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Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...

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Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

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Alessandra Benedicty

was born on 22 April 1922 to a middle-class family in Gonaïves, Haiti. Although the date is not confirmed, nor has his death ever been officially recognized, general knowledge puts Alexis’s assassination at April 1961. Born twelve years before the end of the US military occupation of Haiti, Alexis would in a sense follow in the trade of his father: his father Stéphen Mesmin Alexis, himself a writer and man of politics, published the novel Le Nègre masqué (1933), and his family proudly traced its lineage to the Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Alexis’s life oeuvre was grounded in political activism. Many scholars compare him to Jacques Roumain, fifteen years Alexis’s senior, also a Marxist, similarly an esteemed novelist, and who like Roumain died before the age of 40.

Today Alexis is known primarily for his novels and for his contribution to the conversation on magical and marvelous ...

Article

Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...

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Maxamed Dahir Afrax

Somali poet, dramatist, actor, and political activist, was born in Gabiley in northwestern Somalia in 1935. His father, Muxumed Amiin, was a soldier. His mother, Muumina Kaahin, Muxumed Amiin’s first wife, died when Cabdi, her only child, was still an infant. Cabdi’s grandmother Murriya took care of him until he was a teenager. He lived in the towns of Berbera and Arabsiyo where he attended a qurʾanic school. As a teenager he had to support himself through different kinds of hard physical labor.

In 1953 he moved to Hargeisa then the capital of the British Protectorate of Somaliland where he started composing his first poems Soon after in the same year he moved to Mogadishu the Somali capital There he was recognized as a talented poet and artist and was employed by Radio Mogadishu At the same time he joined the movement for national independence He worked for ...

Article

Anne M. François

was born on 18 July 1944 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He attended the prestigious teachers’ training college École Normale from 1962 to 1965 and attended law school in Port-au-Prince shortly thereafter. He later met and married the women’s rights activist Mireille Neptune and both, having won scholarships, departed for France to further pursue their studies. A brilliant student, Anglade obtained a Ph.D. in geography at the University of Strasbourg in 1969. The same year, he moved to Canada, where he taught geography for thirty years at the Université du Québec à Montréal, at which he helped found the Department of Geography. A larger-than-life character in constant motion on the political and literary scenes, he and his wife, Mireille, a retired United Nations economist, tragically passed away during the 12 January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island of Haiti.

Anglade wore many hats during his lifetime Indeed his cultural and political ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

McKay Jenkins

tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father to play football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten years old he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, R. Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured the talents of Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win Wimbledon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful. Johnson was an exacting coach he had his charges practice hitting tennis balls with broom handles to develop their hand eye coordination But his lessons extended beyond tennis he also ...

Article

Michelle S. Hite

tennis player, activist, broadcast journalist, and humanitarian. Born in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. was the son of Arthur and Mattie Ashe. Arthur experienced a traumatic loss at age six when his mother died suddenly. He turned inward and toward books and learning. An excellent student, he graduated first in his high school class. Given his appetite for books, success as a student was likely; however, given his physical stature, his success as a tennis player was a surprise. Though physically small, the skills he honed on the public recreational courts, maintained by his father, helped mold him into a top player.

Coming of age in segregated Richmond Virginia shaped Ashe s early tennis experiences and informed his political consciousness He was not allowed to compete on the city s best courts or in the city s top tournaments To improve his game he ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Mattie and Arthur Robert Ashe Sr. He began playing Tennis at the age of ten under the guidance of Dr. Walter Johnson, a prominent coach of African American youth from Lynchburg, Virginia. With Johnson's coaching, Ashe won three American Tennis Association (ATA) boy's championships, becoming the first African American junior to be ranked by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA).

Between 1960 and 1963 Ashe won three ATA men's singles titles, became the first African American on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, and the first African American to win a USLTA national title in the South. His achievements earned him a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he attended from 1961 to 1966 earning a bachelor s degree in business administration While in college Ashe won the U ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese educator, novelist, and activist, was born into a well-to-do and ardently religious Lébou family, which had its own mosque in the family compound, bringing the neighborhood together for prayers several times a day. The Lébous, tall, regal, staunchly Muslim, and predominantly fishermen, are a subtribe of the Wolof ethnic group related to the Lébous of Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof) in the northern Sahel region of Senegal. They were the first inhabitants of the city of Dakar (Ndakarou in Wolof) in the Cape-Vert peninsula, composed of the villages of Ngor, Ouakam, and Yoff. Mariama’s father was Niélé Bâ, born in 1892. Her mother died when Mariama was two years old. Hence, she never got to know her nor did she ever see a photograph of her. Niélé Bâ fought as a tirailleur African infantry soldier on the French side in World War I becoming on his return to ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Mariama Bâ, the daughter of Senegal’s first minister of health, was born into a highly educated Muslim family. Bâ’s father had a strong belief in the value of education and, ignoring traditional prohibitions, insisted that his daughter pursue higher education. Bâ attended a prestigious French boarding school near Dakar, passing the entrance examination with the highest marks of all candidates in West Africa that year.

While still a student Bâ began writing essays for local journals and newspapers Her writing revealed her as an articulate and political young woman one essay for example attacked assimilation a French policy encouraging Africans to adopt French identity and culture An active participant in women s organizations the young Bâ found her voice as a spokesperson for African women facing new troubles in the traditional institution of marriage Bâ would later confront these difficulties in her own life when as a ...

Article

Ann Folwell Stanford

Well known for her collections of short stories and her novel, The Salt Eaters (1980), Toni Cade Bambara always insisted that social commitment is inseparable from the production of art. Bambara's early years as a social worker and commitment as a community organizer influenced her work from its earliest beginnings.

Born Toni Cade in 1939 in New York City to Helen Brent Henderson Cade she and her brother Walter grew up in New York New Jersey and the South Bambara s mother whom she credited as one of her major influences gave her room to think dream and write for herself Other influences were rooted in the urban environment in which Bambara grew up She noted especially visiting the Apollo Theater with her father listening to the music of the 1940s and 1950s and hearing the trade unionists Pan Africanists Rastas and others from the Speaker s ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Toni Cade was born in New York City and began writing as a child. She published her first short story in 1959, the year she received a B.A. degree from Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received an M.A. degree in American literature from the City College of New York in 1963. In addition to writing, her diverse career included teaching, social work, documentary filmmaking, and community activism.

Cade added Bambara to her name when she discovered it as a signature in her grandmother's sketchbook. In 1970 Bambara edited the anthology The Black Woman. This work was partially a response to the Civil Rights Movement and the women's movement, and included works by African American poet Nikki Giovanni, American-born Grenadan writer Audre Lorde, African American author Paule Marshall, and Pulitzer Prize-winning African American writer Alice Walker. In 1971 Bambara edited a ...

Article

Alice A. Deck

“It’s a tremendous responsibility—responsibility and honor—to be a writer, an artist, a cultural worker…whatever you call this vocation,” Bambara said in an interview with the critic and scholar Claudia Tate, explaining her proclaimed mission to portray the complex truth and not get trapped in a maze of stereotypes about the black community. Part of a major late-twentieth-century renaissance of African American women writers that included Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, and Paule Marshall, Toni Cade Bambara depicted the black urban experience, adding another image to the larger literary mural these woman presented to the black community.

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Aisha X. L. Francis

(b. 25 March 1939; d. 9 December 1995), author, activist, essayist, film critic, and educator. Bambara was born in New York City and raised in and around the New York–New Jersey area. Her given name was Miltona Mirkin Cade, which she shortened to Toni at age five. As an adult she added Bambara to her signature after discovering that one of her grandmothers had used the name in her sketchbooks. In 1970 she had her name legally changed to Toni Cade Bambara. Her mother, Helen Brent Henderson Cade Brehon, to whom Bambara's first novel, The Salt Eaters (1980) is dedicated, encouraged her love of learning and her appreciation for oral history. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater arts from Queens College in 1959 she became a social worker with the Colony Settlement House ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Henry C. Lacey

One of the most influential and prolific African American writers of the twentieth century, Amiri Baraka first came to the attention of readers and critics as LeRoi Jones. He was born Everett LeRoy Jones on 7 October 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. His solidly middle-class upbringing figures prominently in his creative work and must be considered one of the major distinguishing features in any comparative treatment of Baraka and other seminal African American literary artists. The son of postal employee Coyt LeRoy Jones and social worker Anna Lois (Russ) Jones, Baraka articulates the angst of the African American middle class with unsurpassed effect in works from every phase of his artistic development. This concern is most apparent in such relatively early works as the Beat-inspired Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note (1961), the theatrical triumph Dutchman (1964), the barometric essays collected in Home Social ...