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Ana Rodríguez Navas

was born on 23 September 1871 in Santiago, to a Spaniard involved in colonial commerce, Lorenzo D’ou Calderón, and a black woman, Bárbara Ayllón. He received from his father a careful and largely European education, and later studied at the University of Havana. His marriage to mulata schoolteacher Francisca Arce yielded a son, Max D’ou Arce, who became a dentist. D’ou referred to himself as “Bárbara’s son,” in tribute to his black roots, and in his political activity and journalism sought to expose black inequality, and to integrate black people into all aspects of Cuban life.

In the early 1890s, D’ou became involved with the Directorio Central de las Sociedades de Color, a black civil rights group. In July 1895 he joined the rebel forces in the Cuban war of independence, serving as an aide to General José Maceo and achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.

After the war D ...


Said M. Mohamed

Somali commander and poet, was born around 1862 in Lasadar, the site of a water well in Somalia’s Buhodle district. An alternate form of his name is Ismaaciil Mire Cilmi. Ismail spent his early life as a nomad in the regions of Nogal and Hawd. After joining the Dervish liberation army, led by Sayyid Muhammad ʿAbdallah Hasan, he became a commander in chief who used his poetic talent to mobilize Dervish support and celebrate colonial defeats. As poetry was the major means of communication among Somalis at that time, Ismail and Sayyid Mohamed, also a great poet, used to exchange poetic messages. Ismail’s poems about the attack on Berbera and the battle of Dulmadobe are still well remembered among Somalis. Ismail’s poetic talent was such that Diana Fearon, who met him in 1948 said that the power of his voice was so great that he could sing his countrymen ...


Lila Luce

Algerian novelist and former army officer, was born Mohammed Moulessehoul on 10 January 1955 in Kenadsa, a Saharan town in the province of Bechar in western Algeria. His novels, written in French and translated into over thirty languages, address pressing global issues of our time including war, terrorism, and questions of national and individual identity. His writing flows easily in several different registers, rich with creative metaphorical uses of verbs and adjectives.

Moulessehoul’s mother came from a nomadic family. His father, a nurse by profession, fought in Algeria’s war for independence (1954–1962) as an officer in the National Liberation Front and subsequently joined the army of independent Algeria. The family later moved to Oran on the northwest coast. In 1964 when Mohammed was just nine years old his father enrolled him in a military academy for raising officers in the army He pursued a military career for the next ...


Heike Behrend

Ugandan spirit medium, prophet, and leader of a military force involved in the Ugandan civil war in the 1980s, later named Alice “Lakwena” after a spirit that took possession of her. She was born Alice Auma in 1956 in Bungatira, a village near Gulu in Acholi, Northern Uganda, as her mother, Iberina Ayaa’s, second child. Her father, Severino Lukoya, worked as a catechist for the Church of Uganda. In 1948, before she was born, he had a vision; in 1958, after he had fallen from the roof of his house and believed that he had “gone straight to heaven,” a voice called out that spirits would come to his children and that one child had already been chosen. It did not become clear to him that Alice was the chosen child until January 1985 when she began preaching the word of God Thus her father had experienced ...


Chris Gavaler

author, actor, and Indian celebrity, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the son of Sallie Long, a nurse and midwife, and Joe Long, a janitor. Sylvester's light-skinned mother was born a slave weeks before the end of the Civil War and was the daughter of a plantation owner and an unknown Lumbee Indian. Long's father, also born into slavery, believed his own mother to be Cherokee and his father white Their claim to exclusively white and Indian ancestry established the Long family as the social elite of Winston s African American community After attending elementary school there Sylvester twice joined traveling Wild West circuses where he passed as an Indian and learned rudimentary Cherokee After returning to Winston and working as a library janitor Sylvester taught himself to type at night in the white school where his father mopped floors The principal suggested he apply ...


Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...


Maxim Zabolotskikh

Ethiopian physician, writer, and civil servant, also known as Dr. or Hakim Charles Martin, was born on 21 October 1864 in Gonder. Workneh lost his parents during the siege of Maqdala by English troops in 1868. He was passed into the custody of a Colonel Chamberlain, who took him to India, where the expeditionary force sent against Emperor Tewodros II was originally located. The colonel died when the boy was only seven, and Workneh was raised by Christian missionaries. A certain Colonel Martin agreed to become his benefactor and paid the costs of his keep. Hence, Workneh adopted the names of two Englishmen, who helped him, and became Charles Martin.

Workneh graduated from Lahore Medical College in 1882 and went to Scotland, where he was certified in medicine and surgery in 1891 After eight years in Burma as a medical officer he had a chance to revisit Ethiopia ...