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Alice Drum

journalist, music critic, and novelist, was born in Los Angeles to James Crouch, an absentee father, and Emma Bea Crouch, a domestic worker. Crouch's early education was in the Los Angeles public schools, where he was a highly successful student. Crouch began writing stories at the age of eight, read widely in the classics from his early years in secondary school, and was active in the civil rights movement in junior high school.

After graduation from high school Crouch attended several California junior colleges. At East Los Angeles Junior College he became involved in a poverty program in which he taught a literacy class. Witnessing the Watts riots in 1965 made Crouch even more of an activist, and he became a Black Nationalist—although he would in short time come to oppose the movement. From 1965 to 1967 Crouch was an actor and playwright at Studio Watts and ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

writer and educator, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, to parents about whom little is known but who were only briefly married before Harold's father took his young son to New York City during the black migration to the North. The elder Cruse found work as a custodian with the Long Island Railroad; however, he soon realized the he could not care for a small child alone and placed Harold with a foster family in Queens. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s his foster mother, Aunt Henrietta, instilled a love for the black theater in the young Harold, frequently taking him to performances. With the coming of the Depression the family lost their home and was forced to move into an apartment in Harlem, where Cruse became more deeply immersed in black culture. There he would witness performances by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson, and Florence ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Patrick Chura

essayist, professor, and cultural critic, was born Gerald Lyn Early in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of Henry Early and Florence Fernandez Early. Gerald's father died when he was nine months old. His mother, who never finished high school but whose practical wisdom shaped Gerald's character, worked as a school crossing guard and a teacher's aide.

Growing up without a father in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood, Early found a role model in Lloyd Richard King, his fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in an all-black Philadelphia public school. King was a dedicated and inspirational instructor who believed that Early would do great things. During a period when there were few African American male elementary school teachers, King became a father figure and strong influence.

Early's initial inclinations toward literature were fostered by his two older sisters—Rosalind and Lenora both English majors at Temple University who ...

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Jason Philip Miller

radio personality and conservative pundit, was born Laurence Allen Elder, the middle of three sons of Randolph Elder, who owned a local café, and Viola Elder. The family called the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles home, and it was in Los Angeles that the young Elder attended school. Both his father and mother placed a heavy emphasis on education and hard work. Elder's father had scrimped and saved and faced years of prejudice before being able to open his own business. Elder's mother urged her son to pursue a life of education. Elder took their lessons to heart, graduating from Crenshaw High in 1970 near the top of his class and matriculating to Brown University. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science in 1974. He continued his education at the University of Michigan Law School, from which he earned the J.D. in 1977 ...

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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

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

Yusuf Nuruddin

political scientist and public intellectual, was born Martin Luther Kilson Jr. in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the son of Martin Luther Kilson, a Methodist clergyman, and Louisa Laws Kilson. Kilson was raised in Ambler, Pennsylvania, a small factory town outside Philadelphia, where his great-grandfather, a Civil War Colored Infantry Regiment veteran, had settled after the war.

Ambler, a major producer of asbestos textiles, had a small black population and the few black townspeople were generally treated well by the local whites. Kilson experienced little or no overt bigotry during his childhood and adolescence, but he did become aware of structural racism, as his father ministered to Ambler's small black, and mostly poor community. In 1949 Kilson left Ambler for Lincoln University the nation s oldest historically black university located in nearby Chester County Pennsylvania There he was influenced by the Negritude movement which had captured the ...

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Debbie Clare Olson

filmmaker, producer, director, playwright, writer, and cultural critic, was born in Newark, New Jersey, but spent most of his childhood in North Carolina. Little is known about his family. After high school, Moss moved to Baltimore and attended Morgan State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1929. He also attended Columbia University in New York City, where he formed a troupe of black actors called “Toward a Black Theater.” The troupe toured around New York City and performed at various black colleges.

Moss was active in the theater and radio and acted in his first film, The Phantom of Kenwood, in 1933. The film was directed by Oscar Micheaux, one of the more prolific early black filmmakers. Between 1932 and 1933 Moss wrote three dramas—“Careless Love,” “Folks from Dixie,” and “Noah”—for a radio series called The Negro Hour ...

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Ann Hostetler

poet, critic, and essayist, was born in Florence, Alabama, to James Otis, a social worker and administrator, and Avis Ann Mullen, a teacher. Her parents, originally from Pennsylvania, met at Talledega College in Alabama. When Mullen was three her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where she grew up in a religious Baptist household that valued reading and family. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were Baptist ministers. When she was eleven years old, her family moved into a white neighborhood in a still-segregated Fort Worth and experienced the extreme reactions of the neighbors. In an interview with Calvin Bedient Mullen commented on the multiple cultures and discourses that intersected in her daily life and the ways in which that multiplicity shaped her poetry My text is deliberately a multi voiced text a text that tries to express the actual diversity of my own experience living ...

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Steven J. Niven

writer and critic, was born in Nokomis, Alabama, the son of Sudie Graham, a Tuskegee Institute student, and John Young, a businessman. Soon after his birth Mattie Murray, a housewife, and her husband, Hugh, a laborer and timber worker, adopted him. Murray, who later enjoyed a close relationship with Graham and Young, joked of his adoption by less-wealthy parents, “It's just like the prince left among the paupers” (Gates, 30). He learned about the folkways of segregation in Magazine Point, a community on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, where his family had moved during World War I. “We didn't dislike white people,” he recalled. “We saw too many bony-butt poor white crackers. We were going to feel inferior to them?” (Maguire, 139). Murray's rejection of any notion of black inferiority was further strengthened by exposure to Mobile's baseball legend Satchel Paige and ...

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Albert Murray's contribution to African American literature has established the value and importance of the blues idiom as the basis for approaching life as an African American. Whether writing fiction, social essays, book reviews, memoirs, aesthetic theory, or music criticism, Murray performs like the best-trained jazz musician. In his essays, Murray turns the basic beliefs of “social science fiction” inside out, exposing and playing on their assumptions just as Billie Holidaycreated soul-stirring art out of trite popular tunes. In his fiction, Murray draws from the modernism of Thomas Mann, James Joyce, and William Faulkner in order to interpret the basic raw materials of growing up African American in the South, creating a style as innovative as the harmonically and rhythmically complex improvisations of Charlie Parker. When his career is examined as a whole, Albert Murray seems similar to Duke Ellington a modern composer for the ...

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Denell Marsh

writer, essayist, and critic whose works discuss the aesthetics of blues and the influence of blacks in American culture and tradition. Born in Nokomis, Alabama, Albert Lee Murray was adopted as a newborn by Hugh and Mattie Murray after his unwed mother became pregnant while enrolled at Tuskegee Institute. Shortly after his adoption, the family moved to Magazine Point, Alabama. Murray attended Tuskegee, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1939, and New York University, from which he earned a master's degree in 1948. In 1943 he entered the U.S. Air Force; he eventually retired as a major in 1962.

After retiring from the air force, Murray began his writing career. Murray's works provide a critique of blues, jazz, and American culture and identify blues as an “aesthetic form of American life.” His first work, The Omni Americans New Perspectives on Black Experience and ...

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Eva Stahl Brown

Albert L. Murray was born in Nokomis, Alabama, and adopted by Albert Lee Murray and his wife, Mattie James Murray. He grew up in Magazine Point, outside of Mobile. Often characterized as a member of the “Talented Tenth,” Murray excelled academically and won a scholarship to Tuskegee Institute in 1935. Following his graduate study at the University of Michigan, he returned to Tuskegee to teach English and theater. In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served until 1962, when he retired as a major. During his retirement, Murray has lived mostly in New York City but has been a visiting professor in various schools, including Colgate, Barnard, Columbia, Emory, the University of Massachusetts, and Washington and Lee.

Like his friend and Tuskegee classmate, Ralph Ellison Murray is interested in the cultural complexity of America especially for African Americans He strongly contends that African ...

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Jennifer Lynn Headley

cultural critic, historian, performance and installation artist, photographer, writer, and activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Lena, emigrated from Jamaica to Boston in the 1920s. She earned a BA from Wellesley College in Spanish and Economics and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Iowa, studying-in its renowned Writers' Workshop. From Iowa, she moved to New York City and began writing for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone as a rock critic. She changed her career course with her first performance pieces in the 1980s and her critical writings about art and its effect on students and peers.

O'Grady's first performed as Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire, loosely translated into Ms. Black Middle Class; her alter ego was a rowdy uninvited guest to numerous high-profile art exhibitions. Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire Goes to JAM (1980), Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to ...

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Patrick Chura

author, professor, and political commentator, was born in Chicago, Illinois, one of four children of Shelby Steele Sr. and Ruth Steele. Steele's father, born into poverty in Kentucky in 1900, completed only the third grade before being pushed out of school to work in white-owned tobacco fields. He left Kentucky for Chicago in 1914 and met Shelby's mother, Ruth, a white social worker, while volunteering in the early 1940s for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an organization composed mainly of white middle-class college students seeking to change racist attitudes through peaceful protest. Steele's father supported his family by working as a non-union truck driver and earning extra income as a rental property owner, garage builder, exterminator, and paint salesman. Through reading and rigorous independent study, he achieved a high level of self-education.

Both of Steele s parents were devoted civil rights activists who believed ...

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Salah Trabelsi

Tunisian historian and Islamologist, has devoted the best part of his career to teaching and researching medieval Maghreb and Mediterranean history. His profile is that of an atypical intellectual. After a long career teaching in primary and secondary schools, Mohamed Talbi took and passed the Arab Studies competitive examination. On the eve of Tunisia’s independence, he joined the Institute of Higher Education of Tunis. In 1955 he became the first dean of the School of Letters and Human Sciences of Tunis. He also chaired the school’s history department before devoting his full energies as director of the scientific journal Les Cahiers de Tunisie. He was born in the city of Tunis and spent most of his life there.

In 1968 Talbi defended his PhD thesis at the Sorbonne. Entitled L’émirat aghlabide 186–296, 800–909: Histoire politique (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1966; English trans. The Aghlabid Emirate, a Political History: 184/860–296/909 ...

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David Barry Gaspar

poet, playwright, and literary and cultural critic, was born Derek Alton Walcott in the town of Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, then a British colony. It had experienced very slow Anglicization since its acquisition from the French after the Napoleonic wars. His parents, Warwick Walcott and Alix (maiden name unknown), were Methodists in a mostly Roman Catholic society. His mother was a schoolteacher and seamstress and, for many years, headmistress of the Methodist Infant School. She enjoyed acting and reciting. Walcott's father, an avid watercolorist and civil servant, died in 1931, leaving his wife to raise young Derek, his twin brother (Roderick Alton), and his sister (Pamela), who was two years older.Derek Walcott grew up in a house filled with books and other indications of the intellectual and artistic interests of his parents After completing elementary school under the ...