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Elisabeth Bekers

daughter of El Hadj Ibrahima Sory Barry of Dara (1884?–1978), the last almamy, or king, of the Fulani of Fouta Djalon, and his third wife, Diello, was born in Mamou, Republic of Guinea (Guinea-Conakry), in 1948 Kesso meaning virgin in Fulani enjoyed a happy childhood in the royal slave sustained and polygamous household of her father until the age of six when she moved to Sogotoro with his authoritarian sister For four years her aunt tried to reform her impulsive headstrong niece through hard work and discipline but to little avail Upon her return to Mamou Barry quickly made her reputation as a revolutionary princess She joined her brothers in typically male activities such as hunting and tax collecting frequenting the cinema and joyriding in her father s car once almost killing a child On her own initiative she attended Mamou s qurʾanic school and its public primary ...


Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...


Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...


Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian nationalist, writer, women’s rights activist, and artist, was born in the provincial city of Sfax, where her father worked in the Arabic publishing business and was an amateur actor, which helps explain her lifelong involvement in the arts. Her mother, Cherifa, was educated and quite unconventional; after her husband’s death, she taught primary school in Nabeul from 1943 on, riding a bike to school while still wearing a black veil, which scandalized the conservative local community. Since there were no educational institutions for Tunisian girls in the town, Dorra Bouzid studied in the local French secular school from the age of four on, with students from a range of religious and ethnic backgrounds. After her father’s death—his family had been opposed to Cherifa teaching school—Bouzid’s mother received a post in Tunis just prior to World War II and married again, to Mahmoud Messaâdi (1911–2004 an important figure ...


Yasmine Ali

a literate domestic servant, grew up in Philadelphia and in New York City with her family. While her parents' names remain unknown, in one of her 1859 letters, she revealed that her father owned a restaurant. Brown severed ties with her family after her father's death in October 1862. In her letters to Rebecca Primus, her beloved friend, she discussed how her mother had remarried a man whom Addie described as often present in her nightmares.

Brown is known today primarily because of her relationship to Rebecca Primus of Hartford, Connecticut. Primus was the only African American among the five teachers selected by the Freedman's Society in 1865 to head to the south and start schools for freed blacks. She relocated to Royal, Maryland, and founded a school there, working until 1869 She was an inspirational figure and a close friend to Addie Brown and seems ...


was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Griffith. Her father was a tavern keeper and farmer, prosperous enough to hold slaves. Mattie and her older sister, Catherine, were orphaned early; they remained close throughout their lives.

Griffith was part of an emergent literary and print culture in the Ohio River valley, centered in Louisville and Cincinnati. As a young woman, she began publishing sentimental poetry in the Louisville Weekly Journal, edited by George Prentice, himself a poet who encouraged Griffith and other local writers. She published an early volume of poetry, Poems…Now First Collected (1853), and was the pseudonymous “Daughter of Kentucky” who in the same year published Sunlight upon the Landscape, also a collection of poetry. For family reasons, Griffith left Kentucky for Philadelphia and never again lived in the state.

In 1856 Griffith published another pseudonymous work, Autobiography of a ...


Stephen Bourne

Black Londoner whose life as a working‐class seamstress was documented in Aunt Esther's Story (1991), published by Hammersmith and Fulham's Ethnic Communities Oral History Project, and co‐authored with Stephen Bourne. Aunt Esther's Story provides a first‐hand account of Bruce's life as a black Briton in the pre‐Empire Windrush years. Her father, Joseph (1880–1941), arrived in London from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the early 1900s and settled in a tight‐knit working‐class community in Fulham. He worked as a builder's labourer. When Bruce was a young child, Joseph instilled in his daughter a sense of pride in being black. After leaving school, she worked as a seamstress, and in the 1930s she made dresses for the popular African‐American stage star Elisabeth Welch. She also befriended another black citizen of Fulham: the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey She told Bourne he was a nice chap ...


Linda M. Carter

domestic and restaurateur, was born on the Farrin plantation near Clayton, Alabama. She was the daughter of the Farrins' female cook and the male owner of a plantation located approximately two miles away from the Farrin plantation. Burton's mistress was persistent in her attempts to get Burton's father, who was from Liverpool, England, to acknowledge his daughter, but he ignored Burton whenever she was in his presence. During the Civil War, Burton's mother left the Farrin plantation and her children after an argument with her mistress led to her being whipped. Several years later, Burton and her siblings were reunited with their mother when she returned to the plantation after the war had ended and took her children to their new home. The Farrins demanded that Burton's mother return her children to them until she threatened to go to the Yankee headquarters. In 1866 the family moved to ...


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 ...


Devora Fogelman

was born Alverta Elise La Pallo in New York City to Bernando La Pallo, a chef and later an author, and Ida Roberta (Small) La Pallo, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a marker of prices, as well as at a small company that made diaper bags. Lee had one younger sister, Nandra.

Chamberlin attended Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Harlem and Cathedral High School in midtown Manhattan The year of her graduation is unknown At the age of seventeen she won a play writing contest through the New York Chapter of the American Cancer Society The year is unknown when she began her studies at Washington Square College of New York University where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and participated in an exchange program at the Sorbonne in Paris France The year of her graduation is unknown After completing college with ...


Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the eldest of the two children of Jetta Clark and Dr. Joe Louis Clark. The Clarks lived in Newark, a short distance from her birthplace, until moving to South Orange after the 1967 riots. Her father, who served as the principal of Eastside High School, in Paterson, New Jersey, gained national attention for enforcing discipline and improving academic achievement at Eastside, one of the state’s toughest inner-city schools, and became the subject of the 1989 film Lean on Me, in which the award-winning actor Morgan Freeman portrayed him.

Clark performed with the Alvin Ailey Junior Dance Company until the age of fourteen, when she began to participate in track, concentrating on the half-mile (880 yards), the distance at which her father excelled at William Patterson University (then known as the Paterson State Teachers College) in Wayne, New Jersey. Interviewed for the Best ...


Jim McWilliams

was born in Jamaica when the island was still directly governed by Great Britain, a political reality that shaped her literary career from the start as she dedicated herself to giving voice to people who had been continuously marginalized. In fact, as a lesbian Creole, she felt uniquely qualified to point out the injustices that oppressed peoples have suffered for centuries, a polemical duty, and as she explained in her first major essay, “Notes on Speechlessness” (1978), one she felt obliged to undertake on behalf of those not allowed to defend themselves.

When she was three years old Cliff s parents moved to New York City but she returned to Jamaica for high school where she excelled academically She then earned a B A and an M A in Philosophy from Wagner College New York City and a Ph D in the Italian Renaissance from the Warburg Institute ...


Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...


Daniel Donaghy

Wanda Coleman (née Evans), dubbed “the L.A. Blueswoman” and “the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles,” was born in the Watts neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, the first of four children of George Evans, a janitor and sign shop manager, and Lewana (Scott) Evans, a housekeeper and seamstress. Growing up in Watts in the 1950s and 1960s, Coleman endured, she writes in her 2005 memoir The Riot Inside Me, “stultifying intellectual loneliness…dictated by my looks.” She and her family experienced racial violence, segregation, unemployment, and oppression, which culminated in the 1965 Watts Riots and shaped her worldview for the rest of her life. She graduated from John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles and enrolled in Los Angeles Valley College. She later transferred to UCLA.

At the age of eighteen married Charles Jerome Jerry Coleman a white Southerner who worked with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee ...


Zaira Rivera Casellas

was born on 14 March 1911 in Arecibo, a municipality on the northern coast of the island. Colón Pellot grew up in the first decades of US political and economic control over Puerto Rico after the Spanish–Cuban-American war. Her father, Raimundo Colón Cruz, worked in the tobacco industry, and presided a local chapter of the Free Federation of Workers of Puerto Rico. Her mother, María Jesus Pellot Colón, sewed for a living. Andres, a younger sibling, was also part of the working class family immersed in the rapid changes of twentieth-century Puerto Rican society.

After graduating from Arecibo High School, Colón Pellot won a scholarship to attend the University of Puerto Rico. In 1930 she became a rural teacher. Later, in 1937, she completed a degree in education with specialization in English and social work. From 1930 to 1940 she first taught in her hometown Arecibo and eventually ...


Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...


was born in Monrovia, Liberia, the older of two daughters of John Lewis Jr., a businessman, and his wife Calista (Dennis). Her family also included two step-sisters and a step-brother from her father’s first marriage. She was born into wealth and privilege: raised in a twenty-two-room house, enrolled in an elite private school, able to travel between Liberia and the United States to visit relatives. But everything changed on 12 April 1980, when she was nearly fourteen. It was then that the Liberian government was overthrown in a military coup; during the ensuing period of civil unrest, soldiers began attacking members of the country’s former elite: her cousin was murdered, her father was shot, and her mother was sexually assaulted. Fearing for their lives, the Cooper family came to America as refugees, living first in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then Greensboro, North Carolina.

Helene Cooper attended Greensboro s Dudley High ...


Rayford W. Logan

Julia Ringwood Coston was born on Ringwood Farm, in Warrenton, Virginia, and this is apparently the origin of her maiden name. At an early age she was brought to Washington, D.C., where she attended public school. Though she almost completed school, she had to withdraw when her mother's health failed. She became the governess in the family of a Union general and continued her studies. In the spring of 1886 she married William Hilary Coston, then a student at Yale University. He had published A Freeman and Yet a Slave (1884), a pamphlet of eighty-four pages, and may have broadened her formal education. A longer version of the same book was published in 1888 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, which may suggest that they lived there at the time.

The Costons settled in Cleveland Ohio where William Coston became the pastor of Saint Andrew s Church and ...


Donna L. Halper

was born Thelma Louise Simmons, in Eatonton, Georgia, one of eight children of Sidney (Sid) Simmons, a grocer, and his wife Carrie (Mathis). Her family moved to Detroit in 1922, and she attended Northwestern High School, where she participated in swimming, as well as track and field. In 1927, when she was fifteen, she married Charles Lorenzo McTyre; they went on to have two children, a son and a daughter, before divorcing in 1936.

Thelma began to play golf around 1940 She had been diagnosed with anemia and her doctor told her that fresh air and exercise would help her to regain her health Her sister Theresa Howell also became a golf fan around the same time and they soon became competitors as well as teammates The two were attending Morris Brown College in Atlanta and they started a golf team on campus they also organized ...


Christina G. Bucher

was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Lemuel E. Cowdery, a caterer and U.S. postal worker, and Mary Robinson Cowdery, the assistant director for the Bureau for Colored Children. Her parents’ occupations and social standing made them part of Philadelphia’s black professional class. They sent their daughter to the predominantly white Philadelphia High School for Girls and enrolled her in the Girl Reserves, an elite social club for African Americans in the city’s then-segregated YWCA. Newspaper society pages from 1924 to 1929 indicate Cowdery regularly participated in the birthday and graduation parties expected of a young lady of fashion.

Amid this busy social scene Cowdery also began writing poetry and found a mentor in Langston Hughes, then attending Lincoln Memorial University just forty-five miles west of Philadelphia. When she first wrote to him in October 1926 Hughes had already achieved notice in the Harlem Renaissance with his ...