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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 ...


Zoe Trodd

fugitive slave and novelist, escaped in 1857 from her owner and authored The Bondwoman's Narrative (c. 1858), which is most likely the first novel written by a black female (or else written in the same year that Harriet Wilson wrote Our Nig) and is the first novel written by a female fugitive slave. A first-person novel that draws on the author's own life experiences, it is our first “unedited, unaffected, unglossed, unaided” glimpse into the mind of a fugitive slave, as literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. explains in his introduction to the 2002 edition of the novel (p. xxxiii).

Originally the slave of Lewis Bond, Hannah ended up in the household of the Wheeler family, through Lucinda Bond, the wife of John Hill Wheeler's brother. In 1856 Wheeler and his wife Ellen gained ownership of Hannah Enslaved on Wheeler s plantation in Murfreesboro eastern ...


Robert Janis

professional football player and businessman, was born in Clairton, Pennsylvania, the first of three sons of Lawrence Brown, a baggage handler for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Rosa Lee, a housemaid. The family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when Brown was only two years old. He began playing football in his junior year at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh. He chose football over baseball because he thought he had a better chance to attain a college scholarship in football. Prior to his junior year, Brown played baseball. He said that his father encouraged him to play baseball because it was a game one could play as an organized sport at a young age. His dad loved baseball and was an excellent player in his own right, though he did not play professionally but rather with neighborhood friends.

Brown played fullback in high school primarily because he had good blocking skills He ...


R. J. M. Blackett

Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy’s St. Louis Times He was also hired out to a slave trader who took coffles of slaves down the Mississippi River for sale in New Orleans Brown s task was to prepare the slaves for sale making sure that they all appeared to be in good health Among other things that meant dyeing the hair of the older slaves ...


Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...


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 ...


Lou-Ann Crouther

housekeeper, nurse's aide, and writer, was born in New York City, the oldest of the three daughters of James Lee Dickens, a barber and night watchman, and Laura Breckinridge Paige Dickens Potter, a housekeeper and cook. The household also included extended family members, Ethel and Edna Paige (Dorothy's older half-sisters), whose father was deceased. They attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem during some of the years in which Adam Clayton Powell Sr. (who was Laura Dickens's first cousin) was the head pastor. The family moved from Harlem to Mamaroneck, New York, when Dorothy was young, on the recommendation of the family doctor who suggested a more favorable location to cure her case of rickets. Her younger sisters, Evelyn and Irene were born in Mamaroneck and all three of the Dickens girls attended local schools in that city The three Dickens sisters shared the ...


Sheila Hassell Hughes

Born in Chicago in 1932, Ronald L. Fair began writing as a teenager. After graduating from public school in Chicago, Fair spent three years in the U.S. Navy (1950–1953) before attending a Chicago stenotype school for two years. While supporting himself as a court reporter and stenographer for the next decade (1955–1966), he produced his first two novels. After then working briefly as an encyclopedia writer, Fair taught for a few years—at Columbia College (1967–1968), Northwestern University (1968), and Wesleyan University (1969–1970). Fair moved to Finland in 1971 and has lived in Europe since that time. He is divorced and has three children.

Ronald Fair's first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable (1965), both fantastic tale and “protest novel,” is a satiric re-vision of the South, where, in the mythical Jacobs County slaves were never ...


Barbara McCaskill

enduring icon in America's imagination since abolition and Thomas Jefferson's alleged lover for thirty-eight years. Sally Hemings was emancipated in 1828, and her mystique subjected her to legend of the magnitude that posthumously hounds Elvis Presley. Hemings sightings proliferated in antislavery periodicals, and she was fictionalized in fugitive slave William Wells Brown's novel Clotel, or The President's Daughter (1853).

Hemings was half sister to Jefferson's wife, Martha, born to Martha's father, John Wayles, and Betty, a half-white slave. An inheritance from Wayles, the quadroon Hemings was house slave at Monticello. Published documentation of the Hemings-Jefferson affair began with a 1 September 1802 exposé by James Thomson Callender in Richmond's Recorder.

Biographers who dispute the relationship, including Dumas Malone and Virginius Dabney, oppose historian Fawn Brodie and novelist Barbara Chase-Riboud (Sally Hemings, 1979 who authenticate it Virtually dismissed ...


Julia L. Alderson

social reformer, journalist, author, and lecturer. Born in Fort Valley, Georgia, Victoria Earle Matthews was one of nine children of Caroline Smith, a slave. Matthews's father may have been her mother's master or another slave, William. Matthews's mother fled to the North, returning after Emancipation to regain custody of her children. The family arrived in New York City in 1873, where Matthews attended school until family obligations forced her to begin work as a domestic servant. She married William Matthews, a coachman and native of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1879 at age eighteen. The couple had a son, Lamartine, and settled in Brooklyn.

During the early years of her marriage Matthews wrote children's stories, which were published in Waverly magazine and the Family Story Paper She joined the Women s National Press Association and worked as a sub reporter for several daily newspapers ...


Deborah Garfield

Victoria Matthews was born Victoria Earle in Fort Valley, Georgia, to the slave Caroline Smith. Caroline fled to New York in order to escape a vicious master, probably Victoria's father. Saving her wages, the mother returned eight years later and won custody of Victoria and her sister and took them to New York around 1873. Though Victoria was an adept student, family crises prompted her to leave school for domestic service. Yet she soon harvested a rich education from her admiring employer's library. At eighteen, after marying William Matthews and bearing a son, Lamartine, she applied her self-enlightenment to a thriving journalistic career, which commenced with work as a “sub” -reporter for publications like the Times, Herald, and Sunday Mercury. A prolific correspondent for African American newspapers, including the Boston Advocate and New York Globe, she became an authorial celebrity.

Matthews s career was driven ...


Nazneen Ahmed

Trinidadianwriter and political campaigner active in British politics. McKenzie trained as a teacher in Trinidad and emigrated to Britain in 1927 in the hope of studying journalism. Unable to pursue journalism or teaching, he undertook a series of jobs, including the running of two restaurants, while persevering with writing articles, plays, and poetry. His only available publication is an article in The Keys, the journal of the League of Coloured Peoples. McKenzie was known as an effective public speaker and attended the 1945 Manchester Pan‐African Congress as the representative of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union. After the war he opened the Caribbean Bureau in London, which was a press agency, information bureau, and importer of Caribbean products. After the death of his first wife in Trinidad, he married Elsie Hartz the daughter of Russian Jewish emigrants to Britain He travelled to Trinidad several times in ...


Grant Lilford

Lesotho novelist, editor, commentator, and entrepreneur, was born in 1877, in Khojane Village, Mafeteng, Lesotho, to Abner and Aleta Mofolo, both Christians. He was baptized in the church of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. His parents moved to the Qomoqomong valley shortly after his birth.

He attended a local school in Quthing and then worked for the Reverend Alfred Casalis, who recognized his enthusiasm and intelligence and sponsored his further studies for three years at the Mountain School in Morija. Mofolo then worked at the Morija Book Depot from 1899 before studying carpentry and becoming a teacher. He returned to the Book Depot and wrote Moeti oa Bochabela from 1905 to 1906. He left the Book Depot in 1910 to seek work in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and to work in Johannesburg, either in the mines or as a court interpreter. In 1912 he returned to Lesotho ...


Ernest Emenyonu

Nigerian scholar, administrator, educator, publisher, novelist, playwright, and essayist, was born Promise Ogochukwu Onwudiwe in Enugu, Nigeria, on 16 July 1970. Her father, P. D. I. Onwudiwe, was a civil servant who worked in the Ministry of Education. Her mother, Janet, worked as a schoolteacher. Under her married name, Promise Okekwe, she published extensively in virtually every genre for two decades. Divorced in 2008, she changed her name to Ogochukwu Promise, using it both in remarriage and her writings. This extremely prolific writer and artist settled down in Lagos, Nigeria, with her family, including a daughter, Angel Ogochukwu-Promise. Her earliest works were published under her maiden name, Promise Ogochukwu Onwudiwe (Soul-Journey into the Night [1992]; Marry Me to the Rain God [1993]), but occasionally she wrote under a pen name, Ada Iloekunanwa (Rubble [2000]; The Street Beggars [2001]).

Okekwe was educated at Queens High School Enugu Nigeria ...


Floyd Ogburn

newspaper correspondent and storyteller, was born David Bryant Fulton in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of Benjamin Fulton, a public carter, and Lavinia Robinson Thorne. The oldest of fourteen children of Hamlet and Amy Robinson, Lavinia grew up a slave in Robeson County, North Carolina, in the absence of her parents but under the “indulgence of her master” (Thorne, Eagle Clippings, 7), who taught her to read the Bible at a very young age. At fourteen Lavinia married Benjamin. Raising ten children, Benjamin and Lavinia settled in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1867.

In 1887, after completing his education at the segregated Williston School and Gregory Normal Institute in Wilmington, Thorne moved to New York City but found it difficult to find meaningful employment. He obtained work in 1888 as a porter for the Pullman Palace Car Company spending nine years at the ...