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Allen, Samuel W.  

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...


Cole, Christian Frederick  

Pamela Roberts

Born in Waterloo, Sierra Leone in 1852, the second son of Jacob Cole of Kissey, Cole attended the oldest Western-style college in West Africa, Fourah Bay College, known as the Athens of West Africa, as a result of its strong curriculum in teaching Greek and Latin. His father died in 1872 and his uncle assumed his guardship. Cole enrolled at University College, the University of Oxford, on 19 April 1873, aged twenty-one, as a non-collegiate student to read for an Honors degree in Classical Moderation (Classics).

Cole’s matriculation was historic; he became the first black African scholar to study at the University of Oxford. The subject of his degree was deemed one of the most difficult to study and achieve. The infamous imperialist and colonist Cecil Rhodes (1853–1902) was turned down by University College when he applied to read Classics, eventually studying at Oriel College.

As ...


Dioscorus of Aphrodito  

Giovanni R. Ruffini

Egyptian lawyer and poet, was the son of Apollos, son of Psimanobet. Flavius Dioscorus is the best-documented figure from Byzantine Aphrodito (modern Egypt’s Kom Ishqaw) and consequently one of the best-documented representatives of village life in Egypt in the entire Greco-Roman period. The Aphrodito papyri—largely the business and personal papers of Dioskoros and his extended family—comprise an archive of hundreds of texts detailing the economic and social connections between thousands of Aphrodito villagers in the sixth century CE. Dioscorus, an Aphrodito village headman and in turn the son of another village headman, was one of the leading figures in the politics of his village in that period, and was involved in the political and economic affairs of the landowning and officeholding Roman imperial elite at the higher provincial level.

The bulk of the evidence for Dioscorus concerns either his private economic transactions or his career in village politics In the ...


Menard, John Willis  

Jennifer Larson

politician, poet, journalist, and activist, was born in rural Kalkaska, Illinois, to French Creole parents who had traveled up the Mississippi River to escape oppression in Louisiana. Only scattered details about Menard's early life in Illinois remain. He likely spent part of his youth working on area farms before attending an abolitionist preparatory school in Sparta, Illinois. He also attended Iberia College (later Ohio Central College) in his early twenties, though he did not complete a degree there, presumably because of financial setbacks.

In 1859 Menard spoke to a crowd gathered at the Illinois state fairgrounds to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. The Illinois State Journal s laudatory coverage of the speech points to Menard s budding career in social activism A year later in response to growing racial discrimination in the Illinois legislature Menard published An Address to the Free ...


Murray, Pauli  

A pioneer in fields previously inaccessible to women and African Americans, Pauli Murray was the first African American to be awarded a doctor of judicial science degree from Yale University. A freedom rider in the 1940s who later led student Sit-In demonstrations in Washington, D.C., restaurants, Murray graduated at the top of her class at Howard University. Nominated by the National Council of Negro Women as one of the twelve outstanding women in Negro life in 1945, Murray was the recipient of many honorary degrees and was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. In 1977 she was the first African American woman ordained as a priest of the Episcopal Church.

The daughter of a racially mixed middle-class family, Murray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the fourth of Agnes Georgianna Fitzgerald Murray and William Henry Murray s six children When Pauli Murray was ...


Pacéré, Titinga Frédéric  

Christopher Wise

poet, translator, lawyer, and prominent cultural figure in Burkina Faso, was born not far from Ouagagdougou in the village of Manega, Burkina Faso (then the Upper Volta). Founder of the Bendrology Museum in Manega, he is the author of some seventy separate books, centering on traditional Mossi culture. The village of Manega, a word that means “the land of tranquillity,” is situated in Oubritenga province in the heart of the Moogho, or “land of the Mossi people.” The Mossi empire was founded in the ninth century CE and includes the Gnougnoossi people (or “Tingin-Bissi,” literally “the sons of the earth”), who inhabited the area at an even earlier date. In fact, the Mossi have continually dwelled in their traditional homeland from time immemorial. Throughout the history of the continent, the Mossi have been famous for their success in repelling foreign incursions. As noted in the Tarikh es soudan and ...


Rodrigues, Deolinda  

Drew Thompson

Angolan opponent of Portuguese colonialism, originally named Deolinda Rodrigues Francisco de Almeida, was born in 1939 in Cateste, Angola, near Luanda. She was the cousin of Agostinho Neto.

The product of a missionary education and the recipient of a Methodist church scholarship, she traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, in 1959, where she studied sociology. Shortly after her arrival, Portugal and Brazil established a treaty that permitted Portugal to extradite individuals deemed subversive or threatening to the stability of the Portuguese state and its colonies. Fearing arrest for her political activities and views, Rodrigues sought asylum in the United States and continued her studies at Drew University in New Jersey. She returned to Angola in 1962 and joined the Angolan Volunteer Corps for Refugee Assistance in Leopoldville Congo later to become the organization s secretary She was an active member of the People s Movement for the Liberation of ...


Saldanha, José da Natividade  

Nicola Cooney

The illegitimate son of a Portuguese priest and a mulatto woman, José da Natividade Saldanha was born in Santo Amaro de Jaboatão, Pernambuco, Brazil. He went to Portugal, the colonial power, to study law at Coimbra University. While in law school Saldanha wrote and published his first collection of poems, Poemas dedicadas aos amigos e amantes do Brasil (Poems Dedicated to the Friends and Lovers of Brazil, 1822).

As a poet marked by Arcadianism, the influential neoclassical movement prevailing in some circles in Portugal and Brazil, Saldanha emphasized national and liberal ideologies that included the idea of a Brazilian republic and the abolition of slavery. Upon returning to Brazil the poet joined the secessionist movements brewing in Pernambuco and became a member of the junta that declared the independence of the Republic of Ecuador from Portugal in 1824 Condemned to death after the failure of this ...


Shakur, Tupac  

Akil Houston

rapper, actor, poet, and activist. Born Lesane Parish Crooks in East Harlem, New York, Tupac Amaru Shakur was the son of Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams), a Black Panther acquitted of a hundred counts of conspiracy against the government a month before Tupac's birth, and William Garland. His mother initially gave him his name Crooks to obscure his connection to her, but she changed it to Tupac Amaru Shakur a few months later, after her marriage to Mutulu Shakur. Tupac's godparents were the well-known Black Panthers Assata Shakur and Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt. With his family so active in the Black Panther Party, Tupac was surrounded by a political atmosphere in which he developed a sense of awareness and self-expression. In 1984 his family moved to Baltimore where Shakur enrolled at the Baltimore School for the Arts there he studied drama ballet and dance and ...


Valdés, Gabriel de la Concepción (“Plácido”)  

Joy Elizondo

Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, more generally known by his pseudonym “Plácido,” was born in Matanzas to a white mother, the Spanish dancer Concepción Vásquez, and a black father, Diego Ferrer Matoso. Plácido was abandoned as an infant, left at an orphanage on April 6, 1809; a note found with him was inscribed with the name “Gabriel de la Concepción.” He was given the last name Valdés, and the phrase “al parecer, blanco” (“appears white”) was inscribed on his baptism certificate. In his Biografías Americanas (1906), Enrique Piñeyro laments the fact that Plácido s remorseful father retrieved him soon after abandoning him if he had not reclaimed his son Plácido would have lost any trace of his previous servile condition As it was Piñeyro says his father s retrieval of him condemned the poor thing to a perpetual inferior situation to an irredeemable fortune ...