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Paul Hanson

More than an anthropology of Africa or an anthropology by Africans, African anthropology represents a dynamic, contested, and, above all, generative site. Upon this site, European, American, and African social relations have been produced and rehearsed, colonial and postcolonial governmentalites molded, and the contours of the African postcolony drawn. Although African anthropology is characterized by marked changes over the past century, a definite coherence can be read from the growth of its institutions and the problems defining the core of its knowledges. Considering the breadth of the topic and the limited space for development, this entry will focus on the field of African sociocultural anthropology.

The Early Years of Anthropology and the Thematics of Conversion. In The Invention of Africa, V. Y. Mudimbe questions the often taken for granted divide between missionary interpretations of Africa and the interpretations of Africa held by early anthropologists He insists that the ...


Adeyemi Bukola Oyeniyi

Nigerian historian and educational administrator, was born to Samuel Akindeji Fajembola, an Ibadan man, and Mosebolatan Fajembola, an Ijesa woman, on 28 January 1933 in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria. Samuel Akindeji Fajembola was a manager with John Holt & Co., a merchant company, based in Liverpool, England; Mosebolatan Fajembola was one of the first female professional teachers to be trained in southwestern Nigeria. Awe had her early education at Holy Trinity School, Omofe, Ilesa; Saint James’s School, Oke-Bola, Ibadan; C.M.S Girls’ School, Lagos; and Saint Anne’s School, Ibadan, between 1941 and 1951. Between 1952 and 1954, she attended the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, England, and received an MA from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1958. Between 1958 and 1960 she did postgraduate work for a doctoral degree at Somerville College the oldest of the University of Oxford s female colleges She was ...


Freida High (Wasikhongo Tesfagiorgis)

I don’t have anything against men but, since I am a woman, I know more about women and I know how they feel. Many artists are always doing men. I think that somebody ought to do women. Artists do work with women, with the beauty of their bodies and the refinement of middle-class women, but I think there is a need to express something about the working-class Black woman and that’s what I do.

(Gladstone, p. 33)

As a reputed sculptor and printmaker whose career began in the 1940s, Elizabeth Catlett is a major figure in modern American and Mexican art. Catlett’s work embraces the human condition, revealing a deep passion for dignifying humanity, especially working-class women and, in particular, African American and Mexican women. Titles of her sculpture suggest this interest: Black Woman Speaks (1970), Mother and Child (1940, 1993), Mujer (1964 ...


Tiffany Adams

folklorist, writer, and educator, was born Daryl Cumber in Richmond, Virginia, the only child of Allen Whitfield Cumber, a proprietor of a restaurant and tavern, and Veronica Bell, a teacher. Raised in Charles City, Virginia, she earned her B.A. degree in English in 1957 from Virginia State College (now known as Virginia State University), a historically black institution located just outside of Richmond in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1958 she married Warren Dance and had three children, two sons and one daughter. She continued to pursue her English studies at Virginia State College and earned her M.A. in English there in 1963.

Dance taught at both Virginia Union and Armstrong High School of Richmond before earning her Ph.D. in English in 1971 at the University of Virginia which was by then an integrated institution Although Dance and her family had deep roots in Virginia ...


Cheikh Anta Diop is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. A central figure in African-centered scholarship, his intellectual range and work spanned many disciplines. At the 1966 World Festival of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Diop shared with the late W. E. B. Du Bois an award as the writer who had exerted the greatest influence on black thought. He is most known for his work to reaffirm the African character of ancient Egypt through scientific study and to encourage African scholars to use ancient Egypt as a source of valuable paradigms to enrich contemporary African life and contribute to new ways of understanding and improving the world.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel Senegal a town that has a long tradition of Muslim scholarship and learning fostered by the Mouride Brotherhood He began his education at the age of four in ...


Kim D. Hester Williams Graham

Lorenz Bell Graham was born on 27 January 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elizabeth Etta Bell Graham and David Andrew Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister whose duties led the family to various parts of the country. After attending and completing high school in Seattle, Graham pursued undergraduate study at the University of Washington in 1921; the University of California, Los Angeles from 1923 to 1924; and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, from 1934 to 1936, where he received his bachelor's degree.

One of the consequential events of Graham's life came when he interrupted his college studies at UCLA in 1924 in order to travel to Liberia West Africa The decision was initiated by a bishop of the AME Church who had established a school in Liberia and whom Graham had heard make a plea for the help of trained young people He soon ...


J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...


Susan J. Covert and David McBride

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the health and medical treatment of African Americans from the slavery era through the nineteenth century The first article focuses on the diseases and epidemics that affected Colonial America while the second article discusses progress in African American healthcare despite discrimination in ...


Susan Butterworth

The oral tradition of southern black folklore was an art and a skill handed down from Africa, preserved through slavery, and still thriving in the early years of the twentieth century, when Zora Neale Hurston came of age. The tradition was preserved through generations of rural southern culture and began to decline when the black workers left the agricultural South for the cities of the North. Zora Neale Hurston was singularly placed to record this material as folklore and to transform it to art through fiction. Zora Hurston's place and date of birth are obscured by the selective secrecy and mythology that veiled her personal life. Hurston wanted her contemporaries to believe that she was born 7 January 1901 in Eatonville, Florida. Birth records revealed years later, however, that she was born in 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama.


Ralph E. Luker

writer and anthropologist, was born Zora Lee Hurston in Notasulga, Alabama, the daughter of John Hurston, a Baptist minister and carpenter, and Lucy Ann Potts. John Hurston's family were Alabama tenant farmers until he moved to Eatonville, Florida, the first African American town incorporated in the United States. He served three terms as its mayor and is said to have written Eatonville's ordinances. Zora Neale Hurston studied at its Hungerford School, where followers of Booker T. Washington taught both elementary academic skills and self-reliance. Growing up in an exclusively black community gave her a unique background that informed and inspired much of her later work.Much of the chronological detail of Hurston's early life is obscured by the fact that she later claimed birth dates that varied from 1898 to 1903. Most often she cited 1901 as her birth year, but the census of 1900 lists ...


OluwaTosin Adegbola

novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Some records list Baltimore, Maryland, as Hurston's birthplace, others Notasulga, Alabama, and still others Eatonville, Florida (the setting of many of her writings). What is agreed upon in various accounts is that her roots are in Notasulga by way of her parents, her upbringing was in Eatonville, and her college education and some of her life was spent in Baltimore. Like her place of birth, there are also various biographical accounts of Hurston's date of birth; she herself variously used 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1903. As a point of record however, the 1900 Census proves her birth year as 1891. The fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Potts Hurston she moved with her family to Eatonville when she was three years old Eatonville was the first incorporated black community in the United States ...


Bruce Nemerov

sociologist and folklorist, was born in Cuero, DeWitt County, Texas, the eldest child of Wade E. Jones and Lucinthia Jones. His parents were literate and before Lewis's tenth birthday they were farming near Navasota in Grimes County, Texas. His upbringing would inform his later sociological and folkloric interests regarding the status of African Americans in the rural South.

Jones was admitted to Fisk University in 1927. In 1931 he received his AB degree. At Fisk he came under the influence of Charles Spurgeon Johnson, head of the Social Sciences Department. He did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago as a Social Science Research Council Fellow (1931–1932).

Upon his return to Fisk, Jones was an instructor in the Social Sciences Department and served as a research assistant and supervisor of field studies for Charles S. Johnson In this capacity Jones collected data in ...


Caryn E. Neumann

a major collector of African American art, grew up as the son of the coal employment broker William “Will” Norfleet Jones and the homemaker Ella Reed Phillips Jones in the small mining camp of Muscoda on the edge of Bessemer, Alabama. The family enjoyed privileges that were not typical of other black mining families because of Will Jones's position with the Tennessee Coal, Mine, and Railroad Company. As a result, they straddled the line between the black working poor and the middle class. In 1938, at the age of ten, Jones went to New York City to receive a better education than he could get in the racially segregated schools of Alabama. He lived with an older brother, Joe and returned home during the summer On a class visit to a New York City art museum Jones was captivated both by the art and by how ...



Kawaida was developed by Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Kawaida's primary ideas revolve around the meaning and use of culture in self-understanding and self-assertion in the world and in pursuit of human freedom and development. Through the lectures and writings of Karenga, his activist work in The Organization Us, and the international impact of the Kwanzaa holiday and the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles)—which are framed and grounded in Kawaida philosophy—Kawaida became an influential philosophical framework and focus of black intellectual discourse and social practice. Its influence extends from the Black Power concept of operational unity and the Million Man March Day of Absence Mission Statement in the United States to the Black Consciousness Movement and the mission statements of student unions in South Africa. Kawaida has also influenced churches in Trinidad that use the ...


Michael Adams and Delano Greenidge-Copprue

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with language and African Americans The first article looks at the origins of African American English and considers the influences on and development of language among blacks The second article looks at Frederick Douglass s use of language as an example in discussing ...


Karen R. Bloom

Julius Lester was born on 27 January 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Woodie Daniel Lester and Julia B. Smith Lester. He received his BA from Fisk University in 1960, with a semester at San Diego State College, and an MA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1971, where he is currently a professor. He is married to his second wife and has four children. Lester has won the Newbery Honor Award (1969) and the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year Award (1986), and was a finalist for the National Book Award (1972) and the National Jewish Book Award (1988). Lester converted to Judaism in 1982.

Julius Lester s literary career has spanned a broad variety of political events and literary genres Lester began his career as an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating ...


C. S'thembile West

Primus, Pearl (29 November 1919–29 October 1994), dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and pre-medicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in 1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution.

During Primus’s tenure at the New Dance Group, she began to do research on African culture. She visited museums, consulted books, articles, and pictures for months to produce on 14 February 1943 her first significant dance work, African Ceremonial for which she had ...


Lisa D. Freiman

artist and educator, was born Betye Irene Brown in Pasadena, California, to Beatrice (maiden name unknown), a seamstress who enjoyed quilting, and Jefferson Brown, a salesman who liked to sketch and write. Jefferson Brown died from kidney problems when Saar was six years old, and Betye and her brother and sister lived with her mother's great-aunt and great-uncle until her mother remarried a man named Emmett six years later. After the second marriage, Beatrice had two more children, a boy and a girl. Saar spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw Simon Rodia'sWatts Towers, a vernacular example of assemblage consisting of eight tall conical spirals. Built from steel rods, covered in concrete, and encrusted with found objects like bottle caps, glass, broken tiles, and shells, the Watts Towers seemed like “fairy-tale castles” (Isenberg, State of the Arts 23 to Saar and ...


Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, educator, and advocate for black artists, was born Augusta Christine Fells in Green Cove Springs, Florida, the seventh of fourteen children of Edward Fells, a laborer and Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. As a child, Savage routinely skipped school, preferring to model small figurines at local clay pits, much to the consternation of her religious father, who, as she recalled in a 1935 interview, “almost whipped the art out of me” (Bearden, 168). At age fifteen, Augusta married John T. Moore, and a year later a daughter, Irene Connie Moore, was born; John Moore died several years later. In 1915 the Fells family moved to West Palm Beach, where Savage taught clay modeling at her high school. She later spent a year at Tallahassee Normal School (now Florida A&M). At some point after 1915 she married a carpenter named James ...


Gary Ashwill

Born in Virginia to former slaves, Carter G. Woodson worked in coal mines until he entered high school at the age of nineteen, finishing in less than two years. Over the next several years, he taught high school and obtained a BL degree at the interracial Berea College (Kentucky). From 1903 to 1906 Woodson worked as supervisor of schools in the Philippines. In 1908 he received both BA and MA degrees from the University of Chicago and began teaching high school in Washington, D.C. He earned a PhD in history from Harvard University in 1912, becoming, after W. E. B. Du Bois, the second African American to receive a doctorate in history. From 1919 to 1922 he taught at Howard University and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, and served in high administrative posts at both institutions.

In 1915 Woodson with several other scholars founded the Association for the ...