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Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

N. Gregson Davis

Aimé Césaire (1913–2008) was a major literary figure, statesman, and intellectual leader, both in the francophone Antilles and in the international arena, from the middle of the twentieth century. As a young social activist, he played a formative role in the articulation of the seminal concept of négritude, a neologism that he is credited with having invented. As literary artist he has achieved global recognition for his poetry and lyric drama in signal ways; for example, his lyric volume Corps Perdu (Lost Body) was published in a deluxe edition with illustrations by Pablo Picasso in 1950; several of his poetry collections won literary prizes in metropolitan France (e.g., the Prix René Laporte for Ferrements [1960], and the Grand Prix National de la Poésie for moi, laminaire … [1982]). La Tragédie du roi Christophe The Tragedy of King Christophe a play based ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Cited in Booklist as a “formidable feminist social and cultural critic,” bell hooks is widely known for her pioneering and provocative scholarship on racism and sexism in the United States. A prolific essayist and the author of nearly twenty books, she has written on a range of issues, including feminist politics and the representation of race in Film, Television, and advertising.

In a 1995 interview with Carl Posey of Essence magazine, hooks affirmed that “fundamentally, my life is committed to revolutionary Black liberation struggle, and I don't ever see Black liberation and feminism as being separate.” She has criticized both white, middle-class feminists and black liberation activists for neglecting women of color, and has encouraged African American women to “claim a critique of sexism” based on the black experience. Seeing class divisions among blacks as a principal obstacle to racial justice, she wrote, in her 1996 book Killing Rage ...

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Frances B. Henderson

Born in 1952, Gloria Watkins later changed her name to bell hooks. Raised in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, by working-class parents (her mother was a homemaker and her father a custodian), hooks is one of six children and an advocate of antiracist, antisexist, and anticapitalist “policies” (Daughters of Africa). hooks identified the struggles and the volatile relationship she witnessed between her parents during her childhood as products of American patriarchy and racism. This early view of relationships was a factor that influenced her perspective and writing on love and relationships, perspectives that she articulated in her later works such as Salvation: Black People and Love (2001) and Communion: The Female Search for Love (2002).

hooks s school experience also was saturated by the challenges of living in rural Kentucky an area facing the same issues around race and gender that American society at large faced ...

Article

Deborah G. Chay

With her first two books, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981) and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984 bell hooks born Gloria Watkins joined a generation of black feminists whose political perspective was explicitly forged in a consciousness of their marginality to the Black Power civil rights movement and feminist movement of the 1960s Unlike some of her contemporaries hooks did not feel that black women s double oppression warranted advocating a separate black feminist agenda but instead saw black women s special historical situation as relevant both for a feminist movement that had stumbled over its implicit class and race biases and for a black liberation movement that remained committed to the patriarchal values of the racist society it denounced Challenging feminist and antiracist movements to become accountable for the lives and experiences of black women hooks envisioned black feminism as ...

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Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

feminist theorist and author. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks was raised in the segregated South and was aware of racial, gender, and economic discrimination at an early age. Defying the odds, she earned a BA in 1973 from Stanford University in English, an MA in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in 1983 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. hooks's dissertation explored the ideas of Toni Morrison.

hooks began writing her first book, Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, when she was nineteen years old, and, after much revision, it was published in 1981 Since then her writing has explored themes including the experience of growing up black and female in America the creation of feminist ideals by which to evaluate culture observations on interracial relationships and race relations and discussions of love and spirituality ...

Article

Johnanna L. Grimes-Williams

Theophilus Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1891, attended public schools, and moved to New York City. He became a manual laborer and later a postal worker, a position that he retained until his retirement. It provided his livelihood during the Harlem Renaissance when he wrote the theater reviews in the Messenger, since he received no remuneration for his writing.

Lewis's theater columns, which appeared from 1923 to 1927, chronicled primarily African American stage productions presented in different venues from Harlem to Broadway at a critical stage in African American history. They also championed development of an African American little theater movement. In referring to such groups as the Ethiopian Art Theater, the Tri-Arts Club, the Krigwa Players (founded by W. E. B. Du Bois and the Aldridge Players Lewis reveals his understanding of their importance to the evolution of African American theater and drama ...

Article

Egyptian literary critic, journalist, lawyer, and politician, was born on 5 July 1907 in Kafr Mandur in central Minya al-Qamh to a large family (he had four brothers and four sisters). His father was a very religious man who was a member of a Sufi order, al-Triqah al-Naqshbandiyyah. Mandur was greatly influenced by his father‘s religious activity and placed a greater emphasis on his Islamic studies throughout his elementary education at the al-Alfi school.

The nationalist revolution of 1919 was a formative event in his early life He witnessed the demonstrations in Minya al Qamh including the violent one at Bahr Muys Bridge opposite the police headquarters The calls to get rid of the British and the revival of Egyptian national pride deeply influenced him His anti British sentiments grew following the British raid of his village after the villagers sabotaged the local railway During his high school studies ...

Article

Alan West

José Martí is one of the major figures of nineteenth-century Latin America. He is regarded by Cubans across the political spectrum as the father of Cuba's independence. His collected works span some twenty-eight volumes and include exquisite poetry, insightful essays on Whitman and Emerson, impassioned political analysis, and a remarkable book of children's literature, La edad de oro (1889).

While still an adolescent, Martí embraced the cause of Cuban independence, founding the newspaper La Patria Libre in 1869. He was imprisoned and then banished for writing a letter denouncing a Spanish fellow student. After 1871 Martí spent a great deal of his life outside of Cuba (Mexico, Guatemala, Spain), and most of the years between 1881 and 1895 in New York where he dedicated himself to the Cuban independence movement as a brilliant orator journalist fund raiser and political leader He ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

civil rights activist, educator, poet, literary critic, scholar, and writer, was born Gloria Jean Wade in Memphis, Tennessee, the older of two daughters born to Robert Wade, a gifted storyteller and Pullman porter, and Bertha Reese Willett. Though raised in the segregated South, Wade found a source of pride, courage, and comfort in the insulated African American community. Her mother, a former high-school valedictorian, understood the power of knowledge. The Wade home was replete with books on a variety of subjects. Bertha Wade would often engage her daughters on a range of topics, from politics to theology. Determined that her children succeed, she encouraged her daughters to academically excel in spite of a segregated school system. Like Bertha Reese Willett, Robert Wade stressed the importance of education Though the pair were never married and separated when Wade was a young child ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Walton, Lester A. (20 April 1882–16 October 1965), diplomat, journalist, civil rights activist, and theater producer, was born Lester Aglar Walton in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Benjamin A. Walton, Sr., and Olive May Camphor Walton. After graduation from Sumner High School, Walton began his career as a journalist at the Globe-Democrat. He worked as a court reporter, covered general stories, and wrote a column on golf for the St. Louis Star Sayings, later the St. Louis Star-Time, from 1902 to 1906. Walton was thus the first African American to write for a white daily, and he was an active member of the St. Louis Press Club. For a time he also wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, under Herbert Bayard Swope.

During these years Walton and Ernest Hogan a well known entertainer were copyrighting the words and music respectively ...