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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian poet, diplomat, military commander, and politician, was born in Cairo on 6 October 1839. His family claimed descent from a medieval Mamluk royal line, but his surname (nisba) refers to the district of Ityay al-Barud in Lower Egypt, of which his ancestors had once been tax farmers (multazims). His father, an artillery officer under Muhammad Ali, died in Sudan when al-Barudi was only seven years old. After primary education, al-Barudi entered the Military Training School in Cairo, in 1851, and graduated from it in 1855 with the rank of bash-jawish (sergeant-major). During the reign of the viceroy Saʿid (r. 1854–1863), he served in Istanbul as a diplomat and during this time acquired a lifelong enthusiasm for literature.

In 1863 the new viceroy, Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 visited Istanbul and recruited al Barudi as commander of his Viceregal Guard in Cairo with the ...


Kate Tuttle

Born into a prominent Scottish family in Durban, South Africa, Roy Campbell brought to the world of English letters a passionate love for the Africa of his childhood. After attending school in Durban, Campbell left South Africa for Oxford College in England in 1918. Already a writer, Campbell’s youthful verses show the influences of Yeats, Wordsworth, and Shelley while featuring rich descriptions of African landscape, wildlife, and indigenous folkways.

Disappointed by Oxford and drifting through the London arts scene, Campbell, who had married in 1922, moved with his wife to a remote cabin in Wales. It was there that he wrote The Flaming Terrapin (1924), an epic poem hailed by critics for its energy and exuberance. While dealing with the alienation of the European world following World War I (1914–1918), The Flaming Terrapin also introduced readers to Campbell s invocation of African muses ...


Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...


Wallace Hettle

sailor, poet, Civil War soldier, and newspaper correspondent, first appears in the historical record in 1856 as a nineteen-year-old sailor on a whaling vessel out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. His birthplace is uncertain. His marriage certificate and seaman's papers say he was born in Troy, New York, yet no Gooding family appears in the census records for Troy. In Seneca, New York, a state census in 1850 records the presence of a James Goodin (with no final g who might have been Gooding s father and who probably worked as a rail or canal laborer in upstate New York Whatever Gooding s early background his education whether self directed or formal was exceptional The letters he published during the Civil War reveal his grounding in history and the classics If he did grow up in Troy Gooding received the benefits of membership in a black community ...


Said M. Mohamed

Somali commander and poet, was born around 1862 in Lasadar, the site of a water well in Somalia’s Buhodle district. An alternate form of his name is Ismaaciil Mire Cilmi. Ismail spent his early life as a nomad in the regions of Nogal and Hawd. After joining the Dervish liberation army, led by Sayyid Muhammad ʿAbdallah Hasan, he became a commander in chief who used his poetic talent to mobilize Dervish support and celebrate colonial defeats. As poetry was the major means of communication among Somalis at that time, Ismail and Sayyid Mohamed, also a great poet, used to exchange poetic messages. Ismail’s poems about the attack on Berbera and the battle of Dulmadobe are still well remembered among Somalis. Ismail’s poetic talent was such that Diana Fearon, who met him in 1948 said that the power of his voice was so great that he could sing his countrymen ...


Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...


Born in Basse-Terre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Paul Niger completed his primary schooling at the lycée Carnot. He then traveled to Paris, France, where he studied at lycée Louis-le-Grand and the École Nationale de la France d'outre-mer. While in Paris, Niger frequented the milieu of black intellectuals like Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor before the war. He also fought for the French resistance following the installation of the Nazi-supported Vichy regime. Niger subsequently began a career as a colonial administrator in Dahomey (now Benin), Mali, and Niger in 1944. This experience led him to an increasingly violent condemnation of French Colonialism. In turn, he celebrated a somewhat mythical, essentialized Africa in poems such as “Or j'avais renoncé à prononcer ton nom” (1959). Niger was a frequent contributor to the journal Présence Africaine in the postwar years. In 1954 he ...


Alberto Arenas

Obeso was born three years before the Colombian government abolished slavery. The illegitimate son of a white lawyer and a mulatto laundrywoman, Obeso was raised by his mother in the small town of Mompós along the banks of the Magdalena River. At the age of seventeen he moved to Bogotá to study at a military academy. Just one year after his arrival, a military coup closed down the academy, and Obeso then entered the recently inaugurated National University. Even though Obeso never graduated, he received a teaching certificate and started writing his first poems.

In 1871 he released his first novel, La familia Pygmalión (The Pygmalion Family), in which he ridiculed a family that got him imprisoned for a love affair. Obeso then published articles and poems in Bogotá's most important newspapers and magazines; he gradually gained notoriety. The 1876 civil war interrupted his literary career He enlisted as ...


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 ...


Michele Valerie Ronnick

He was one of fifteen children born to his parents, Henderson B. Watkins, a miner, and Emeline Brooks Watkins, a cook and nurse. In Watkins’s own words taken from page 9 of his Voices of Solitude they were “[h]umble, praying Christian parents from the lowly log cabin of slavery,” who learned to read, but not to write. When he was seven his parents gave him a McGuffey’s Primer, and he and some of his siblings attended school. After his mother’s death in December 1891, the thirteen-year-old began to study music and crayon portraiture. In September 1892, with financial support from his sister Leora, he enrolled at the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in Petersburg (today’s Virginia State University).

Although he worked as a school janitor Watkins was not able to raise the tuition for a second year Nevertheless he continued his studies on his own At ...


Carl A. Wade

poet and U.S. Army veteran, was born Henry Bertram Wilkinson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of five surviving children of the Barbadians Mary Elizabeth Clarke, a seamstress, and William Lawrence Wilkinson, a carpenter, himself the son of a “colored” slave manumitted in the parish of St. Philip, Barbados, in 1834.

When Henry was four, the family departed Philadelphia's black ghetto, a district hostile to the social and economic advancement of its black citizenry (as W. E. B. Du Bois documented in 1899 in The Philadelphia Negro), and returned to Barbados. There Wilkinson received his elementary and only formal education, leaving school at age twelve to become a pupil-teacher (trainee).

In 1909 Panama beckoned Wilkinson, as it did thousands of other West Indians in search of economic opportunity. Two years later, on 24 August 1911 he left the canal zone with its deadly and debilitating tropical ...