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Moroccan female scribe, jurisprudent, and scholar, was a well-known inhabitant of nineteenth-century Tetouan. Her full name was Amina bint al-Hajj ʿAbd al-Latif ibn Ahmad al-Hajjaj.

Morocco had a long tradition of manuscript production, rivaled only by Egypt. Manuscripts in Arabic were created and copied there from the eighth down to the nineteenth centuries, when the arrival of lithography and machine printing virtually put an end to the professional scribe. Although the profession of scribe was normally the province of men in most parts of the Islamic world, in the western parts—Spain and North Africa—women played an important role. In the tenth century there were said to be a thousand women scribes in Cordova who were engaged in copying out Qurʾans. The names of some of these scribes are known, but little other information about them is available.

However in a few cases we do have more information about women scribes ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

spent his childhood and early adulthood in Pennsylvania, and may have been born in Philadelphia. Various censuses suggest his year of birth may have been 1818, 1820, or 1824, but a likely 1850 census entry shows his age as thirty-two.

Anderson’s parents have yet to be identified, and little is known about his life growing up in Pennsylvania. Contemporary accounts in California refer to him having worked as a waiter, and a Peter Anderson referenced as mulatto, who worked as a waiter, was recorded in the 1850 federal census living in Philadelphia’s Spruce Ward. Living with him were a woman named Mary Anderson—possibly his wife, or maybe his sister—two boys named Peter and George Anderson, and an unidentified nineteen-year-old named Elizabeth Purnell.

Anderson arrived in California in 1854, as the Gold Rush of 1849 was declining and established a tailor shop described in some directories ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

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Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

Article

Roy Bridges

also known as Dallington Scorpion Muftawa, a scribe and adviser to Muteesa I, the kabaka (king) of Buganda (in present-day Uganda) in the late 1870s, was a freed slave whose date of birth and parentage are unknown. Dallington was a Nyasa from near the eastern shore of Lake Malawi. Like many others in this region, he was taken into slavery by Yao or Swahili traders, marched to the coast, and put in a dhow for transport to Arabia or another part of East Africa. His fate, however, was to be rescued by the British anti–slave trade patrol vessel HMS Daphne and to be assigned to the care of the Anglican Universities Mission to Central Africa which had opened a school for freed slaves at Kiungani outside Zanzibar City Converted to Christianity he became known as Dallington which was probably a corruption of the name of one of the missionaries the ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave, shoemaker, and pastor, was born in Madison County, Virginia, to John and Jane Davis, slaves belonging to Robert Patten, a wealthy merchant and mill owner. Both of Davis's parents were devout Baptists who instilled in Davis a strong relationship to the church.

By Davis's account, Patten was a comparatively fair master who valued his slaves and who accorded John Davis many privileges, among them the ability to raise livestock and to keep his children with him until they were old enough to go into trade. John Davis was the head miller at Patten's merchant mill located on Crooked Run, a stream between Madison and Culpeper County. He was able to read and figure, but he could not write.

When Noah Davis was about twelve Patten sold his mill and emancipated Davis s mother and father Davis s family moved to one of Patten ...

Article

Sheila Hassell Hughes

Born in Chicago in 1932, Ronald L. Fair began writing as a teenager. After graduating from public school in Chicago, Fair spent three years in the U.S. Navy (1950–1953) before attending a Chicago stenotype school for two years. While supporting himself as a court reporter and stenographer for the next decade (1955–1966), he produced his first two novels. After then working briefly as an encyclopedia writer, Fair taught for a few years—at Columbia College (1967–1968), Northwestern University (1968), and Wesleyan University (1969–1970). Fair moved to Finland in 1971 and has lived in Europe since that time. He is divorced and has three children.

Ronald Fair's first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable (1965), both fantastic tale and “protest novel,” is a satiric re-vision of the South, where, in the mythical Jacobs County slaves were never ...

Article

Trevor Hall

including the Voyages of Marco Polo, who lived in Lisbon, Portugal from 1494 until his death around 1519. There are no data about his parents, siblings, or wife. He is said to have lived in Seville, prior to settling in Lisbon. His reason for renown is his printing and publication of fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century manuscripts about West Africa, the early Atlantic slave trade, and the first Portuguese maritime expeditions and interactions with black Africans. Although there is no information about Fernandes interacting with the thousands of free and enslaved Africans who lived in Lisbon, he could easily have spoken to Africans if he were so inclined.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Fernandes printed and published his compendium O Manuscrito Valentim Fernandes, containing The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea by the Portuguese royal chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara who described the ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

singer, dancer, ventriloquist, and junk merchant, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, on the eve of the Civil War. To date, questions remain about Harmon's real name, parents, siblings, if any, and childhood. In addition, there appears to be no documentation about his years as a performer. The available information indicates that he worked in show business as a singer, dancer, and ventriloquist. Essentially, he was a well-rounded entertainer who had many talents and a knack for the stage. Harmon was married and had two children; however, the names of his wife and children are not readily available. When Harmon was around 38 and 39, his wife and children died from influenza in 1898–1899, during the Spanish American War. Harmon then moved to Harlem and lived in a two-room apartment.

Around 1910 Harmon having left the stage began a new career with a small cart and a ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

newspaper editor, businessman, and politician, was born in Marion, Alabama. Nothing is known of his parents. He was sent to a primary school, and he later attended the state normal school in his hometown and Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. At age twenty he married Lillie A. Jones of Marion, and they had two children. At age twenty-six he became editor of the Mobile State Republican, and between 1894 and 1907 he edited the Mobile Weekly Press, described by Booker T. Washington as a “thoughtful Negro journal.”

In his editorials, Johnson attempted to put the best cast on racial conditions and outwardly expressed optimism about the future for African Americans in the South. At other times, however, as when the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901 disfranchised blacks he was less optimistic Whites he said then had made a mockery of popular democracy His editorials ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Schroeder

journalist, businessman, military leader, and diplomat, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Richard and Eliza (Brown) Jones. Richard Lee Jones, also known as Dick Jones, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family at fifteen saying

In the South, I was not the submissive kind, but I learned respect for authority. Many Negroes have not learned that yet. They come up here and try to run away with the town. I had no trouble in the South. I avoided trouble. If you see a nail, why sit on it? Much trouble could be avoided by Negroes in the South if they tried to. Get me straight! I am not for conditions down there. They are bad, but could be bettered.”

(Wilson, “Interview with Dick Jones, Manager of South Center,” Negro in Illinois Papers)

He attended the University of Cincinnati from 1912 to 1915 and later abandoned his law ...

Article

Lisa K. Thompson

writer, educator, professional speaker. Marilyn Willingham was born in Toledo, Ohio, but moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1955 with Jimmie Kern, a housepainter, and Manella Kern, a schoolteacher, who adopted her six years later. The couple had raised ten children of their own (their youngest child was a junior in high school) when they began caring for Marilyn. A very ambitious and high achieving student at Tipton Street High School, Kern hosted a radio program and served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Tipton Gazette. In 1971, Kern and a white student delivered valedictory addresses, after her senior class was forced by a Supreme Court order to integrate the city's white school.

Kern enrolled at Jackson State University (JSU) in August 1971 after receiving a four year scholarship Her mother feared for her daughter s safety after the Mississippi State Guard ...

Article

Krotoa  

Julia Wells

Khoikhoi interpreter and trader at the first Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape of Good Hope (present-day South Africa), was also known as Eva. Nothing is known of her parents or place of birth, except that her mother lived with a neighboring clan and showed hostility toward Krotoa, who was separated from her sister in infancy. When the Dutch landed on 7 April 1652, Krotoa lived with her uncle, Autshumao, leader of the Goringhaicona people. For several decades, Autshumao ran a postal service for passing ships of various countries. His people lived in the Table Bay area as hunter-gatherers of shellfish, in contrast to neighboring Khoikhoi groups who were itinerant pastoralists. When the Dutch landed and started to construct buildings, the Goringhaicona lived next door and often worked for tobacco, food, and drink.

From roughly the age of twelve Krotoa lived in the household of Jan Van ...

Article

Cynthia Current

entrepreneur, abolitionist lecturer, and autobiographer, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the only child of Clarissa Haywood and Edward Lane. Clarissa Haywood was the slave of Sherwood Haywood, an agent for the Bank of Newburn and clerk of the North Carolina State Senate from 1786 to 1798. Edward Lane belonged to John Haywood, the brother of Sherwood Haywood, and though manumitted at the death of John, circa 1830, continued to serve the family as a steward for fourteen years. As a slave, Lunsford Lane was fortunate to be raised by both of his parents who were certainly models for what Lane would later achieve in his life.

About the time that Lane became emotionally aware of his enslaved state when set to work at the age of ten or eleven he recalls that his father gave him a basket of peaches ...

Article

Barbara Kraley Youel

bookseller and black nationalist, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Henry Michaux and Blanche Pollard. Some uncertainty about his birth date exists because his death certificate from the New York Vital Records Department lists it as 23 August 1884. Before coming to New York, Michaux worked variously as a pea picker, window washer, and deacon in the Philadelphia, church of his brother, Lightfoot Solomon Michaux. According to Edith Glover, his secretary when he was a deacon, Michaux started selling books in Philadelphia with an inventory of five. When he founded his bookstore in 1932 in Harlem, he still had only a few books with him, including Up from Slavery, plus a bust of its author, Booker T. Washington. Michaux initially sold books from a wagon, then moved to a store on Seventh Avenue (later renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard ...

Article

Sandy Dwayne Martin

shoemaker, newspaper publisher, clergyperson, denominational leader and organizer, business leader, and political activist, was born the eighth of ten children to James and Cora Cornelia Morris near Spring Place in Murray County, Georgia, as a slave. On 24 November 1884 Morris married Fannie E. Austin of Alabama; they had five children. His father, James, came to Alabama from North Carolina in 1850. The father, relatively educated for the time, practiced a trade in town and visited the farm twice weekly, during which time he taught his family reading and writing in preparation for their eventual freedom. Elias augmented this home training by attending schools between 1864 and 1875 in Dalton, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Stevenson, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee (the school that eventually became Roger Williams University). Converted in 1874 he was also licensed to preach by a Baptist church the same year ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

bandleader, pianist, and columnist, was born in Louisiana. Details of his birth and family life are unknown. Peyton was a member of the clarinetist Wilbur Sweatman's trio in Chicago from about 1908 to 1912, when he became the music director at the Grand Theater. In 1914 he founded his own symphony orchestra of about fifty instrumentalists; they gave monthly concerts. On 29 October 1924 he opened the Plantation Cafe as the leader of the Symphonic Syncopators. They played for dancing and for musical revues, the latter including the show Plantation Follie. Peyton wrote the music for some of these shows. The reed player Darnell Howard played with Peyton's fifteen-piece Symphonic Syncopators, and in November the cornetist King Oliver joined Oliver s purpose may have been to ingratiate himself with the management and take over Peyton s job If so he succeeded this episode might ...

Article

Wafik Nasry

also known as Abu al-Bishr ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, the Egyptian Scribe, is celebrated as the first Coptic scribe to write theology in Arabic. The dates of his birth and death are currently unknown. However, scholars assign the year 905 as his approximate birth date and estimate his death around the ripe age of eighty. Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ was a prolific writer; in fact, the certain known dates in his life are all related to three of his compositions, namely his commentary on the Gospels Tafsir al-Amanah (Commentary on the Trust) in 950, which he lost, and then the rewriting of the same commentary in 955; finally in 987 he helped compose a letter to the Syrian Patriarch. All other dates are given as educated hypotheses.

Sawirus grew up in Old Cairo Egypt before the foundation of modern Cairo by the Fatimid caliphs As a young man Sawirus distinguished himself as a ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer and preacher, was born in Northern Neck, Northumberland County, Virginia, to Rachel and Charles, on the property of Thomas Langdon, on which they were enslaved. Over the course of her life, Smith s mother gave birth to eleven children and labored as a cotton spinner His father managed the Lancaster County plantation his owner had acquired through inheritance When Smith was a young boy he was injured while carrying lumber and remained crippled for his entire life because his owner did not think Smith s life was worth enough to call a doctor As a result of his disability Smith worked in the house with the women knitting and carding Later in his life he was apprenticed to a shoemaker which proved to be the source of his livelihood in all the places he settled For a brief time Smith was hired out to a ...