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Amo, William Anton  

Edmund Abaka

William Anton Amo (1703–1756), philosopher and educator, was an academic par excellence and a courtier in Germany at a time when there were very few, if any, Africans studying, let alone lecturing, in Europe. He was most likely the first black professor to teach in Germany. Amo’s achievements are all the more significant considering that they occurred about three centuries ago.

Amo was born in 1703 in a small village called Awukenu, near Axim, in the southwestern Gold Coast (now Ghana). The circumstances of Amo’s arrival in the Netherlands are not clear. One version indicates that in 1707 Amo s parents entrusted him to a Brunswick subject working for the Dutch West Indian Company on the Gold Coast By this time the Dutch had superseded the Portuguese and taken over the Portuguese fortified positions on the Gold Coast São Jorge da Mina Elmina São Sebastiao Shama and ...


Baker, Thomas Nelson, Sr.  

George Yancy

philosopher and first African American to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States, was born enslaved of enslaved parents, Thomas Chadwick Baker, a Civil War veteran, and Edith (Nottingham) Baker, on Robert Nottingham's plantation in Northampton County, Virginia. Edith was the daughter of Southey and Sarah Nottingham of Northampton County. Thomas Nelson Baker was one of five children.

Describing the influences on his early intellectual life, Baker remembered:

My mother taught me my letters although I well remember when she learned them herself My first reading lesson was the second chapter of Matthew the Bible being the only book we had I never read a bad book in my life which is one of the blessings I got by being poor I began to attend the common schools at eight and learned to love books passionately I used to read through my recesses Evenings I read the Bible ...


Boulaga, Fabien Eboussi  

Jean Eudes Biem

Fabien Eboussi Boulaga was born on 17 January 1934, in Bafia, Cameroon. After graduating from high school with a degree in philosophy in 1955, he traveled to France and embraced Jesuit higher education until 1957. Then he successively obtained bachelor degrees in Letters, Philosophy, and Theology, a graduate degree in Ethnology and, in 1968, a doctorate degree in Philosophy at the University of Lyon II.

In 1969 he returned to Cameroon, teaching theology, organizing rural development groups, and conducting research in philosophy until the publication of La crise du Muntu in 1977. During that period, he was visiting lecturer in the Netherlands (Leiden, Groningen, Rotterdam, Tilburg), Nigeria (Major Seminary of Ibadan), the United States (Loyola College, Baltimore), and Zaire (Institut Canisius, Kinshasa). He also taught philosophy at the University of Abidjan, Ivory Coast (1978–1984) and the University of Yaounde (1984–1993 At ...


Cannon, Katie Geneva  

David B. McCarthy

Presbyterian minister, educator, and womanist ethicist, was born in Concord, North Carolina, the daughter of Corine Emmanuelette Lytle, a domestic and Avon saleswoman, and Esau Cannon, a millworker, both of whom were elders in the local Presbyterian church. Cannon grew up with three sisters, three brothers, her parents, and her extended family in the Fishertown community, a part of the rural, segregated town of Kannapolis, North Carolina, the home of Cannon Mills. Her earliest work was as a domestic, cleaning the homes of nearby white mill workers. At the age of seventeen Cannon graduated from George Washington Carver High School and then enrolled at nearby Barber-Scotia College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1971 with a BS in Elementary Education.

In August 1971 Cannon enrolled in Johnson C Smith Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center ITC in Atlanta where Dean James H Costen encouraged her ...


Cook, Joyce Mitchell  

George Yancy

philosopher and educator, was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, the ninth of twelve children of the Reverend Isaac William Mitchell Sr., a minister of the Church of God (headquartered in Anderson, Indiana), and Mary Belle Christman Mitchell, a homemaker. Cook was briefly married to J. Lawrence Cook, MD. Cook holds the distinction of being the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States. She was also the first woman appointed to teach in the department of philosophy at Yale College (September 1959 to June 1961) and the first African American woman to teach philosophy at Howard University (September 1966 to June 1968 and September 1970 to June 1976).

Cook s early education took place in the Sharon public school system After reading a biography of Madame Curie Cook decided to study chemistry but as an undergraduate at Bryn ...


Diaw, Aminata  

Dior Konaté

Senegalese philosopher and university professor, was born on 24 May 1959 in Saint-Louis in Senegal and attended a local school, the Lycée Amet Fall. After passing with honors her baccalaureate in 1977 at the age of nineteen, Aminata Diaw left Senegal to pursue her studies in France. In 1978 she enrolled at the Lycée Paul Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence, a preparatory school, earning a diplôme d’études universitaires générales (DEUG 1) in philosophy. A year later, she left for another preparatory school, the Lycée Masséna in Nice to complete a DEUG 2 and a bachelor of arts degree both in philosophy before going to Nice, where she obtained a master’s degree in 1981 from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. Then Diaw completed her philosophical studies culminating in a postgraduate diploma (DEA) and a dissertation on the theory of conflicts in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political thinking. In 1985 she was awarded a doctorate ...


Edelin, Ramona Hoage  

Jolie A. Jackson-Willett

scholar, activist, and philosopher, was born Ramona Hoage in Los Angeles, California, the only child of George Hoage and A. Annette Lewis Hoage. Edelin's commitment to education started with the influences of her mother and maternal grandfather, both of whom were university professors. Alethia Annette Lewis Hoage Phinazee served as dean of the school of library science at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina (1970–1983), and has herself been celebrated for her contributions to the field of library science.

The young Hoage got an auspicious start to her own education at the progressive and innovative Oglethorpe Laboratory School at Atlanta University. The campus school's teaching philosophy was geared toward the intellectual advancement of inner-city youth. During Edelin's childhood, the Hoages lived in college towns near South Carolina State and Atlanta and Southern Illinois Universities. In 1963 Ramona graduated from high school ...


Emerson, Ralph Waldo  

Peter S. Field

Born in Boston and a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, for most of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the ninth in a line of Congregational ministers. His father, William, died before Emerson's eighth birthday, and he and his siblings were raised by their mother, Ruth Haskins Emerson. Educated for the ministry at Harvard, Emerson ultimately quit his pastorate shortly after the death of his first wife in 1831. Dissatisfied with the structure and ritual of the church, Emerson sought a more expansive, democratic venue from which to preach. This he found on the lyceum lecture circuit. In the course of the following decades, he became one of the nation's most beloved and famed public lecturers. Many of his lecturers provided the material for his celebrated essays, which have not gone out of print since their initial publication.

Emerson ranks as the nineteenth century's greatest American liberal thinker. With Frederick ...


Fontaine, William Thomas  

Bruce Kuklick

a professional philosopher who taught for twenty years at the University of Pennsylvania, was born William Thomas Fontaine in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of William Charles Fontaine, a steelworker, and Mary Elizabeth Boyer, who went by the name of Ballard, having been raised by her grandparents. His grandmother on his father's side, Cornelia Wilson Fontaine Smith, with whom he grew up, had been a slave. Fontaine went to an exclusively black elementary school, Booker T. Washington, and then to Chester High School. At this time he gave himself a second middle name, Valeria, a Latin name connoting physical and mental strength. At age sixteen he matriculated at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and received his BA there in 1930, finishing first in his class. While at Lincoln, Fontaine befriended Kwame Nkrumah, the first black leader of Ghana, and Nnamdi Azikiwe the first black ...


Gordon, Lewis  

Teodros Kiros

Lewis Ricardo Gordon can be considered the leading black philosopher of our time. Gordon employs the tools of phenomenological existentialism to illuminate, with arresting honesty, the dark cave in which the person with bad faith dwells. He goes on to formulate this vision in a series of interconnected texts, beginning with the foundational project announced in Anti-Black Racism (1995), followed by Fanon and the Crisis of European Man (1995), and culminating in Existentia Africana (1999).

Gordon’s work can be presented in three parts. The first part elucidates the foundational arguments, the second part refines the foundational arguments represented as a philosophy of existence, and the third part articulates his vision of Africana philosophy as a transformational practice of human possibilities.

The self has no empirical reference as material objects do The human self is a possibility conditioned by contingency the contingency of history geography ...


Gregory, Thomas Montgomery  

Sheila Gregory Thomas

educator, dramatist, social philosopher, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the youngest of the four children of James Monroe Gregory and Fannie Emma Whiting Hagan. His father, a professor of classics at Howard University, had been a member of the university's first college graduating class in 1872. The family lived on the university campus until Gregory was eight years old, at which time his father resigned from the faculty to head the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth in New Jersey.

The family's 1897 move to Bordentown gave Gregory the run of a beautiful 225 acre campus on the Delaware River A favorite time for him was Saturday mornings when he and his father traveled to Philadelphia by boat to make purchases for the school for these shopping trips inevitably included dinner at Wanamaker s or Snellenburg s and ...


Hanafi, Hasan  

Efraim Barak

Egyptian intellectual, writer, reformer, and lecturer of philosophy, was born in Cairo on 13 February 1935. His father was a professional musician. In the early 1950s, he joined the Muslim Brothers and was active in student politics at the University of Cairo, where he studied philosophy. In 1956, after earning his BA, he moved to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Sorbonne. In 1966, after receiving his PhD in philosophy, he returned to Cairo where, after a year, he began teaching at the local university. At the same time, he translated into Arabic some of the works of Western philosophers, such as Spinoza, Lessing, and Sartre, and published several articles in the journals al-Katib (The Writer) and al-Fikr al-Muʿasi (Modern Thought).

From 1971 to 1975, Hanafi worked as an external lecturer at Temple University in Philadelphia. From 1979 to 1980 he supervised the ...


Holmes, Eugene Clay  

Charles Rosenberg

chair of the Howard University Department of Philosophy following Alain Locke, worked with Locke to interweave philosophy with his understanding of the black experience. Holmes is sometimes described as one of the only two Marxist philosophers of African descent in the United States (along with C. L. R. James), from the 1930s until Angela Davis began teaching philosophy in the 1960s.

He was born in Patterson, New Jersey (McClendon, p. 37), to Samuel and Arabella Holmes, who had been born, like their own parents, in Virginia. Samuel Holmes worked as a bartender and later as a hotel waiter; Arabella washed laundry, sometimes on her own, sometimes as a commercial employee, retiring a few years earlier than her husband. Growing up in nearby Passaic and later in Pleasantville, Atlantic County, Holmes had a brother Lawrence, one year older, and sister Gladys, two years younger (Census, 1910 ...


Jones, Gilbert Haven  

George Yancy

philosopher and educator, was born in Fort Mott, South Carolina, to Bishop Joshua H. Jones and Elizabeth Martin Jones. Joshua H. Jones, who was remarried in 1888 to Augusta E. Clark, was a president of Ohio's Wilberforce University (1900–1908), a preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church from age eighteen, and a bishop of the AME Church from 1912. The elder Jones was well educated, receiving a BA from Claflin University in South Carolina, studying at Howard University, and receiving both his bachelor of divinity and doctor of divinity degrees from Wilberforce University.

Gilbert Haven Jones was still young when his parents moved from South Carolina to Providence Rhode Island where he was educated in public schools Later the family moved to Columbus Ohio where he graduated from Central High School at age fifteen He then attended Ohio State University College of Arts ...


King, Preston  

Delores Williams

college professor, political philosopher, and civil rights advocate, was born Preston Theodore King in Albany, Georgia, the youngest of seven sons of Clennon W. King, a civil rights advocate and businessman, and Margaret Slater.

King followed the family view that education was essential and mandatory and proved himself to be a brilliant scholar at an early age. He entered Fisk University in Nashville at age sixteen. He majored in history, languages, and philosophy and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. He enrolled in graduate school at the London School of Economics & Political Science in England, where he earned an M.Sc. (Econ.), the Leverhulme Award in 1958, and the Mark of Distinction and a Ph.D. in 1966. He also studied during the summers at Atlanta University (1955), Universität Wien in Austria, 1956, 1958 German language Université de Strasbourg ...


Moore, Louis (or Lewis) Baxter  

Mathias Hanses

classicist, Congregationalist preacher, and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest child of Henry Moore and his second wife Rebecca (née Beasley). Louis would in his early years have witnessed the black community's enthusiasm toward such new freedoms as political participation. At the same time, he suffered the hardships besetting his family of twenty-eight in the transforming Deep South. Before Louis turned ten years old, his home state's race relations started slipping toward their “nadir.” Alabama endured Ku Klux Klan terrorism and voter intimidation; a “Redeemer” government rose to power in 1874 as black workers and sharecroppers fell into economic dependency on their former owners; and in 1876 federal Reconstruction efforts were sacrificed to political deal making which further impeded blacks access to polls and lecterns Still increasing numbers of African Americans came to ...


Piper, Adrian Margaret Smith  

Sylvie Kandé

multimedia artist, philosopher, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Daniel Robert, a lawyer, and Olive Xavier Smith Piper, an administrator. Belonging to a light-skinned African American family, she was confronted early on by challenges that ultimately gave her work some of its unique characteristics, namely the firm assertion of her black identity, her unremitting fleshing out of racial stereotypes, and her commitment to cross-cultural bridge-building. Her involvement with the arts began in childhood: a piano prodigy and ballet dancer, she also took classes at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Her political consciousness was first shaped in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which she joined in 1962, and by the events surrounding the March on Washington in 1963, commemorated in her 1983 poster Think about It She graduated from New Lincoln School in ...


Price, Joseph Charles  

Joy G. Kinard

public orator, college president, philosopher, and clergyman, was born Joseph Charles Dozier in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Emily Pailin, a freeborn woman, and Charles Dozier, a former slave and ship carpenter. While Joseph was a young boy, Dozier moved away to find work in Baltimore, Maryland, at a shipyard. Joseph's mother later married David Price, and Price adopted Joseph as his own son. In 1863 the Price family moved to New Bern, North Carolina, which was controlled by federal troops at the time. While in New Bern, Joseph attended St. Andrews Chapel, a parochial school, and he attended the Lowell Normal School of New Bern in 1866. Beginning in 1871 he began teaching in Wilson, North Carolina, where he stayed for the next four years. He attended Shaw University in Raleigh in 1873 for a brief period. In 1875 he ...


Sodipo, J. Olubi  

Barry Hallen

J. Olubi Sodipo (d. 1999) was the first Nigerian professor of philosophy; chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, Nigeria; founding vice-chancellor of the Ogun State University (now Olabisi Onabanjo University), Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria; founder and editor of the international philosophical journal Second Order; president of the Nigerian Philosophical Society; president of the Inter-African Council for Philosophy; and life president of the Nigerian National Association of Philosophy Students (NNAPS).

Throughout his academic career Olubi Sodipo advocated a form of philosophical humanism Inspired by the pejorative manner in which Africa s cultures were portrayed by Western scholarship he formulated an original critique of Western culture and philosophy for their own shortcomings and defended the universal equality of humanity Sodipo decried academic accounts of Africa s peoples that he viewed as denying them both dignity and intellectual integrity and in the worst ...


Valdés, José Manuel  

Joy Elizondo

The child of a washerwoman and a musician, José Manuel Valdés was born in Lima, Peru's capital city, when nearly half its population was black. Though his parents could not afford to educate him, his godparents and mother's employers stepped in, seeing to his early education at a prominent religious school. He would later become the first black writer to publish in Peru, both as a doctor and as a poet, as early as 1791.

After completing school, Valdés yearned to become a priest, but during the colonial period blacks were denied access to the priesthood by the Catholic Church, and he turned instead to medicine. He could have prospered as a romancista, a type of medical practitioner that required little training and was restricted to “external remedies.” In 1788 he took the more challenging route and pursued the title of latinista surgeon for ...