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Article

Gloria Chuku

an intelligent Hausa woman of Karo village in the then Zaria Province of northern Nigeria, was born to a polygynous Hausa father of Kanuri descent, Tosho, who was a farmer and a qurʾanic teacher. As a successful farmer, Tosho owned many slaves, who did most of the cultivation and marketing of his farm products. Paradoxically, his family prosperity depended on slavery and also evaporated because of slave raids and the final emancipation of slaves. Her mother, Fatsuma, was a secluded Muslim woman who prepared food and spun cotton for sale. Baba of Karo is also known as Baba Hasetu Dantsoho.

All that is known about Baba is based on interviews she granted to Mary Smith, the wife of Michael Smith, a Jamaican social anthropologist who did field research in northern Nigeria in the 1940s and 1950s. The interviews were carried out between November 1949 and January 1950 at ...

Article

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

liberal historian and politician active in South Africa, was born Violet Margaret Livingstone Hodgson on 11 January 1894 in Glasgow, Scotland. Her father, John Hodgson, emigrated to the Orange Free State, South Africa, shortly after Margaret’s birth, working as a merchant while Margaret’s mother, Lillias, raised their three young children in Scotland. After fighting against the British with the Irish Brigade in the Anglo-Boer War, John Hodgson went to the Atlantic island of Saint Helena as a prisoner of war. When war ended in 1902, officials repatriated him, but he was ostracized in his community. Six months after his return, he illegally boarded a ship bound for Port Elizabeth, where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1904, John Hodgson’s family joined him in the Cape. He harbored liberal political beliefs, supporting legal equality and the extension of a nonracial franchise in southern Africa.

After attending the Holy Rosary ...

Article

Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

was born 5 June 1937 in Oran, Algeria. Her father was Georges Cixous, a Algerian-born Jewish doctor. Her mother was Eve Klein, a German Jew who had fled Nazi Germany and worked as a midwife after the death of her husband. Cixous first spoke German at home before learning French, the language she made her main medium of expression. She later recalled that she did not clearly identify with any national identity. She never felt at home with being either French or Algerian. Though Cixous’ father fought in Tunisia in the French army in 1940, the Vichy government stripped him of his French citizenship because he was Jewish.

When she enrolled at the Lycée Fromentin secondary school in Algiers Cixous was the sole Jewish student in her class She later remembered that the anti modern and racist values of the Vichy era seemed to permeate the school even as ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

politician and historian of the Ivory Coast, was born on 13 March 1935 in the southern Ivorian town of Bingerville. In her youth, Dagri-Diabaté attended primary schools in the Ivory Coast and finished her secondary education in Senegal. She then earned a doctorate in history from the University of Paris IV–Sorbonne.

After she completed her doctorate, she became a history professor at the University of Abidjan in the capital of the Ivory Coast in 1968 and remained there until 1995. Dagri-Diabaté was a founding member of the Association of African Historians. From 1974 to 1975, she served on the editorial board of the historical journal Afrika Zamani and was the head researcher at the Foundation Félix Houphouët-Boigny from 1976 to 1980. During this time, she wrote a number of studies on the experiences of African women and on precolonial and colonial African history. Her first book, La ...

Article

Dior Konaté

Senegalese philosopher and university professor, was born on 24 May 1959 in Saint-Louis in Senegal and attended a local school, the Lycée Amet Fall. After passing with honors her baccalaureate in 1977 at the age of nineteen, Aminata Diaw left Senegal to pursue her studies in France. In 1978 she enrolled at the Lycée Paul Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence, a preparatory school, earning a diplôme d’études universitaires générales (DEUG 1) in philosophy. A year later, she left for another preparatory school, the Lycée Masséna in Nice to complete a DEUG 2 and a bachelor of arts degree both in philosophy before going to Nice, where she obtained a master’s degree in 1981 from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. Then Diaw completed her philosophical studies culminating in a postgraduate diploma (DEA) and a dissertation on the theory of conflicts in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political thinking. In 1985 she was awarded a doctorate ...

Article

Reidulf K. Molvaer

Ethiopian scholar and teacher in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was born at Silalo (also known as S Amanuel, or Debre-Silalo, after the church and monastery around which the village was built) in Gojjam Province in western Ethiopia. Her father, Haddis Kidan, was an expert in an Ethiopian kind of poetry called qiné, and he transmitted his knowledge to his daughter Gelanesh. This was particularly unusual given that Gelanesh was blind from the age of eight, and people with physical disabilities at that time more commonly ended up as beggars. He must have realized her exceptional talents from an early age, and indeed, Gelanesh would become a famous qiné teacher in her own right. She also became an expert in the uniquely Ethiopian mode of biblical interpretation called andimta which consists largely of memorizing received interpretations of biblical scholars of the past although some innovation is occasionally admitted Her ...

Article

Michelle Gueraldi

Lélia de Almeida Gonzales obtained several academic degrees, including a bachelor's degree in history and philosophy at the Rio de Janeiro State University, a master's degree in communications at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a doctorate in social anthropology at the University of São Paulo. She also directed the Department of Sociology at Rio de Janeiro Catholic University.

Gonzales figured prominently in post-1950s intellectual life in Brazil. She was one of the first black women to teach at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and in 1978 was one of the founders of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement). In 1979 Gonzales was also one of the founders of the Working Group on Themes and Problems of the Black Population in Brazil at Candido Mendes University in Rio de Janeiro The group has produced various unique essays on Afro Brazilian issues A strong ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar, historian, physicist, engineer, and advocate for minorities and women in science, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of two girls of William Emmett Hammonds, a postal worker, and Evelyn Marie Hammonds, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher. At age nine, Hammonds's father gave his daughter a chemistry set. For Hammonds, the chemistry set, along with later gifts of a microscope, and building sets, sparked an interest in science that would be encouraged by both parents. The events also set her on a path that would force her to think more critically about her own identity and the struggles and contributions of blacks and women in science.

Growing up in Atlanta, Hammonds attended all-black public elementary schools. This would change in 1967 when as a fourteen year old ninth grade student she was bused to a predominately white school ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

historian, was born Evelyn Titania Brooks in Washington, D.C., the younger of two daughters of Dr. Albert Neal Dow Brooks, a high school principal and historian, and Alma Elaine Campbell, a high school history teacher who later served as the supervisor for history in the Washington, D.C., public school system. The teaching and writing of history played a central role in the Brooks household. Albert N. D. Brooks served as the secretary-treasurer of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History and as the editor of that organization's Negro History Bulletin. Albert Brooks was the youngest of ten children of the Reverend Walter Henderson Brooks, born a slave in Virginia in the 1850s and still alive at his granddaughter Evelyn's birth. A prominent Baptist minister and poet, Walter H. Brooks published an article in one of the earliest volumes of Carter Godwin Woodson ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

lawyer and educator, was born in rural Lone Tree, Okmulgee County, eastern Oklahoma, near Tulsa. Known as Faye to family and friends, she was the great-granddaughter of slaves and the youngest of thirteen children born to farmers Albert and Erma Hill. Faye grew up in the Baptist Church and remained within that congregation. An excellent student and avid reader, she attended Eram Grade School and in 1973 became the fourth child from her family to be selected as valedictorian at the local Morris High School.

In 1977 Hill earned her B.S. in psychology with honors from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. On a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) scholarship, she left Oklahoma for the vastly different environment of Yale University Law School, where many classmates had enjoyed considerable financial and social advantages from birth. Graduating with her J.D. in 1980 Hill felt no ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Cited in Booklist as a “formidable feminist social and cultural critic,” bell hooks is widely known for her pioneering and provocative scholarship on racism and sexism in the United States. A prolific essayist and the author of nearly twenty books, she has written on a range of issues, including feminist politics and the representation of race in Film, Television, and advertising.

In a 1995 interview with Carl Posey of Essence magazine, hooks affirmed that “fundamentally, my life is committed to revolutionary Black liberation struggle, and I don't ever see Black liberation and feminism as being separate.” She has criticized both white, middle-class feminists and black liberation activists for neglecting women of color, and has encouraged African American women to “claim a critique of sexism” based on the black experience. Seeing class divisions among blacks as a principal obstacle to racial justice, she wrote, in her 1996 book Killing Rage ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Debra A. Reid

teacher, home demonstration agent, and administrator, was born in Finchburg, Alabama, to Elijah E. and Frances (Moore) Edwards. Mary Evelyn V. Edwards was the fifteenth of their seventeen children, and she worked as a bookkeeper at her father's store, sawmill, and gin. She was a senior in the local high school when she married J. A. Hunter, the high school principal. The couple moved first to Woodville, Texas, and then relocated to La Porte, Texas, where they leased a ranch on Jennings Island. They had two sons, John McNeile Hunter in 1901 and Ira T. Hunter in 1905. M. E. V. Hunter taught school, and after her husband's death in the early 1910s, she began taking courses at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (later Prairie View A&M) to gain teaching credentials. She ultimately earned a BS from that school in 1926 ...