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Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian poet, critic, broadcaster, painter, and physician, was born in the al-Hanafy district in Cairo. His father, Muhammad Abu Shadi, was the head of the Egyptian Bar Association and his mother, Amina Naguib, was a poetess. He completed his primary and secondary education in Cairo and was involved in antioccupation activities during his adolescence. He joined the faculty of medicine (named Qasr al-Aini) and then traveled to London in 1912 to complete his studies in medicine at the University of London where he obtained a certificate of honor from Saint George Hospital in 1915. He married a British woman and lived with her in Egypt until her death in 1945. Following his return to Egypt in 1922, he served in many governmental posts in such places as the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States ...

Article

Abdul Karim Bangura

Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi, or Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi, was born in 870 c.e in Kazakhstan or Persia or Afghanistan Also known in the West as Alpharabius he is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher scientist and musicologist of his era and perhaps one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in all of history As a political philosopher al Farabi sought out answers to many of the most difficult questions facing the Islamic world during his lifetime He questioned the relations between humankind and God the role of the intermediary the influence of the divine law in private life and the limitations of the human mind He went beyond the divine law and searched for humankind s place in the universe and our relationship with nature society and the divine law He inquired about the different types of political institutions ...

Article

Jacob Emmanuel Mabe

the first African and black professor and philosopher of the European Enlightenment, was born in the coastal Ghanaian town of Axim. The background of his travel to Europe can only be speculated about. It is only certain that Amo was given over to Herzog Anton Ulrich von Wolfenbuettel-Braunschweig in 1707 as a slave of the Dutch West Indies Company. At that time he could have been eight years old, because he was baptized on 29 July 1708 in Braunschweig. In addition to German, Amo could speak Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, and English.

In 1727, Amo entered the University of Halle, where he studied philosophy and law. On 28 November 1729, he presented his first disputation, De jure maurorum in Europa (On the Rights of Black Peoples in Europe which unfortunately remains lost In this work Amo acts as an advocate of the equality of all people ...

Article

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

Article

Michelle K. Massie

journalist and historian, was born Franklin Eugene Bolden Jr. in Washington County, Pennsylvania, the eldest of three sons of Franklin Eugene Bolden Sr., the first black mail carrier in the city of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Mary Woods Bolden. Frank Bolden's parents instilled in him the importance of education and achievement at an early age. His father often told him, “When you're average, you are just as far from the bottom as you are from the top” (Rouvalis, Post‐Gazette). With that mentality, Bolden's life was anything but average.

Bolden attended the Washington public school system and graduated from high school in 1930 He went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh where he was the first African American to play in the university s varsity marching and concert bands He said in a documentary film about his life that his audition for the band was ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

North African translator, was born near Tunis in the early eleventh century (scholars estimate between 1010 and 1015). Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) was famed for introducing many principles of Arab medicine and scientific enquiry to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The first known biographies of Constantinus Africanus were written and modified by Christian monks from the monastery of Monte Cassino. This occurred several decades after his death. As such, much of the information on the life of Constantinus must be seen trough the lens of these monastic sources. As a convert from Islam to Christianity, he was held up not only as a rare success of conversion but as an example of the intellectual accomplishments of Monte Cassino.

The writings of Petrus Diaconus a monk at Monte Cassino who wrote one of the earliest biographies claimed that Constantinus Africanus was born in Carthage and traveled throughout the ...

Article

Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...

Article

Françoise Vergès

writer, psychiatrist, and activist, was born on 20 July 1925 at Fort de France Martinique at the time a French colony The descendant of a slave of African origins Fanon was the fifth of eight children His parents who were of mixed heritage belonged to the urban middle class His father Félix Casimir Fanon worked in the French customs Eléanore Médélice his mother was a shopkeeper She was very proud of her Alsatian roots on an island where the hierarchy of color was very strong Both parents discouraged their children from speaking Creole and encouraged them to integrate into French culture Fanon studied at the elitist Lycée Schoelcher where he had Aimé Césaire as one of his teachers At eighteen Fanon joined the Free French army and was sent for army training to Algeria Fanon became disillusioned with the cause of freeing Europe from Nazism and wrote to his ...

Article

Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual and reformer, was born in Adwa (northern Ethiopia) on 30 July 1886 Some three years later he lost his father at the battle Metemma between Ethiopia and Mahdist Sudan that claimed the life of Emperor Yohannes IV That fateful event created a political vacuum in northern Ethiopia into which the Italians who were hovering around the port of Massawa stepped with alacrity At the same time the emperor s core province Tegray fell into disarray At the tender age of seven Gebre Heywet joined the exodus of Tegrayans into the adjoining and relatively peaceful Italian colony of Eritrea He spent some years at the Swedish Mission in Menkullu on the mainland off the port of Massawa It was while visiting Massawa that he boarded one of the ships which took him to Austria where he was adopted by a family and acquired a medical degree as well ...

Article

Leila Kamali

Historian, editor, and political activist born on 10 December 1921 near Johannesburg, the child of Latvian Jews. Hirson was educated at Hebrew school in Johannesburg, and studied mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand, where he later worked as a physicist. In 1940 he joined the left‐wing Hashomer Hatzair, subsequently becoming a member of various Trotskyist groups. Between 1944 and 1946 he was a political organizer for the Workers' International League.

Hirson participated in setting up black trade unions, in extremely difficult conditions created by the Suppression of Communism Act. He became involved in the Non‐European Unity Movement, and in the late 1950s joined the Congress of Democrats, the white arm of the ANC‐led Congress Alliance.

After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 Hirson and his colleagues highly critical of the Congress Alliance s leadership and policies organized the National Committee for Liberation which advocated sabotage as a substitute for peaceful ...

Article

Hypatia  

Michael A. B. Deakin

Alexandrian astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, was the first woman mathematician of whose life and work we have reasonably detailed and secure knowledge. She was active as a public figure, taking a leading part in the civic affairs of Alexandria and also delivering popular lectures on philosophy: a Neoplatonist philosophy heavily influenced by mathematics. She also taught students the intricacies of technical mathematics and astronomy. Her public profile alone was probably distinguished enough to earn her a place in history, but this has been cemented by the lurid nature of her death. She died in 415, murdered by a crowd of Christian zealots who seized her, stripped her, and proceeded to dismember her and to burn her mangled corpse. Undoubtedly this further circumstance has served to keep her name alive.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician Theon and taught both mathematics and philosophy in the then Greek city of Alexandria ...

Article

Stephen Cory

North African philosopher and physician who worked in the court of the North African Almohad dynasty, which ruled North Africa and Islamic Spain from the mid-twelfth century through the early thirteenth century. Ibn Tufayl was probably born in the city of Guadix in southern Spain during the second decade of the twelfth century. His full name was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tufayl al-Qaysi. The exact date of his birth is unknown, and very little is known about his family background or childhood. A supporter and friend of the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl is best known as the author of Hayy ibn Yaqzan a philosophical tale about a man raised on a desert island The story was later translated into Latin Dutch and English among other languages It is thought to have influenced such philosophers and writers as Daniel Defoe John ...

Article

Joab Eichenberg-Eilon

Jewish neo-Platonic philosopher active in Egypt, was born in Qayrawan (present-day Tunisia). Other forms of his name are Yitzhaq ben Shelomo ha Yisraeli, Ishaq al-Israʿili, Abu Yaʿqub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Israʿili, Isaac Judaeus, and Isaac Israeli the elder. He was a predecessor of Solomon Ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, and the early kabbalists of the Geronese school. The originator of the emanation theory (Atziluth) in Jewish thought, he is also known for his theory of prophecy in relation to philosophy.

He was the physician of the founder of the Fatimid dynasty, Caliph ʿAbd Allah al-Mahdi Billah; and many of his medical books, written originally in Arabic, were translated into Latin, Spanish, and Hebrew and used in medical education. They include Kitab al Hummayat, on fevers; Kitab al adwiya al mufrada wa al aghdhiya (Latin Diaetae universales et particulares; Hebrew Tivʾei haMezonoth ...

Article

Robert Fay

Louis Leakey was born in Kabete, Kenya, to British missionaries working in colonial Kenya. Even before he received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Cambridge in England, Leakey was convinced that human evolution began in Africa, not in Asia as was commonly believed among his contemporaries. To prove his theory, Leakey focused his archaeological research on expeditions to Olduvai, a river gorge in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He found important fossils and Stone Age tools, but until 1959 Leakey had not found definitive evidence that Africa was the cradle of human evolution.

On an expedition to Olduvai in 1959, his wife, Mary Douglas Leakey, with whom he had worked since 1933, discovered the partial remains of a 1.75-million-year-old fossil hominid. Louis Leakey classified it as Zinjanthropus (later classified as Australopithecus boisei). From 1960 to 1963 the Leakeys unearthed other important remains including another fossil hominid ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

Mary Leakey’s deep interest in the study of prehistory began at the age of eleven, when she viewed cave paintings of the Dordogne in southern France. Although she later took courses in anthropology and geology at University College, London, and participated in excavations in England, she never earned a degree. In 1933 paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey asked her to illustrate a book he was writing. The two fell in love, married in 1936, and formed one of the most famous and successful scientific collaborations of the twentieth century.

Louis Leakey s controversial theories drove their research throughout much of their careers During the twenty years that the Leakeys spent attempting to prove that human evolution occurred in Africa and not Asia Mary developed rigorous excavation techniques that set the standard for paleoanthropological documentation and excavation A tireless worker after long days of carefully sifting the Olduvai earth for fossils ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, physician, and rabbinical scholar, was born around 1135 in that ornament of the world the city of Córdoba in Muslim controlled al Andalus In fact Maimonides would spend his whole life in lands under Muslim control mainly in Morocco and Egypt Also known as Rambam and Ibn Maymun he and his thought were fundamentally influenced by the Islamic and mainly Arabic speaking civilization in which he lived At the same time he had a profound knowledge of Jewish literature and scriptural commentary as well as Greek thought In this way Maimonides integrated the major historical and cultural traditions of the Mediterranean the Middle East and Africa Faced with powerful attacks on Judaism from Christian and Muslim scholars such as Petrus Alfonsi and Ibn Hazm attacks based on a use of Greek reason and logic Maimonides was able to respond with his own application of reason to Jewish theology ...

Article

Shauna Huffaker

medieval Egyptian historian and topographer, was born Taqi al-Din Ahmed to a middle-ranking but prosperous scholarly family in Cairo. His maternal grandfather Ibn al-Sayigh (d. 1375 a famous judge and scholar of the Hanafi school of Islamic law in Damascus took up the education of his grandson The name al Maqrizi by which he is most commonly known refers to a district of the Lebanese city of Baalabak which had been the birthplace of his paternal grandfather By contrast to his grandfather al Maqrizi s father was less distinguished he died before al Maqrizi reached the age of 14 Despite this loss his family connections ensured that he received an excellent education in Cairo which was during his lifetime the intellectual capital of the Islamic world The scholars with whom he studied numbered in the hundreds and included the most prominent of his day The most important of his ...

Article

Alan West

Fernando Ortiz's intellectual legacy is one of astonishing breadth and erudition. Cuban scholar Juan Marinello has likened him to a third discoverer of Cuba, after Columbus and Humboldt. A Cuban-American critic has called him “Mr. Cuba.” The claim is no exaggeration: he is one of a great line of Caribbean intellectual figures such as Eugenio María de Hostos, José Martí, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Frantz Fanon, and C. L. R. James.

Along with the work of Lydia Cabrera Ortiz s seminal works deal with the African traditions that have uniquely shaped the identity of Cuban music religion society and culture His major theoretical contribution is in coining the concept of transculturation a term used to describe the rich textured and sometimes bloody encounter between two or more cultures that mutually transforms them It provides a refined framework for understanding the complexity ...