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Aptheker, Herbert  

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...


Araújo, Ubiratan Castro de  

Robert J. Cottrol

was born in Salvador, Bahia, on 22 December 1948. His scholarship chronicled Afro-Brazilian life, especially the experiences of people of African descent in his native Bahia, a state in northeastern Brazil with a strong Afro-Brazilian presence. Araújo’s political activism began with acts of resistance against Brazil’s military rulers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, while he was a university student, and would continue into the twenty-first century with his advocacy for measures such as affirmative action and reparations designed to eliminate the often striking racial inequalities in the South American nation.

Araújo’s curiosity about slavery and race developed early in his childhood, due in part to the presence of his great aunt Zefinha, who had been born a slave. In her eighties in the 1950s when Araújo was a child, Zefinha was in her teens when Brazil abolished slavery in 1888 The great aunt fascinated the future ...


Ballinger, Margaret  

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

liberal historian and politician active in South Africa, was born Violet Margaret Livingstone Hodgson on 11 January 1894 in Glasgow, Scotland. Her father, John Hodgson, emigrated to the Orange Free State, South Africa, shortly after Margaret’s birth, working as a merchant while Margaret’s mother, Lillias, raised their three young children in Scotland. After fighting against the British with the Irish Brigade in the Anglo-Boer War, John Hodgson went to the Atlantic island of Saint Helena as a prisoner of war. When war ended in 1902, officials repatriated him, but he was ostracized in his community. Six months after his return, he illegally boarded a ship bound for Port Elizabeth, where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1904, John Hodgson’s family joined him in the Cape. He harbored liberal political beliefs, supporting legal equality and the extension of a nonracial franchise in southern Africa.

After attending the Holy Rosary ...


Beasley, Delilah Leontium  

Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...


Blakey, Theodore Robert  

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...


Brown, Letitia Christine Woods  

Noralee Frankel

historian, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the daughter of Matthew Woods and Evadne Adams, professors. Her maternal grandfather, Lewis Adams, was born a slave and after the Civil War was instrumental in establishing the Tuskegee Normal School in 1881. Her parents both taught at Tuskegee Institute, continuing the family's commitment to education. Letitia attended Tuskegee Institute High School and graduated with a BS from Tuskegee Institute in 1935. In 1937 she completed her MA at Ohio State University. While working on an advanced degree at Radcliffe College, Letitia married Theodore E. Brown, a labor economist who later worked for the Agency for International Development in the U.S. Department of State. After raising two children and becoming involved in community projects in Mount Vernon, New York, she attended Harvard University, which awarded her a PhD in 1966.

As a historian Letitia Woods Brown sought to ...


Cassiani Herrera, Alfonso  

Adriano Guerra

was born in San Basilio de Palenque, a town in the department of Bolívar, the son of Pedro Cassiani Padilla, a fruit seller, and Digna Cassiani Herrera, a housekeeper. Many Afro-descendants have distinguished themselves in the field of academics, and Cassiani has been a vital scholar and writer, having become a mentor and advocate for the study and understanding of his community. He has weighed in on issues such as education in Afro-Colombian communities and on the role and the participation of this population in Colombia’s internal armed conflict. This practice of academic production and reflection is tied into his work as an educator.

Cassiani has worked as a historian at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, with a master’s degree in history from the Universidad del Valle, a degree he earned with the thesis “De la Matuna a San Basilio Magno 1599–1713 Palenkes libertad y autonomías Additionally he has two ...


Castor, Suzy  

Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique

was born in the town of Aquin in southern Haiti on 24 December 1936. She attended school in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Upon graduating from the École Normale Supérieure d’Haïti, with a diploma in social studies, she traveled to Mexico City in 1959 to pursue higher education, ultimately earning a master’s degree in Latin American studies and a doctorate in history at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). In 1960 she met the man who would become her lifelong partner, Gérard Pierre-Charles, who had been forced into exile by the Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. A former cement plant worker and union organizer, Pierre-Charles was a leader of the Parti d’Entente Populaire, which later merged with the Parti Populaire de Libération Nationale (PPLN) to create the new Unified Haitian Communist Party (Parti Unifié des Communistes Haitiens, or PUCH). Pierre-Charles’s authoritative monograph X-Ray of a Dictatorship and his ...


Davis, Harry E.  

Chesya Burke

attorney, politician, and author, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the eldest son of Jacob Henry and Rosalie Davis. When he was eighteen years old he enlisted in the army, advancing to first lieutenant of Company D, Ninth Battalion, Ohio National Guard. In 1904 he attended Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, but later transferred to Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he graduated with a law degree in 1908. In 1909, utilizing an 1896 Ohio civil rights law, Davis brought racial discrimination charges against a Burrows store merchant who refused to sell to him. The merchant was found guilty, and though the jury denied Davis damages, he considered this a small victory for the civil rights movement.

Davis spent his entire life in Cleveland, working as an attorney. Realizing his love of history, in 1910 Davis joined a Masonic lodge through which he conducted ...


Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien  

Charles Rosenberg

author, advocate for the civil rights of African Americans in Louisiana, an organizer of the Citizen's Committee that launched the Plessy v. Ferguson legal challenge to racial segregation in public transportation, was the son of Jeremie Desdunes and Henriette Gaillard Desdunes.

Rodolphe Desdunes's grandson, Theodore Frere, recalled in 1971 that Jeremie Desdunes was Haitian and Henriette from Cuba; the couple reported in the 1880 census that both were born in Louisiana, Jeremie's mother was born in Cuba, and Henriette's father in France. All the Desdunes' sons consistently reported that their parents were both born in Louisiana (Census 1880, 1900, 1920). The Desdunes family was part of New Orleans's large community of gens de couleur libre—free people of color, primarily French-speaking. The 1840 census lists a Jeremie Des Dunes in the Third District of New Orleans whose household included five free colored males and ...


Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien  

Dorothea Olga McCants

Rodolphe Desdunes was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 15, 1849, the oldest of several children of Jeremiah and Henrietta Desdunes. His mother was a Cuban; his father was a Haitian whose forbears came to New Orleans, presumably during the 1791 revolution in Saint Domingue. Rodolphe Desdunes's education was most probably provided by his parents, friends, colleagues such as Armand Lanusse and Joanni Questy, and attendance at the Bernard Couvent Institute of New Orleans. Both Rodolphe and his brother, poet Pierre A. Desdunes, served as directors of this institute. Desdunes married Mathilde Chaval of Point Coupee Parish and New Orleans. Of this union were born six children, two boys and four girls: Wendell, Daniel, Cortiza, Agens, Lucille, and Jeanne. Their home was at 928 Marais Street, New Orleans.

Desdunes was not inclined toward working on the family s tobacco plantation or in the family ...


Diop, Cheikh Anta  

Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...


Diop, Cheikh Anta  

Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...


Diop, Cheikh Anta  

Dawne Y. Curry

In 1923, Cheikh Anta Diop one of the most famous theoreticians of the twentieth century was born in a small village in the West African country of Senegal As an anthropologist historian Egyptologist politician and author Diop devoted his scholarly life to understanding human evolution Diop believed that humankind originated in Egypt and he devoted his life to proving this hypothesis This idea was unthinkable at the time Widely held beliefs about European influence and contributions to society included racist stereotypes that colored perceptions of Africa s genesis Diop who matured during an age of European imperialism African independence movements and neo colonialism never wavered in his commitment to African people His articles and many books reflect this profound devotion In fact Diop s greatest contribution to scholarly endeavors lies in his tireless search for physiological and genetic evidence to support his thesis Using mummies bone measurements and ...


Glélé-Ahanhanzo, Maurice  

Leland Conley Barrows

Beninese jurist, historian, international civil servant, human rights activist, and chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Benin, was born on 15 March 1934 in the town of Zinvié, not far from Abomey, the former royal capital of the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey. Because Glélé’s intellectual talents were recognized by his Roman Catholic primary school teachers, he was enabled to complete his secondary education at the Lycée van Vollenhoven in Dakar, Senegal, where he earned the lettres classiques baccalaureate in 1955. After a year of studying law at the newly founded University of Dakar, he entered the preparatory section of the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris in order to qualify, in 1958, for the diploma of civil administration, awarded by the National School for the Training of Overseas Administrators (the former École Coloniale). He then went on to earn the licence in law in 1960 ...


Grimshaw, William Henry  

Adele N. Nichols

sailor, clerk, attendant, author, and mason, is believed to have been born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, even though there is no substantial proof of that location. Various sources cite the District of Columbia or Maryland as his possible birthplace; nevertheless, it seems more probable that he was born in Virginia due to his family background. Grimshaw's parents were Juliet Grimshaw, a slave, and Robert Tyler, a slave owner. Even though there are limited facts on his personal childhood and education, a historical essay, “Winney Grimshaw, A Virginia Slave, and Her Family” by Richard Dunn, provides a detailed history on the Grimshaw family's enslavement and life on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Grimshaw's surname, which was unusual in nineteenth-century Virginia, may have come from Samuel Grimshaw, who immigrated to Virginia in 1795 from England or from Thomas Grimshaw who lived near Alexandria and later ...


Hammonds, Evelynn Maxine  

Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar, historian, physicist, engineer, and advocate for minorities and women in science, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of two girls of William Emmett Hammonds, a postal worker, and Evelyn Marie Hammonds, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher. At age nine, Hammonds's father gave his daughter a chemistry set. For Hammonds, the chemistry set, along with later gifts of a microscope, and building sets, sparked an interest in science that would be encouraged by both parents. The events also set her on a path that would force her to think more critically about her own identity and the struggles and contributions of blacks and women in science.

Growing up in Atlanta, Hammonds attended all-black public elementary schools. This would change in 1967 when as a fourteen year old ninth grade student she was bused to a predominately white school ...


Hill, Thomas Arnold  

Michael K. Brown

National Urban League executive and civil rights leader, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Ruben Hill, a businessman, and Irene Hill. He attended Wayland Academy in Richmond and graduated from Virginia Union University with an AB degree in 1911. He studied economics and sociology at New York University for one year, and in 1914 he was hired as an assistant to Eugene Kinckle Jones of the National Urban League (NUL) in New York. In 1916 he was appointed executive secretary of the Chicago Urban League. He was an official in the National Urban League for twenty-four years. He married Sara O. Henderson and they reared two sons.

A man of immense personal and administrative skills, Hill was credited with organizing the Chicago chapter of the Urban League. He was an effective fund-raiser, impressing white philanthropists such as Julius Rosenwald who supplied much of ...


Hirson, Baruch  

Leila Kamali

Historian, editor, and political activist born on 10 December 1921 near Johannesburg, the child of Latvian Jews. Hirson was educated at Hebrew school in Johannesburg, and studied mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand, where he later worked as a physicist. In 1940 he joined the left‐wing Hashomer Hatzair, subsequently becoming a member of various Trotskyist groups. Between 1944 and 1946 he was a political organizer for the Workers' International League.

Hirson participated in setting up black trade unions, in extremely difficult conditions created by the Suppression of Communism Act. He became involved in the Non‐European Unity Movement, and in the late 1950s joined the Congress of Democrats, the white arm of the ANC‐led Congress Alliance.

After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 Hirson and his colleagues highly critical of the Congress Alliance s leadership and policies organized the National Committee for Liberation which advocated sabotage as a substitute for peaceful ...


Kunene, Mazisi Raymond Fakazi Mngoni  

Oluwatoyin Adepoju

Mazisi Raymond Fakazi Mngoni Kunene (1930–2006) was a South African poet, scholar, and political activist whose life was shaped by a radical commitment to African cultural and political independence. His conceptions of this independence define both the strengths and weaknesses of his writing while suggesting the correlation of his work with still-resonant conflicts in African and other cultures responding to Western political and cultural hegemony.

His poetry was written in Zulu and subsequently translated into English by himself. Most of his poetry, however, remains untranslated. His poetry in English translation is represented mainly by four books: the cosmological epic, Anthem of the Decades; the historical epic, Emperor Shaka the Great; and two collections of poetry, Zulu Poems and The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain and Echoes from the Mountain. The introductions to these books are important sources for his aesthetic his expositions of classical Zulu ...