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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 ...


David Borsvold

actor, writer, and director, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, to William Henry Duke Sr., a machinist, and Ethel Louise Duke, a domestic worker who later became a practical nurse. He had one sister. As a child Duke was tall and big for his age. Introverted by nature, he preferred to write about his feelings rather than talk about them with other kids. Duke's parents, neither of whom finished elementary school, emphasized to him the importance of education. During his school years he developed an interest in writing poetry. When his high school English teacher caught him writing poetry in a textbook during class, she confiscated the book and secretly submitted Duke's poems to the National Poetry Contest. Duke's work won first place.

Duke s parents hoped that he would go into medicine or teaching and after earning an associate of arts from Dutchess Community ...


Mark Allan Jackson

songwriter and labor activist, was born to George and Vinna Handcox on their farm near Brinkley, Arkansas. Unlike many African Americans in the rural South at this time, the Handcox family owned their own land. However, it was not very productive, so they had to rent land on which to grow cotton, the area's dominant crop.

Because of his responsibilities, young Handcox could not devote much time to education. Five months a year were all that most farm children in Arkansas could spare to attend school, a schedule dictated by the cotton-growing season. But Handcox thrived there, mainly because of his interest in poetry. His father bought him a book by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar who became Handcox s model for his own writing Often he was asked to recite his work during school events and when he graduated from the ninth grade the end to his ...


Linton Kwesi Johnson

Poet, essayist, publisher, film‐maker, trade unionist, and cultural and political activist. La Rose was born in Arima, Trinidad, where his father was a cocoa trader and his mother a teacher. At 9 he won a scholarship to St Mary's College, Port of Spain, where he later taught before becoming an insurance executive. He later also taught in Venezuela. Culture, politics, and trade unionism were central to his vision of change. He was an executive member of the Youth Council in Trinidad and produced their fortnightly radio programme Noise of Youth for Radio Trinidad. In the mid‐1950s he co‐authored, with the calypsonian Raymond Quevedo (‘Atilla the Hun’), a pioneering study of calypso entitled Kaiso: A Review (republished in 1983 as Atilla's Kaiso).

One of La Rose s favourite sayings was We didn t come alive in Britain an allusion to the struggles that had been waged by Caribbean peoples in ...


Aissata Sidikou

Nigerien poet, novelist, and trade unionist, was born in Goudoumaria, Diffa, in eastern Niger. Right after primary school, he started to work as a commercial agent at the Societe Generale Anonyme (SGA) in Zinder, which was then the colonial capital of Niger. Soon after joining the company, he noticed the blatant mistreatment and exploitation of black workers by colonial administrators and decided to create a labor union to defend them. In 1952 he was elected general secretary of the SECEP section of Zinder at age 20. Because of his determination to change the exploitative and demeaning environment, and because of his personal dynamism, he was later identified by the French colonial administration as “an extremely dangerous element to be closely monitored.”

Mamani became a committed political activist and joined the Union Démocratique Nigerien UDN Nigerien Democratic Union led by Djibo Bakari another well known leader of the time who was ...


William L. Andrews

James Ephraim McGirt was born in Robeson County, North Carolina, near the town of Lumberton. He spent his early years on farms near Greensboro, North Carolina, with his parents, Madison and Ellen (Townsend) McGirt. In 1892 McGirt enrolled in Bennett College, a Methodist-affiliated institution then just outside Greensboro, and he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1895. In the preface to his first book, Avenging the Maine, A Drunken A.B., and Other Poems (1899), McGirt blamed exhausting manual labor and a lack of leisure time for the slimness of the volume and the feebleness of its verse. McGirt's employment situation did not prevent him from revising and enlarging the first edition of Avenging the Maine in 1900 and adding in the next year a new collection of poems entitled Some Simple Songs and a Few More Ambitious Attempts.

After briefly residing in Hampton Virginia ...


Lang Baradell

poet, short-story writer, magazine publisher, and entrepreneur, was one of Madison and Ellen Townsend McGirt's four children. Born in Robeson County, North Carolina, he spent his childhood on the family farm and attended Whitun Normal School, a private school for blacks in nearby Lumberton.

While McGirt was still young, his family moved first to another farm in Robeson County and then to Greensboro, North Carolina. There McGirt's father drove a wagon and his mother was a launderer. Young McGirt took part-time jobs while completing his secondary education. In 1892 he entered Greensboro's Bennett College and graduated three years later with a bachelor's degree.

While in Greensboro McGirt began writing poetry and published his first book, Avenging the Maine, a Drunken A. B., and Other Poems (1899 McGirt s apologetic preface explains that he wrote the poems when his body was almost exhausted from manual ...


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 ...


John Gilmore

Poet born in Jamaica, the son of John and Dorothy Williams, who were free black people. John Williams was a former slave who had been freed by the will of his master, Colonel John Bourden (a prominent local figure who died in 1697), and who subsequently became a successful merchant, whose activities included moneylending on an extensive scale, and trade between Jamaica and Britain.

As a young man, Francis Williams lived in Britain, possibly for several years, and may have been entrusted with the British end of his father's business concerns. On 8 August 1721 he was admitted as a member of Lincoln s Inn while there is no evidence to suggest that he was ever called to the Bar or practised as a lawyer the Inns of Court often functioned in this period as a sort of finishing school for young men of gentlemanly status who ...