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Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.Bontemps then moved to Harlem, New York, where the Harlem Renaissance had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize from Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and The Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes, with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator. In Harlem, Bontemps also came to know Countée Cullen, W ...

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Robert E. Fleming

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.

Bontemps then moved to New York’s Harlem, where the “Harlem Renaissance” had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and the Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator In Harlem Bontemps also ...

Article

Philip Nanton

Britishwriter best known for his books The French Revolution (1837) and Frederick the Great (1858–65). Born in Scotland, and settling permanently in London in 1834, Carlyle was the author of many other works, including essays and articles in periodicals. Among these was his ‘Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question’, originally published in Fraser's Magazine (London) in December 1849, and later rewritten and republished as a pamphlet called Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question (1853) and in some of the collected editions of the author's Latter‐Day Pamphlets (first published 1850).

In form, the Occasional Discourse is an imaginary report of a speech by a fictional orator and it would be unwise to assume that everything in the speech should be regarded as identical with the personal opinions of Carlyle who may have deliberately exaggerated some elements for effect The speaker ...

Article

Chouki El Hamel

Tunisian writer, novelist, and major contributor to colonial and postcolonial studies, was born in Tunis, Tunisia, to a Jewish family of modest means. His father earned a meager income as a saddler, which was barely sufficient to provide for a household of eight children. Identity politics, shaped by the dynamics of the intervention of a foreign political force in the form of the French colonizing occupation, created a radical shift among autochthonous diverse groups. Although Jews were a minority in Tunisia, under Islamic rule they were granted a special status called dhimmi because they were considered “People of the Book.” This status allowed Jews to hold land, practice their religion, and maintain their cultural distinctness in exchange for poll taxes paid to the Muslim state.

Memmi became aware of class ethnic status and colonial hierarchy at an early age when he mingled with socially and ethnically diverse children at a ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Albert Memmi was born to a poor Jewish family in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. His position as a non-Muslim gave him some privilege in what was then a French protectorate, and as a young man he was educated at an exclusive French secondary school. Yet as a Jew from the ghetto and as a Tunisian, he suffered his own indignities. After Germany occupied Tunisia in 1942, Memmi was interned as a Jew in a forced-labor camp. Memmi used his intermediate position between the dominated majority and the dominating minority to gain insight into the social structure of colonization. “I know the colonizer from the inside almost as well as I know the colonized,” he would later write, reflecting on his background as a North African Jew.

In his autobiographical first novel La statue de sel 1953 The Pillar of Salt Memmi embarked on a discussion ...

Article

Grant Lilford

Lesotho novelist, editor, commentator, and entrepreneur, was born in 1877, in Khojane Village, Mafeteng, Lesotho, to Abner and Aleta Mofolo, both Christians. He was baptized in the church of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. His parents moved to the Qomoqomong valley shortly after his birth.

He attended a local school in Quthing and then worked for the Reverend Alfred Casalis, who recognized his enthusiasm and intelligence and sponsored his further studies for three years at the Mountain School in Morija. Mofolo then worked at the Morija Book Depot from 1899 before studying carpentry and becoming a teacher. He returned to the Book Depot and wrote Moeti oa Bochabela from 1905 to 1906. He left the Book Depot in 1910 to seek work in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and to work in Johannesburg, either in the mines or as a court interpreter. In 1912 he returned to Lesotho ...