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Mandisa Mbali

antiapartheid, gay rights, AIDS, and human rights activist, was born in Johannesburg in South Africa. Adurrazack (“Zackie”) Achmat was of Cape Malay heritage. His father, Suleiman Achmat, was a member of the South African Communist Party and his mother, Mymoena, was a trade union shop steward. Achmat’s entry into politics began at the age of 14 with his participation in the 1976 student uprising. He was detained in 1977 for burning down his high school in Salt River to demonstrate his support for the uprising. Achmat obtained a bachelor of arts honors degree in English literature from the University of the Western Cape in 1992.

He spent much of the period between 1976 and 1980 in detention for his opposition to the apartheid system. It was also in this period that Achmat read the then-banned works of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and the progressive academic journal Work in ...


Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...


Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese educator and human rights activist for women’s rights and an advocate for freedom and democracy, was born on 30 May 1935 in Omdurman one of three cities that constitute the capital of Sudan Khartoum Khartoum North and Omdurman Her parents were originally from the Nubian region in northern Sudan Ahmed was the only female among her three siblings She grew up in an environment that helped shape her future life as a liberal and progressive individual Her father Ibrahim Ahmed was an engineer who worked as a teacher in Gordon Memorial College Sudan He played an active role in Sudan s independence movement and served as the first Sudanese Deputy to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum the first chairman of the University of Khartoum Senate a member of the Executive Council the first Sudanese Parliament and founder and president of Mutamar a l Khiregeen Graduates ...


Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese intellectual, educator, political leader, and women’s advocate, was born on 1 January 1932 in the city of El Obeid, Province of Kordofan, and raised by an Islamic family. Her grandfather, al-Shaykh Mohammed al-Badawi, was a prominent Islamic scholar, and his house in Omdurman was a gathering place for well-known Islamic scholars from North Africa, such as al-Shaykh Mohammed Abdu of Egypt. Al-Badawi’s father, al-Fatih Mohammed al-Badawi, was a district commissioner who replaced the position of the British officer after Sudan independence in 1956. Although girls’ formal education was boycotted by the masses for being based on Western values, he was an open-minded and progressive individual with liberal ideas regarding girls’ education. In this atmosphere al-Badawi and her two sisters were raised.

As a district commissioner al Badawi s father s moved and worked in different regions of Sudan This situation compelled al Badawi to receive her elementary intermediate ...


Francesca Gamber

civil rights and gay rights advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bill Boykin, a bus driver and salesman, and Shirley, a federal employee. Shortly after the birth of his sister Krystal in 1966, the family moved from inner-city St. Louis to the predominantly white suburb of Florissant, Missouri. As he grew up, Boykin displayed an interest in politics, becoming student body president in the fifth grade and dreaming of the White House.

Boykin's parents separated when he was in elementary school, and both left the St. Louis area in 1980. Boykin moved with his father and sister to Clearwater, Florida, where his father opened a black beauty-supply business. Boykin attended Countryside High School, where as a senior he was elected student government president, and graduated in 1983 He enrolled in Dartmouth College in Hanover New Hampshire that fall and joined the track team and ...


Barbara Bair

writer, educator, and feminist, was born Adelaide Smith on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Of mixed Hausa, Fanti, West Indian, and British heritage, she was born into the social world of the Creole professional elite, the daughter of court registrar William Smith and his second wife, Anne. Adelaide Smith moved with her family to England at the age of four (in 1872), and grew to adulthood in Britain. She was educated at the Jersey Ladies’ College, which her father had helped to found. The leaders of the school served as role models for the young Adelaide, who carried the message of female ability she learned at the college into her own adult life. The experience also influenced her lifelong dedication to education as a medium of social change for African women and girls.

Adelaide studied music in Germany for two years before her family s financial circumstances ...


Aomar Boum

Moroccan women’s rights activist, was born in Casablanca on 14 August 1941. An alternate form of her name is Aïcha Ech-Chenna. She spent her childhood in Marrakesh. She lost her father at the age of three and was thereafter raised by her mother. She also lost her sister at a young age. With no male figure in the family, her uncle and some of her father’s friends raised her and supported her upbringing. She returned to Casablanca in 1953 to continue her studies in French at the Foch School and the Lycée Joffre. Before she joined the state nursing school, she began her career as a medical secretary, working in a leprosy program. Later, in 1958, she worked for a lab that specialized in tuberculosis. In 1960 she passed the nursing school entrance exam and began her training receiving a civil service stipend to support herself and ...


Elizabeth Ammons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a slave, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white master, George Washington Haywood, with whom neither she nor her mother maintained any ties. At age nine she received a scholarship to attend the St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute for newly freed slaves, and in 1877 she married an instructor at the school, a Bahamian-born Greek teacher named George Cooper. Left a widow in 1879, she never remarried. She enrolled in 1881 at Oberlin College, where educator and activist Mary Church (later Terrell) also studied, and elected to take the “Gentleman's Course,” rather than the program designed for women. She received her bachelor's degree in 1884 and after teaching for a year at Wilberforce University and then returning briefly to teach at St Augustine s she went back to Oberlin to ...


Debra A. Varnado

educator, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, the fifth of seven children of George W. Crouch, a Methodist minister, and Mary Ragsdale Crouch. Known by the nickname “Red,” Crouch graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Jacksonville in 1923, but his family would relocate twenty-six miles to the north in Tyler, Texas, which he considered his hometown.

In Tyler, the Crouches lived in a home with a view of Texas College, a historically black school run by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (later known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church). In 1927 Crouch earned a BA in Biology from Texas College His father an elder in the church wanted him to teach at the school after graduation Instead Crouch left for Dallas for a brief but lucrative stint selling insurance Crouch would later forgo insurance sales for a future in science and education applying to graduate school ...


Josephine Dawuni

Ghanaian journalist, writer, political and gender activist with ancestral roots in both Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born to Francis Thomas Dove, an accomplished barrister at law and Madam Eva Buckman, a Ga businesswoman. In 1933, Mabel Dove married Dr. J. B. Danquah, a leading figure of the anti- imperialist independence movement; the couple had one son. Mabel Dove Danquah’s formative years began in Sierra Leone, where at the early age of six, she attended the prestigious Annie Walsh Memorial School, the oldest girls’ school in Sierra Leone. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Sierra Leone, she went to England, where she attended the Anglican Covenant in Bury and then St. Michael’s College. She then proceeded to take a four-month course at Gregg Commercial College in secretarial training.

In 1926 at the age of twenty one Danquah took her first job as a shorthand typist with Elder ...


Elvita Dominique

physician, professor, mental health activist, and Harlem community leader, was born Elizabeth Bishop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the eldest of the three children of Shelton Hale Bishop and Eloise Carey. Her mother's father, Archibald James Carey Sr., was an influential African Methodist Episcopal (AME) clergyman in Chicago. Her father's father, Hutchens C. Bishop, was the first black graduate of General Theological Seminary in New York City, the oldest seminary of the Episcopal Church. He was also the fourth rector of the important and influential Saint Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem. Bishop's parents continued their families' tradition of public service. Her father, who received a BA and a doctorate of divinity from Columbia University, succeeded his own father as the fifth rector of Saint Philip's. Her mother was a teacher.

Elizabeth Bishop s interest in psychiatry can be traced to the work of her father He was an ...


Marilyn L. Geary

television journalist, was born Belvagene Davis in Monroe, Louisiana, to Florence Howard Mays and John Melton, a lumber worker. She grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California, with her mother's family. As a child, Belva lived in housing projects, all eleven family members cramped into two small rooms. In 1951 she graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California. Although her grades were exceptional and she was accepted into San Francisco State University, she could not afford the tuition. Instead she began work in a clerical position with Oakland's Naval Supply Center.

In 1950 she married her boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Frank Davis Jr. and they moved to Washington, D.C., where Frank was stationed in the air force. Belva Davis took a job with the Office of Wage Stabilization. The couple's first child, Steven, was born in 1953 Frank s next station was Hawaii but after two ...


James Kilgore

Zimbabwean freedom fighter and politician, grew up in a politically minded family. Her father, a bricklayer, was frequently detained by the white minority government, and Dongo recalled visiting him in prison when she was just seven years old. At fifteen she left secondary school and walked two hundred miles to Mozambique to join the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU, later ZANU-PF, for “Patriotic Front”). ZANU was conducting a liberation war against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith, leader of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). Dongo trained as a medical assistant. She took the Chimurenga (“liberation war”) name of “Tichaona Muhondo” (“We shall see on the battlefield”).

At independence in 1980 she returned to Zimbabwe, completed a typing course, and worked as the Secretary for Women’s Affairs in the national headquarters of ZANU-PF in Harare. In 1983 she took a position in the Ministry of State Security ...


Inge Mariëtte Ruigrok

Angolan women’s activist and development expert, was born Henda Ducados Pinto de Andrade on 14 July 1964 in Rabat, Morocco. Her father, Mário Pinto de Andrade, was based there as the coordinator of the Conference of the Nationalist Organizations from the Portuguese Colonies (CONCP), an organization focused on enabling cooperation among the national liberation movements in Lusophone Africa. Her mother, Sarah Maldoror, was a French-born filmmaker of Guadeloupean origin. The couple also had a younger daughter, Annouchka de Andrade.

In 1966 the family moved to Algiers Algeria where the Front de Libération Nationale FLN National Liberation Front had become an important ally to the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola MPLA People s Movement for the Liberation of Angola of which Mário Pinto de Andrade was a leader and founder Algerian President Ben Bella had given a residence to her father on Avenue Abdel Kader in Bab el Oued ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Alice Nelson was born into a mixed Creole, African American, and Native American family in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from the two-year teacher training program at Straight College (now Dillard University) in 1892 and taught school at various times throughout her life. Dunbar-Nelson published her first book, a collection of poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews called Violets and Other Tales in 1895. Paul Laurence Dunbar, the well-known poet, began to correspond with her after admiring her poetry (as well as her picture) in a Boston, Massachusetts, magazine. They married on March 8, 1898.

The Dunbars moved to Washington, D.C., where they were lionized as a literary celebrity couple. Dunbar-Nelson's second collection of short fiction, The Goodness of St. Rocque, was published in 1899 as a companion to her husband's Poems of Cabin and Field While Dunbar was known for his ...


LaRay Denzer

Nigerian nationalist and women’s rights leader, was born on 27 July 1914 in Creek Town (now located in Odukpani Local Government Area, Cross River State). She was originally named Bassey Sampson Ekpenyong Efa. Her parents were Reverend Sampson Ekpenyong Efa (originally Okoroafor Obiasulor), an Igbo palm wine merchant turned teacher and clergyman from Agulu, Uzo-Igbo (near Awka, the present capital of Anambra State), and Inyang Eyo Aniemewue, a trader and dressmaker who traced her ancestry to King Eyo Honesty II (d. 1858), a powerful slave merchant and ruler in the 1840s and 1850s.

Young Margaret Ekpo obtained her school- leaving certificate in 1932, after which she became a pupil teacher. She wanted to attend teacher training college, but had to postpone this ambition when her father died in 1934. She taught in schools in Calabar and Aba until 1938 when she married John Udo ...


Elisabeth Bekers

Egyptian feminist, physician, fiction writer, and political activist, was born in the village of Kafr Tahla, near Cairo, Egypt, on 27 October 1931. She was the second of nine children born to al-Sayed El Saadawi (1897–1959), a peasant family’s son who became an inspector in the Ministry of Education, and Zayneb Hanem Shoukry (1913–1958), daughter of an impoverished feudal family descending from Grand Vizier Talaʿat Pacha of Istanbul. Both of her parents were anxious to have their daughters as well as their sons educated. Nawal El Saadawi began her schooling at Muharram Bey Girls’ School in Alexandria, where the family briefly lived until al-Sayed was transferred to the small district town of Menouf in the Nile Delta in punishment for his participation in anti-British and antiroyal demonstrations. From 1938 until 1948 the El Saadawis remained in Menouf where Nawal attended the English primary school Despite his aversion to ...


politician, feminist activist, and educator, was born in March 1909 in Calabar a port city in eastern Nigeria even though her parents were members of the Yoruba ethnic community who mainly live in southwestern Nigeria Her father Thomas Adeogun Ojo belonged to the powerful Yoruba Ojo Badan family of the city of Ibadan Her mother Madam Ajitie Ojo earned the Yoruba nickname Iya Gbogbo the mother of all for her wealth and generosity as she ran a large trade business in kola nuts and alligator pepper Her father served in the British military and then worked as forestry officer for the colonial administration After he retired from civil service he became a chief in Ibadan Although her parents never received a Western education they recognized its importance Esan s siblings included an architect a lawyer and a teacher Her family was committed to educating its girls as well as ...


Osire Glacier

first Moroccan female journalist and pioneer of the Moroccan modern feminist movement, was born on 19 June 1919 into an elite family in Fez. The most important privilege that Malika’s social conditions offered her was undoubtedly education. While the vast majority of children, boys and girls alike, did not have the opportunity to go to school, al-Fassi studied with the best professors in Morocco. Her father, el-Mehdi al-Fassi, was a strong defender of the principle of education for all. In the struggle against the French presence in Morocco, he believed that education would help increase nationalist awareness. Thus, he wanted his children to be educated, particularly his daughter Malika. Since no schools opened their doors for girls at the time, el-Mehdi al-Fassi turned part of the family house into a school and hired al-Qarawiyyin’s most renowned professors as his daughter’s teachers.

Malika al Fassi was a bright student and a ...


Marilyn Booth

Lebanese- Egyptian novelist, biographer, and early writer on gender politics and reform in Egypt, was born possibly as early as 1846 or as late as 1860 in the town of Tibnin in the predominantly Shiʿi region (and intellectual center) of Jabal ʿAmil in south Lebanon. Born into a family of limited means about whom we know little, Fawwaz apparently became part of the household of ʿAli Bek al-Asʿad, a local feudal ruler; she worked for or caught the notice of ʿAli Bek’s wife, Fatimah bint Asʿad al-Khalil, who wrote poetry and had considerable religious learning, and who seems to have taught Zaynab to read and write.

Sources disagree about the precise trajectory of Fawwaz s life as a young woman They also disagree about the details of her marriage s and when and how she moved to Cairo perhaps by way of Beirut and Alexandria She may have been married ...