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Article

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán was born and received his primary and secondary schooling in Veracruz, where there was a strong African influence, before studying medicine in Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos undertook pioneering studies of Indians in Mexico, whose culture and history had largely been viewed with disdain until then. The studies resurrected a degree of interest in and dignity for Indian heritage. Although Vasconcelos argued that much of indigenous culture should be subsumed in a larger Mexican culture, Aguirre Beltrán believed that indigenous cultures were worthy of study for their own sake. After graduating from the University of Mexico with a medical degree, Aguirre Beltrán returned to Veracruz, where he held a post in public health that further sparked his interest in Indian ethnicity and history. In 1940 he published two studies on the ethnohistory of colonial and precolonial Indians in ...

Article

Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...

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Roanne Edwards

Lydia Cabrera, along with Fernando Ortiz, is widely considered one of the two most important twentieth century researchers and writers on Afro-Cuban culture. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of investigative work on the subject, including her pioneering El monte (1954), subtitled “Notes on the Religion, the Magic, the Superstitions and the Folklore of Creole Negroes and the Cuban People,” and Reglas de congo (1980), a book on Bantu (known as congo in Cuba) rituals. According to Ana María Simo, author of Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait, Cabrera's “is the most important and complete body of work on Afro-Cuban religions” of its time. Cabrera also wrote four volumes of short stories inspired by Afro-Cuban legends and beliefs. Her fiction is rich in metaphor and symbolism and has been compared stylistically with the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca ...

Article

Edison Carneiro was born and lived in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia. Unlike many mestiços (people of indigenous and European descent) from his generation who denied their African origins, Carneiro dedicated his studies to the customs and traditions of the descendants of Africans in Brazil, particularly regarding religious ritual. This was pioneering work at the time, when African religions were still repressed by the Brazilian government. Carneiro is considered to be the first person to systematically record the practices, beliefs, and history of the Afro-Brazilian people. Among the rituals developed by Afro-Brazilians, Carneiro identified the Nagô rituals as the only authentic variant of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, as opposed to the Bantu rituals. In his search for the pure African religion, he considered the Bantu sect to be a degenerated form of African religion.

Carneiro combined his studies with a strong political activism He participated in the ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was the first of three children born to Thomas Reginald “Reggie” Carr and Cecilia Behamie Carr, a devout Roman Catholic family at Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 7 March 1902. His father was a British estate owner, and his mother was a direct descendant of King David, a Mandingo who came to Trinidad during the nineteenth century. His siblings were Emelda Candella, born in October 1903, and Dorothy Victoria, born 23 December 1905.

Belmont was one of the places where survivors of the British slave trade gathered with Africans who the British had seized on slave ships in international waters and relocated to Trinidad, in an effort to enforce international compliance with the 1808 abolition of the British slave trade. During the period immediately prior to 1834 they lived nearly in near isolation, more or less living out their lives as Africans from the old country.

Carr attended ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Maude Cuney was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Norris Wright and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. After graduation from the Central High School, Galveston, she received a musical education at the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts. Later she studied under private instructors such as Emil Ludwig, a pupil of Russian pianist and composer Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein, and Edwin Klare, a pupil of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. She then served for a number of years as director of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute of Texas and at Prairie State College in Prairie View, Texas. In 1906 she returned to Boston and married William P. Hare, who came from an old and well-known Boston family. She died there in 1936 and was buried in Galveston in the grave between her father and mother in Lake View Cemetery (Houston Informer ...

Article

Lynda Koolish

Maud Cuney-Hare is remembered for her literary accomplishments as a gifted playwright, biographer, and music columnist for the Crisis. Born in Galveston, Texas, on 16 February 1874, to teacher and soprano Adelina Dowdie and Norris Wright Cuney, an important Texas political figure who was the (defeated) Republican candidate for the 1875 Galveston mayoral race, Maud Cuney-Hare was educated in Texas and became musical director at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute in Austin, Texas. She held other church and college teaching positions before returning to Boston and devoting her life to performance, scholarship, and literary pursuits. She championed the 24 May 1917 Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaging of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel (1916), which, according to critic Robert Fehrenbach was the first time a play written by an Afro American that dealt with the real problems facing American Blacks in contemporary white racist society was ...

Article

Augustus Dill was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, son of John Jackson and Elizabeth (Stratton) Dill. He received a B.A. in 1906 from Atlanta University, where he was a student of W. E. B. Du Bois. On Du Bois's advice, Dill went on to earn a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.

Dill returned to Atlanta to assist Du Bois on his sociological project of documenting all dimensions of black life in American society. From 1911 to 1915 he coedited four major studies. In 1910, Dill replaced his mentor as associate professor of sociology when Du Bois left Atlanta University to found The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1913, Du Bois hired Dill as business manager for The Crisis, a post he remained in until 1928 Arrested that year in New ...

Article

Vèvè A. Clark

Dunham, who is best known for choreography based on African-American, Caribbean, West African, and South American sources, began her dance career in Chicago with the Little Theatre Company of Harper Avenue. That experience was followed by study with Mark Turbyfill and Ruth Page of the Chicago Civic Opera. Dunham's other primary influence during this period was Ludmilla Speranzeva, a Kamerny-trained modern dancer from Russia, whose teaching put equal emphasis on both dance and acting technique. She worked as well with Vera Mirova, a specialist in “Oriental” dance.

Out of her work with Turbyfill and Page, Dunham conceived the idea for a ballet nègre, and she later founded the Negro Dance Group in 1934; the group performed Dunham's Negro Rhapsody at the Chicago Beaux Arts Ball, and Dunham herself made a solo performance in Page's La Guiablesse at the Chicago Civic Opera in 1931 While enrolled ...

Article

USdancer, teacher, choreographer, and director who helped establish African-American dance as an international theatre form. She studied anthropology, specializing in dance at the University of Chicago, and took dance classes locally, making her major professional debut in Page's La Guillablesse in 1933. After a period of dance research in the West Indies (1937–8) she returned to Chicago to work for the Federal Theatre Project, and was then appointed director of dance for the New York Labor Stage in 1939, choreographing movement for plays and musicals. In 1940 she presented her own programme of work, Tropics and Le Jazz Hot—from Haiti to Harlem, with a specially assembled company. This launched her career as a choreographer. In the same year she and her company danced in the Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky (chor. Balanchine after which she moved to Hollywood to ...

Article

Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Nellie Y. McKay

Born in Notasulga, Alabama, Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, where her father was three-term mayor of that first all-black incorporated town. Her mother's death in 1904 ended her stable family life. While a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (1918–1924), she published her first stories. In New York City by 1925, among the Harlem Renaissance writers, she produced prize-winning stories and studied at Barnard College with the anthropologist Franz Boas One of the few Harlem writers of the period born in the South she genuinely loved and appreciated black rural people and culture especially oral culture In the late 1920s and 1930s she returned to the region and went to Haiti and Jamaica as well to study and collect black music folklore poetry and other facets of black culture Best known for the skillful blending of anthropology and literature in her four ...

Article

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.

Article

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 ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

This quotation from her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928 portrays Zora Neale Hurston s joyfully contrary view of herself in a world where being black was often perceived as a problem and portrayed that way even by black writers Hurston considered her own blackness a gift and an opportunity As an anthropologist and writer she savored the richness of black culture and made a career out of writing about that culture in ...

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Cheryl A. Wall

In February 1927, Zora Neale Hurston left New York City aboard a southbound train. Her destination was Eatonville, Florida, her hometown, where she began collecting folktales, spirituals, sermons, work songs, blues, and children's games. To Hurston this frequently disparaged folklore was priceless; it constituted the “arts of the people before they find out that there is any such thing as art.” At a time when the Great Migration, the movement that brought blacks by the hundreds of thousands from the rural South to the urban North, seemed a sign of racial progress, as did the poetry and fiction of the burgeoning Harlem Renaissance, Hurston moved against the tide. Crisscrossing Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana, Hurston spent the next six years documenting the art of “the Negro farthest down,” who, she contended, had made the greatest contribution to American culture.

Her years in the field culminated with the 1935 publication ...

Article

Tiffany Ruby Patterson

Born in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston, a minister, and Lucy Potts Hurston. In her autobiography, Hurston described her childhood as a safe and secure world where her imagination was unencumbered by the restrictions of race or gender and where she had the opportunity to develop her own individuality. This idyllic childhood was shattered by the death of her mother around 1904 and the disintegration of her family. Hurston’s father sent her off to boarding school, and her sisters and brothers scattered into marriages, schools, and journeys of their own. Her father’s remarriage several months after her mother’s death catapulted Hurston out of the safe world of Eatonville.

Article

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 ...