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Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean leader of anticolonial revolt against Italy and warlords from northern Ethiopia, and popular hero, was born in the town of Segeneity. The exact date of his birth is unknown: he was born between 1839 and 1850 into a rich peasant family. Bahta Hagos’s parents, Hagos Andu and Weizero Wonau, were agro-pastoralists who owned farmlands around Segeneity and in the eastern escarpments. As a young man, he became renowned for his physical strength as well as for his skills as a cattle herder. Like a majority of the people in Eritrea in colonial times, Bahta Hagos was converted from Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity to Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.

Bahta Hagos rose to prominence after he killed fitewrari Embaye, the son of Araya Selassie Demsu—the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV’s uncle and the governor of the Agame area in Tigray. After Embaye arrived at Segeneity in October 1875 he ordered that ...

Article

William E. Lightfoot

Piedmont-style guitarist, was born near Collettsville in the African American community of Franklin, an Appalachian hollow not far from the John's River in upper Caldwell County, North Carolina. Her grandfather Alexander Reid and father Boone Reid, both born in Franklin, played the banjo in the old-time clawhammer manner, with Boone going on to become an accomplished musician who also played fiddle, harmonica, and guitar, on which he used a two-finger-style approach. Boone Reid had absorbed many kinds of music of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, including Anglo-American dance tunes, lyric folksongs, ballads, rags, religious music, and published pieces that had drifted into folk tradition—popular Tin Pan Alley songs old minstrel tunes and Victorian parlor music Boone and his wife Sallie who sang instilled their love of music in their eight children a process that led eventually to the formation of a Reid family string band that played after ...

Article

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

Edward J. Rielly

In modern times, Black English vernacular is alternately referred to as African American vernacular English, Black English, inner-city English, Ebonics, or African American English, although the last term is sometimes used to indicate a broader category comprising closely related dialects. The precise origins of Black English vernacular remain unsettled and controversial.

The theory regarding the beginnings of Black English vernacular that dominated the first half of the twentieth century is sometimes referred to as the Anglicist hypothesis, so named because it identifies the origins of Black English with the origins of other American English dialects, namely British English. According to this theory, from the early seventeenth century on, slaves (the first of whom, technically indentured servants, were brought to Jamestown in 1619 arrived in the southern United States speaking a variety of West African languages including Hausa Ibo and Yoruba Slaves learned English though imperfectly from plantation overseers and ...

Article

Peter Gammond

A 19th-century African-American dance. It originated among plantation slaves (c.1850 reputedly to parody the promenades that opened the plantation owners formal balls In the 1890s it became commercial entertainment and it was used for social dancing at the turn of the 20th century The music is a ...

Article

The Caribbean region is more often stereotyped and dismissed in Britain than taken seriously as a location for art production, and has only ever reached small audiences, despite some significant exhibitions and critical attention.

1.Images and objects collected from the Caribbean during the colonial period

2.Migration of artists during the 20th century

3.Art reception in the 1960s and 1970s

4.Exhibitions of the 1980s and 1990s

5.Curatorial selection and its consequences

There is little consensus on what defines a coherent category of Caribbean art in terms of its geographical boundaries and cultural character and given its growing diaspora The region s Anglophone countries have contributed the most to art exhibitions staged in the United Kingdom the consequence of a shared colonial history and of migration Throughout the post Second World War period many artists from the Caribbean engaged in struggles for acceptance within the history of ...

Article

Alice Ross and Mark H. Zanger

The Caribbean influence on American food has been continual for hundreds of years, initially in coastal areas of similar climate, from Texas to the Carolinas. The early Spanish involvement in the Caribbean brought Caribbean foods to Europe and Africa, from whence they quickly returned to North America. Spanish gold shipments attracted other Europeans to the area and brought about the colonization of eastern North America. Cheap Caribbean sugar, coffee, cocoa, and spices have influenced the palates and tables of all Americans. The peoples of the Caribbean islands have developed multicultural cuisines that have been affecting American cooking at all levels since colonial times.

Influence of the Caribbean on contemporary American food may predate Columbus, because there is some possibility that Caribbean Indians reached Florida and introduced tropical tubers, or chilies. The chain of influence began in 1492 as the varieties of maize beans chilies squash peanuts and cassava collected ...

Article

Despite the enormous worldwide impact of American popular music, and particularly of African-American music, it remains difficult to fix a point of origin for musical genres like hip-hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, ragtime, and their blurry nineteenth-century antecedents. But it is not too great a leap of the imagination to assume from these genres, each a variant of its predecessor, that powerful forms of African-American music were performed in the long prehistory before it was possible to record music. What that music sounded like, alas, is nearly impossible to divine, although we can hear fragments of it in the bewildered accounts of European and American travelers, thunderstruck by the fugitive music they occasionally stumbled across in their wanderings.

Perhaps out of frustration with our lack of real knowledge musical historians have often pointed toward a specific place in nineteenth century America that seems to have acted as ...

Article

washboard musician, raconteur, and hobo, was born William Edgar Givens in the sawmill town of Dupont, Florida. His mother ran a “juke joint,” a tavern where the music and the liquor flowed. Little other information about his parents is available. As a boy, Givens would watch the dancing and listen to the music through a hole in the wall of his sleeping room. It was in this manner that he discovered rhythm. He practiced on buckets and pots around the house and gave little shows for his siblings and the neighborhood children.

At a young age, he was adopted by his preacher grandfather, who changed the boy's name to William Edward Cooke. He left his grandfather's home in 1917 and made his way to south Florida, working odd jobs, including clearing land for roads, among these the great Dixie Highway, U.S. 1. In 1931 he took to the ...

Article

Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

Born in Michigan, James D. Corrothers was raised in the predominantly white community of South Haven by his paternal grandfather, a man of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish ancestry. He moved to Muskegon at age fourteen, supporting himself and his grandfather. Shortly thereafter he moved to Indiana, then to Springfield, Ohio, working as a laborer. There, in his teens, he began his literary career, publishing a poem, “The Deserted School House”, in the local newspaper.

Corrothers's literary career received a boost when, at eighteen, he relocated to Chicago. Working in a white barber shop, he met journalist-reformer Henry Demarest Lloyd and showed him some poems. Lloyd arranged for their publication in the Chicago Tribune, getting Corrothers a custodial job in the Tribune offices Corrothers was soon asked to do an article on Chicago s African American elite He was chagrined when the story appeared rewritten by a white reporter ...

Article

Marcie Cohen Ferris

businesswoman, chef, restaurateur, and community activist, was born Mildred Edna Cotten in Baldwin Township, Chatham County, North Carolina. The youngest daughter in a family of seven children, she was raised by her father Ed Cotten, a farmer and voice teacher. Council's mother Effie Edwards Cotten, a teacher trained at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, died at age thirty-four when her daughter was twenty-three months old. Mildred Council was nicknamed “Dip” by her brothers and sisters because her long arms allowed her to reach deep into the rain barrel and retrieve a dipper full of water, even when the barrel was low.

Council recalled as a significant moment the day in 1938 when her father asked her to stay home and “fix a little something to eat” while the rest of the family worked in the fields (Mama Dip's Kitchen, 2).

From a young age Council ...

Article

Dance  

Robert H. Gudmestad and Kathleen Thompson

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with dance from the early eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century The first article discusses the transmission of African dance traditions to North America by slaves and the new expressions that arose while the second article discusses the movement of ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

He sang of life, serenely sweet,

With, now and then, a deeper note,

From some high peak, nigh yet remote,

He voiced the world's absorbing beat.

He sang of love when earth was young,

And Love, itself, was in his lays.

But ah, the world, it turned to praise

A jingle in a broken tongue.

Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote this poem, “The Poet,” three years before his death in 1906 at the age of thirty three Its words may express his own regrets about the direction of his literary career Dunbar was the most famous African American poet and one of the most famous American poets of his time His career brought him international fame and by any measure was a tremendous success Although Dunbar felt his best work was his poetry in standard English he was celebrated almost exclusively for his folk poetry about African Americans written in ...

Article

Joanne M. Braxton

Paul Laurence Dunbar published in such mainstream journals as Century, Lipincott's Monthly, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Saturday Evening Post. A gifted poet and a precursor to the Harlem Renaissance, Dunbar was read by both blacks and whites in turn-of-the-century America.

Dunbar, the son of two former slaves, was born in Dayton, Ohio, and attended the public schools of that city. He was taught to read by his mother, Matilda Murphy Dunbar, and he absorbed her homespun wisdom as well as the stories told to him by his father, Joshua Dunbar who had escaped from enslavement in Kentucky and served in the Massachusetts 55th Regiment during the Civil War Thus while Paul Laurence Dunbar himself was never enslaved he was one of the last of a generation to have ongoing contact with those who had been Dunbar was steeped in the oral tradition during his formative ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

On hearing the news of Frederick Douglass's death on 20 February 1895, Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poetic tribute that began “A hush is over all the teeming lists.” As a poet and Douglass's friend, Dunbar joined the nation in grieving the beloved abolitionist-orator, who had personally touched Dunbar's life with kind regard. Though years apart in age, Douglass and Dunbar were both devout servants of their people. Born in 1872 to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar in the home of his maternal grandmother in Dayton, Ohio, Dunbar later became a nationally recognized African American author of poems, stories, and novels that served to uplift his race. In similar ways Douglass and Dunbar used the oral and written word to promote racial pride.

In a letter to his mother dated 6 June 1893 Dunbar wrote about his first meeting with the great civil rights orator To the young ...

Article

Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...

Article

David N. Gellman

Throughout English colonial North America, African American slaves participated in rituals and celebrations that stitched together black communities while preserving a folk life rooted in African traditions. Eighteenth-century festivals often coincided with, and at least superficially mirrored, events staged by European colonists. Blacks sometimes invested their own cultural traditions so thoroughly into white holidays that festivals became known as distinct African American events.

African American festivals are much easier to document and describe in the North where the smaller slave population was dispersed among the European population than in the South where larger numbers of slaves were concentrated on plantations This disparity may reflect both the need and the ability of southern slaves to conceal their collective activities from masters Despite the severe constraints that typified slavery everywhere slaves up and down the coast of the North American mainland managed to find means to express their collective identity in joyous ...

Article

Hilary Mac Austin

African American folklore is particularly rich in verbal art, as reflected in its folktales, legends, myths, jokes, and verbal contests. Unfortunately it is impossible to know precisely which tales and jokes were told by the earliest Africans in North America or how these tales and jokes changed through the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. White travelers are the earliest sources on the folklife of enslaved Africans, but in the United States these sources contain little actual lore. Far more common are references to the acuity of slave wit, or general descriptions of an only partially comprehended slave festival. In the nineteenth century, slave narratives and autobiographies contained important references, and in some cases specific tales. However, the formal collection of African American folktales did not truly begin until after Emancipation, most notably in the late-nineteenth-century Uncle Remus series by Joel Chandler Harris. Indeed, most of the stories in Roger ...

Article

Ted Olson

Blacks long struggled against efforts to keep them powerless, and African American folk culture— from before Emancipation (1863) through the Jim Crow and civil rights eras—provided blacks, across the United States and particularly in the South, with a mechanism for confronting white society's power structure and discriminatory legal system. For example, traditional African American ballads and tales inspired blacks both by portraying human heroes, such as John Henry or Shine, who challenged or resisted white authority and by portraying antiheroes, such as the slave John in the “John and the Master” story cycle, who outsmarted white authority. Through modeling themselves on those folk characters, blacks developed a sense of expectation that they might eventually triumph and overcome their marginalized roles.

Historically because of racism and xenophobia white society tended to portray African American folk culture as deficient White scholars acknowledged the British and Anglo American contributions to African ...

Primary Source

After years of struggling to find a wider audience for his fiction, Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858–1932) enjoyed his first breakthrough with the publication of “The Goophered Grapevine” in the Atlantic Monthly (1887). At the time, Waddell was working as a stenographer and was determined to produce fiction that encouraged a better understanding of the postwar South where he had spent his formative years. “Grapevine” eventually became part of a collection of stories called The Conjure Woman (1899), in which the clever storyteller and ex-slave Uncle Julius McAdoo discusses the role of folk magic (sometimes called “hoodoo” or, somewhat misleadingly, “witchcraft”) in Southern black communities. Here, we see the story-within-a-story structure, in which Julius attempts to outwit the narrator over the sale of a vineyard.