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Adeyemi Bukola Oyeniyi

Nigerian historian and educational administrator, was born to Samuel Akindeji Fajembola, an Ibadan man, and Mosebolatan Fajembola, an Ijesa woman, on 28 January 1933 in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria. Samuel Akindeji Fajembola was a manager with John Holt & Co., a merchant company, based in Liverpool, England; Mosebolatan Fajembola was one of the first female professional teachers to be trained in southwestern Nigeria. Awe had her early education at Holy Trinity School, Omofe, Ilesa; Saint James’s School, Oke-Bola, Ibadan; C.M.S Girls’ School, Lagos; and Saint Anne’s School, Ibadan, between 1941 and 1951. Between 1952 and 1954, she attended the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, England, and received an MA from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1958. Between 1958 and 1960 she did postgraduate work for a doctoral degree at Somerville College the oldest of the University of Oxford s female colleges She was ...

Article

John Edgar Tidwell

Sterling Allen Brown was born on 1 May 1901 into what some have called the “smug” or even “affected” respectability of Washington's African American middle class. He grew up in the Washington world of racial segregation, which engendered a contradiction between full citizenship and marginalized existence. The son of a distinguished pastor and theologian, Brown graduated with honors from the prestigious Dunbar High School in 1918. That fall, he entered Williams College on a scholarship set aside for minority students. By the time he left in 1922, he had performed spectacularly: election to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, the Graves Prize for his essay “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Molière”, the only student awarded “Final Honors” in English, and cum laude graduation with an AB degree.

At Harvard University from 1922 to 1923 Brown took an MA degree in English In retrospect he ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Through his long career as a writer, anthologist, critic, scholar, and educator, Sterling Allen Brown became one of the most influential individuals in the field of African American literary studies. He was born into Washington, D.C.'s educated black middle class. His father, an ex-slave, was a prominent pastor and professor of religion at Howard University, and his mother had been valedictorian of her class at Fisk University. Brown attended the well-known Dunbar High School, where Jessie Fauset and Angelina Weld Grimké were among his teachers, and graduated with honors in 1918. He then accepted a scholarship to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. At Williams, Brown was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, earned the distinction of being the only student awarded final honors in English, and graduated with a bachelor's degree cum laude in 1922 From there he went to Harvard University to pursue a master ...

Article

Aaron Myers

While a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s, Elizabeth Catlett first encountered African sculptural art and the contemporary work of Mexican muralists. These two art traditions inform most of Catlett's oeuvre. Her sculpted figures have the same voluminous, rounded forms of the people portrayed in the murals of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera. At the same time, the faces of Catlett's sculpted figures have an owl-like, lunar quality that seems to be derived from African mask design. This stylized facial quality can also be observed in some of Catlett's graphic work, especially in her lithographs. In her linocuts, on the other hand, the faces and bodies of figures are rendered in a more realistic manner; these linocuts are stylistically related to the work of printmakers at the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico City, where Catlett studied from 1946 to 1947 She combined ...

Article

Freida High (Wasikhongo Tesfagiorgis)

I don’t have anything against men but, since I am a woman, I know more about women and I know how they feel. Many artists are always doing men. I think that somebody ought to do women. Artists do work with women, with the beauty of their bodies and the refinement of middle-class women, but I think there is a need to express something about the working-class Black woman and that’s what I do.

(Gladstone, p. 33)

As a reputed sculptor and printmaker whose career began in the 1940s, Elizabeth Catlett is a major figure in modern American and Mexican art. Catlett’s work embraces the human condition, revealing a deep passion for dignifying humanity, especially working-class women and, in particular, African American and Mexican women. Titles of her sculpture suggest this interest: Black Woman Speaks (1970), Mother and Child (1940, 1993), Mujer (1964 ...

Article

Dianne Johnson

Clifton said plainly:

I am a woman and I write from that experience. I am a Black woman and I write from that experience. I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am. That does not mean that I have never had bad scenes relating to being Black and/or a woman, it means that other people’s craziness has not managed to make me crazy. At least not in their way because I try very hard not to close my eye to my own craziness nor to my family’s, my sex’s, nor my race’s.

(quoted in Evans, 1984)

This statement is an apt introduction to Clifton’s considerable body of work, both for adults and for young people, comprising fiction, poetry, essays, autobiography, and interviews. She is one of the prolific writers of picture books created out of an African American consciousness and experience. She is also a 1980 ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Maude Cuney was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Norris Wright and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. After graduation from the Central High School, Galveston, she received a musical education at the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts. Later she studied under private instructors such as Emil Ludwig, a pupil of Russian pianist and composer Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein, and Edwin Klare, a pupil of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. She then served for a number of years as director of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute of Texas and at Prairie State College in Prairie View, Texas. In 1906 she returned to Boston and married William P. Hare, who came from an old and well-known Boston family. She died there in 1936 and was buried in Galveston in the grave between her father and mother in Lake View Cemetery (Houston Informer ...

Article

Lynda Koolish

Maud Cuney-Hare is remembered for her literary accomplishments as a gifted playwright, biographer, and music columnist for the Crisis. Born in Galveston, Texas, on 16 February 1874, to teacher and soprano Adelina Dowdie and Norris Wright Cuney, an important Texas political figure who was the (defeated) Republican candidate for the 1875 Galveston mayoral race, Maud Cuney-Hare was educated in Texas and became musical director at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute in Austin, Texas. She held other church and college teaching positions before returning to Boston and devoting her life to performance, scholarship, and literary pursuits. She championed the 24 May 1917 Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaging of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel (1916), which, according to critic Robert Fehrenbach was the first time a play written by an Afro American that dealt with the real problems facing American Blacks in contemporary white racist society was ...

Article

Tiffany Adams

folklorist, writer, and educator, was born Daryl Cumber in Richmond, Virginia, the only child of Allen Whitfield Cumber, a proprietor of a restaurant and tavern, and Veronica Bell, a teacher. Raised in Charles City, Virginia, she earned her B.A. degree in English in 1957 from Virginia State College (now known as Virginia State University), a historically black institution located just outside of Richmond in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1958 she married Warren Dance and had three children, two sons and one daughter. She continued to pursue her English studies at Virginia State College and earned her M.A. in English there in 1963.

Dance taught at both Virginia Union and Armstrong High School of Richmond before earning her Ph.D. in English in 1971 at the University of Virginia which was by then an integrated institution Although Dance and her family had deep roots in Virginia ...

Article

Felicia A. Chenier

black theater organizer, writer, director, folklorist, chorographer, and educator, was born in Houston, Texas, the only daughter of Gerthyl Rae and Harvey G. Dickerson, an army officer. As a military child Dickerson traveled extensively with her parents and brother, Harvey. After graduating high school in Syracuse, New York, Dickerson studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there she studied theater and was mentored by noted educator and writer Owen Dodson, who was then the Drama Department chair. Noteworthy of her experiences at Howard is her discovery of writings by Zora Neale Hurston. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from Howard in 1966, Dickerson received a master of fine arts (MFA) from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, in 1968 During the same year she returned to Howard as an assistant professor of drama and staged her directorial ...

Article

Augustus Dill was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, son of John Jackson and Elizabeth (Stratton) Dill. He received a B.A. in 1906 from Atlanta University, where he was a student of W. E. B. Du Bois. On Du Bois's advice, Dill went on to earn a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.

Dill returned to Atlanta to assist Du Bois on his sociological project of documenting all dimensions of black life in American society. From 1911 to 1915 he coedited four major studies. In 1910, Dill replaced his mentor as associate professor of sociology when Du Bois left Atlanta University to found The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1913, Du Bois hired Dill as business manager for The Crisis, a post he remained in until 1928 Arrested that year in New ...

Article

Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judith Jamison started dancing at the age of six at the Judimar School of Dance. At seventeen, she left to study psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After three semesters, she returned to Philadelphia to continue her dance training at the Philadelphia Dance Company (now University of Arts).

After a 1964 appearance with Agnes de Mille's dance troupe in New York, Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) in 1965. Because of this company's financial difficulties, she danced with the Harkness Ballet for the 1966 season. But in 1967 she returned to AAADT to become its premier dancer. With this company she toured the world, dancing in Cry (1971), her signature dance, which Ailey choreographed to honor the strength and dignity of African American women. For her performances, she won an award from Dance Magazine in 1972 ...

Article

Bruce Nemerov

sociologist and folklorist, was born in Cuero, DeWitt County, Texas, the eldest child of Wade E. Jones and Lucinthia Jones. His parents were literate and before Lewis's tenth birthday they were farming near Navasota in Grimes County, Texas. His upbringing would inform his later sociological and folkloric interests regarding the status of African Americans in the rural South.

Jones was admitted to Fisk University in 1927. In 1931 he received his AB degree. At Fisk he came under the influence of Charles Spurgeon Johnson, head of the Social Sciences Department. He did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago as a Social Science Research Council Fellow (1931–1932).

Upon his return to Fisk, Jones was an instructor in the Social Sciences Department and served as a research assistant and supervisor of field studies for Charles S. Johnson In this capacity Jones collected data in ...

Article

Donna Tyler Hollie

chef, restaurant owner, author, and teacher, was born in Orange County, Virginia. She was one of eight children, three sons and five daughters, born to Eugene and Daisy Lewis. Her community, called Freetown, was established by her grandfather, Chester Lewis, a farmer, and other freedmen after the Civil War. Her grandfather's home was the site of the community's first school.

Although little is known about Lewis's formal academic education, she learned to cook by observing and assisting her mother and paternal aunt, Jennie These women cooked in the tradition of their African forebearers using seasonal ingredients frying in oil flavoring vegetables with meat improvising and relying on their senses to determine whether food was appropriately seasoned and thoroughly cooked For example whether a cake was done could be determined by listening to the sound made by the cake pan Wonderful dishes were created ...

Article

René Portocarrero was born in the neighborhood of El Cerro in Havana, Cuba, and began painting at an early age. At the age of fourteen, he started formal art studies at the Villarte and San Alejandro academies. Unable to adapt to the teaching environment, he decided to leave school and learn on his own. In 1934, he presented his first exhibition at the Salón de Bellas Artes, in Havana. He taught drawing, painting, and sculpture while continuing to produce his own artistic works, which included murals, ceramics, and theater sets, as well as book and magazine illustrations. His style has been described as “Cuban Baroque.”

René Portocarrero maintained that he never planned his work and had no idea what he would paint until his brush was about to strike the canvas He won many prizes and his works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums throughout the ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and writer, was born Faith Willie Jones at Harlem Hospital in New York City, the youngest of three children of Willi(e) Edell (Posey) and Andrew Louis Jones Sr., a truck driver for the city sanitation department. The Joneses separated in the early 1930s and divorced in 1942, by which time Willi Jones had begun work as a seamstress in the garment district. By the 1950s, using the name Madame Willi Posey, she had established a small dressmaking and design business in Harlem. Faith, who suffered from severe asthma and missed kindergarten and much of first grade because of her illness, enjoyed an especially close relationship with her mother, who organized creative projects to occupy her curious daughter. After graduating from Morris High School (she spent the first three years at George Washington High School) in 1948 Faith Jones began studying art at the City ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

a visual artist, was born Brenda Lynn Robinson in Columbus, Ohio, as the middle daughter of Leroy Edward Robinson, a custodian, and Helen Elizabeth Zimmerman Robinson, a homemaker. Shortly after Robinson's birth, her family moved to a federal housing project, Poindexter Village. Much of Robinson's art derives from childhood influences. Poindexter Village and the neighborhood that preceded it, the Blackberry Patch, would become recurring themes in Robinson's art. She chronicles the lives of her former neighbors, such as the Sockman, Chickenfoot Woman, and Ragman, who peddled their wares on the streets.

Robinson s father did not identify as an artist but he spent his spare time creating beautiful objects from wood leather and cloth He also taught his daughter to make art including hogmawg a mixture of mud sticks glue dyes and lime that is the basis for her three dimensional sculptures and the objects that appear ...

Article

Lisa D. Freiman

artist and educator, was born Betye Irene Brown in Pasadena, California, to Beatrice (maiden name unknown), a seamstress who enjoyed quilting, and Jefferson Brown, a salesman who liked to sketch and write. Jefferson Brown died from kidney problems when Saar was six years old, and Betye and her brother and sister lived with her mother's great-aunt and great-uncle until her mother remarried a man named Emmett six years later. After the second marriage, Beatrice had two more children, a boy and a girl. Saar spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw Simon Rodia'sWatts Towers, a vernacular example of assemblage consisting of eight tall conical spirals. Built from steel rods, covered in concrete, and encrusted with found objects like bottle caps, glass, broken tiles, and shells, the Watts Towers seemed like “fairy-tale castles” (Isenberg, State of the Arts 23 to Saar and ...

Article

Robert Fay

Born Betye Brown in Los Angeles, California, Betye Saar (pronounced Say-er) is the daughter of Jefferson and Beatrice Brown. She married artist Richard Saar shortly after earning a B.A. degree in design from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1949. Saar pursued graduate studies at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. She has taught at UCLA and at the Parsons-Otis Institute.

Although Saar began as a printmaker and graphic designer, she later made a transition to three-dimensional work. The work that marked this turning point was Black Girl's Window (1969 in which Saar placed a print of an African American girl into a segmented window frame with existing objects She gradually replaced prints in her assemblages with existing objects She has increased the scale of her work to include room sized ...