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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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Sudarkasa Niara

Early in the twentieth century, scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and Melville J. Herskovits incorporated research about the African past in their writings on blacks in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas. More than any other scholar, the anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits focused his research and publications on the survival of African cultural influences in the United States, as well as in the Caribbean and South America. Herskovits refuted the assertion by E. Franklin Frazier and others that the culture of blacks in America showed little or no evidence of links to Africa. According to Frazier, the remnants of African culture that had been brought to the United States were obliterated by the experience of slavery. Yet Herskovits provided many examples of enduring cultural links to Africa in his book, The Myth of the Negro Past (1941).

Article

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

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

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Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

blues singer and pianist, was born Gladys Alberta Bentley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children of George L. Bentley and Mary C. Mote, a native of Trinidad. The Bentley family was very poor. Later a lesbian, Bentley acknowledged that even as a child she felt more comfortable in boys' clothing than in girls' clothing; however, it was when Bentley developed a long-term crush on one of her female schoolteachers that her classmates began to ridicule her and her parents began to take Bentley from doctor to doctor in an effort to “fix” her. Finally at age sixteen Bentley left Philadelphia and traveled to Harlem, New York, where she quickly became immersed in the Harlem Renaissance and its “don't ask, don't tell” attitude about sexuality. Bentley became just one of many homosexual or bisexual celebrities, joining the likes of Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith ...

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 ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

singer, actor, and comedian, was born Nell Ruth Hardy in Birmingham, Alabama, one of nine children. Nell's parents were Edna Mae Humphrey, a homemaker, and her second husband Horace Hardy, an Army sergeant. At age two, Nell witnessed his accidental electrocution death. Deeply affected by Dinah Washington, B. B. King, and Elvis Presley records, Nell began singing in her church choir, on a local radio show called the “Y-Teens,” and on the gospel circuit. She never grew taller than four feet eleven inches but had a large, commanding voice and presence. Her show business ambitions made her a “weirdo” in a social environment where “most kids wanted to be teachers or nurses” (CNN.com, Entertainment, 23 Jan. 2003). At age 13, the Presbyterian-raised Nell discovered that one of her grandfathers probably had Jewish ancestry. Although not converting until 1983 she started ...

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

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 ...

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

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

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

Rayvon David Fouché

inventor, was born to Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended public school in his hometown of Lexington and then attended college in Louisville to study education. This school's program did not challenge Davidson or adequately prepare him for a career. So in the fall of 1887 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. However, his previous academic training was not sufficient to gain admission to Howard University's college department. He spent his first two years completing the preparatory program and finally received a degree in 1896. That same year he began to study law, and by June 1896 he had completed standard readings in the law curriculum under the direction of William A. Cook.

In 1893 while Davidson completed his education he found employment as an unclassified laborer for the Treasury Department making $600 per year He secured this position through ...

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

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

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

Essence  

With a monthly circulation of one million and a total monthly readership of 7.6 million in 2003, Essence magazine focuses on health, beauty, fashion, fiction, self-improvement, and topics of interest to contemporary upscale black women.

In 1970Clarence Smith and Edward Lewis published 50,000 copies of Essence, the first issue of a monthly magazine aimed at black women in the post-civil rights era. It was designed to build self-esteem and provide a vehicle in which African American women could express themselves during a period when the American black middle class was rapidly expanding. Marcia Gillespie, who became the magazine's editor in chief in 1971, focused the magazine's content on the politics of black women's work. Gillespie was succeeded by Susan Taylor, formerly the health and beauty editor, who shifted the magazine's focus to black women's personal experiences. Under Taylor's leadership, Essence became a highly ...

Article

Lucy MacKeith

From as early as the 16th century, black people were employed in Britain as musicians and performers, and there was often an element of display in the employment of black servants, whose exotic appearance served to advertise their masters' wealth, colonial connections, or both.

Rather different was the way in which, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were cases of black people being displayed as exhibits to appeal to the curiosity of white viewers, especially if they were in some way out of the ordinary. Sometimes the curiosity was allegedly scientific, as with the ‘white boy’ (an albino child of African parents, born in Virginia in 1755) who was brought to Britain and ‘shewn before the Royal Society’ in London in January 1765 More often it was the result of the same sort of attitude that attracted paying customers to exhibitions of white people who were ...