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Marion Barry's 1994 election to a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., three years after his conviction for cocaine possession, was just another twist in the turbulent career of the sharecropper's son from the Mississippi Delta. Born near the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Barry moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of five. Barry grew up amid poverty, segregation, and racism. Despite these circumstances, he excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend college. At LeMoyne College, a racially mixed institution in Memphis, Barry joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming its president in his senior year.

Barry received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958 and that fall began postgraduate study at historically black Fisk University in Nashville. Barry organized the campus's first NAACP chapter and helped stage nonviolent Sit-Ins ...

Article

Juliette Bridgette Milner-Thornton

author, conservationist, philanthropist, pioneer of safari camps and walking safaris in Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia), was born on 19 July 1912 in Chinde, a British coastal concession in Mozambique. In 1940 Carr married Barbara Lennon, daughter of the senior British warden at the local “native” prison in Zomba. Barbara was an employee of the Nyasaland Secretariat. Norman and Barbara had three children Judy, Pamela, and Adrian. Their daughter Pam Guhr and her husband, Vic Guhr, are conservationists and wildlife artists in Zambia. Pam is also a licensed safari guide; her brother Adrian at some point was a professional hunter in Sudan, he is currently co-owner and director of Norman Carr Safaris, a safari company founded by his father. Barbara Carr, like her husband was an author. Her first book, Cherries on my Plate (1965 describes her schooling in England return to and ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

astrophysicist and politician, was born in Nioro a town in Mali close to the border with Mauritania He was the son of Moussa Diarra a clerk for the French colonial government and a trade unionist who backed the Parti Progressiste Soudanais of Fily Dabo Sissoko The leftist regime of the early 1960s had Moussa Diarra exiled to a town in northern Mali Modibo Diarra and three of his four brothers had remarkable careers later in life Cheick Sidi Diarra went on to become the special Africa advisor for United Nations chairman Ban Ki Moon Cheick Hamallah Diarra later was an urban planner for the New York City municipal government Sidi Sosso Diarra the eldest of the brothers was a skilled accountant who later went on to be an influential civil servant for the Malian government Modibo Diarra relocated to the larger city of Segu when he was relatively ...

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Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts

Senegalese visual artist, was born in a rural Senegalese town in 1954 and moved to Dakar in 1973, where he received a degree in fine arts from the National Institute of the Arts of Senegal and his baccalaureate in 1979. He also earned a four-year degree in arts education from the National School of Art Education. Diba was then awarded a scholarship to pursue a doctorate in urban geography at the University of Nice, where he wrote a dissertation comparing human impact on the environments of Dakar and Nice. Since 1986 Diba has been a professor of visual arts at the National School of Art Education in Dakar and has served as president of the Senegalese National Association of Visual Arts He was one of the founders of Dak Art the Biennial of Contemporary African Art and serves on its Scientific Commission Diba has been instrumental in ...

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Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Ecosystems across the globe are in danger of becoming desertified. Desertification is of particular concern in countries where population growth and economic disadvantage exacerbate ecological instability. Africa has many such countries, especially in the Sahel region near the southern border of the Sahara.

Hundreds of qualified people have tried to explain desertification, but no consensus exists because the process invokes questions of sociology, biology, politics, and culture. The history of African desertification has included recurring conflicts between and among peasants, pastoralists, European colonial regimes, intrusive local governments, and international environmental organizations. Often one party will brandish inconclusive scientific data against another, clouding conflicts that were already murky. The social and scientific complexity of desertification leaves more questions than answers. Are “natural” cycles or human abuses the greater culprit?

A careful look at the actual physical processes in arid semiarid and subhumid environments helps to clarify the problem Scientists have ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

anthropologist, was born in Syracuse, New York, to Huldah Hortense Dabney, a schoolteacher, and James Lowell Gibbs Sr., executive director of a community center. He attended public primary and secondary schools in Ithaca, New York. He continued his education in Ithaca, receiving a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Cornell University in 1952. During the 1953–1954 school term he attended the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, where he was enrolled under the faculty of archaeology and anthropology. In addition Gibbs received a number of other graduate fellowships and honors, including a National Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. From 1956 to 1958 he was a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training Fellow, and in 1958–1959 he was a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow. Gibbs received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1961 His dissertation Some Judicial Implications of Marital Instability among the Kpelle examined a West ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Jane Goodall, the daughter of an engineer father and a novelist mother, was born in London, England. She had not received any college training in biology before taking her first trip to Africa as a tourist at the age of twenty-three. She went to Kenya, where she met paleontologist and anthropologist Louis Leakey. Goodall was a passionate amateur natural historian, and Leakey hired her as his assistant. In 1960, with Leakey's help, Goodall established a camp in the Gombe Stream Game Reserve in Tanzania, from which she ventured out each day to observe chimpanzees.

During the early 1960s, with extreme patience and slow progress, Goodall became acquainted with a group of chimpanzees on the shores of Lake Tanganyika By winning their trust Goodall was able to sit among them observing a hitherto undiscovered complexity of their relationships Goodall learned that chimpanzees maintain specific social ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to James and Odelia Blount Harper Harrison. Her maternal grandparents, Arthur and Tola Harper, came originally from rural North Carolina. Tola Harper, the daughter of slaves, taught in a one room schoolhouse there. During the 1920s, they moved to Norfolk to improve their children's opportunities. When Faye was seven, she discovered a closet full of National Geographic magazines in her family s new house She read them repeatedly marveling at the diversity of human cultures and wondering how they became different As early as fifth grade she excelled at school Her teachers especially respected and encouraged her serious perceptive questions about human societies By high school she was so fascinated by Latin America and the Caribbean that she learned French Portuguese and Spanish One of her teachers tutored her in Spanish language literature A sorority awarded her a scholarship ...

Article

Isabel Shipley Cunningham

research botanist and plant collector, was born in Washington, D.C., the second son of Edward Wilson Jefferson and Bernice Cornelia Bond, both U.S. government employees. Although his father held two jobs to support his family during the Depression, he found the time to carefully tend a flower garden, the pride of his neighborhood. A six-year-old Roland watched with interest as seeds his father planted sprouted and grew. When his family visited Potomac Park to see the famous Japanese cherry trees in bloom, Roland came to love the trees, not imagining that he would become an international authority on flowering cherries. After attending public schools in Washington, Jefferson served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Following his discharge, he entered Howard University under the G.I. Bill of Rights and received his BS degree in Botany in 1950 and then pursued graduate study Searching for ...

Article

Emmanuel Asiedu-Acquah

Ghanaian gold miner and business executive, was born in Kibi, a town in the Eastern Region of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), on 19 November 1949. His father, Thomas Jonah, was a veteran of the Second World War who had started his own construction business by the time Sam was born. His mother, Beatrice Sampson, was a housewife who sold homemade goods on the side. One of seven siblings and two cousins in the Jonah household, Jonah grew up in the mining town of Obuasi, where his father had relocated as a subcontractor for the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation (AGC/Ashanti Goldfields) in 1950. Sam Jonah received his secondary school education at the prestigious Adisadel College in Cape Coast between 1962 and 1969. After working for about a year as a laborer at the Ashanti Goldfields in 1969 he went on to study mine engineering at the Camborne ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

Richard Erskine Frere Leakey's parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, introduced him to paleoanthropology, the study of fossilized remains of extinct humanlike creatures called hominids. The elder Leakeys, whose discoveries at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania revolutionized theories of early Human Evolution, often took Richard with them on their fossil-hunting expeditions. Leakey left Nairobi's Duke of York School at the age of seventeen to start a business leading wildlife photography safaris.

Although he had no formal training, Leakey began fossil-hunting when he was only nineteen. His most famous discoveries were made in the area around Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf) in northern Kenya where he uncovered more than 200 fossils of early hominids These include an almost complete skeleton of an adolescent boy found at Nariokotome on the western shore The 1 6 million year old Turkana Boy is the most complete skeleton ever found from that period of ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Wangari Maathai grew up in a farming family in Nyeri, in what was then colonial Kenya's “white highlands.” Her parents sent her to Loreto Limuru Girls School, and her teachers there helped her get a scholarship to Mount Scholastica College in Kansas. After graduating with a B.S. degree in biology in 1964, Maathai attended the University of Pittsburgh. She returned to Kenya in 1966 for graduate study at the University of Nairobi and in 1971 became one of the first women in sub-Saharan Africa to earn a doctorate (in veterinary medicine). After receiving her Ph.D. degree, Maathai went to work as a professor at the University of Nairobi, eventually becoming the head of the faculty of veterinary medicine there.

Maathai is most famous, however, for her environmental activism. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 which aimed to prevent or reverse deforestation and also to improve ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Kenyan environmental leader and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born and raised in a rural village near Nyeri in Kenya’s central highlands. Her mother Wangiru Kibicho (better known as Lydia) was a subsistence-level farmer; her father Muta Njugi worked as a driver and mechanic for a British farmer. She writes about her early memories in her memoir Unbowed (2006 describing a vibrant landscape with many trees and clear running streams She attended primary school in the village then transferred to St Cecilia s Intermediate Primary School and finally continued her education at Loreto Girls High School in Limuru both institutions run by Catholic missionaries She credits her high school science teacher with mentoring her and instigating her lifelong love of chemistry and biology She decided that she did not want to be a teacher or a nurse the careers open to African girls in the 1950s and ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian technocrat who guided agrarian reform under Gamal Abd al-Nasser and became a close political adviser to Anwar al-Sadat, was born on 26 August 1913 in a Delta village in Egypt’s Sharqiyya province to a family of rural notables. In 1920, a year after Egypt’s nationalist uprising against British rule, Marei’s family moved to Cairo, where he began primary school. His school years were marked by the growing frustrations of Egypt’s quasi-independence, the failure of successive governments to rule without British or monarchical interference, and the attendant corruption that came to characterize the liberal era.

His father was a fervent supporter of the Wafd Egypt s majority nationalist party and served in the parliament Marei initially avoided direct political affiliation Like others of his generation political activism carried with it an increasing distrust of the political establishment and a conviction that Egypt needed social reform as much as total ...

Article

Judith Imel Van Allen

BaTawana mohumagadi (queen or queen mother) and regent, was born in the Orange Free State, South Africa. Her parents were from the BaRolong, a Tswana subgroup resident both in South Africa and the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana. Pulane was trained as a nurse and took a job at Tiger Kloof School in South Africa, where she met her husband-to-be, Moremi, heir to bogosi (rulership) of the BaTawana of Ngamiland in northwestern Bechuanaland. They married in 1937, the year that he became the BaTawana kgosi (king) as Moremi III. Pulane had three children, including Letsholathebe, the heir to BaTawana bogosi.

Moremi III’s relationship with the British colonial government was conflictual, with repeated British accusations of corruption under his rule. In 1945 the British suspended Moremi III and named Pulane, whom they regarded as trustworthy, as tribal treasurer. When Moremi III was killed in a car crash in 1946 ...

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Robert Maxon

Kenyan herbalist, cook, farmer, and the paternal grandfather of US President Barack Obama, was born in Kanyadhiang near Kendu Bay on Lake Victoria in what is now Rachuonyo District in Kenya’s Nyanza Province. Onyango’s grandfather, Opiyo, had moved to the Kendu Bay region from Alego, north of the Nyanza Gulf, earlier in the nineteenth century in search of more and better land than was available to the family in Alego.

From an early age Onyango was characterized by a seriousness of purpose and a wanderlust His wandering off on his own and desire to learn led to study with specialists to become an herbalist Onyango s curiosity and thirst for knowledge also led him to leave his home for the port town of Kisumu Colonial rule was not established in the Kendu Bay area until some five years after the transfer of Nyanza Province from Uganda to the East Africa ...

Article

Darshell Silva

(also known as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West, Carlos Ashbie Hawk Westez, Ashbie Hawkins West, and Namo S. Hatirire) activist, linguist, storyteller, performer, and shaman, was born in Newport, Rhode Island. There are varying accounts of Red Thunder Cloud's parentage and upbringing. According to his own account, he was born Carlos Ashibie Hawk Westez. As a young boy, he was brought up among the Narragansett Indians of Rhode Island by his Catawba mother, Roberta Hawk Westez, and his Honduran father, Carlos Panchito Westez. He is believed to have lived among the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island in the late 1930s. His actual home during much of this time was said to be on the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina, but he traveled extensively, visiting many Indian groups. This account of his early life has been challenged by Smithsonian anthropologist and ethnologist Ives Goddard who claimed ...

Article

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

South African activist and botanist, was born Edward Rudolph Roux in 1903 in the Transvaal town of Pietersburg (now known as Polokwane). His father, Phillip Roux, was a pharmacist, and his mother, Edith Wilson Roux, was a nurse who had come to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. His father was an outspoken iconoclast: Despite his conservative Afrikaner upbringing, he was an atheist, socialist, and Anglophile who fought with the British in the Anglo-Boer War and dismissed Afrikaans as a peasant dialect. Eddie Roux was named after King Edward VII and his grandfather Eduard Roux.

In 1904, Roux moved with his parents to Johannesburg, where his father opened a pharmacy in the Bezuidenhout Valley and the family grew to include three more sons and two daughters. His father was active in the South African Labor Party and International Socialist League politics, and the 1913 miners strikes culminated in ...