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Nathan L. Grant

is the pseudonym of Black Theater movement playwright Ed Bullins for the publication of We Righteous Bombers in the anthology New Plays from the Black Theatre (1969) and the play's production at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem in May of 1969.

New Plays from the Black Theatre lists Kingsley B. Bass, Jr., as “a 24-year-old Black man murdered by Detroit police during the uprising,” but in a panel discussion of We Righteous Bombers at the New Lafayette Theatre (11 May 1969), playwright Marvin X reported that Bullins in fact wrote the play and used the pseudonym “to suggest the type of play that a brother killed in the Detroit Revolution would have written.” Bass, who never existed, seemed able to achieve for himself a fine, if ironic, honor: a small notice by Larry Neal printed below prefatory notes to the panel discussion which ...

Article

Lucilda Hunter

poet, dramatist, musician, artist, was born prematurely on 11 May 1904 in Axim in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Her father was Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, a journalist, educator, and Pan-African activist of Fante origin, and her mother was his second wife, Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford, a Sierra Leonean–born feminist, writer, and educator.

Gladys Casely-Hayford spent the first five years of her life between the Gold Coast and England. Her mother first took her there in 1906 to consult a specialist about a congenital hip defect that had made her left leg weak and misaligned, creating mobility problems. A second visit to England was for her mother’s own health and family reasons. Both visits lasted for months and might have contributed to the failure of her parents’ marriage, which ended with a legal separation agreement in 1914 Gladys went to Freetown when her mother returned to Sierra Leone and attended the ...

Article

Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Massillon Coicou is considered one of the greatest poets in Haitian literature. His works include intimate love poems (Passions) as well as poems with nationalist themes (Poésies Nationales). His poem “Impressions” reflects the metaphysical preoccupations of the author. His two theatrical plays, Féfé Candidat and Féfé Ministre, offer a caustic tableau of Haitian politics, in which Coicou revealed his lack of consideration for political puppets. Other works include Oracle (1893), Liberté (1894), The Son of Toussaint Louverture (1895), and Emperor Dessalines (1906).

Born in Port-au-Prince, Coicou studied at the religious institution of the Frères de l'Instruction Chrétienne (in Saint Louis de Gonzague) and then at the Lycée National. After serving in the army, he worked as a public servant and as a teacher.

President Tiresias Simon Sam on friendly terms with Coicou s family appointed Coicou ...

Article

David E. Gardinier

first lady of Gabon. Patience Dabany is the name adopted by Marie-Joséphine Kama Bongo in 1986 following her divorce from President Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon. Marie-Joséphine Kama, known informally as Marie-Jo, was born on 22 January 1937, at Akiené in the Upper-Ogooué Region, which until 1946 formed part of Middle Congo. Her father was an officer in the French colonial army. Both her parents were part of the Assélé clan of the Obamba people to whom the Téké people of their district, including the family of Omar Bongo, were tributary. Marie-Jo’s father was an important figure in the ndjovi, a secret initiation society of the Obamba that wielded much influence, including among the Téké.

Marie Jo received her entire schooling in the French language She graduated from a government program that prepared teachers at the primary level Thereafter she was married to Dieudonné Pascal Ndouna Okogo 1937 1977 ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of a railway engineer, and grew up in Waycross, Georgia. The harassment of his parents by the Ku Klux Klan impelled him early on to become a writer so that he could “truthfully portray the black man's experience.” At Howard University, under the tutelage of drama critic Alain Locke, Davis developed his theatrical talent, performing in a 1941 production of Joy Exceeding Glory with Harlem's Rose McClendon Players. Following his theater debut, however, he received few job offers and for nearly a year found himself living on the street.

Davis never lost his sense of purpose. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to New York, New York, where he won the title role in Robert Ardrey's play Jeb (1946). In 1948 he married fellow performer Ruby ...

Article

Samuel A. Hay

writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.

Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...

Article

Cassandra Jackson

Born in Cogsdell, Georgia, Ossie Davis grew up in nearby Waycross. He studied at Howard University for three years, then traveled to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the encouragement of Alain Locke, Davis obtained a position with the Rose McClendon Players of Harlem, while writing in his spare time. The following year, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Medical Corps and in Special Services. While stationed in Liberia, he wrote and produced Goldbrickers of 1944, a musical variety show. Discharged in 1945, Davis returned to New York and gained the lead role in the play Jeb, which propelled his stage career. Also starring in the play was Davis's future wife, Ruby Dee, with whom he would continue to costar in plays and later in film. Among Davis's stage, film, and television credits are The Joe Louis Story ...

Article

Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Marshall Edward Wallace, was a porter and waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad; her mother, Emma Wallace, was a schoolteacher. They moved to Harlem in New York City when Ruby was a baby. She was educated at Public School 119 and Hunter College, and her formal education was supplemented by instruction in classical literature and music at home. Although asked to leave Hunter College when her activities at the American Negro Theater—a Harlem group which also included Hilda Simms, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier—took up too much of her energy and time, Dee graduated in 1945 with a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish. She worked briefly as a translator for an import company, but her extracurricular activities soon became her career.

Dee s work has run the gamut of entertainment media ...

Article

Clarence G. Contee

Born about 1846 in New York City on Sullivan Street in Lower Manhattan, a son of Henry Downing and Nancy (Collins) Downing, Henry Francis Downing was the grandson of Thomas Downing, operator of an oyster-selling business and well-known free black. He was the nephew of George Thomas Downing, a well known politician in New York City and in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as a friend of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The family maintained the oyster business and a refectory (dining hall) on Broad Street into the 1850s. Henry Downing received enough education to enable him to read and to write.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Downing was still in school. Eager to serve, he enlisted in the Union Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 25, 1864, beginning his service on board the North Carolina He was ...

Article

Lawrence R. Rodgers

Born in New York City into a family of successful free African Americans who ran an oyster business, Henry Downing was the nephew of the esteemed politician George Thomas Downing. Henry Downing served two terms in the U.S. Navy (1864–1865 and 1872–1875). Following the Civil War, he traveled around the world, a journey punctuated by a three-year residence in Liberia, where his cousin Hilary Johnson later served as president (1884–1892). After returning to New York, he became politically active in the Democratic Party. For his strong support, President Cleveland appointed Downing consul to Loanda, Angola, a West African colony of Portugal, where he served less than a year before resigning in 1888. After returning to New York for several years, he emigrated to London in 1895 where he remained for twenty two years There he began a productive if undistinguished career as a writer ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

African‐American playwright and journalist in London. Downing enjoyed a varied career. In his youth he was a sailor, and later worked for the United States foreign service in Angola. He also managed a New York press agency representing prominent black leaders including Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Ida B. Wells. Around 1895 Downing and his reputedly white American wife, Margarita (c.1873–c.1950), arrived in England and settled in Chiswick, west London.

A fortuitous meeting with the African‐American poet Paul Dunbar in London resulted in Downing's management of Dunbar's 1897 successful reading tour throughout England. As Dunbar's manager, Downing played an instrumental role in bringing together two of the most famous and talented black artistes of the 19th century. Impressed by his stewardship of Dunbar's tour, Samuel Coleridge‐Taylor contacted the pair and thus began a series of collaborations between the ...

Article

Brian R. Roberts

diplomat, editor, and author, was born in Manhattan to Henry and Nancy (Collins) Downing. His family operated an oyster business and restaurant, and his uncle was George Thomas Downing, a Rhode Island businessman and civil rights leader. Nothing is known of Henry Downing's education before he entered the U.S. Navy at age eighteen.

Serving from 1864 through 1865 he worked on three vessels, the North Carolina, Pawtuxet, and Winooski. Afterward he traveled widely, spending three years in Liberia, where his cousin, Hilary Johnson, later became president (1884–1892). In Liberia, Downing worked as secretary to the Liberian secretary of state. Upon his return to New York he reenlisted in the navy, serving from 1872 to 1875 on the Hartford in the Pacific.

After his discharge Downing again returned to New York City and married Isadora (maiden name unknown) on 8 ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

writer, school inspector, politician, diplomat, and foreign minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), was born at Pointe-Noire, Middle Congo, on 27 November 1927. His father, Pedro Franck, was from Cabinda, Portuguese Angola, and his mother, Baza Souzat, was from the former Belgian Congo, but he was granted CAR citizenship on 12 January 1967. After studying at the École des Cadres for French Equatorial Africa in Brazzaville, Franck was sent to Ubangi-Shari as an administrator in 1945. On 24 October 1951 he married Marie-Josèphe Jeannot Valangadede, who bore three girls and four boys before a divorce on 19 May 1973. She was a leader of the CAR National Women’s Association and the first female member of a CAR government.

Franck was active in the Éclaireurs Boy Scouts and represented them at the Grand Congrès des Mouvements de Jeunesse de Toute l AEF Grand Congress of Youth ...

Article

Sheila Gregory Thomas

educator, dramatist, social philosopher, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the youngest of the four children of James Monroe Gregory and Fannie Emma Whiting Hagan. His father, a professor of classics at Howard University, had been a member of the university's first college graduating class in 1872. The family lived on the university campus until Gregory was eight years old, at which time his father resigned from the faculty to head the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth in New Jersey.

The family's 1897 move to Bordentown gave Gregory the run of a beautiful 225 acre campus on the Delaware River A favorite time for him was Saturday mornings when he and his father traveled to Philadelphia by boat to make purchases for the school for these shopping trips inevitably included dinner at Wanamaker s or Snellenburg s and ...

Article

Vivian Njeri Fisher

civil rights activist, educator, scholar, and dramatist, was born Ida Mae Holland in the Delta town of Greenwood, Mississippi. She was the youngest of four children of Ida Mae, a strong-willed, independent woman and midwife, who raised her children as a single parent. Holland never knew the true identity of her biological father.

Holland received her early education in Greenwood Mississippi but had dropped out of school before she reached the ninth grade At the age of eleven Holland experienced an incident that would change her life She was sexually assaulted while babysitting for a white family By the age of twelve the young and rebellious Holland was working as a prostitute She later noted I was always big for my age But after the rape and that White man gave me $5 I knew I was a woman And since I didn t want ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Roger Mais is one of the pioneers of the contemporary West Indian literary tradition. He was born into a middle-class, mixed-race Kingston family but spent most of his childhood in Jamaica's Blue Mountains before returning to Kingston, where he graduated from Calabar High School in 1922. For the next fifteen years he worked intermittently as a civil servant, an insurance salesman, and even an overseer on a Banana plantation. He kept returning to jobs in journalism, however, and through his writing became involved in the Jamaican nationalist movement.

Mais was an early supporter of the People's National Party (PNP) and its leader, Norman Manley. By the early 1940s he was publishing short stories, poetry, plays, and essays in the PNP's journal, and in 1944 Mais was jailed for four months after writing the essay Now We Know which criticized British colonialism While in prison Mais began ...

Article

Alison Donnell

Jamaicanpoet, playwright, and journalist born in the county parish of St Elizabeth. As the daughter of a middle‐class Baptist minister, Marson's intellectual development took place within the context of a religious home and the conservative and colonial Hampton high school, where she had won a scholarship place. When Marson left school in 1922, she directed her studies at commerce and secretarial work, and her decision to work with the Salvation Army and the YMCA in Kingston was an early indication of her commitment to ideas of social justice. Her interests in journalism were also evident, and in 1928 she founded and edited her own monthly journal, The Cosmopolitan: A Monthly Magazine for the Business Youth of Jamaica and the Official Organ of the Stenographers' Association The editorial statement of this bold and defiantly modern publication with a strong emphasis on women s issues proclaimed This ...

Article

Efraim Barak

writer, poet, journalist, and a pioneer of Egyptian nationalism, was born in Alexandria to a lower-class family. His father, Mis.bah. ʾIbrahim, was a carpenter. He began his formal education in a traditional kuttab, and proceeded, at the age of nine, to study religion at the ʾIbrahim Pasha mosque. Nadim terminated his studies after five years due to his lack of interest. He subsisted by taking various jobs: as a telegraph operator in Banha; as a shopkeeper in Cairo; as a clerk and a teacher at a pasha’s house in the Daqahliyya district, and as an itinerant entertainer and professional satirist. His occupation of entertainer earned him the epithet of Al-nadim (instead of Nadim), which means “the entertainer.”

In Cairo, Nadim joined the circle of Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani, who lived in Egypt from 1871 to 1879 Afghani a pioneer of modern Islamic thought had encircled himself with the intelligentsia ...