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Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean leader of anticolonial revolt against Italy and warlords from northern Ethiopia, and popular hero, was born in the town of Segeneity. The exact date of his birth is unknown: he was born between 1839 and 1850 into a rich peasant family. Bahta Hagos’s parents, Hagos Andu and Weizero Wonau, were agro-pastoralists who owned farmlands around Segeneity and in the eastern escarpments. As a young man, he became renowned for his physical strength as well as for his skills as a cattle herder. Like a majority of the people in Eritrea in colonial times, Bahta Hagos was converted from Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity to Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.

Bahta Hagos rose to prominence after he killed fitewrari Embaye, the son of Araya Selassie Demsu—the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV’s uncle and the governor of the Agame area in Tigray. After Embaye arrived at Segeneity in October 1875 he ordered that ...

Article

Solofo Randrianja

anticolonialist militant; general secretary of the French Section of the Madagascar Region Communist Party; political director; editor in chief of the journals L’Opinion, Le Réveil Malgache, L’Aurore malgache, L’Opinion de la nation Malgache, Le Prolétariat Malgache; and judicial counselor for the Departmental Union of the General Confederation of Labor was born 15 October 1876 in Simferopol, Russia. Dussac came from a colonial bourgeois family, despite the fact that his father was a communard. On his father's side his grandmother was descended from the Count of Villèle, minister to King Charles X. His maternal grandfather had been an engineer in the silver mines of the Ural Mountains and his maternal grandmother was a wealthy heiress from Coulommiers in north-central France. Dussac's father, however, was a fervent supporter of the French Republic and no doubt introduced him to the ideas of the Paris Commune of 1871 ...

Article

Françoise Vergès

writer, psychiatrist, and activist, was born on 20 July 1925 at Fort de France Martinique at the time a French colony The descendant of a slave of African origins Fanon was the fifth of eight children His parents who were of mixed heritage belonged to the urban middle class His father Félix Casimir Fanon worked in the French customs Eléanore Médélice his mother was a shopkeeper She was very proud of her Alsatian roots on an island where the hierarchy of color was very strong Both parents discouraged their children from speaking Creole and encouraged them to integrate into French culture Fanon studied at the elitist Lycée Schoelcher where he had Aimé Césaire as one of his teachers At eighteen Fanon joined the Free French army and was sent for army training to Algeria Fanon became disillusioned with the cause of freeing Europe from Nazism and wrote to his ...

Article

Biodun Jeyifo

Frantz Fanon is one of the preeminent thinkers of social revolution and human freedom of the twentieth century. Taking its roots in the contradictions of the colonial order, his thought matured into a comprehensive, intricate, and unique system that has achieved resonance well beyond the formal end of colonialism. The uniqueness of his thought is reflected in the appellation based on his name, “Fanonist.” To all scholars of modern African thought, Fanon has a central place in a genealogy of thinkers and statesmen that stretches from the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth-century modern, yet he clearly transcends geopolitical and regional discursive boundaries. His thought has inspired mass movements of workers, the unemployed, and the uneducated, while he is carefully and avidly studied in the most arcane disciplines and fields of academia.

Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, Fanon (1925–1961 went to France as a young man ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Fort-de-France on the island of Martinique into a conventional, bourgeois family, Frantz Fanon grew up with assimilationist values that encouraged him to reject his African heritage. This influence was countered by one of Fanon’s high school teachers, Aimé Césaire, who introduced Fanon to the philosophy of Négritude and taught him to embrace the aspects of self that the colonizer had previously forced him to reject. The encounter with Césaire proved to be a turning point in Fanon’s intellectual development. In 1940 following France s capitulation to the Germans in World War II the part of the French Navy that had declared its allegiance to the collaborationist Vichy regime began the occupation of Martinique As a result 5 000 French soldiers commandeered the resources of the island leaving the resident population to fend for itself It was in this context that Fanon first experienced the full force ...

Article

The son of slaves, Juan Gualberto Gómez was born in Santa Ana, Cuba. His parents bought his freedom, a practice allowed through manumission laws in Cuba. He was educated under the tutelage of mulatto (of African and European descent) poet Antonio Medina y Céspedes at a local religious school that was known to be a refuge for black children. Sensing that his racial background would limit his opportunities in Cuba, Gómez left the island in 1869 for Paris, France, where he studied the art of cabinetmaking and, later, engineering. Poverty soon forced him to leave his studies and pursue a career in journalism, a profession that would provide him with an outlet for expressing his political and social views.

Gómez's stay in Paris was a formative experience in his life. He became acquainted with various eminent members of Cuba's expatriate community, including separatists such as Vicente Aguilera ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...

Article

Norman O. Richmond

Black Panther known as one of the Soledad brothers and the author of a best-selling collection of letters written from prison. George Jackson was born in Chicago and spent his formative years in Southern California. He went to prison at age eighteen for a seventy-dollar robbery and spent a large part of the rest of his life behind bars. Jackson rose to be the leading prison intellectual of his time and during his incarceration became a member of the Black Panther Party. His two books, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970) and Blood in My Eye (1972), were international best sellers. The great Caribbean intellectual C. L. R. James (1901–1989) considered Jackson's letters to be “the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of Lenin” (Marable, p. 11).

Jackson wrote passionate letters ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

Tanzanian spirit medium, mganga (traditional doctor), political and military leader, and revolutionary, was likely born in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He was a central figure in the 1905 Maji Maji uprising against German colonial forces in southeastern Tanganyika. Most famously, Kinyikitile was responsible for the introduction of maji, or “water,” war medicine, which rendered the blessed impervious to bullets. The Maji Maji conflict itself, owing in no small part to its inclusion of different ethnic and linguistic groups at a very early date, has been the subject of intense interest by nationalist historians, and an appreciation of Kinjikitile’s significance to Tanzania must discern the extent to which he fits the role of proto-nationalist hero.

Kinjikitile may have found fertile ground for his teachings among turn of the century southern Tanganyikan peoples who generally concurred with his assertions of a kind of spiritual hierarchy including a creator ...

Article

Born in Basse-Terre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Paul Niger completed his primary schooling at the lycée Carnot. He then traveled to Paris, France, where he studied at lycée Louis-le-Grand and the École Nationale de la France d'outre-mer. While in Paris, Niger frequented the milieu of black intellectuals like Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor before the war. He also fought for the French resistance following the installation of the Nazi-supported Vichy regime. Niger subsequently began a career as a colonial administrator in Dahomey (now Benin), Mali, and Niger in 1944. This experience led him to an increasingly violent condemnation of French Colonialism. In turn, he celebrated a somewhat mythical, essentialized Africa in poems such as “Or j'avais renoncé à prononcer ton nom” (1959). Niger was a frequent contributor to the journal Présence Africaine in the postwar years. In 1954 he ...

Article

journalist, lawyer, politician, essayist, and Egypt’s most influential historian in the modern era, was a self-trained historian who forged, from scratch, a much-needed historical understanding in a highly nationalized era. The core of his work was comprised of a monumental historical corpus that offered a bird’s eye view of Egypt’s entire modern history. Written between 1929 and 1959, this work was instrumental in setting the basic parameters of modern historical understanding, for it answered basic questions such as where modern history began and accounted for the forces that propelled it.

Al-Rafiʿi was born in Cairo in 1889, to a middle-class Muslim family with strong connections to al-Azhar the leading academy in the Islamic world He belonged to the first urban generation to evince interest in modern education while simultaneously striving to maintain their Islamic culture Many of them were attracted to the study of law which provided ...

Article

The illegitimate son of a Portuguese priest and a mulatto woman, José da Natividade Saldanha was born in Santo Amaro de Jaboatão, Pernambuco, Brazil. He went to Portugal, the colonial power, to study law at Coimbra University. While in law school Saldanha wrote and published his first collection of poems, Poemas dedicadas aos amigos e amantes do Brasil (Poems Dedicated to the Friends and Lovers of Brazil, 1822).

As a poet marked by Arcadianism, the influential neoclassical movement prevailing in some circles in Portugal and Brazil, Saldanha emphasized national and liberal ideologies that included the idea of a Brazilian republic and the abolition of slavery. Upon returning to Brazil the poet joined the secessionist movements brewing in Pernambuco and became a member of the junta that declared the independence of the Republic of Ecuador from Portugal in 1824 Condemned to death after the failure of this ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

Mozambican nationalist, poet, and ideologue, was born on 20 May 1929 in Lumbo, Mozambique, the son of Firmindo dos Santos and Teresa Sabino (Sabina?) dos Santos. He grew up in Lourenço Marques (Maputo), capital of the Portuguese colony, in a politically active family and was sent to Portugal and France for higher education. In 1968 he married Pamela Beris; they had one daughter.

In Lisbon he made the acquaintance of other future political leaders of the then Portuguese African colonies and in 1950 helped Agostinho Neto, Amílcar Cabral, Mário de Andrade, and Francisco José Tenreiro form the clandestine Center for African Studies, an informal student discussion group in Lisbon in the cause of African nationalism. In Paris he studied political science and, throughout the 1950s, attended various youth festivals in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. He helped establish the Anticolonial Movement in 1957 and was instrumental in the ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

civil rights radical, broadcaster, and writer, was born in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina, the fourth of five children of John Williams, a railroad boiler washer, and Emma (Carter) Williams. In school Robert excelled at history, an interest encouraged by his grandmother, Ellen Williams, who passed on to the young boy tales of slavery and of the violent white supremacy campaigns of the 1890s. Ellen also passed on to Robert the rifle owned by his grandfather, Sikes Williams, who had been a prominent Republican Party activist and newspaper editor.

Even at an early age Robert understood the powerful sexual dynamics that shaped Southern race relations. One incident in particular from Robert's childhood haunted him. As an eleven-year-old he looked on in horror as Monroe's burly police chief, Jesse Helms Sr. the father of the U S senator dragged a black woman to ...