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James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” In this statement from his 1972 essay “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin sums up a philosophy that drove much of his work. Baldwin was continually conscious of the hypocrisies and injustices in the world around him, and as a writer he strove to make his audiences aware of the possibility that people could do, and be, better. An expatriate most of his adult life, Baldwin nevertheless wrote tirelessly about the contradictions inherent in American identity, and especially about the state of American race relations. He came to be respected as one of the most insightful intellectuals in the Civil Rights Movement and as a leading figure in the African American literary tradition.

Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924 Shortly ...

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Carolyn Wedin

writer and civil rights activist. James Arthur Baldwin was born James Arthur Jones in Harlem Hospital in New York City to Emma Berdis Jones. He was adopted by Jones's husband David Baldwin, a Baptist preacher and factory worker, in 1927.

By the time of his death Baldwin had become a kind of prophetic spokesperson—as both artist and activist—for black life and black history in America, a strong critic of the country he loved. This he accomplished with considerable reflective time spent outside the country, especially in France and Turkey; with wide-ranging artistic and literary contacts; and with a consummate skill in several literary genres, especially the essay, the novel, and the play.

Home life for Jimmy was hectic and demanding He moved frequently between crowded apartments in Harlem with his overworked mother his angry stepfather David Baldwin s mother and oldest son and eight brothers and sisters ...

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James Smethurst

Amiri Baraka was a highly productive writer who has written poetry, drama, novels, Jazz operas, and nonfiction. He also played a crucial role as an organizer, editor, and promoter of the avant-garde literary movements of the 1950s and early 1960s and the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often controversial, Baraka became the center of a political firestorm in his home state of New Jersey in 2003 when a poem he had written was criticized as anti-Semitic.

Born Everett Leroy (later LeRoi) Jones in Newark, New Jersey, Baraka attended Newark public schools and studied chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C., before turning to literature and philosophy. In 1954 he left Howard and joined the United States Air Force. He became increasingly interested in literature, immersing himself in the work of American poet Ezra Pound, Irish novelist James Joyce and other modern ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

poet, playwright, educator, and activist, was born Everett Leroy Jones in Newark, New Jersey, the eldest of two children to Coyette Leroy Jones, a postal supervisor, and Anna Lois Russ, a social worker. Jones's lineage included teachers, preachers, and shop owners who elevated his family into Newark's modest, though ambitious, black middle class. His own neighborhood was black, but the Newark of Jones's youth was mostly white and largely Italian. He felt isolated and embattled at McKinley Junior High and Barringer High School, yet he excelled in his studies, played the trumpet, ran track, and wrote comic strips.

Graduating from high school with honors at age fifteen, Jones entered the Newark branch of Rutgers University on a science scholarship. In 1952 after his first year he transferred to Howard University hoping to find a sense of purpose at a black college that had ...

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Magda Romanska

playwright, poet, writer, and one of the leaders of the black revolt of the 1960s. Imamu Amiri Baraka was born Everett Leroy Jones during the Great Depression in Newark, New Jersey. He is credited as one of the most outspoken advocates of a black cultural and political revival in the 1960s. He attended Barringer High School and Rutgers University, where he pursued philosophy and religious studies, before enrolling in Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was then that he changed his name to LeRoi Jones. Baraka graduated from Howard University in 1953, and in 1954 he joined the U S Air Force in which he served for three years When an anonymous tipster suggested that he was a communist sympathizer Baraka s belongings were searched for subversive literature Because some of his books were deemed socialist Baraka was discharged from the military Shortly thereafter he ...

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Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

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Kissette Bundy

playwright. Bullins, an American dramatist of the black theater movement, was born in Philadelphia to Edward Dawson Bullins and Bertha Marie Queen Bullins. He lived with his mother, a power machine operator, and attended integrated schools. He dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Navy in 1952. While in the navy, Bullins competed as a pugilist, using the skills that he had learned and needed on the tough streets of North Philadelphia.

Out of the navy in 1955, Bullins attended two college-prep high schools. Three years later, without a diploma and apparently financially hoodwinked by a female classmate, he left Philadelphia for California. Bullins earned his GED and then continued at Los Angeles City College, publishing his short stories, essays, and poetry in the literary magazine Citadel, which he founded with an instructor, Isabelle Ziegler.

Bullins the playwright emerged during the vortex of ...

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Aisha X. L. Francis

activist, actor, and author of plays, essays, screenplays, and fiction. Alice Herndon Childress was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1916. When she was five, her parents separated. They sent Childress to Harlem, New York, to live with her maternal grandmother, Eliza Campbell White. From her grandmother, she gained a love of education, books, writing, and theater. Her formal education ended in her second year of high school, when her grandmother died. In the years that followed, Childress explored theater and writing while working multiple jobs. She gave birth to one daughter, Jean R. Childress, in 1935.

In 1941, she began her theatrical career, acting and working behind the scenes with the famed American Negro Theatre (ANT) in Harlem. Her apprenticeship with ANT lasted until 1952. During this time, she performed in numerous productions, including Theodore Brown's Natural Man written ...

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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

Cynthia Staples

was born in Bloomfield, Kentucky and little is known about his early life. In the 1880s, while singing in his local church, he either received encouragement or independently developed a desire to become a professional singer. In order to accomplish this, he traveled to New York City in that same decade and quickly became acclimated to the musical world. He worked a series of odd jobs to make money so that he could pay for professional voice, language, and music lessons from instructors such as voice coach John Howard. His teachers introduced him to a world of music he had not known before. He fell in love with opera, a classical form of music that, for Drury, was far more uplifting than the popular and too often derogatory minstrel shows of the late nineteenth century.

In 1889 with the aid of private benefactors who today are largely unknown Drury ...

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Roanne Edwards

Shirley Graham Du Bois was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the oldest of David A. Graham and Etta (Bell) Graham's five children. Growing up, she moved with her family to various locations throughout the United States. As a teenager in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she first met W. E. B. Du Bois when he came to lecture at the local African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Soon after high school, she married a local man, Shadrack T. McCanns. The marriage soon ended, leaving her with two small children to support. “In quick succession I knew the glory of motherhood and the pain of deep sorrow,” she wrote later. “For the years immediately following, everything I did … was motivated by my passionate desire to make a good life for my sons.”

The nomadic quality of Graham s early life carried over into her educational experiences and into her later years ...

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Elizabeth Brown-Guillory

When Shirley Graham wrote in a 1933Crisis essay, “Black man’s music has become America’s music. It will not die,” she summed up one of her life’s ambitions: to bring to the foreground the many accomplishments of African Americans in every field. One of Graham’s concerns was that African Americans would eventually abandon their spirituals, with their unique rhythms and haunting melodies. In an effort to preserve black music, she became the first African American woman to write and produce an all-black opera, Tom-Toms: An Epic of Music and the Negro (1932). This was just one successful effort in a lifetime devoted to the preservation of black history and culture.

Shirley Lola Graham was born on a farm near Evansville, Indiana, to David Andrew Graham and Etta Bell Graham Graham and her four brothers were encouraged by their father a Methodist missionary to discover black culture ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

author, composer, and activist. When Shirley Graham Du Bois was thirteen years old she met the prominent scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. The meeting had a profound impact on her political and personal development, for she eventually married Du Bois in 1951. She became well known as W. E. B. Du Bois's second wife, causing some to overlook her tremendous personal accomplishments.

Shirley Graham was born near Evansville, Indiana, to David Graham and Etta Graham. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal minister, a career that caused him to move his family to various locations in the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Nashville. At his churches Shirley first discovered a love for music, learning to play the organ and piano. She completed high school in Spokane, Washington, and then moved to Seattle, where she married Shadrack T. McCants ...

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Vernitta Brothers Tucker

author, composer, playwright, and activist, was born Shirley Lola Graham in Evansville, Indiana, the daughter of David A. Graham, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Etta Bell Graham, a homemaker. Graham's father had read many novels to his daughter, including Uncle Tom's Cabin, Les Miserables, Ben Hur, and Quo Vadis?, influencing her to become a voracious reader. His storytelling and commitment to intellectual pursuits strongly influenced Graham's literary development.

Young Graham's early education began in New Orleans, where her exposure to classic literature put her at an advantage over many of her classmates. When she was eight or nine years old, her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her first income writing for the local newspaper. In 1912 she attended Tenth Street High School in Clarksville Tennessee where she distinguished herself as the class poet and ...

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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 ...