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Sharon Pruitt

artist, art historian, curator, critic, and educator, was born Lynda Faye Peek in Atlanta, Georgia. Amaki, who legally changed her name in 1978, is the fourth of six surviving daughters of Mary Lee Hill, a homemaker, gardener, and quilter, and Norman Vance Peek, a landscape designer and gardener during the summer, and a cake and candy caterer during the winter. Early in her life and throughout her artistic career Amaki was influenced by her parents' penchant for recycling materials into creative forms.

Amaki's parents supported and encouraged her early artistic pursuits. Her mother enthusiastically showed Amaki's drawings to family friends and members of the community. Aware of Amaki's interest, the Reverend William Holmes Borders, a friend of the family and pastor of the Wheat Street Baptist Church where the Peek family worshipped, introduced ten-year-old Amaki to Hale Aspacio Woodruff a ...

Article

Robert Fikes

writer, was born Jervis Beresford Anderson in the rural village of Chatham, Jamaica, in the British West Indies, to Peter Anderson, a building contractor, and Ethlyn Allen, a homemaker. Peter Anderson enforced a strict Baptist upbringing on his son. Having passed a series of rigorous qualifying exams, within days after graduating from Kingston Technical School, a high school affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Jervis was hired as a trainee journalist at the Daily Gleaner, the most revered and influential newspaper on the island. He left its employ after a year—uncomfortable with the newspaper's conservatism and acquiescence to the colonial regime—and joined the writers' staff at Public Opinion a weekly that advocated self rule and was closely allied with the People s National Party Having rejected the stern religion of his father and the unquestioning allegiance to the British Crown manifested by his ...

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Michael Awkward

In an October 1985Pennsylvania Gazette profile, Houston A. Baker, Jr., speaks of his intellectual journey from graduate studies in late-Victorian literature to the then relatively uncharted field of African American literature as “a great awakening and a conversion experience rolled into one.” Baker's blues journey home has resulted in the field's richest, most consistently probing body of work, and has established him as one of a handful of preeminent scholars of American literature to have emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement struggles of the 1960s.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Baker matriculated at Howard University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and then earned a PhD in English at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1968. After brief stints at Yale University, the site of his conversion, and the University of Virginia, Baker moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 ...

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Thomas F. DeFrantz

Afro‐Caribbean dancer and choreographer, was born Percival Sebastian Borde in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of George Paul Borde, a veterinarian, and Augustine Francis Lambie. Borde grew up in Trinidad, where he finished secondary schooling at Queens Royal College and took an appointment with the Trinidad Railway Company. Around 1942 he began formal research on Afro‐Caribbean dance and performed with the Little Carib Dance Theatre. In 1949 he married Joyce Guppy, with whom he had one child. The year of their divorce is unknown.

Borde took easily to dancing and the study of dance as a function of Caribbean culture. In the early 1950s he acted as director of the Little Carib Theatre in Trinidad. In 1953 he met the noted American anthropologist and dancer Pearl Primus who was conducting field research in Caribbean folklore Primus convinced Borde to immigrate to the United States as ...

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Robin G. Schulze

and influential critic who strived to reanimate and draw attention to American verse in the early twentieth century. Born and raised in Boston, William Stanley Braithwaite began life in a prosperous, cultured home but, on the death of his father, was forced to quit school at the age of twelve to help support his family. Lacking formal instruction, Braithwaite rigorously educated himself. He eventually found work as a typesetter in a Boston printing firm. Setting poems by John Keats and William Wordsworth, Braithwaite developed a love of lyric poetry that inspired his own writing. He began to publish poems and reviews in the Boston Journal and Transcript and eventually produced his first book of poetry, Lyrics of Life and Love, in 1904, followed by The House of Falling Leaves (1908). In 1906 Braithwaite started his critical career in earnest with a regular feature in ...

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Cary D. Wintz

poet, anthologist, and literary critic. The second of five children, Braithwaite was born into a genteel upper-middle-class Boston family. His father, William Smith Braithwaite, was a member of a prominent and wealthy British Guiana family, while his mother, Emma DeWolfe, was the descendant of North Carolina slaves. During his early childhood Braithwaite enjoyed a life of comfort and privilege. However, following his father's death in 1886, the family quickly sank into poverty. Emma Braithwaite was forced to take menial jobs, while young William had to leave school at the age of twelve to seek employment. He took a typesetting job with a Boston publishing house, which introduced him to the world of literature. Braithwaite was especially attracted to the work of British Romantic poets like John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Robert Burns Largely self educated Braithwaite read widely and with great ...

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Dalton Gross and Mary Jean Gross

poet, critic, and anthologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Smith Braithwaite and Emma DeWolfe. Of his two avocations—American poetry and the status of the American Negro—the second clearly had its origins in an unusual cultural heritage. The Braithwaite family, of mixed black and white descent, was wealthy and held prominent positions in British Guiana. Braithwaite's father studied medicine in London but quit because of apparent mental strain and moved to Boston, where he married DeWolfe, whose family had been in slavery. His father remained aloof from neighbors, educating his children at home. Braithwaite's autobiography mentions no employment held by his father, whose death, when his son was eight years old, left the family destitute.Braithwaite s mother was forced into menial employment and at the age of twelve so was Braithwaite After showing interest in reading he was given a job as a typesetter ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Although he praised and supported many African American writers, poet and critic W. S. Braithwaite always held the firm belief that the best writing was never racially or culturally specific, but instead spoke to universal themes. Braithwaite was born into a genteel Boston family, but after his father's death in 1884 he was eventually forced to leave school and take a job with a publisher to help support his family. He later said it was while typesetting John Keats's poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” that he realized he wanted to write poetry. His first pieces appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and Scribner's, and he published his first book, Lyrics of Life and Love, in 1904.

In 1906 Braithwaite began writing a regular column for the Boston Transcript in which he reviewed other contemporary poets, and in the same year he edited his first anthology, The ...

Article

Keith Clark

A distinguished writer and teacher, Joanne M. Braxton has published important poetry and criticism while maintaining the significance of historical and communal ties.

Joanne Margaret Braxton was born in Lakeland, Maryland, on 25 May 1950 to Mary Ellen Weems Braxton and Harry McHenry Braxton, Sr. The second of four children, she graduated from Northwestern Senior High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Braxton found her poetic voice as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College; after graduating, she entered Yale University, where she earned her PhD in American Studies in 1984. Braxton wrote her dissertation on black women's autobiography under the tutelage of scholars Charles Davis and John Blassingame.

Braxton has enjoyed a fruitful publishing career. Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), a volume of poetry, reflects the centrality of folkloric and familial traditions; Gwendolyn Brooks hailed it for its economy courage and genuine expression of youthful energy ...

Article

Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

Article

Alice Drum

journalist, music critic, and novelist, was born in Los Angeles to James Crouch, an absentee father, and Emma Bea Crouch, a domestic worker. Crouch's early education was in the Los Angeles public schools, where he was a highly successful student. Crouch began writing stories at the age of eight, read widely in the classics from his early years in secondary school, and was active in the civil rights movement in junior high school.

After graduation from high school Crouch attended several California junior colleges. At East Los Angeles Junior College he became involved in a poverty program in which he taught a literacy class. Witnessing the Watts riots in 1965 made Crouch even more of an activist, and he became a Black Nationalist—although he would in short time come to oppose the movement. From 1965 to 1967 Crouch was an actor and playwright at Studio Watts and ...

Article

Gerald Early

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles. His father was a heroin addict and his mother a hard-working domestic who taught him to read before he entered school. Although Crouch attended both East Los Angeles Junior College and Southwest Junior College, he never earned a degree. In effect, he is an autodidact and his work reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the untrained intellectual. During the 1960s, Crouch became enamored of black nationalism and the theater. He was well known in black nationalist circles and was an actor, director, and playwright. He also was a drummer leading his own jazz combo during these days, recording an album with Impulse Records called Ain't No Ambulances for No Niggahs Tonight. In the 1970s, Crouch, deeply influenced by the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, began to distance himself from the black nationalists. In 1975 he moved to New ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer and educator, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, to parents about whom little is known but who were only briefly married before Harold's father took his young son to New York City during the black migration to the North. The elder Cruse found work as a custodian with the Long Island Railroad; however, he soon realized the he could not care for a small child alone and placed Harold with a foster family in Queens. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s his foster mother, Aunt Henrietta, instilled a love for the black theater in the young Harold, frequently taking him to performances. With the coming of the Depression the family lost their home and was forced to move into an apartment in Harlem, where Cruse became more deeply immersed in black culture. There he would witness performances by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson, and Florence ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Harold Wright Cruse moved with his father after his parents' separation to New York City, where he completed high school. After serving in the quartermaster division of the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York on the G.I. Bill, although he dropped out in his first year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Cruse worked at various part-time jobs and became an active participant in left-wing politics in Harlem, including joining the Communist Party, which he later rejected. He also wrote two plays and a musical during this period, and with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), established the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School in 1965.

Cruse's book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership was hailed by the New York Times as a mind ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

writer, editor, educator, artist, and intellectual, best known as a social critic. Cruse defined the relationships between African Americans and American society. His 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership energized activists intellectually, both within the United States and in a few black nations, and thus contributed to the roots of the so-called black revolution.

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Virginia; his father was a railroad porter. During Cruse's childhood his father and his stepmother divorced, and he was taken to New York to live with his father's sister in Queens. Before graduating from high school, Cruse was introduced to what remained of the Harlem Renaissance, to the country's radicalism of the 1930s, and to a lecture given by the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois all of which provoked his thinking about ...

Article

James Smethurst

Samuel R. Delany's early work played a major role in the development of a more literary “new wave” in science fiction during the 1960s. The science fiction genre was known previously more for its ideas rather than for its stylistic innovation. Delany's first novels were heavily influenced by the formal experimentation of modernist and postmodernist writers such as James Joyce, Ralph Ellison, and Djuna Barnes as well as by the work of leading science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon.

Delany s writing was concerned with technology and the development of artistic and outlaw subcultures on the margins of society anticipating the later cyberpunk trend in video film fiction and graphic art Perhaps influenced by being one of very few African American science fiction writers of his generation and by his open homosexuality although he also had significant heterosexual relationships Delany from the beginning ...

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Luca Prono

writer, literary critic, and professor, was born in New York City to Samuel R. Delany and Margaret Carey Boyd Delany, funeral parlor owners. Delany spent his childhood in Harlem. Thanks to his wealthy family background, he was able from an early age to cultivate his many cultural interests. He first attended the Bronx High School of Science and then went on to City College, but dropped out after only one semester. Although he later came out as gay, Delany married and fathered a child with the Jewish poet Marilyn Hacker in 1961 (the couple divorced in 1980).

In 1962, when he was only twenty years old, Delany published his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor the first in a long series of science fiction books After his literary debut he gained a reputation as a prodigy in science fiction and enjoyed his renown ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, the Pilgrim Award for excellence in science fiction criticism (1985), and the Bill Whitehead Memorial Award for Lifetime Excellence in Gay and Lesbian Literature (1993). Delany has written criticism using the aliases K. Leslie Steiner and S. L. Kermit.

Samuel R. Delany was the first highly visible and extraordinarily successful African American author to adopt the “marginal” subgenre of science fiction and make it his special province, both as a creator and a critic. A Harlem native, “Chip” Delany was the only son of Samuel R. Delany, Sr., and Margaret Carey Boyd Delany owners of Levy and Delany a Harlem funeral parlor His background provided the gifted young Delany with rich and varied experiences despite strained relations with his father problems at school largely caused by an undiagnosed dyslexia various experiments with ...

Article

Dagmawi Woubshet

poet, novelist, translator, literary critic, and professor, was born in Stamford, Connecticut. Dixon's parents had moved from the South to settle in west Stamford, as part of the broader Great Migration to the North, where Handy, Dixon's father, a sharecropper from Pee Dee, North Carolina, started a new professional life as a contractor and a house painter, and Jessie, his mother, from Irmo, South Carolina, became a nurse. Indeed, Stamford's social and cultural milieu—namely, the interface of the North and South—would later shape Dixon's creative enterprise. Dixon went on to receive his BA from Wesleyan University in 1971 and his MA in 1973 and PhD in 1975 from Brown University. Dixon emerged as a literary figure with the publication of Change of Territory (1983), his first collection of poems. In Change as in much of Dixon s early work the idea ...