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Emad Abdul-Latif

playwright, was born to a well-off family in the city of Meet Ghamr in Al Dakahlia governorate in Egypt. His father, S’ad al-Deen Ashour, was passionate about literature and the arts, especially the theater. His mother belonged to a wealthy family from the countryside. For primary and secondary education, Ashour moved between different schools in Dakahlia, Alexandria, and Cairo. His admiration for the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein and his desire for a career in literature led him to study in the Department of English at Cairo University in 1938. However, upon graduating he worked as a bank employee for ten years. In 1952, he quit this position and joined the Ministry of Social Affairs as a supervisor of some of the government's cultural activities. This job afforded him close ties with artists, especially dramatists. When the Ministry of Culture was established in 1958 he served as ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

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George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...

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Trudier Harris

Baldwin was born in New York City's Harlem to Emma Berdis Jones, who later married David Baldwin, a migrant from New Orleans. The elder Baldwin, a preacher who resented his stepson's illegitimacy, tried to crush the young Jimmy's imaginative spirit. The problematic nature of their relationship would recur in Baldwin's works. The precocious Baldwin haunted Harlem's libraries; such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe profoundly influenced him. As a teenager, he preached in his father's Pentecostal church.

Racist rebuffs when he sought employment in New Jersey, along with fellowship support, contributed to Baldwin's decision to emigrate to Paris in 1948. His first and best-received novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), drew on his own experience. Returning frequently to the United States during the era of the civil rights movement, he marched; wrote Blues for Mister Charles (1964 a play about the ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” In this statement from his 1972 essay “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin sums up a philosophy that drove much of his work. Baldwin was continually conscious of the hypocrisies and injustices in the world around him, and as a writer he strove to make his audiences aware of the possibility that people could do, and be, better. An expatriate most of his adult life, Baldwin nevertheless wrote tirelessly about the contradictions inherent in American identity, and especially about the state of American race relations. He came to be respected as one of the most insightful intellectuals in the Civil Rights Movement and as a leading figure in the African American literary tradition.

Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924 Shortly ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

writer and civil rights activist. James Arthur Baldwin was born James Arthur Jones in Harlem Hospital in New York City to Emma Berdis Jones. He was adopted by Jones's husband David Baldwin, a Baptist preacher and factory worker, in 1927.

By the time of his death Baldwin had become a kind of prophetic spokesperson—as both artist and activist—for black life and black history in America, a strong critic of the country he loved. This he accomplished with considerable reflective time spent outside the country, especially in France and Turkey; with wide-ranging artistic and literary contacts; and with a consummate skill in several literary genres, especially the essay, the novel, and the play.

Home life for Jimmy was hectic and demanding He moved frequently between crowded apartments in Harlem with his overworked mother his angry stepfather David Baldwin s mother and oldest son and eight brothers and sisters ...

Article

Ann Rayson

author, was born James Arthur Baldwin in Harlem, in New York City, the illegitimate son of Emma Berdis Jones, who married the author's stepfather, David Baldwin, in 1927. David Baldwin was a laborer and weekend storefront preacher who had an enormous influence on the author's childhood; his mother was a domestic who had eight more children after he was born. Baldwin was singled out early in school for his intelligence, and at least one white teacher, Orrin Miller, took a special interest in him. At P.S. 139, Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Baldwin met black poet Countée Cullen, a teacher and literary club adviser there. Cullen saw some of Baldwin's early poems and warned him against trying to write like Langston Hughes, so Baldwin turned from poetry to focus more on writing fiction. In 1938 he experienced a profound religious conversion at the ...

Article

Linda Chavers

actress, was born Angela Evelyn Bassett in the Bronx, New York, to Betty Bassett, a social worker, and a father whose name and occupation are unknown. Soon after Angela's birth her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother and sister to St. Petersburg, Florida. Bassett first thought of a career in acting after a 1974 school trip to Washington, D.C., where she saw James Earl Jones perform in Of Mice and Men at the Kennedy Center.

After graduating from Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg in 1976, Bassett won a scholarship to study at Yale University. She earned her BA in African American Studies in 1980 and a master of fine arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1983. After Yale, Bassett did a stint as a photo researcher for U.S. News and World Report while also pursuing theater roles in New York and ...

Article

Kim Jenice Dillon

Born 16 June 1899 in Boston, Marita Bonner graduated from Radcliffe in 1922 and taught high school in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. She married William Almy Occomy in 1930. While living in Washington, she was a member of the “S” Street Salon, a group of writers who met usually at the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson. Encouraged and influenced by writers such as Johnson, May Miller, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, and other major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Occomy began to publish works that embodied her concern for the deplorable conditions facing African American men and women living in an America characterized by racial, class, and gender inequities.

Occomy published two essays that Elizabeth Brown Guillory describes as those that captured the spirit of the Black Renaissance On Being Young A Woman and Colored which won first ...

Article

Marita Odette Bonner was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, one of the four children of Mary Noel and Joseph Bonner. She was educated at Brookline High School. In 1922 she graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. degree in English and comparative literature. After teaching for two years at Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, West Virginia, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught high school until 1930.

As a member of the literary “S” salon in Washington, Bonner met members of the Harlem Renaissance, including poet Langston Hughes, playwright Georgia Douglas Johnson, and writer Jean Toomer. In 1925 Bonner published her first story, “The Hands,” in Opportunity. In the same year, she wrote the autobiographical essay for which she is best known, “On Being Young—A Woman—and Colored.” As a member of Washington's Krigwa Players she wrote three experimental plays: The Pot Maker ...

Article

Althea E. Rhodes

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, Bonner applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school adviser and was one of the few African American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, Bonner won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a BA in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930 ...

Article

Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

Article

Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, to parents of Creole descent who eventually converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. While Arna was young, the Bontemps family moved to Los Angeles, California. The childhood loss of his mother and the stern upbringing by his pragmatic father affected him deeply. His father hoped, mistakenly, that his son would make the family trade of masonry his life's work. Educated at Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College in 1923. In 1924 he took a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City.

Literary notice and success came early to Bontemps. His creativity and social conscience were excited by the cultural vitality he found in New York in the 1920s. By 1926 his poetry had appeared in two of the most important journals of the period, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

Article

Nathan L. Grant

writer, was born in Sag Harbor, New York, the daughter of Abraham Ward, probably a fisherman, and Eliza Draper. Both were members of the Montauk Indian tribe of Long Island and both were also of African descent. When Olivia was just nine months old her mother's death forced the family to move to Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly after her father's remarriage, Olivia came under the guardianship of her maternal aunt Maria Draper, whom she credited with having given her an education and preparing her for life. Her aunt's determination and endurance, Olivia believed, resulted from her Native American upbringing. Olivia graduated from Providence High School, where she was trained as a nurse and developed strong interests in drama and literature.

In 1889 Olivia married Frank Bush in Providence and soon gave birth to two daughters, but the couple divorced by 1895 From the end of the century ...

Article

Nathan L. Grant

Bush-Banks, Olivia Ward (27 February 1869–08 April 1944), writer, was born in Sag Harbor, New York, the daughter of Abraham Ward, probably a fisherman, and Eliza Draper, both members of the Montauk Indian tribe of Long Island and both also of African descent. When Olivia was nine months old her mother’s death forced the family to move to Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly after her father’s remarriage, Olivia came under the guardianship of her maternal aunt Maria Draper, whom she credited with having given her an education and a preparedness for life. Her aunt’s determination and endurance, Bush-Banks believed, was a result of her Native American upbringing. Olivia graduated from Providence High School, where she was trained as a nurse and developed strong interests in drama and literature.

In 1889 Olivia married Frank Bush in Providence and soon gave birth to two daughters The marriage was ill fated ...

Article

Leslie E. Campbell

author, journalist, and playwright, was born Elizabeth Bebe Moore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of George Moore, a farm agent, and Doris Moore, a social worker whose maiden name is unknown. Shortly after her birth, her parents separated, and Campbell relocated with her mother to a row house in North Philadelphia. Although both parents maintained close links with their child and fostered her early interest in weaving imaginative stories, it was Doris Moore who enrolled her daughter in an academically challenging and predominately white elementary school and later in an equally exacting high school.

Campbell attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she graduated with a BS in Elementary Education in 1971. Immediately afterward she embarked on a career teaching public school in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Like Jessie Fauset, the most prolific author of the Harlem Renaissance, and the playwright and poet Angelina Grimké ...

Article

Richard Sobel

writer and educator, was born Ian Alwyn Cuthbert Rynveld Carew in Agricola Rome, British Guiana (later Guyana), the son of Charles Alan Carew, a farmer and artist, and Kathleen Ethel Robertson, a teacher. His parents worked in New York while the family lived in Harlem from 1925 to 1927.

In 1939 Carew briefly taught at Berbice School for Girls in New Amsterdam, Guiana, and in 1940 graduated from Berbice high school in New Amsterdam, receiving an Oxford/Cambridge Senior Certificate, the equivalent of two years of college. He was called up to the British Army Coast Artillery Regiment from 1939 to 1943 and served as a customs officer from 1940 to 1943 for the British Colonial Civil Service in British Guiana. In 1943 and 1944 he worked for the government of Trinidad and Tobago as a price control officer before continuing his education abroad.

Carew came back to ...

Article

Sharon D. Johnson

director, playwright, and actress, was born in New York City, the elder of two daughters of upper-middle-class parents, Edgar E. Carroll, a dentist, and Florence Morris, a teacher, both from Jamaica, West Indies. When Carroll was three, her parents sent her and her sister Dorothy to live with their grandparents in Falmouth, Jamaica, while Carroll's father completed his dental training at Howard University. Seven years later Carroll and her sister returned to New York, where their father's dental practice was thriving. The family's town house in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem eventually became a hub of activity that included frequent gatherings of neighborhood children and black community leaders.

Raised to be an achiever Carroll absorbed this intellectually and culturally charged atmosphere Her mother made sure that Carroll took music lessons and attended diverse cultural events particularly those featuring black artists Although Carroll wanted to become an actress ...