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Báez, Josefina  

Sharina Maillo-Pozo

Báez was born in 1960 in La Romana, Dominican Republic, the youngest of ten children of working-class parents Luis Báez and Luz Maria Pérez. She arrived in the United States in 1972 at the age of 12. After attending elementary school in La Romana and high school in New York City, she pursued an independent path to learning her crafts, beginning with theater and dance. Since 1980, she has traveled to Russia and India to research theater biomechanics, a method of actor training developed by director and producer Vsevolod Meyerhold in the first half of the twentieth century, and classical Kathak and Kuchipudi dances, respectively.

Báez s career as both writer and actor is deeply influenced by her native Dominican culture and its expressions in the diaspora The elaborate Catholic Holy Week rituals and processions in the streets of La Romana were the first sources of inspiration for her ...


Baker, Augusta  

Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...


Baker, Augusta Braxton  

DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...


Belpré, Pura Teresa  

Shivohn N. García

was born on 2 February 1899 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to Felipe Belpré and Carlota Nogueras. Belpré’s passion for stories and her desire to share the culture of Puerto Rico through storytelling and children’s literature can be traced to her childhood. In an unpublished autobiographical essay, she mused that “growing up on the island of Puerto Rico in an atmosphere of natural storytellers was fun: a father whose occupation took him all over the island; a grandmother whose stories always ended with a nonsense rhyme or song, setting feet to jump, skip, or dance; elder sisters who still remembered tales told by a mother; and finally, a stepmother whose literary taste was universal” (Pura Teresa Belpré Papers, hereafter PBP). As Belpré reached adulthood, Puerto Rico was undergoing a dramatic change: in 1917 the Jones Shafroth Act bestowed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans which triggered a migration from the island ...


Diop, Birago Ismael  

Eileen Julien

Senegalese poet and storyteller, stands out in the constellation of African writers as a unique and gifted raconteur of traditional tales. In Les contes d’Amadou Koumba (1947), Les nouveaux contes d’Amadou Koumba (1958), and Contes et lavanes (1963), Diop recounts, in a style evocative of oral performance, narratives heard in his youth and during his travels as a colonial veterinarian in then French West Africa.

Diop’s initial literary passion was poetry, and it was in this genre that he began writing as a high school student. Some of his first poems, modeled on classical and romantic French poetry that he was studying in school, were to appear in his collection Leurres et lueurs (1960 Despite what Léopold Sédar Senghor called the nonblack character of these poems this youthful apprenticeship in poetry was an important step in Diop s becoming a sophisticated author ...


Domínguez Guzmán, Melquiades  

Laura A. Lewis

was born in 1923 in San Antonio Ocotlán, a small town north of Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Mexico. His mother was an indigenous Amuzgo woman from Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca, and his father was of African descent, from San Nicolás Tolentino on the Costa Chica of Guerrero state. Melquiades was a sickly child, and when his parents separated, soon after his birth, his father brought him back to San Nicolás, where his paternal grandmother and aunt raised him. His paternal grandmother was Zapotec. Thus, Domínguez is indigenous on both his mother’s and his father’s side. He is also one of the most well-known residents of the African-descent community of San Nicolás.

Domínguez’s paternal grandmother and grandfather never married. The Costa Chica is a strongly patrilineal region, but in the tradition of the era, “illegitimate” children—who were said to be “of the wilderness” (del monte inherited their mothers surnames Domínguez s father ...


Jacinto, António  

Jessica Falconi

Angolan poet, storyteller, and political activist who also wrote under the pseudonym “Orlando Távora,” was born in Luanda on 28 September 1924. His father, José Trindade Martins, along with his mother, Maria Cecilia Amaral, were both Portuguese from the Trás-os-Montes region in northern Portugal, who had settled in Angola around 1912, where his father worked as a trader and businessman. His full name was António Jacinto do Amaral Martins.

Jacinto spent his early years in the small settlement of Cambombo and, a little later, in Golungo alto in the province of Cuanza Norte in northern Angola, eventually settling in Luanda with his family. There, he attended the Liceu Salvador Correia, the institution which most Angolan intellectuals attended and which functioned as a cultural gathering place.

There, Jacinto began to dedicate himself to the collection of Angolan oral literature. In 1946 he wrote his first work of fiction ...


Jones, Bessie  

Gayle Murchison

folksinger, storyteller, and founder of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, was born in Smithville, Georgia, to Abby Lou Frances, a domestic, and Ronnie Smith, a farm worker (her stepfather was James Sampson). Originally named May Elizabeth after her grandmother and great grandmother she was raised largely by her grandparents who had been slaves and who taught her a large repertoire of song children s games and folktales She came from a musical family her grandfather played accordion her uncles played guitar and banjo the latter of which they made themselves and her mother played autoharp Her grandfather who had been brought from Africa to a Virginia plantation taught her games and songs such as Jibber more commonly known as Juba and Step It Down During her childhood and young adult years Jones moved with her family from one central Georgia farm town after ...


Lewis, Cudjo  

Timothy M. Broughton

slave and freeperson, storyteller, and community organizer, was born in what is now Benin, Africa. He was smuggled into Mobile, Alabama, aboard the schooner Clotilda in July 1860, over fifty years after the abolition of the North Atlantic slave trade in the United States. The Clotilda was the last known slave ship, and Lewis and the others were the last known Africans brought to America as slaves. Although Lewis's grandfather owned land, livestock, and a few slaves in Africa, his father Oluale and mother Nyfond-lo-loo lived humble lives. Nyfond-lo-loo was Oluale's second wife and Lewis their second child. Nyfond-lo-loo had five other children. Oluale also had nine by his first wife and three by his third wife.

As a young boy Lewis enjoyed playing with his siblings and playing the drums At the age of fourteen he began training to become a soldier learning how to ...


Nsue Angüe, María  

Benita Sampedro Vizcaya

writer and storyteller of traditional oral narratives from Equatorial Guinea (the only Spanish-speaking nation state in Africa), was born in jail in the city of Bata, where both her parents had been confined for resisting the authority of the colonial regime. Belonging to the Fang ethnic group, she is the only daughter of José Nsue Angüe, an anticolonial and proindependence leader (known by locals as “John Wayne”), who—after the coming of the country’s independence (on 12 October 1968)—would be appointed minister of education, then minister of agriculture, and later ambassador to Ethiopia, in the government of Francisco Macías Nguema.

Nsue Angüe s family came from Bidjabidján a frontier town in the northeast corner of the continental region of Río Muni bordering Cameroon on the north and Gabon on the east She lived there until the age of eight and was then entrusted to a Protestant missionary family temporarily stationed in ...


Red Thunder Cloud  

Darshell Silva

(also known as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West, Carlos Ashbie Hawk Westez, Ashbie Hawkins West, and Namo S. Hatirire) activist, linguist, storyteller, performer, and shaman, was born in Newport, Rhode Island. There are varying accounts of Red Thunder Cloud's parentage and upbringing. According to his own account, he was born Carlos Ashibie Hawk Westez. As a young boy, he was brought up among the Narragansett Indians of Rhode Island by his Catawba mother, Roberta Hawk Westez, and his Honduran father, Carlos Panchito Westez. He is believed to have lived among the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island in the late 1930s. His actual home during much of this time was said to be on the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina, but he traveled extensively, visiting many Indian groups. This account of his early life has been challenged by Smithsonian anthropologist and ethnologist Ives Goddard who claimed ...


Tate, Eleanora  

Dianne Johnson-Feelings

A former journalist in Iowa and Tennessee, a former president of the National Association of Black Storytellers, and a poet, Eleanora Tate has been most successful as a writer of children's and young adult literature. The film version of her first book, Just an Overnight Guest (1980), was aired as a part of PBS's Wonderworks series. The Secret of Gumbo Grove (1987) is not only a mystery but a story with a strong message about the importance of history and heritage. Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! (1990) chronicles young Raisin Stackhouse's journey toward self-appreciation. Retold African Myths (1993), illustrated by Tate's nephew, Don Tate, demonstrates her storytelling prowess. The same is true of Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School (1992 in which a father tells his daughter and niece the stories of his youth ...