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Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

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Jeremy Rich

Congolese evangelist and translator was born in Gombe a village inhabited by Kakwa speaking clans in the northeastern corner of the modern day Democratic Republic of Congo This community suffered greatly from slave raids launched by Zande chieftains like Zémio and Mopoï living to their north in the late nineteenth century However the threat of northern raiders was hardly the only challenge for the young boy His name Akudri signified one who waited since he was born after his mother was pregnant for more than nine months He also bore his father s name Dada which means one who has no family This would indeed be Akudri s own fate since an epidemic of meningitis killed his parents and all his siblings when he was very young The boy barely survived himself A grave was dug to prepare for his funeral by other people in the village but he managed ...

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Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

in the study of Creole languages, was born on 13 June 1933 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His parents were Coleridge Alleyne, a builder and contractor, and Carmen Alleyne, an elementary school teacher. He has two children, Malou Alleyne-Harrison and Trevor Alleyne.

As a young man, Alleyne studied in Port of Spain’s Queen’s Royal College. He was later awarded a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies. This allowed him to complete his B.A. in Spanish and French in Jamaica. Alleyne completed graduate work in linguistic dialectology in France, where he worked at Lyon’s Institut de Linguistique Romane. His doctorat d’Université, the equivalent of a Ph.D., was awarded by the University of Strasbourg.

In 1959 Alleyne returned to Jamaica and began working at the University of the West Indies at Mona as a lecturer in Romance philology and French medieval literature He became one of ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist educator early computer language translator Africanist scholar of Arabic and Berber was born in Wildwood New Jersey to Joseph Henry Applegate and Nancy Berkley Applegate His father was a second generation New Jersey resident whose father was a Native American from Maine Applegate s mother whose father was also Native American migrated from Virginia to Philadelphia where Applegate s parents met around the time of World War I Neither parent had more than an elementary school education Hardworking and ambitious they held high aspirations for their children Applegate and his sister enjoyed the advantages of a small town working class upbringing along with direct contact with black artists and entertainers who frequented the seaside summer boarding house their parents operated in Wildwood New Jersey Although the family was not affluent Applegate s environment was sophisticated and urbane He recalled awakening to the sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington ...

Article

Lutz Marten

Tanzanian linguist and academic, was born in Mwanza, Tanzania, on 1 January 1947, as the eighth child of Michael Masalu, medical assistant, and Melania Humbo. The family lived in the suburbs of Mwanza, a provincial town in the northwest of what was then Tanganyika. Before his birth, two of his father’s cousins had come to visit the family, but, because his uncle had mistreated him when he lived with them as an orphan, his father turned them away with the words “batiboyi abakanibyaala It is not them who gave birth to me These words were used to call the newborn child in the Sukuma culture Batibo s ethnic group children are named according to events or circumstances at the time of birth The long name was soon shortened to Batibo and used as his surname At Batibo s christening the Bavarian priest administering the baptism found the ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

linguistics professor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Barbara Ardis Goore, an elementary school teacher and principal, and John Gordon Baugh VI, a director of projects at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. Baugh, the eldest of their three children, had an early fascination with language that grew in part from observing the complexity of linguistic differences around him. In due course Baugh decided to focus on linguistics in part because of experiences derived from a familial move in 1958 to Los Angeles. The Baughs relocated to a working-class, multiethnic neighborhood where many residents were learning English as a second language. He was also influenced by later experiences when the family moved to the western San Fernando Valley in 1960, where they were one of the few African American families in a mainly upper-middle-class, white, affluent community.

While attending Chatsworth High School in suburban Los ...

Article

Frances J. Santiago

a sociolinguist specializing in ethnology and the study of the Creole language, was also a devout Guadeloupean wife, mother, and grandmother. She was born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on 7 April 1935. She was the granddaughter of a plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and her father married a mulâtresse who was an agricultural worker on his father’s plantation. Bébel-Gisler has said that her education stemmed from the paternal heritage, yet her rich cultural background and the imagination it cultivated stem directly from her mother’s humble origins.

As an adolescent Bébel Gisler was sent to France for her high school education In France she studied in Toulouse where she prepared for admission to college studies Demonstrating her great talent in French she was the only student to receive the Prix Spécial de Français which brought with it a grant that gave her access to the Grandes Écoles prestigious higher education establishments in ...

Article

historian, Egyptologist, educator, and Pan-Africanist, known popularly as “Dr. Ben,” was born in Gondar, Ethiopia, the son of Krstan ben Jochannan, a lawyer and diplomat, and Tulia Matta, a native of Puerto Rico, who was a homemaker and midwife. Both parents were Jewish: his father was a member of a Jewish Ethiopian people then called the “Falasha,” or Beta Israel, and his mother was descended from Spanish Sephardic Jews. The couple met in Madrid, Spain, where Matta was attending college and the elder ben Jochannan was a diplomatic attaché. Soon after their marriage, they traveled from Spain to Ethiopia where their son, Yosef, was born.

Ben Jochannan spent his earliest years in Ethiopia but after age five he was raised in the Americas He said in later interviews that in the 1920s the Ethiopian government sent his father to Brazil to help develop the coffee trade of that country ...

Article

Roxanna Nydia Curto

best known as one of the founders of the Créolité movement, which sought to forge a uniquely Creole identity and reject the central tenets of Negritude, was born in Lorrain, Martinique.

Trained at the University of Paris V, Bernabé completed his doctorate in Antillean Creole in 1982. His thesis “Fondal-natal: Grammaire basilecticale approchée des créoles guadeloupéens et martiniquais” was published in 1983 by L’Harmattan, and is the first large-scale study of an Antillean Creole by a native speaker of the language. He is also an agrégé of grammar and holds a docteur d’état in linguistics. Bernabé is currently professor emeritus of regional languages and cultures at the University of Antilles-Guyane, Schoelcher campus. During his time on the faculty there, he served as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for several years.

In 1975 after becoming a professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

educator and linguist, was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Butler Sr. In 1956 he graduated as the valedictorian from Monroe's Carroll High School, then graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1962 he earned an MA from the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1968 he got his PhD in English from the University of Michigan, where he specialized in linguistics. His doctoral dissertation, “Lexical Usage of Negroes in Northeast Louisiana,” was completed in 1968. It grew from questions addressed in his master's thesis, “The Vocabulary of Negroes in Austin, Texas.” Focusing on seven counties in northeast Louisiana in his dissertation research, Butler interviewed individuals using established questionnaire techniques and demonstrated that black speakers in those communities exhibited coastal southern patterns in their lexical (vocabulary) usage. Such terms as croker sack (rather than tow ...

Article

Hubert Devonish

was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 10 October 1907, to a Canadian father, Walter Clarence Cassidy, a car salesman, and his wife, Camilla (née Gomes-Casseres), of Kingston, Jamaica. Quoting from Frederic Cassidy’s unfinished memoir, his daughter, Claire, reports that although his grandmother died when he was only 6, “he never forgot her dialect, Papiamento …her tonality and accent as well” (Cassidy, 2002, p. 2). He was descended on his mother’s side from Portuguese Jews who settled in the Dutch possession of Curaçao in the Caribbean and were central to the development of Papiamentu, a Portuguese-lexicon Creole. He would have occasion to record the probable influence of these same Portuguese Jews on his native English-lexicon Jamaican Creole in words such as sabi (know) and pikni (child) from the Portuguese saber and pequenño respectively He had a lot of remembering to do Even though he left Jamaica the land ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

was born on 16 May 1927 into a middle-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His father, Montrosier Dejean, was an accountant who served for a time as the nation’s minister of finance, and his mother, Maria Parisot, was a homemaker. After completing his early education in Haiti, Dejean moved to New England, where he studied theology and thereafter entered the priesthood. He later returned to Haiti and served as a parish priest of Port-Salut for almost a decade. There, as the linguist Arthur Spears (2010) notes, Dejean used Haitian Creole with parishioners and translated the four Gospels from Greek into Haitian Creole. These experiences motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in language and linguistics. He earned an M.A. in biblical Hebrew from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 He returned home shortly thereafter but the violence of the François Duvalier regime forced him into exile in Paris five ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean-born Ethiopian linguist, Africanist scholar, and political activist, was born in Asmara, Eritrea. He was fluent in several European and African languages including Italian, French, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, and Tigrinya, his mother tongue. His main area of expertise was linguistics, with particular focus on the Semitic languages of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but his intellectual interest covered a broad spectrum, including history, policy studies, and culture.

Demoz graduated from Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1957 and later studied linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received master’s and PhD degrees in Semitic languages in 1959 and 1964, respectively. Demoz started his professional career at Haile Selassie University, where he taught and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1964 to 1967 He was also a ...

Article

David Michel

was born to peasant parents on 12 August 1929 in Haiti. He grew up in Port-au-Prince where he attended the Lycée Pétion, a high school named for Haitian president Alexandre Pétion (1770–1818). At the time, Creole, the mother tongue of all Haitians, was not considered a language. The future minister graduated from the local Episcopal seminary and studied sociology for one year at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was ordained a priest by the Episcopal Church of Haiti (ECH) in 1953, and married Marie Mathilde Joseph. Désir had two sons, Jean Marc and Roger Emmanuel.

Father Désir served several congregations before being appointed dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, the largest Episcopal church in Port-au-Prince. In 1963 he resigned the deanery because he was reprimanded for preaching change within the Episcopal Church and Haiti At the time Désir s superior was Charles A Voegeli a ...

Article

Emilio Jorge Rodríguez

was born Nidia Maria Enrica Ecury on 2 February 1926 in the fishing village of Rancho in the western region of Oranjestad, Aruba. She was the daughter of Nicasio Segundo “Shon Dundun” Ecury, a first-generation freeborn Aruban businessman and honorary consul of Haiti in Aruba, and Ana Paulina Wilhelmina Ernst, of German descent and a native of Curaçao who was a famous pastry chef. Nydia was the younger sister of the Aruban war hero Boy Ecury (1922–1944), a member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II, who was captured and executed by the German forces occupying the Netherlands. The family mansion where Nydia was born is a fine example of colonial architecture and is now the home of the National Archeological Museum of Aruba.

Ecury completed her studies in English literature and journalism in Canada and established herself in Curaçao in 1957 where she worked as ...

Article

Charles Geshekter

Somali linguist and cultural historian who devoted his life to demonstrating the inestimable value of the Somali cultural heritage, was born in northern Somalia. An alternate spelling of his name is Musa Haji Ismail Galaal. He grew up as a camel herder and, during this period, learned oratorical skills that made him a superb public speaker. He attended qurʾanic schools and maintained a lifetime commitment to Islam. Galaal served in the British military during World War II, then became a teacher, and was selected in 1951 to work with the linguist B. W. Andrzejewski at the University of London to help develop a system of writing for the Somali language.

Muuse recognized the inextricable connections between the Somali language and Somali oral literature He tested potential scripts by transcribing oral poems recited by old men of frail health and then reading them back aloud He spent many weeks at the bedside ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual, educator, administrator, and interpreter, was born in the Gondar region of northwestern Ethiopia around 1855. He got his first exposure to Western education through the German missionary J. Mayer, who was then resident in Ethiopia. He accompanied Emperor Tewodros II to his final stronghold, Maqdala, where the emperor committed suicide in April 1868 as troops led by the British commander General Robert Napier stormed his fortress. As someone who saw that visionary emperor at close range, Gebru was to continue to harbor an abiding admiration for his idealism. Taken out of the country by the conquering troops, Gebru was patronized by the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was educated in different CMS outposts, including Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Basel (Switzerland).

Returning to his native Ethiopia in 1879 Gebru did missionary work first in Gondar and then after another trip abroad in Wallaga in western ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean Tigrinya-language writer, historian, translator, linguist, and professor of African languages, was born and grew up in Yeha, an ancient historical village in Tigray, the northernmost Ethiopian province bordering Eritrea. Yeha is remarkable for its unique and early archaeological sites, as well as for its proximity to and historical connections with the well-known city of Axum, which formed the center of the Axumite kingdom during the reign of the Queen of Sheba, and still remains Ethiopia’s oldest cultural center. Giyorgis is considered one of Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s most important intellectuals; he lived and wrote during the Italian colonial era in Eritrea. He is considered by many the true founder of secular, modern African literature in Tigrinya.

The consciousness of precolonial history evident in Yeha had a lasting influence on Giyorgis s imagination affecting everything he wrote from literature to history Another important influence on Giyorgis s formation as a native ...

Article

Hans P. Hahn

The life of Janheinz Jahn was dedicated to the support and dissemination of African literature in German-speaking countries. He was a pioneer in that pursuit—to impart African literature—with restless engagement and consequence. After studying the history of arts and the Arabic language in the 1930s, he was a soldier during World War II and became a prisoner of war. After his release in 1946, he worked as a freelance writer and journalist. Throughout the rest of his life, he never had an academic position and made his living from publishing books.

In 1950 he met Leopold Senghor when the latter was in Frankfurt am Main at the invitation of the Institut Culturel Français This meeting and the conversations with Senghor left such deep and lasting impressions that a short time later Jahn himself started to give public lectures on African literature At the same time he initiated ...