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Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Charles Alexis Oswald Durand became an orphan at the age of two when an earthquake destroyed the city of Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti in 1842. Afterwards, Durand went to live with his grandmother in the frontier town of Ouanaminthe. Little is known of his first years of studies, but at age sixteen he was already working for his living as a tinsmith. While making pots and pans in the tiny village of Saint-Louis du Nord, he read and wrote his first verses. He was later offered a job as a primary school teacher.

Demesvar Delorme, a renowned politician and writer, assisted Durand in publishing his first books of poetry. Durand's reputation as a poet grew, particularly after the publication of “Choucoune” in 1883, which recounts how the narrator's beautiful black mistress is seduced by a white foreigner. Other works by Durand include Quatre nouveaux poèmes (1896 ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard was a general in the Haitian army during the reign of Faustin Elie Soulouque. He participated in Soulouque's unsuccessful effort to invade the Dominican Republic in 1849. In 1859 Geffrard led the insurrection which deposed Soulouque, and subsequently assumed the presidency. In 1867 he was ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Norman Washington Manley was born to coloured parents—a term used to describe persons of mixed racial heritage—during the time of British colonialism in Jamaica. His father, Thomas Albert Samuel Manley, was a leading produce trader who did business with companies in the United States. His mother, Margaret Shearer, was the fair-skinned daughter of Irish and colored parents. The couple had four children, including Norman, and the family eventually settled in an upper-middle-class, predominantly white Jamaican community known for its conservatism.

Norman was just seven years old when his father died, in 1900. His mother worked hard to maintain the family's middle-class status, sending Norman to elementary school and then on to Jamaica's most prestigious secondary school, Jamaica College. Norman excelled at Jamaica College both as an athlete and as a debater. In 1914 he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship which allowed him to study at ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...

Article

Marveta Ryan

Poverty and racism forced Martín Morúa Delgado, born in Havana, Cuba, to a Spanish immigrant father and an ex-slave mother, to leave school at an early age and find work. He managed to educate himself, often by purchasing books with part of his salary. His experiences working in a barrel factory led him to become a labor activist. Besides organizing workers in several Cuban cities, Morúa made speeches and wrote newspaper and magazine articles on workers' rights, thus launching his career as a political leader and a journalist.

In the nineteenth century, paid readers read books aloud to factory workers while they engaged in nonmechanical tasks like rolling cigars. Even before slavery had been abolished, Morúa was the first man of African descent to become a professional reader in Cuba. He also became the first reader of color in New York, New York when he worked in ...

Article

Lorraine Anastasia Lezama

Eric Williams was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the eldest of twelve children in a family of modest means. His education was funded by a series of competitive scholarships awarded to those who excelled academically. He attended Queen's Royal College, a preparatory school for boys, and in 1931 won a scholarship to study at a British university. At Oxford University, Williams earned a bachelor's degree and in 1938 a doctorate in history. His dissertation, “Economic Aspects of the Abolition of the West Indies Slave Trade,” would later be published as Capitalism and Slavery.

In 1939 Williams moved to the United States to establish an academic career teaching social sciences at Howard University. Rising through the academic ranks, he was offered a tenured position in 1946.

Williams returned to Trinidad in 1948 and worked as deputy chairman of the Caribbean Research Council of the Caribbean Commission The ...