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Artel, Jorge  

Francisco Ortega

Jorge Artel, whose real name was Agapito de Arcos, was born in Colombia, in the colonial city of Cartagena de Indias, once the major entryway for slaves into the Spanish colonies in South America. He grew up surrounded by the drumbeats of the cumbia music, slavery's violent legacies, and the history of resistance embodied in the many maroon communities that dotted the city's borders. In his poetry he evokes those images, especially, as Lawrence Prescott has noted, using the symbol of the drum as the unifying thread essential to the black experience in the Americas. Like other black poets in Spanish America, such as the Afro-Peruvian Nicomedes Santa Cruz (1925–1992) and the Cuban Nicolás Guillén (1902–1989 Artel does not single out race alone as the defining element that has shaped his life and his aesthetic vision For him as for the others class ...


Barbosa, Rui  

Aaron Myers

Born in Salvador, Bahia, Rui Barbosa de Oliveira studied at the law academies of Recife and São Paulo, where he met Antônio de Castro Alves, the “Poet of the Slaves,” and future abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco. Barbosa's abolitionist campaign began in 1869, when he organized the conference “O Elemento Servil” (The Servile Element). Although the slave trade had been outlawed on November 7, 1831, slaves who had entered Brazil before that time remained in bondage, and many Africans had since been illegally enslaved. At the Elemento Servil conference, Barbosa condemned slavery on legal grounds by invoking this 1831 law.

In the following years Barbosa frequently challenged the proslavery Conservative Party. During the provincial elections of 1874 he criticized the Free Womb Law, which freed the children of all female slaves, as “a superficial improvement.” In 1884 he joined a reform cabinet led by Manoel Dantas ...


Far I, Prince  

Norman Weinstein

Prince Far I was born Michael Williams in Spanish Town and grew up in the Waterhouse area of Kingston, Jamaica. His musical career began in 1970 when he convinced the Reggae producer Coxsone Dodd (who employed him as a security guard at Studio One, Jamaica's most famous recording studio) to let him record when a scheduled musician failed to appear for a session. Dodd was so taken by Prince Far I's talent as a DJ (someone chanting or talking-singing spontaneously over prerecorded rhythm tracks) that he released several Prince Far I recordings under the name he created for the performer, King Cry-Cry As he gained confidence and sought other producers for his recordings Williams changed his name to Prince Far I Distinguishing features of his recordings under the name King Cry Cry or Prince Far I include a thunderously deep bass delivery of intensively personal lyrics laced ...


Firmin, Anténor Joseph  

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...


Mossell, Aaron Albert, II  

Charles Rosenberg

the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, sprang from a talented family with deep roots in the Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches, free a generation before the Civil War. Mossell spent a good part of his adult life in Cardiff, Wales, after a sojourn in South Africa.

The youngest son of Aaron Albert Mossell and Eliza Bowers Mossell, Mossell was born in Canada, where his father owned a brickyard in Hamilton, Ontario. The family had moved there from Maryland due to limited educational opportunities and social restrictions on free people of African descent, although his grandmother, Mrs. Catherine Mossell, remained a life-long member of Baltimore's Sharp Street United Methodist Church until her death in 1891. Before Mossell's second birthday, the family moved again, to Lockport, New York, where he grew up.

Like his older brothers, Charles Wesley Mossell ...


Ortiz, Fernando  

Alan West

Fernando Ortiz's intellectual legacy is one of astonishing breadth and erudition. Cuban scholar Juan Marinello has likened him to a third discoverer of Cuba, after Columbus and Humboldt. A Cuban-American critic has called him “Mr. Cuba.” The claim is no exaggeration: he is one of a great line of Caribbean intellectual figures such as Eugenio María de Hostos, José Martí, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Frantz Fanon, and C. L. R. James.

Along with the work of Lydia Cabrera Ortiz s seminal works deal with the African traditions that have uniquely shaped the identity of Cuban music religion society and culture His major theoretical contribution is in coining the concept of transculturation a term used to describe the rich textured and sometimes bloody encounter between two or more cultures that mutually transforms them It provides a refined framework for understanding the complexity ...


Pascal-Trouillot, Ertha  

Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, one of the first women lawyers in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, became the first woman to serve on the country's Supreme Court. She also served as the provisional president of Haiti from March 13, 1990, to February 7, 1991.

Born in Petionville, Pascal was the ninth of ten children. Her father died while she was young, and the family had to survive on the money earned by her mother and siblings. In 1971 Pascal graduated from the École de Droit (law school) in Gonaïves. Soon afterward she married Ernst Trouillot, a lawyer and history teacher who had tutored her. Pascal-Trouillot became an active lawyer, working on cases of labor conflict and family rights at a time when most Haitian women who had completed law school were only assistants in law firms. In January 1979 Pascal Trouillot was the first ...


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 ...


Straker, David Augustus  

Dorothy Drinkard-Hawkshawe

David Straker was the son of John and Margaret Straker of Bridgetown, Barbados, in the West Indies. After graduating from Codrington, the island's college, he taught school and became principal of one of the island's high schools, Saint Mary's Public School. In 1868 he came to the United States to assist in educating former slaves. From 1868 to 1869 he taught school in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1869 he entered the Law Department of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and received his law degree in 1871. In the same year he married Annie M. Carey and obtained employment as a clerk in the United States Post Office. He left this post in 1875 and moved to South Carolina, where he became a member of the law firm of Robert Brown Elliott and T. McCants Stewart.

In 1876 Straker began his political career He made ...


Taylor, Charles Henry James  

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, journalist, and diplomat, was born in Perry County, Alabama, the son of a slave, Rufus Carson, and an unnamed slave mother. In 1869, after teaching himself to read and write, the youth ran away from his father's cotton farm to Savannah, Georgia, and took a new surname: Taylor.

An ambitious, gifted student, C. H. J. Taylor enrolled at Savannah's Beach Institute while delivering newspapers and working as a commission house messenger. Much of the higher education he later claimed, however, cannot be documented. No definitive records exist for his claimed enrollments at Oberlin College or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, though he may well have studied law at Wilberforce University. In 1877 he was admitted to the Indiana state bar and became a deputy district attorney, before arriving in Leavenworth, Kansas, in about 1880 (Smith, p. 494).

Taylor soon moved to Wyandotte ...


Tosh, Peter  

Norman Weinstein

Born Peter McIntosh, Tosh's entrance into music began during his teenage years in the Trenchtown ghetto of Kingston, where he and his friends Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer imitated the vocal harmonies of Curtis Mayfield. Tosh's early recordings as part of a Ska/Reggae trio with Marley and Wailer (who became known as “The Wailers”) made clear that his singing and songwriting talents were strongly flavored by rage against hypocritical individuals and institutions. Songs like “400 Years” and “Downpressor” are prime examples of his mastery of political protest songwriting. His first recordings as a solo artist in the early 1960s include a wry commentary on sexual mores (“Shame and Scandal”) and a boastful declaration of Rastafarian identity (“Rasta Shook Them Up”).

After quitting The Wailers in 1972 Tosh pursued a performing and recording career as a solo artist marked by the cultivation of a persona ...


Trujillo, Rafael  

James Davis

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was born in the town of San Cristóbal, located some eighteen miles from the capital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on October 24, 1891. The period from 1930 to 1961 has been called the Era of Trujillo. During this time, Trujillo exercised power as an absolute dictator, though he occupied the presidency only from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952. In the intervening years, he ruled through puppet presidents and maintained his position as commander of the armed forces. From 1953 until his death in 1961, he occupied the position of foreign minister.

In 1918, during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), Trujillo joined the National Guard established by the United States and quickly rose in its ranks. In 1927 after the Guard was renamed the National Army he became commander in chief 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 ...


Williams, Henry Sylvester  

Charles Rosenberg

convened the first Pan-African Conference in July 1900 in London, England, in the midst of a legal career that included admission to the bar in England, South Africa (Cape Colony), and Trinidad and election as probably the first African-descended borough councillor in Britain.

Williams was born on Arouca, Trinidad, the son of Henry Bishop Williams, a wheelwright, and Elizabeth Williams, immigrants from Barbados. Barbados was strongly influenced by British culture, while Trinidad had a majority French–Creole African population, with Indian indentured laborers imported starting in 1845. Williams attended a village government school, closely associated to the Church of England, to which he belonged his entire life.

At age fifteen, he passed an examination for admission to the Men's Normal School in Port-of-Spain, and in 1886 he passed a teaching exam (Mathurin, p. 21). His first teaching assignment, in 1887 was La Fortunee Bien Venue Government School ...