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Article

Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born in the town of Hopelchén, Campeche, on 7 January 1892 to Francisco José Baqueiro and Teodosía Fóster. Probably of Mayan and not of African descent, he was a relative of the famous nineteenth-century Yucatecan musician Chan Chil (Cirilio Baqueiro Prevé). Baqueiro Fóster attended primary school in Hopelchén before moving to Mérida, Yucatán, to continue his education. He learned to play the guitar, mandolin, violin, oboe, and flute, his instrument of choice. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City, and the following year he enrolled at the National Conservatory, where he studied with the renowned musical theorist Julián Carrillo. He later married Eloisa Ruiz Carvalho (1925–1980), a music critic and educator.

Baqueiro Fóster began to make a name for himself during Mexico’s First National Congress of Music in 1926 With fellow Carrillo disciple Daniel Castañeda he argued that Mexican composers could study indigenous music more accurately ...

Article

Shivohn N. García

was born on 2 February 1899 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to Felipe Belpré and Carlota Nogueras. Belpré’s passion for stories and her desire to share the culture of Puerto Rico through storytelling and children’s literature can be traced to her childhood. In an unpublished autobiographical essay, she mused that “growing up on the island of Puerto Rico in an atmosphere of natural storytellers was fun: a father whose occupation took him all over the island; a grandmother whose stories always ended with a nonsense rhyme or song, setting feet to jump, skip, or dance; elder sisters who still remembered tales told by a mother; and finally, a stepmother whose literary taste was universal” (Pura Teresa Belpré Papers, hereafter PBP). As Belpré reached adulthood, Puerto Rico was undergoing a dramatic change: in 1917 the Jones Shafroth Act bestowed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans which triggered a migration from the island ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 22 November 1904 in Mexico City to José Covarrubias and Elena Duclaud. José was a civil engineer and government official who helped provide Miguel with access to Mexico’s cultural and intellectual elite. Miguel was born into a family with Spanish, French, and Mexican—but no African—ancestry. He had an elite education, attending the Horace Mann School and the Alberto Correo School in Mexico City. He married the dancer Rosa Rolando (née Rose Cowan, 1898–1870) on 24 April 1930. Although he never officially divorced her, he also married Rocío Sagaón in 1955.

Covarrubias started to draw caricatures as a child. Mexico City newspapers and cultural magazines began to publish them in 1920. With a little support from the Mexican state, Covarrubias left for New York City in the summer of 1923 Mexico s foremost cultural promoter in the United States José Juan Tablada helped ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

Article

Michael Flug

She was called “the Lieutenant” by some of her colleagues and a taskmaster by many of the young people who did their research at the Chicago Public Library branch she headed. Yet Vivian G. Harsh was revered by a generation of prominent black writers and scholars. She was eulogized as “the historian who never wrote,” yet she succeeded in building one of the most important research collections on black history and literature in the United States.

Vivian Gordon Harsh grew up in the world of Chicago’s Old Settlers, the tightly knit community of pioneer black families in the city. The year after she graduated from Wendell Phillips High School on Chicago’s South Side, Harsh began working for the only employer she would ever have, the Chicago Public Library. She started as a junior clerk in December 1909 rising slowly through the ranks during her first fifteen years of service ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Hoyte, Lenon (04 July 1905–01 August 1999), doll collector and art teacher was born Lenon Holder in New York City the oldest child of Moses Holder a carpenter and Rose Holder who sewed hats for infants for a Manhattan department store The family owned a house on 128th Street in Harlem and Hoyte attended public schools there It was a comfortable childhood but ironically the doll collector to be and her sister were forbidden to play with dolls when the younger girl after chewing on the hands of their dolls contracted lead poisoning Hoyte studied both art and education at the City College of New York earning a B S degree in 1937 and at Teacher s College of Columbia University She had private art teachers as well and she painted in media such as oil casein and watercolor In 1930 Hoyte was hired to teach in ...

Article

Richard Newman

Born into a middle-class family in Summerfield, Florida, Jean Blackwell Hutson was the second African American (following Zora Neale Hurston) to graduate from Barnard College, and the first to receive a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Library Service. She was married to Andy Razaf, the song lyricist who collaborated with Thomas “Fats” Waller, and then to John Hutson, a library security guard. Their adopted daughter, Jean, died in 1992.

Hutson joined the staff of the New York Public Library in 1936 and twelve years later was appointed head of its black collection, originally the private library of Afro–Puerto Rican bibliophile Arthur A. Schomburg, on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem Under her leadership the library s holdings grew from 15 000 books to its present collection of more than five million separately catalogued items including manuscripts music art photographs and ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

librarian. Hutson was born three months prematurely in Summerfield, Florida, the only child of Paul O. Blackwell, a commission merchant, and Sarah Myers Blackwell, an elementary school teacher. Moving with her mother to Baltimore at age four, young Jean suffered from allergies, anemia, and rheumatism. Precocious, she loved reading and graduated from high school as valedictorian at age fifteen. She enrolled at the University of Michigan, planning to study psychiatry, but the Great Depression intervened, and she transferred to Barnard College in New York City, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1935. In 1936 she was the first black person to earn a master of arts degree at the Columbia University School of Library Service, having decided on a more practical occupation with a shorter training period. In 1941 she also received teacher certification from Columbia.

Jean Blackwell worked briefly at a high school in ...

Article

Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Beatrice Murphy lived most of her life in Washington, D.C. In 1928 she graduated from Dunbar High School and published her first poem. From 1933 to 1935 she was a columnist and for the next two years an editor at the Washington Tribune. Converting to Catholicism in 1938, she also became book review editor that year for the Afro-American and published her first poetry anthology, Negro Voices. She was also a secretary at Catholic University and part owner of a circulating library and stenography shop. She became a regular columnist for the Associated Negro Press and contributed poetry and reviews to numerous serials and collections. In the 1940s and 1950s she worked for the Office of Price Administration and then the Veterans Administration. In 1954 she was suspended without pay from her job as procurement clerk for supposedly having joined a subversive ...

Article

María de Lourdes Ghidoli

of his family since slavery, was born in the city of La Plata in the province of Buenos Aires in 1928. He was the son of Tomás Nemesio Platero, a historian of African descent, and Ana Francisca Prola, of Italian descent, who had five other children: Ana María, Rodolfo, Sara, María Isabel, Susana and Carmen. He was also the grandchild of Tomás Braulio Platero, a prestigious notary and one of the first African-descended people to obtain a university degree in Argentina. At the end of the 1950s Platero married his first wife, Dalila Manganiello. From this first marriage he had at least three children, two of whom survived him. His second wife, Marta Susana Gutiérrez, died in 2008 and was the library director of the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina.

For the Platero family it was essential that their sons and daughters attend university This emphasis ...

Article

Courtney L. Young

pioneer of librarianship in African American history and studies in the United States. Born in Warrenton, Virginia, Dorothy Louise Burnett was the daughter of a doctor and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. She married James Porter in 1929; he died in 1970, and she married Charles H. Wesley in 1979.

Burnett received her AB from Howard in 1928 and received both her bachelor's (1931) and master's (1932) degrees in library science from Columbia University, where she was the first African American to earn a library degree. In 1930 she was appointed librarian for the Negro Collection at Howard University, and she served there as the African American studies librarian until 1973. The collection began with a 1914 gift from the minister and Howard alumnus Jesse E. Moorland three thousand items on African Americans and slavery known as A Library of ...

Article

SallyAnn H. Ferguson

In the introduction to Richard Newman's Black Access: A Bibliography of Afro-American Bibliographies (1984), Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley writes that her appointment in 1930 as “librarian in charge of the Negro Collection” at Howard University Library in Washington, D.C., was the turning point in her life. She had recently been one of the first two African Americans to receive the master's degree in library science from Columbia University. In accepting the Howard position, she brought the energy and intelligence necessary to make what would become the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center the renowned repository it is today. She has spent nearly six decades collecting, cataloging, and writing about the works of African Americans, Africans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans, West Indians, and people of African descent living in the Spanish-speaking countries of South America. Moreover, her own scholarly publications about African American culture and people provide further evidence of her resourcefulness.

In ...

Article

Rita B. Dandridge

A multitalented professional, Ann Allen Shockley has contributed to various fields, yet her contributions as writer remain invisible to much of America.

Born 21 June 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, Shockley is the only daughter of Henry and Bessie Lucas Allen, both social workers. To her parents and a devoted eighth-grade teacher, she has attributed her insatiable desire to read and write. She edited her junior high school newspaper, wrote short pieces in the Louisville Defender, and penned essays and short fiction for the Fisk Herald while an undergraduate at Fisk University (1944–1948)—all before her twenty-first birthday. These early pieces show Shockley's interest in social and cultural issues.

In 1949 Shockley began a weekly column called “Ebony Topics” for the Federalsburg Times (Md.). From 1950 to 1953 she penned a similar column for the Bridgeville News, in Bridgeville, Delaware, where she resided with her husband, William ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

the fifth of the seven children of Marion and Jennie Simpson. His father was a porter for a railroad, and later read water meters for a living; there is no record of his mother working outside the home.

Simpson was kept out of school until 5th grade by repeated bouts with diphtheria and rheumatic fever. He was tutored by his sisters and brothers, and when physically able, spent a good deal of time at the Diamond Jenkins orphanage. He still had his family, but Jenkins was a center of music, particularly jazz, where many residents developing their skills turned out to be future professionals, including Cat Anderson Pinkett and Freddie Green Basie In high school he played tenor saxophone clarinet and flute Spending a good deal of time drawing cartoons and painting Simpson was taught from the age of 13 by local art gallery owner William Halsey who ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Henry Proctor Slaughter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Jane Smith and Charles Henry Slaughter. When he was six years old his father died, leaving his mother with two boys and a girl. He sold newspapers to help support his mother, and as he worked his way through school he became the main support of his family. After graduating as salutatorian from Central High School, he served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Louisville Champion. There he became associate editor with Horace Morris, who in 1894 was deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of Kentucky. Slaughter also began to write feature articles for local daily newspapers.

By 1893 Slaughter was foreman of Champion Publishing Company, and in 1894 he became associate editor of the Lexington Standard. Shortly afterward, as manager of the Standard he was described as making ...

Article

Barbara McCaskill

and muse and confidante to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and literati. Anne Spencer was born inauspiciously on a Virginia plantation. Yet the combination of loving, though irreconcilable, parents and an unorthodox, isolated youth formed her extraordinary independence, introspection, and conviction.

Her father, Joel Cephus Bannister of African American white and Native American descent and her mother Sarah Louise Scales the mulatta daughter of a slaveholder separated when Spencer was six While her mother worked as an itinerant cook Spencer roomed with foster parents in Bramwell West Virginia where no other black children lived In insular and parochial Bramwell she was groomed for the African American bourgeoisie Her mother dressed her in the finest frocks she could afford and withheld her from an outlying school that enrolled working class children until she could attend Lynchburg s Virginia Seminary with socially suitable African American students Spencer entered the seminary at age eleven ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Annie Bethel Bannister was born in Henry County, Virginia. She spent her early years with a foster family while her mother, Sarah Scales, separated from her husband Joel Bannister, worked nearby as a cook. At age eleven she began formal schooling in the Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg under the name Annie Scales. With her first poem “The Skeptic” (1896), Scales revealed the independent thinking that would characterize her life and work. She graduated in 1899, taught for two years in West Virginia, and then returned to Lynchburg to marry Edward Spencer and raise their children Bethel Calloway, Alroy Sarah, and Chauncey Edward.

During this time Spencer cultivated her poetry as well as her famous garden. When National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activist James Weldon Johnson visited her in 1917 he convinced her that she ought ...

Article

Dora Jean Ashe

Spencer, Anne (06 February 1882–27 July 1975), poet, librarian, and teacher, was born Annie Bethel Scales Bannister in Henry County, near Danville, Virginia, the daughter of Joel Cephus Bannister, a former slave and saloon owner, and Sarah Louise Scales. The only child of divorced parents, at the age of eleven Annie was sent to Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, where she excelled in literature and languages. After graduating in 1899 she taught for two years, then in 1901 married fellow student Edward Spencer and lived the rest of her life in Lynchburg.

Outwardly it was a pleasant life that Spencer spent with her husband, a postal worker, and their three children in a comfortable house built in part by Edward. For twenty years (1925–1945) Anne Spencer was a librarian and part-time teacher of literature and language at the all-black Dunbar High School, named for the poet Paul Laurence ...

Article

Historian and author of several hundred articles and books, Dorothy Porter Wesley is best known for her work as a librarian. At the age of twenty-five, she was the first to consolidate Howard University's materials by and about African Americans toward building the renowned Moorland-Spingarn Research Center; the rest of her life was spent organizing and making accessible the major archive of black history and culture.

Dorothy Burnett was born in Warrenton, Virginia, and educated in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and later at Howard University. She married James Amos Porter, the painter and historian, in 1929, and in 1932, she became the first African American woman to receive a master's degree in library sciences from Columbia University. She returned to Howard to serve as curator of the collection, a position she held until 1973 following her retirement and the death of her first husband ...