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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 ...

Primary Source

Following the Civil War newly formed all black infantry regiments known as the Buffalo Soldiers served on the rolling Western frontier protecting settlers and clearing a path for the construction of railroads and towns For many African American men volunteering in the army for $13 a month was a substantial improvement over their prospects back home But more than that the participation of these soldiers in the expansion west helped to establish African American communities where none had existed before And in the case of Squadron Major Eugene P Frierson of the Tenth Cavalry the experience was an opportunity for adventure despite the hardships and continued discrimination from the whites whom the Buffalo Soldiers were protecting Frierson wrote a serialized story based on his time in the army one of the episodes is reproduced below Although it places little emphasis on character development plot or major themes the story carries ...

Primary Source

Colleen J. McElroy (b. 1935) was in her thirties before she began writing poetry, fiction, and memoirs in earnest. Until then, she had trained as a speech therapist, earning a doctorate while studying ethnolinguistic patterns at the University of Washington, where she became the first African American woman to be promoted to full professor. As the daughter of an army sergeant, McElroy was also well-traveled by the time her writing career took off, living in multiple American cities as well as overseas. Both of these experiences are on display in her collection of short stories, Driving Under the Cardboard Pines (1990), which, in the words of one reviewer, depicts the "mysticism and brutality" of the African American experience by bringing together voices of a diverse collection of characters (Barbara Smith, "Homeward Bound," The Kenyon Review). Although her previous collection, Jesus and Fat Tuesday 1987 is based mainly in ...


Margaret Ann Reid

Johari Amini, born Jewel Christine McLawler to William and Alma (Bazel) McLawler on 13 January 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed her name after her consciousness-raising by Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee), whom she met as a thirty-two-year-old freshman at Wilson Junior College. Johari is Swahili for “Jewel,” and Amini is Swahili for “honesty and fidelity.” Amini believes that the meaning of a name becomes an inherent part of the person carrying that name, and she wanted names that would reflect her personality and her values of honesty and fidelity—values that she lived by and that she wanted her writings to convey.

Amini's meeting Madhubuti was the beginning of a long literary and political association which is demonstrated in her poetic style as well as in her social criticism She was a staff member of the Institute of Positive Education and she was assistant then associate editor ...


Onita Estes-Hicks

librarian, Harlem Renaissance cultural worker, and playwright, was born Regina Anderson in Chicago, the daughter of Margaret (Simons) Anderson, an artist, and William Grant Anderson, a prominent criminal attorney. She was reared in a black Victorian household in Chicago's Hyde Park district, amply provided for by a father who counted W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson among his friends and clients. Regina attended normal school and high school in Hyde Park, studying later at Wilberforce University and the University of Chicago, and eventually receiving a degree in Library Science from Columbia University's School of Library Science.

The Chicago of her youth and early adulthood struck her as provincial, yet it was flavored by migrants from the deep South and enlivened by the voice of Ida B. Wells whose writings on lynching gave Anderson an understanding of the link between race and violence ...


Freda R. Beaty

and winner of first James *Baldwin Prize. Raymond Andrews was born near Madison, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children born to sharecropping parents George and Viola Andrews. He helped with the farm work and absorbed the ambience of rural living that was to color his later writings. Andrews left home at fifteen and worked at a variety of jobs while beginning to write. He eventually took a position in New York City with an airline, a job that enabled him to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.

Raymond Andrews's first published piece was an article on baseball, which appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1975. In 1976, Ataraxia, a small journal edited by Phillip Lee Williams and Linda Williams, excerpted a section from the novel Appalachee Red, which was published in its entirety by Dial Press (1978). Appalachee ...


Carol P. Marsh-Lockett

Immensely complex because of its size and scope, Another Country is James Baldwin's most ambitious novel. This novel of ideas covers myriad issues and themes, all related to the transcending power of love. Through interlocking events and episodes, Another Country critiques a “moral” and “democratic” America that fosters prejudice based on race, class, and sexuality. The author began writing it in the mid-1950s, completing it in Istanbul; Dial Press published the novel in 1962, and it became a best-seller.

Baldwin creates characters of various racial, sexual, and social backgrounds to illustrate how personal, cultural, and national identities intersect. We first encounter Rufus Scott, a black jazz musician and one of the novel's many artists. He mentally and physically abuses his lover Leona a white Southerner who goes insane Psychically and physically debilitated by a virulent self hatred Rufus portends America s fate if it continues to ...


Jonathan Silverman

Tina McElroy Ansa was born in Macon, Georgia, and educated at Mount DeSales, a Catholic school in Macon, and at Spelman College in Atlanta. Early in her career, she worked primarily as a journalist. She freelanced and worked for the Atlanta Constitution and for the Charlotte Observer (N.C.). She has also conducted writing workshops in Georgia at Brunswick College, Emory University, and Spelman College.

Ansa s best known work is her fiction She may be considered a southern writer for her fiction clearly draws on the physical landscape specifically the middle Georgia setting and the mores and folkways that shape the psyche of the American South Unlike much of southern fiction however her tales are devoid of the subtextual exploration of the undercurrent of dysfunction and perversion that exists in the South That is not to say that her fictive worlds are without dysfunction or moral conflict Her fiction however ...


Kameelah L. Martin

novelist, journalist, and educator, was born in Macon, Georgia, the youngest child of Walter J. McElroy, an entrepreneur and business owner, and Nellie Lee McElroy, a teaching assistant. Ansa grew up surrounded by storytellers. Her grandfather was one, and the patrons of her father's neighborhood juke joint often shared the tales of their seedy lives.

This love of storytelling remained with Ansa as she pursued a BA in English at the historically black Spelman College in Atlanta. There, Ansa was introduced to the writing of Zora Neale Hurston by her professor Gloria Wade‐Gayles, an introduction that continued to shape Ansa's appreciation for the art of storytelling and folk tradition in the African American community, and one that would influence her own writing style tremendously. After completing her degree in 1971 Ansa became the first African American woman hired to work for the Atlanta Constitution (later the Atlanta ...


Nicole Sealey

novelist, philosopher, and scholar was born in London, England, to Joe Appiah, a Ghanaian barrister and statesman, and Peggy Cripps, novelist and daughter of Sir Stafford Cripps, a British statesman. Not long after Appiah's birth, his family relocated to Ghana, where he attended primary school. After the political imprisonment of his father by then‐president Kwame Nkrumah, Appiah returned to England. There he completed his secondary education at Bryanston, a British boarding school.

Influenced by his mother's affinity for the literary arts, Appiah read works of authors such as Chinua Achebe, D. H. Lawrence, and Tolstoy. Visitors to the Appiah residence included the Pan‐Africanist authors and theorists C. L. R. James and Richard Wright. Appiah's multiethnic family and early fascination with literature helped shape his identity and his world view. In 1972 he entered Cambridge University where he earned both a BA and ...

Primary Source

Founded in 1900, the Colored American Magazine was intended to provide a voice to previously neglected African American writers and to act as an engine of social reform in the bleakest days of the Jim Crow era. The work of Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930) sought to satisfy both goals. During the first few years of the magazine’s existence, Hopkins was one of its most prolific contributors, publishing several serialized novels, short stories, essays, and biographies. Trained as a journalist, Hopkins saw her popular fiction as a means to criticize racism and segregation. As Hazel V. Carby points out (The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins Oxford University Press 1988 Hopkins both utilizes the strategies and formulas of nineteenth century dime novels and story papers and reveals the limits of these popular narrative forms for black characterization Although her stories contain formulaic structures and elements of melodrama her use of strong ...


Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...


George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...


Sara E. Hosey

novelist and columnist, was born in Mobile, Alabama. Raised primarily by her mother, Tommie Letitia Austin, and her grandmother, Rebecca Stallworth, Doris Jean was five years old when her family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. Reverend Ercell Webb, her high school teacher, encouraged Austin to write, and Austin's early life in New Jersey provided a geographical and temporal backdrop for her only novel, After the Garden (1987).

Austin transformed the trials of her young adulthood into fodder for her writing Before she was thirty Austin s mother and grandmother had died of cancer she had lived through two divorces she had been diagnosed with and overcome cancer herself and she had struggled with alcoholism She also recovered the memory of the rape that she had survived when she was a child Austin drew on these sources of pain for both her fiction and her nonfiction ...


Phiefer L. Browne

Doris Jean Austin is the author of one novel, After the Garden (1987), and a frequent contributor to such periodicals as Essence and the New York Times Book Review. In Essence, she has published articles such as “The Men in My Life,” “Fighting Off the Fears,” and “Holistic Healing: Mind: Taming the Demons” (all 1992).

Austin was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she lived until she was six, when her family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. That city serves as the locale for her fictional creation. She has been a MacDowell Colony fellow and a recipient of the DeWitt Wallace/Reader's Digest Award for Literary Excellence. That recognition came with the publication of After the Garden.

Episodic in structure, After the Garden takes place over a twenty-three year period, from 1939 to 1962 It presents a self contained African American world little impacted ...


Originally published anonymously in 1912, James Weldon Johnson's novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man advances the narrative of the “tragic mulatto” who passes for white beyond the constraints imposed by the form as it was practiced in nineteenth-century American literature. Though in some ways conforming to the conventional novel of passing in suggesting that a mixed racial heritage makes a person incapable of functioning in either the black or the white world, Johnson's novel turns this notion on its head by invoking double consciousness, as his narrator makes clear:

It is this too which makes the colored people of this country in reality a mystery to the whites It is a difficult thing for a white man to learn what a colored man really thinks because generally with the latter an additional and different light must be brought to bear on what he thinks This gives to ...


(1971). Widely praised as Ernest J. Gaines's best book, this historical novel builds upon fugitive slave narratives as well as the oral tradition. The first-person narrator, some 110 years old, is one of the most memorable characters in all African American fiction. Set in rural Louisiana, the novel is divided into four parts—The War Years, Reconstruction, The Plantation, and The Quarters—that progress from the 1860s to the 1960s. It is the immediacy and authenticity of Miss Jane s voice the book s greatest literary achievement that enable the author to unify the text s panoramic sweep and its highly episodic structure Jane is both an effectively realized individual and a representative figure a spokesperson for the African American experience from slavery times to the era of the civil rights movement Gaines s Introduction presents her story as the outcome of a series of interviews by the ...


Betty Taylor-Thompson

Baby Suggs Holy is the mother-in-law of Sethe Suggs, the protagonist of Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987). The novel begins with Sethe's escape to Baby Suggs, who lives in Ohio. Halle, Sethe's husband and Baby Suggs's son, has succeeded in buying his mother's freedom by working extra on Sundays. Baby Suggs becomes a holy figure and preaches self-love to her people in an open area near her home. Sethe arrives mutilated, bruised, and worn out, and Baby Suggs tenderly ministers to her daughter-in-law and her baby, healing Sethe's body.

After Sethe s arrival Stamp Paid the ferryman who brings the former slaves to Ohio brings them huge buckets of blackberries and the women decide to have a feast and share the pies with the other colored people in the area The people however resent their generosity and feel that Baby Suggs is showing off therefore they fail ...


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 ...


Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...