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Mary T. Henry

bishop, civil rights leader, and educator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Rev. Eugene Avery Adams and Charity Nash Adams. He and his three siblings, Avery, Charity, and Lucy Rose, were raised in a spiritual and intellectually stimulating home. His father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and social activist, in the 1920s organized the first African American bank in Columbia and the first modern statewide civil rights organization in South Carolina. None of these activities went unnoticed by young John and they helped to define his later focus and commitments. Adams was educated in the segregated Columbia school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His undergraduate work was completed at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned an AB degree in History in 1947 After studying at Boston University School of Theology he received a bachelor of ...


Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...


Geoffrey Roper

Moroccan Arabic writer, journalist, and diplomat (not to be confused with the francophone writer Abdelmajid Benjelloun, born in 1944), was born in Casablanca. At the age of five months, he was taken by his parents to Manchester, where his father worked as a merchant. He attended primary school there, and became the darling of a small community of immigrants. The loss of both his mother and his sister while he was still young had a profound effect on him, reinforced by his reading of Charles Dickens; the emotional consequences of this loss can be found in his writings.

He returned to Morocco with his father at the age of nine They took up residence in Fez where Bin Jallun received his secondary education and then enrolled in the ancient Islamic university of the Qarawiyin The pervasive atmosphere there was one of traditional Arabic learning and culture and this made a ...


Gillian Whitlock

the Danish writer also known as Isak Dinesen, who lived in British East Africa (present-day Kenya), was born Karen Dinesen at Rungstedlund, Denmark, on 17 April 1885. Her father, Wilhelm Dinesen, was a military officer, landowner, and Member of Parliament; the Dinesens were an ancient Danish family of landed gentry. Her mother, Ingeborg Westenholtz, was the eldest daughter of the wealthy businessman and finance minister Regnar Westenholtz. Following the suicide of Wilhelm Dinesen in 1895, Ingeborg Dinesen raised her three daughters and two sons in a maternal household, where Karen was known as “Tanne.” As a young woman, Karen Blixen attended art school, mastered several European languages, frequented the aristocratic circles of upper-class young people in Denmark, and began to publish short stories in Danish periodicals in 1907 under the pseudonym Osceola None of these early stories attracted particular attention and she felt discouraged as a writer ...


John C. Gruesser

Born a slave in Maryland, John Edward Bruce grew up in Washington, D.C. Developing an interest in journalism, he worked as a general helper in the office of the Washington correspondent for the New York Times in 1874. By the time Bruce was twenty he was writing for newspapers, using the pen name “Rising Sun”, and in 1879 he started his own paper, the Argus, in Washington, D.C. In 1884 Bruce began writing under the name “Bruce Grit” in the Cleveland Gazette and the New York Age, eventually becoming one of the most widely read and influential African American journalists of his era. In his writings and speeches, Bruce decried mixed-race marriages, denounced Euro-American imperialism, aggressively promoted race pride and solidarity, championed self-help, and advocated the study of black history to combat the anti-Negro rhetoric of the post-Reconstruction period.

Bruce served as a conduit linking people ...


David Alvin Canton

journalist and historian, was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce's owner, sold Robert to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, John lived in Maryland until 1861, when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where John lived until 1892. In 1865 John's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where her son received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, D.C., where John continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. John married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. In 1895 he married Florence Adelaide Bishop, with whom he had one child.

Bruce began ...


Eric Gardner

writer and activist, was probably born in New Orleans or New York with the given name Mary Jane, although information surrounding her parentage and youth is limited. She seems to have spent time in Illinois, New York, and Kentucky, and worked as a teacher as well as, briefly, a governess; she also claimed some involvement aiding fugitive slaves escaping from Missouri via the Underground Railroad. She moved west with her first husband, a Mr. Correll, who is believed to have been a minister, in the early 1860s. It is only after her 29 August 1866 marriage to the musician, educator, and activist Dennis Drummond Carter in Nevada City, California, that Carter's biography begins to come into focus.

In June of 1867, under the name “Mrs. Ann J. Trask,” Carter wrote to Philip Alexander Bell, the editor of the San Francisco Elevator and suggested ...


Richard Watts

Raphaël Confiant was born in Le Lorrain, Martinique. Like many people on the island, Confiant was raised to speak two languages: Creole at home and French in school or at work. Confiant developed an attachment to Creole, the oft-maligned spoken language of his island, and the underclass culture associated with it. With an eye toward gaining acceptance for Creole as a literary language, Confiant wrote his first five novels in this idiom. These works—influenced by authors such as the Haitian Frankétienne (Dézafi; 1975) and the Martinican Gilbert Gratiant (Fab Compè Zicaque; 1958 who were among the first to write in Creole present the diversity of Creole culture in Martinique However these novels lack of popular success resulting in part from a limited Creole reading audience convinced Confiant that his subsequent novels should be published in French But Confiant did not simply give up on ...


James Sellman

During the nineteenth century Martin Robison Delany was a prominent African American leader, but his repeated political shifts undermined his standing and obscured his legacy. Recently, historian Sterling Stuckey has emphasized Delany's role in the development of black nationalist thought, concluding that he was an influence on W. E. B. Du Bois.

Delany was the son of a slave father and a free mother; her free status made her son free as well. As a child, he moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He attracted the attention of a prosperous mentor, John B. Vashon, who paid for Delany's education. White abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison described him as “black as jet and a fine fellow of great energy and spirit,” but Delany's separatist views alienated many potential allies.

In contrast to Frederick Douglass whose outlook was integrationist Delany stressed the importance of blacks African heritage and the need for black ...


Clarence G. Contee

Born about 1846 in New York City on Sullivan Street in Lower Manhattan, a son of Henry Downing and Nancy (Collins) Downing, Henry Francis Downing was the grandson of Thomas Downing, operator of an oyster-selling business and well-known free black. He was the nephew of George Thomas Downing, a well known politician in New York City and in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as a friend of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The family maintained the oyster business and a refectory (dining hall) on Broad Street into the 1850s. Henry Downing received enough education to enable him to read and to write.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Downing was still in school. Eager to serve, he enlisted in the Union Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 25, 1864, beginning his service on board the North Carolina He was ...


Lawrence R. Rodgers

Born in New York City into a family of successful free African Americans who ran an oyster business, Henry Downing was the nephew of the esteemed politician George Thomas Downing. Henry Downing served two terms in the U.S. Navy (1864–1865 and 1872–1875). Following the Civil War, he traveled around the world, a journey punctuated by a three-year residence in Liberia, where his cousin Hilary Johnson later served as president (1884–1892). After returning to New York, he became politically active in the Democratic Party. For his strong support, President Cleveland appointed Downing consul to Loanda, Angola, a West African colony of Portugal, where he served less than a year before resigning in 1888. After returning to New York for several years, he emigrated to London in 1895 where he remained for twenty two years There he began a productive if undistinguished career as a writer ...


Brian R. Roberts

diplomat, editor, and author, was born in Manhattan to Henry and Nancy (Collins) Downing. His family operated an oyster business and restaurant, and his uncle was George Thomas Downing, a Rhode Island businessman and civil rights leader. Nothing is known of Henry Downing's education before he entered the U.S. Navy at age eighteen.

Serving from 1864 through 1865 he worked on three vessels, the North Carolina, Pawtuxet, and Winooski. Afterward he traveled widely, spending three years in Liberia, where his cousin, Hilary Johnson, later became president (1884–1892). In Liberia, Downing worked as secretary to the Liberian secretary of state. Upon his return to New York he reenlisted in the navy, serving from 1872 to 1875 on the Hartford in the Pacific.

After his discharge Downing again returned to New York City and married Isadora (maiden name unknown) on 8 ...


Arnold Rampersad

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868. He was born into a small community of blacks who had settled in the region since at least the Revolutionary War, in which an ancestor had fought. His mother, Mary Sylvina Burghardt, married a restless young visitor to the region, Alfred Du Bois, who disappeared soon after the birth of his son. Du Bois grew up a thorough New Englander, as he recalled, a member of the Congregational Church and a star student in the local schools, where he was encouraged to excel.

In 1885 he left Great Barrington for Nashville Tennessee to enter Fisk University The racism of the South appalled him No one but a Negro going into the South without previous experience of color caste can have any conception of its barbarism Nevertheless he enjoyed life at Fisk from which ...


John E. Fleming and Rayford W. Logan

Born in Weston, Platte County, Missouri, George Washington Ellis was the son of George and Amanda Jane (Drace) Ellis. He studied in the Weston elementary schools and the high school in Atchison, Kansas. He received his bachelor of law degree from the University of Kansas in 1893 and was admitted to the Kansas bar. From 1893 to 1897 he practiced law in Kansas to defray the expenses of four years in the university's collegiate department, and received his bachelor of arts degree in 1897. In that same year, he moved to New York City, where he took a two-year course in the Gunton Institute of Economics and Sociology.

After passing the examination of the United States Census Board in 1899, Ellis received an appointment in the Census Division of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. where he remained two years Here his spare ...


Vivian M. May

A native Memphian, Arthur Flowers's writing integrates regional African American culture, including blues music, hoodoo spirituality, Delta dialect, and oral traditions. His delving into the local, linguistically and culturally, is evocative of Zora Neale Hurston (who makes a cameo appearance in his first novel), Langston Hughes, and Ishmael Reed. Moreover, attending John O. Killens's (founder of the Harlem Writer's Guild) writing workshop at Columbia University over a span of thirteen years has clearly influenced Flowers. Killens believed that art is a form of propaganda and that it can have decolonizing uses. The workshop inspired Flowers to cofound (with others, including Doris Jean Austin and B. J. Ashanti) and to act as executive director of the New Renaissance Writer's Guild in New York. Flowers also founded a literary workshop in Memphis called the Griot Shop.

Flowers s writings can be placed in a historical continuum of activism ...


Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

writer, school inspector, politician, diplomat, and foreign minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), was born at Pointe-Noire, Middle Congo, on 27 November 1927. His father, Pedro Franck, was from Cabinda, Portuguese Angola, and his mother, Baza Souzat, was from the former Belgian Congo, but he was granted CAR citizenship on 12 January 1967. After studying at the École des Cadres for French Equatorial Africa in Brazzaville, Franck was sent to Ubangi-Shari as an administrator in 1945. On 24 October 1951 he married Marie-Josèphe Jeannot Valangadede, who bore three girls and four boys before a divorce on 19 May 1973. She was a leader of the CAR National Women’s Association and the first female member of a CAR government.

Franck was active in the Éclaireurs Boy Scouts and represented them at the Grand Congrès des Mouvements de Jeunesse de Toute l AEF Grand Congress of Youth ...


Reidulf K. Molvaer

Ethiopian civil servant, politician, and author, was born in Hirna, Harerghe province, in eastern Ethiopia, the son of Tekle Hawariyat Tekle Mariyam, a prominent politician and writer, and a strict disciplinarian. In 1924 Germachew Tekle Hawariyat was sent to the Alliance Française school in the town of Dire Dawa. Two years later he was sent to the Alliance Française school in Addis Ababa, where he attended evening classes for five years. Then he went to Paris with his father, who was working at the Ethiopian embassy there. He studied theology at the Collège Stanislas and obtained a baccalauréat degree in the subject, but his main interest was French language and literature.

Germachew Tekle Hawariyat returned to Ethiopia at the end of 1935, just as hostilities between Ethiopia and Italy broke out. Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 and occupied the country until 1941 He went with the emperor to ...


Reidulf K. Molvaer

Ethiopian politician and author, was born to Alemayyehu Selomon, a priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Desta Alemu, the daughter of a priest, in a small village not far from Debre Marqos, the main town of Gojjam province in Western Ethiopia. He was first sent to a church-run school from the age of six to fifteen, and besides learning to read and write became good at singing church chants (zema), a love of which he preserved all his life. His main teacher was his maternal grandfather. After a couple of years away from home, but still in his home province, when he learned the rules of traditional Ethiopian church poetry (qine he moved to the capital Addis Ababa There he first went to the Swedish Mission School for two years starting from grade 1 because he had no previous knowledge of English the language used ...


Aissata Sidikou

Nigérien poet, novelist, and politician, was born in Foneko, a small village situated near Tera in Niger, where he attended elementary school during the colonial era. He was later sent to Ouagadougou in today’s Burkina Faso, where he continued upper primary school for two years. Because of his exceptional school performance, he was sent, too early, in 1926 to Senegal to the federal École Normale William Ponty of Gorée, the famous colonial school from which many well-known African scholars and leaders, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor, graduated. At the age of 17, Hama became the first Nigérien teacher of French and served at the regional school in Niamey in 1929, and then five years later he was sent to the Tillabery region. He was again dispatched back to Niamey in 1938 because he was accused of inciting peasants to revolt against French colonial injustice. In 1945 he was ...


Maxim Zabolotskikh

Ethiopian statesman, writer, and intellectual, was born Gebre Meskel on 8 May 1878 in Menz (Ethiopia). His father ato Welde Sellasie was the administrator of Denn Abbo monastery, and his mother weyzero Amete-Mariyam Zena was a distant relative of King Sahle Sellasie of Shewa.

Heruy’s father, who was illiterate, wanted his son to get a good education and sent him to the local church school at the age of 7. He closely supervised his son’s progress until he died when Heruy was 13. Left without financial assistance, Heruy earned his living as a deacon and scribe. However, he soon decided to pursue his studies in the famous monastery of Entoto Raguel, situated on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. It was there that his mentor, memher Welde Giyorgis, gave him the name “Heruy” (“Precious”).

Heruy won the patronage of tsehafe te’ezaz writer of orders Gebre Sellasie Emperor Menilek s private ...