headquarters of ZANU-PF in Harare. In 1983 she took a position in the Ministry of State Security ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

Nigerian nationalist and women’s rights leader, was born on 27 July 1914 in Creek Town (now located in Odukpani Local Government Area, Cross River State). She was originally named Bassey Sampson Ekpenyong Efa. Her parents were Reverend Sampson Ekpenyong Efa (originally Okoroafor Obiasulor), an Igbo palm wine merchant turned teacher and clergyman from Agulu, Uzo-Igbo (near Awka, the present capital of Anambra State), and Inyang Eyo Aniemewue, a trader and dressmaker who traced her ancestry to King Eyo Honesty II (d. 1858), a powerful slave merchant and ruler in the 1840s and 1850s.

Young Margaret Ekpo obtained her school- leaving certificate in 1932, after which she became a pupil teacher. She wanted to attend teacher training college, but had to postpone this ambition when her father died in 1934. She taught in schools in Calabar and Aba until 1938 when she married John Udo ...

Article

politician, feminist activist, and educator, was born in March 1909 in Calabar a port city in eastern Nigeria even though her parents were members of the Yoruba ethnic community who mainly live in southwestern Nigeria Her father Thomas Adeogun Ojo belonged to the powerful Yoruba Ojo Badan family of the city of Ibadan Her mother Madam Ajitie Ojo earned the Yoruba nickname Iya Gbogbo the mother of all for her wealth and generosity as she ran a large trade business in kola nuts and alligator pepper Her father served in the British military and then worked as forestry officer for the colonial administration After he retired from civil service he became a chief in Ibadan Although her parents never received a Western education they recognized its importance Esan s siblings included an architect a lawyer and a teacher Her family was committed to educating its girls as well as ...

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Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

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Jeremy Rich

Beninese feminist activist and politician, was born on 29 November 1954 in the town of Mankono in the Ivory Coast. She attended primary and secondary school in Benin, and then moved to Paris, where she received an advanced degree in business law from the Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. She became a lawyer in France in 1985. After she received her degree, Gbedo became an activist for women’s rights in Benin, while it was under the dictatorship of Mathieu Kérékou in the late 1980s. Among her goals were to incorporate more protections for women’s individual rights into the Beninese legal code. Her life as a young woman was quite eventful. In her 2009 autobiography Gbedo stated that she had been one of the many lovers of the Togolese dictator Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma and that she chose to keep her independence rather than marry one man Gbedo eventually became ...

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LaRay Denzer

Ivoirian educator and activist, and Ivory Coast’s first minister of women’s affairs, was born Jeanne Sieffer on 6 June 1922 in Grand Bassam. She was educated at the École Normale de Jeunes Filles in Rufisque, and then trained as a teacher in Saint-Cloud, outside of Paris. After she returned to Ivory Coast, she was employed as an inspector of primary schools and a school principal. She became interested in the radical nationalism of the Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire–Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (PDCI-RDA; Democratic Party of Ivory Coast–African Democratic Rally) and mobilized women to campaign for the independence movement.

In 1963 Gervais joined forces with first lady Marie Thérèse Houphouët Boigny and other progressive women many of them wives of politicians to establish the Association des Femmes Ivoiriennes AFI Association of Ivoirian Women Many of them were ethnically Akan and already participated in the women s wing of the ...

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Terza Silva Lima-Neves

Cape Verdean pharmacist and politician, was born on the island of São Vicente, Cape Verde, on 22 February 1944. Her mother, Maria da Luz Tavares Gomes, sold goods at the local municipal market. Her father, João Lopes Gomes, whom she never had the opportunity to know, migrated to Venezuela in 1947, never to return to Cape Verde. Isaura Gomes was one of six children.

She attended Liceu Gil Eanes, the country’s first secondary school, graduating with distinction as the best student of her class in 1963 However she did not receive a scholarship to continue her university studies in Portugal The scholarship instead was awarded to a student with lower grades the son of a Portuguese citizen resident in São Vicente This event affected Gomes tremendously as she was a committed young student Lacking educational alternatives on the islands during the Portuguese colonial period Gomes tutored high ...