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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 ...


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 ...


Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...


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 ...


J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...


Susan J. Covert and David McBride

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the health and medical treatment of African Americans from the slavery era through the nineteenth century The first article focuses on the diseases and epidemics that affected Colonial America while the second article discusses progress in African American healthcare despite discrimination in ...


Ralph E. Luker

writer and anthropologist, was born Zora Lee Hurston in Notasulga, Alabama, the daughter of John Hurston, a Baptist minister and carpenter, and Lucy Ann Potts. John Hurston's family were Alabama tenant farmers until he moved to Eatonville, Florida, the first African American town incorporated in the United States. He served three terms as its mayor and is said to have written Eatonville's ordinances. Zora Neale Hurston studied at its Hungerford School, where followers of Booker T. Washington taught both elementary academic skills and self-reliance. Growing up in an exclusively black community gave her a unique background that informed and inspired much of her later work.Much of the chronological detail of Hurston's early life is obscured by the fact that she later claimed birth dates that varied from 1898 to 1903. Most often she cited 1901 as her birth year, but the census of 1900 lists ...


OluwaTosin Adegbola

novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Some records list Baltimore, Maryland, as Hurston's birthplace, others Notasulga, Alabama, and still others Eatonville, Florida (the setting of many of her writings). What is agreed upon in various accounts is that her roots are in Notasulga by way of her parents, her upbringing was in Eatonville, and her college education and some of her life was spent in Baltimore. Like her place of birth, there are also various biographical accounts of Hurston's date of birth; she herself variously used 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1903. As a point of record however, the 1900 Census proves her birth year as 1891. The fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Potts Hurston she moved with her family to Eatonville when she was three years old Eatonville was the first incorporated black community in the United States ...


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 ...


Caryn E. Neumann

a major collector of African American art, grew up as the son of the coal employment broker William “Will” Norfleet Jones and the homemaker Ella Reed Phillips Jones in the small mining camp of Muscoda on the edge of Bessemer, Alabama. The family enjoyed privileges that were not typical of other black mining families because of Will Jones's position with the Tennessee Coal, Mine, and Railroad Company. As a result, they straddled the line between the black working poor and the middle class. In 1938, at the age of ten, Jones went to New York City to receive a better education than he could get in the racially segregated schools of Alabama. He lived with an older brother, Joe and returned home during the summer On a class visit to a New York City art museum Jones was captivated both by the art and by how ...



Kawaida was developed by Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Kawaida's primary ideas revolve around the meaning and use of culture in self-understanding and self-assertion in the world and in pursuit of human freedom and development. Through the lectures and writings of Karenga, his activist work in The Organization Us, and the international impact of the Kwanzaa holiday and the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles)—which are framed and grounded in Kawaida philosophy—Kawaida became an influential philosophical framework and focus of black intellectual discourse and social practice. Its influence extends from the Black Power concept of operational unity and the Million Man March Day of Absence Mission Statement in the United States to the Black Consciousness Movement and the mission statements of student unions in South Africa. Kawaida has also influenced churches in Trinidad that use the ...


Michael Adams and Delano Greenidge-Copprue

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with language and African Americans The first article looks at the origins of African American English and considers the influences on and development of language among blacks The second article looks at Frederick Douglass s use of language as an example in discussing ...


Karen R. Bloom

Julius Lester was born on 27 January 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Woodie Daniel Lester and Julia B. Smith Lester. He received his BA from Fisk University in 1960, with a semester at San Diego State College, and an MA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1971, where he is currently a professor. He is married to his second wife and has four children. Lester has won the Newbery Honor Award (1969) and the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year Award (1986), and was a finalist for the National Book Award (1972) and the National Jewish Book Award (1988). Lester converted to Judaism in 1982.

Julius Lester s literary career has spanned a broad variety of political events and literary genres Lester began his career as an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating ...


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 ...


Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, educator, and advocate for black artists, was born Augusta Christine Fells in Green Cove Springs, Florida, the seventh of fourteen children of Edward Fells, a laborer and Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. As a child, Savage routinely skipped school, preferring to model small figurines at local clay pits, much to the consternation of her religious father, who, as she recalled in a 1935 interview, “almost whipped the art out of me” (Bearden, 168). At age fifteen, Augusta married John T. Moore, and a year later a daughter, Irene Connie Moore, was born; John Moore died several years later. In 1915 the Fells family moved to West Palm Beach, where Savage taught clay modeling at her high school. She later spent a year at Tallahassee Normal School (now Florida A&M). At some point after 1915 she married a carpenter named James ...


Gary Ashwill

Born in Virginia to former slaves, Carter G. Woodson worked in coal mines until he entered high school at the age of nineteen, finishing in less than two years. Over the next several years, he taught high school and obtained a BL degree at the interracial Berea College (Kentucky). From 1903 to 1906 Woodson worked as supervisor of schools in the Philippines. In 1908 he received both BA and MA degrees from the University of Chicago and began teaching high school in Washington, D.C. He earned a PhD in history from Harvard University in 1912, becoming, after W. E. B. Du Bois, the second African American to receive a doctorate in history. From 1919 to 1922 he taught at Howard University and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, and served in high administrative posts at both institutions.

In 1915 Woodson with several other scholars founded the Association for the ...


Jacqueline Goggin

historian, was born in New Canton, Virginia, the son of James Henry Woodson, a sharecropper, and Anne Eliza Riddle. Woodson, the “Father of Negro History,” was the first and only American born of former slaves to earn a PhD in History. His grandfather and father, who were skilled carpenters, were forced into sharecropping after the Civil War. The family eventually purchased land and eked out a meager living in the late 1870s and 1880s.

Woodson s parents instilled in him high morality and strong character through religious teachings and a thirst for education One of nine children Woodson purportedly was his mother s favorite and was sheltered As a small child he worked on the family farm and as a teenager he worked as an agricultural day laborer In the late 1880s the Woodsons moved to Fayette County West Virginia where his father worked in railroad construction ...


Aaron Myers

One of nine children, Carter Godwin Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, and grew up on his family's farm in rural Virginia. His mother, a former slave who had secretly learned to read and write as a child, and two of his uncles, who had received training at Freedmen's Bureau schools, tutored him and cultivated his interest in learning. In 1892 Woodson moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he worked in coal mines.

At age twenty, Woodson enrolled at Frederick Douglass High School, the only all-black school in the area. He completed the four-year curriculum in two years while working to pay his tuition. Following graduation he obtained a teaching position in Winona, West Virginia. But in 1901 Woodson returned to his former high school to teach and later to serve as principal Meanwhile he intermittently attended Berea College an integrated school established by abolitionists in Kentucky from ...


Gayle Murchison

composer, conductor, singer, scholar, and folk song collector, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of John Wesley Work Sr., a Nashville church choir director, and Samuella Boyd. The senior Work composed and arranged music for his choirs, which included members of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, and that work instilled in the younger Work a love of African American folk music, especially spirituals. Work attended public schools in Nashville and graduated from Meigs High School in about 1891. After studying music, Latin, and history at Fisk University, he studied classics at Harvard for two years, beginning in 1896. He sang in the Mozart Society, which awakened further interest in spirituals. He returned to Fisk, where he spent a year as a library assistant while completing a master's degree before assuming teaching duties in 1898 He taught Latin and history at ...


Robert C. Hayden

surgeon, hospital administrator, and civil rights leader, was born in La Grange, Georgia, the son of Ceah Ketcham Wright, a physician and clergyman, and Lula Tompkins. After his father's death in 1895, his mother married William Fletcher Penn, a physician who was the first African American to graduate from Yale University Medical School. Raised and educated in Atlanta, Wright received his elementary, secondary, and college education at Clark University in Atlanta, graduating in 1911 as valedictorian of his class. His stepfather was one of the guiding influences that led to his choice of medicine as a career.

Wright graduated from Harvard Medical School, cum laude and fourth in his class, in 1915 While in medical school he exhibited his willingness to take a strong stand against racial injustice when he successfully opposed a hospital policy that would have barred him but not ...