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Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

In 1982, Houston Baker wrote “[O]nce I had abandoned my graduate school plans to write definitive critiques of British Victorian literature and turned to black American literature, ‘cultural nationalism’ became the ideologically determined project in my intellectual life.” Thus, Baker began a groundbreaking career that would take him through the cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement, the post-structuralist and deconstructionist discourse of the 1980s, and black feminist criticism in the 1990s to studies of masculinity, rap, and the Academy. With works like Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory, Baker shaped black aesthetic discourse, becoming one of the most incisive theorists of African American literature and culture.

Born in 1943, Houston Baker was educated at Howard University (BA in 1965) and the University of California–Los Angeles, where he received his PhD in 1968 He has taught at Cornell Yale Duke ...

Article

Michael Awkward

In an October 1985Pennsylvania Gazette profile, Houston A. Baker, Jr., speaks of his intellectual journey from graduate studies in late-Victorian literature to the then relatively uncharted field of African American literature as “a great awakening and a conversion experience rolled into one.” Baker's blues journey home has resulted in the field's richest, most consistently probing body of work, and has established him as one of a handful of preeminent scholars of American literature to have emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement struggles of the 1960s.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Baker matriculated at Howard University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and then earned a PhD in English at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1968. After brief stints at Yale University, the site of his conversion, and the University of Virginia, Baker moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 ...

Article

Antonio López

was born Lourdes Emilia de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, on 5 April 1938. Her family was of African, Spanish, and Chinese descent. Her father, Pedro Casal, was a doctor and dentist, her mother, Emilia Valdés, a teacher.

Casal attended the Universidad de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, a Catholic university in Havana. Her interests soon turned to writing and psychology. She participated in the Catholic ranks of the revolutionary movement, which culminated in the 1959 Cuban Revolution. By 1962 however she opposed the new revolutionary state She then traveled to Africa and in a major move settled in New York City becoming a citizen of the United States This inaugurated Casal s career as an Afro Latina protagonist in Cuban American culture and politics that fits into the arc of José Martí and Rafael Serra in the late nineteenth century and Rómulo Lachatañeré and Melba ...

Article

Jean Smith

educator best known as the “Dancehall Doctor” or “Patois Docta,” was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 20 November 1950. The eldest of three children born to Daniel George and Modesto Cooper, her mother taught at Rollington Town Primary and her father was both a tailor and an elder in the church. While growing up, she actively participated in the church as a youth leader and an organist. She credits her mother with encouraging her creative side and the church with developing her leadership skills. She learned about her Accompong Maroon heritage as an adult. Her interest in popular music began during her teenage years, when she found ska, rock steady, and reggae engrossing.

She attended St. Hugh’s High School in Kingston, graduating in 1968 and was awarded the Jamaica Scholarship which allowed her to pursue a B A in English literature at the University of the West Indies ...

Article

Gerald Early

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles. His father was a heroin addict and his mother a hard-working domestic who taught him to read before he entered school. Although Crouch attended both East Los Angeles Junior College and Southwest Junior College, he never earned a degree. In effect, he is an autodidact and his work reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the untrained intellectual. During the 1960s, Crouch became enamored of black nationalism and the theater. He was well known in black nationalist circles and was an actor, director, and playwright. He also was a drummer leading his own jazz combo during these days, recording an album with Impulse Records called Ain't No Ambulances for No Niggahs Tonight. In the 1970s, Crouch, deeply influenced by the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, began to distance himself from the black nationalists. In 1975 he moved to New ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Harold Wright Cruse moved with his father after his parents' separation to New York City, where he completed high school. After serving in the quartermaster division of the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York on the G.I. Bill, although he dropped out in his first year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Cruse worked at various part-time jobs and became an active participant in left-wing politics in Harlem, including joining the Communist Party, which he later rejected. He also wrote two plays and a musical during this period, and with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), established the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School in 1965.

Cruse's book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership was hailed by the New York Times as a mind ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

writer, editor, educator, artist, and intellectual, best known as a social critic. Cruse defined the relationships between African Americans and American society. His 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership energized activists intellectually, both within the United States and in a few black nations, and thus contributed to the roots of the so-called black revolution.

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Virginia; his father was a railroad porter. During Cruse's childhood his father and his stepmother divorced, and he was taken to New York to live with his father's sister in Queens. Before graduating from high school, Cruse was introduced to what remained of the Harlem Renaissance, to the country's radicalism of the 1930s, and to a lecture given by the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois all of which provoked his thinking about ...

Article

James E. Genova

was born on 28 March 1912 in Cayenne, French Guyana. He was the youngest of five children born to Ernest and Marie Aline Damas. His parents were both from French Guyana and of mixed ethnic ancestry. His father was of European and African descent and his mother was of Native American and African ancestry. Damas’s mother died shortly after his birth, and Ernest’s sister Gabrielle became the primary caregiver for the five children. In 1924 Damas’s father sent the young boy to Martinique to attend the Lycée Victor Schoelcher. The move to Martinique had a profound impact on the young Damas. While there he developed a lifelong friendship with his classmate Aimé Césaire, and the two became interested in poetry as well as the race question in the context of the French colonial empire. Upon graduation in 1929 Damas went to Paris to complete his higher education pursuing a ...

Article

Daniel J. Martin

Born in Philadelphia, Gerald Early earned degrees from University of Pennsylvania (BA 1974) and Cornell University (MA 1980, PhD 1982). He is the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and a former director of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. His first essay collection, Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (1989), treats cultural topics such as politics, Miss America, boxing, and jazz. The relevance of popular culture for Early comes from its connection to the marginalized in American society and from the enormous creative involvement of African Americans in it. Through popular culture, musicians, sports figures, and writers have at once asserted and subverted the language and symbolism of mainstream culture. Early notes how the appropriation of white discourse cast two of his literary forebears, Frederick Douglass and Zora NealeHurston into the double role of criticizing dominant culture while ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Stuart Hall, a founder of the New Left and of the interdisciplinary field known as cultural studies, has devoted his career to developing a framework for understanding issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural practice and their practical relationship to contemporary British politics.

Hall was born to upwardly mobile middle-class parents in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1951 he won a Rhodes scholarship to Merton College at Oxford University, which he has called “the hub, the motor, that creates Englishness.” He earned a doctoral degree in American literature.

During the 1950s Hall became involved in West Indian and socialist politics. He was a founding member of the New Left Club and its publication Universities and Left Review. This journal merged with social historian E. P. Thompson's The New Reasoner in 1959 and became the New Left Review Hall was its first editor In this journal Hall challenged the failure ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Merle Hodge is one of the best-known Caribbean women writers. She was born and raised in Trinidad, and after graduating from high school in 1962 she received the Trinidad and Tobago Girls' Island Scholarship to study in England. There she received a B.A. degree in French from University College, London, in 1965, and an M.Phil degree in 1967. Her master's thesis was on the poetry of French Guianese Négritude writer Leon Damas, and she later wrote several more scholarly studies of his work.

After graduation Hodge spent several years working as a baby-sitter and a typist as she traveled across Europe, and during her travels she completed her first novel. Crick Crack, Monkey (1970 tells the story of Tee a young girl who is forced to choose between her mother s family and her father s after her mother s death The choice is ...

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 ...

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 ...

Article

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

Kizito Muchemwa

Zimbabwean essayist, novelist, poet, editor, translator, writer-in-residence, visiting lecturer, and cultural critic, was born to Ruvaro Muza Hove, a farmer, and Jessie Hove, his wife, in rural Mazvihwa, Zvishavane, a linguistic and ethnic buffer zone in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. Hove’s father, a local chief, was a polygamist who brought the family into contact with colonial modernity. The family migrated in the 1960s to Copper Queen Gokwe a district that took in the colonially displaced from different parts of the country following the enactment of many laws dispossessing Africans of their land Hove s time in Mazvihwa and Gokwe explain the writer s ability to speak more than one local language a significant achievement in a racially and ethnically polarized country The aspects that have shaped the writer s sensibility are colonialism missionary education orature war and Zimbabwe s postindependence experience He escaped political persecution at home following ...

Article

Alessandra Benedicty

was born on 3 September 1958 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She grew up on the rue Carlstroem, which connects two main arteries of the city, Avenue John Brown and Avenue Lamartinière (also known as Bois-Verna). Her uncle owned the Eldorado cinema space, which showed mostly Italian and American Westerns, musicals, and French films. As a family member, she had unlimited free entry. Mars attended primary school with the Soeurs de St. Joseph de Cluny, in the center of Port-au-Prince, near her mother’s small souvenir shop; she attended secondary school at the Centre d’Études Secondaires, followed by accounting and secretarial school.

Mars began writing in her thirties, after a career in high-level administration, notably working for the Japanese Consulate in Port-au-Prince. She first wrote poetry and later prose fiction: novels and short stories. Her novels include Kasalé (2003), L’heure hybride (2005), Fado (2008), Saisons sauvages ...

Article

Kenneth Ombongi and Marcel Rutten

Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan academic, is an enigma. Many call him a pan-Arabist, pan-Africanist, or Muslim fundamentalist. In academia, he is a political historian, political scientist, philosopher, or commentator on diverse issues. However, there seems to be consensus that he is a prolific writer and an orator.

Mazrui is a creation of diverse influences and a creator of many ideas. In his achievements, he is a creation of countries other than his own. He was born 24 February 1933 in Mombasa, Kenya, and got his early education there. He has, however, spent his professional life outside Kenya. Educated at university in England and America, Mazrui’s achievements have been made and celebrated abroad. Whereas he started his scholarship career in Makerere University, in Uganda, he has achieved his intellectual prowess in the United States.

True, the Swahili culture constitutes Mazrui’s cultural roots but he is also Westernized Perhaps neither ...

Article

Ali A. Mazrui was born into the prominent Mazrui clan of Mombasa, which ruled the city during the eighteenth century. His father, Al’Amin Ali Mazrui, was chief Kadhi, Kenya's highest-ranking Islamic judge. After attending primary and secondary schools in Mombasa, he earned a B.A. from the University of Manchester in 1960. He earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1961 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1966.

While working on his dissertation, Mazrui began teaching political science in 1963 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Mazrui was named dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967, a position he held until 1973. An early favorite of Idi Amin, in 1971 Amin s first year in power Mazrui soon lost favor because of his outspokenness and was told to shut up or move out of Uganda ...