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David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

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J. Ayo Langley

In his lifetime (1866–1945), Duse Mohamed Ali, actor, historian of Egypt, newspaper editor, Pan-Africanist, Pan-Islamist, and promoter of African American and African trade and investment, was known to African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute, and Washington’s successor, R. R. Moton. He was also known to Arthur W. Schomberg, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founding father of African American history, and W. T. Ferris, author of The African Abroad (1913). He was known to African nationalist leaders, public intellectuals, merchants, and lawyers, particularly to West Africans. His book In the Land of the Pharaohs (1911) and monthly journal The African Times and Orient Review, “a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the colored races of the world,” played an important role in increasing his public outside Britain.

According to his autobiography serialized ...

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Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

Ivette Romero

was born Doralina de la Caridad Alonso y Pérez de Corcho in Recreo (Máximo Gómez), Matanzas, Cuba, on 22 December 1910. Alonso was a multifaceted writer who published more than twenty titles and who wrote numerous scripts for radio and television for many years. Her corpus of work is of great historical and literary significance because it spans over six decades of the twentieth century, from the moment she published her first poem “Amor” in 1936. Alonso witnessed and wrote about the complexities of Cuban reality before the appearance of Fidel Castro and others who defied the government of Fulgencio Batista, during the revolutionary armed struggle, and after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Her life and work were dedicated to challenging all inequalities, particularly, racial discrimination.

As a journalist, she wrote for the literary magazine Bohemia documenting important historic benchmarks such as the Bay of Pigs ...

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Onita Estes-Hicks

librarian, Harlem Renaissance cultural worker, and playwright, was born Regina Anderson in Chicago, the daughter of Margaret (Simons) Anderson, an artist, and William Grant Anderson, a prominent criminal attorney. She was reared in a black Victorian household in Chicago's Hyde Park district, amply provided for by a father who counted W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson among his friends and clients. Regina attended normal school and high school in Hyde Park, studying later at Wilberforce University and the University of Chicago, and eventually receiving a degree in Library Science from Columbia University's School of Library Science.

The Chicago of her youth and early adulthood struck her as provincial, yet it was flavored by migrants from the deep South and enlivened by the voice of Ida B. Wells whose writings on lynching gave Anderson an understanding of the link between race and violence ...

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Dominick Rolle

was born on 25 April 1919 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Charles George and Ethel Archibald. As the son of an upper-middle-class family, his father (an accountant) ensured that he received a fine early education. He began his tertiary studies from 1928 to 1935 at Queen’s Royal College, in Port of Spain, and continued them at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he received a bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering (1946). He also served as a soldier in the Trinidadian army (1938–1940) and Canadian Army Reserve (1943–1945). He married Maureen Wedderburn Berry on 23 May 1953; together, they would have two children: Jane Harriett and Patrick Douglas.

During his diverse professional career he held numerous government administrative positions in Trinidad primarily as a civil engineer and public works official in addition to serving as a tutor in creative writing at the ...

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Emad Abdul-Latif

playwright, was born to a well-off family in the city of Meet Ghamr in Al Dakahlia governorate in Egypt. His father, S’ad al-Deen Ashour, was passionate about literature and the arts, especially the theater. His mother belonged to a wealthy family from the countryside. For primary and secondary education, Ashour moved between different schools in Dakahlia, Alexandria, and Cairo. His admiration for the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein and his desire for a career in literature led him to study in the Department of English at Cairo University in 1938. However, upon graduating he worked as a bank employee for ten years. In 1952, he quit this position and joined the Ministry of Social Affairs as a supervisor of some of the government's cultural activities. This job afforded him close ties with artists, especially dramatists. When the Ministry of Culture was established in 1958 he served as ...

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

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

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Cristina Ferreira Pinto-Bailey

was born on 14 April 1857 in São Luís, capital of the northern Brazilian province of Maranhão. Born to David Gonçalves de Azevedo, Portugal’s vice consul in Brazil, and Emília Amália Pinto de Magalhães (also Portuguese), Aluísio Tancredo Gonçalves was the younger brother of the famous playwright Artur Azevedo (1855–1908). Azevedo’s parents were not legally married, as his mother had been married beforehand to a Portuguese businessman. It was an arranged marriage that ended when Magalhães left her violent husband, causing social scandal.

Growing up in São Luís, Azevedo developed an early interest in painting and drawing. He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1876 to study at the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes National Academy of Fine Arts In the capital of the Brazilian Empire he began working as an illustrator and caricaturist for several newspapers As many critics have pointed out Azevedo s craft as ...

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Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

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Kim Jenice Dillon

Born 16 June 1899 in Boston, Marita Bonner graduated from Radcliffe in 1922 and taught high school in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. She married William Almy Occomy in 1930. While living in Washington, she was a member of the “S” Street Salon, a group of writers who met usually at the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson. Encouraged and influenced by writers such as Johnson, May Miller, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, and other major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Occomy began to publish works that embodied her concern for the deplorable conditions facing African American men and women living in an America characterized by racial, class, and gender inequities.

Occomy published two essays that Elizabeth Brown Guillory describes as those that captured the spirit of the Black Renaissance On Being Young A Woman and Colored which won first ...

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Marita Odette Bonner was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, one of the four children of Mary Noel and Joseph Bonner. She was educated at Brookline High School. In 1922 she graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. degree in English and comparative literature. After teaching for two years at Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, West Virginia, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught high school until 1930.

As a member of the literary “S” salon in Washington, Bonner met members of the Harlem Renaissance, including poet Langston Hughes, playwright Georgia Douglas Johnson, and writer Jean Toomer. In 1925 Bonner published her first story, “The Hands,” in Opportunity. In the same year, she wrote the autobiographical essay for which she is best known, “On Being Young—A Woman—and Colored.” As a member of Washington's Krigwa Players she wrote three experimental plays: The Pot Maker ...

Article

Althea E. Rhodes

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, Bonner applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school adviser and was one of the few African American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, Bonner won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a BA in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930 ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

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Ann McCarthy

novelist, playwright, screenwriter, memoirist, folklorist, and educator, was born in Bolton, North Carolina, to Dorothy and Cecil Culphert Brown. His father was in prison until Brown was thirteen, so he and his brother Donald Ray were raised until then by his Uncle Lofton, who recognized and nurtured young Cecil's talent for academics and his facility with words. Brown describes this part of his life as a kind of idyll haunted by the mysterious but terrible situation of his father.

When he was fourteen years old Brown reluctantly moved with his brother and father to Green Swamp, North Carolina, to grow tobacco. Considerably less supportive of Cecil's bookishness, Culphert Brown beat him for reading when he should have been plowing It was around this time that Brown first encountered the Stagger Lee story which would be the focus of much of his scholarly research Friends of his father would ...

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Heather Martin

theatrical producer, director, actress, playwright, and singer, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, one of five children (three girls and two boys) of Harrison James Bryant, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Edith Holland Bryant, a social worker. The family lived in Ohio, Kentucky, and Baltimore, Maryland. Bryant acknowledged her parents, sisters, and religion as the main influences in her life. Her talent as a singer was evident when she performed in church choirs. After graduating from Peabody Preparatory School of Music in Baltimore in 1958, Bryant attended Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. She continued her music training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and studied opera in Vienna and Venice. She toured Eastern Europe with the Robert Shaw Chorale.

With her European training and singing experience Bryant returned to the United States in the early 1960s to pursue a career as an opera singer ...

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Frank Cha

playwright, teacher, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Clara and John Burrill. She attended the M Street School, originally named the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, and there developed an interest in literature and theatrics. Upon graduating high school in 1901, she moved with her family to Boston, where she enrolled at Emerson College and became one of the first African Americans to graduate from the school in 1904.

In 1905 Burrill moved back to Washington, D.C., and began a career in teaching that would last almost forty years. She alternated between Armstrong Technical High School and her alma mater, renamed Dunbar High School after the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar Burrill taught English and drama eventually accepting a permanent position at Dunbar one of the leading schools for African Americans in the Washington D C area in the early ...

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Nathan L. Grant

writer, was born in Sag Harbor, New York, the daughter of Abraham Ward, probably a fisherman, and Eliza Draper. Both were members of the Montauk Indian tribe of Long Island and both were also of African descent. When Olivia was just nine months old her mother's death forced the family to move to Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly after her father's remarriage, Olivia came under the guardianship of her maternal aunt Maria Draper, whom she credited with having given her an education and preparing her for life. Her aunt's determination and endurance, Olivia believed, resulted from her Native American upbringing. Olivia graduated from Providence High School, where she was trained as a nurse and developed strong interests in drama and literature.

In 1889 Olivia married Frank Bush in Providence and soon gave birth to two daughters, but the couple divorced by 1895 From the end of the century ...

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Nathan L. Grant

Bush-Banks, Olivia Ward (27 February 1869–08 April 1944), writer, was born in Sag Harbor, New York, the daughter of Abraham Ward, probably a fisherman, and Eliza Draper, both members of the Montauk Indian tribe of Long Island and both also of African descent. When Olivia was nine months old her mother’s death forced the family to move to Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly after her father’s remarriage, Olivia came under the guardianship of her maternal aunt Maria Draper, whom she credited with having given her an education and a preparedness for life. Her aunt’s determination and endurance, Bush-Banks believed, was a result of her Native American upbringing. Olivia graduated from Providence High School, where she was trained as a nurse and developed strong interests in drama and literature.

In 1889 Olivia married Frank Bush in Providence and soon gave birth to two daughters The marriage was ill fated ...