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Article

Rasheed Olaniyi

Ulli Beier, author, curator, and publisher, is preeminently associated with Yoruba art and culture, through which he distinguished himself as a quintessential poet, photographer, curator, author, translator, and publisher. Despite the cultural differences, Beier effectively integrated into Yoruba cultural norms and values. He joined the Yoruba society in 1950, and literally never departed. Beier interpreted his childhood through Yoruba cultural norms and worldview. He was a twin (ibeji), abiku child (a child “born to die”), and a dada child (one distinct in birth). As he noted, if he had been born Yoruba, he would have been a Sango devotee. He referred to himself sarcastically as Obotunde Ijimere, Sangodare Akanji, and Omidiji Aragbabalu. His colleagues and admirers refer to him as “Blackman in white skin” and “German-born Yoruba man.” He was known as the “white African” who defended African cultural heritage.

Beier was born in Glowitz Germany ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Elaine Savory

Kamau Brathwaite, born Edward Lawson in Barbados in 1930, has had a very distinguished career as a poet, historian, and cultural theorist. His historical work contributed greatly to the understanding of creolization as a process and his term “nation language” has been enormously important in the recognition of the wide range of Creole languages in the Caribbean. But he has also been a critical intellectual and creative force in bringing subordinated African cultural elements to the fore in Caribbean culture. His own adoption of an African name is a powerful symbol of his conscious affiliation with Africa.

Although the majority of the population of Barbados is of African descent African thought and culture were only present in subordinated cultural practices after the systematic erasure of ancestral memories of African slaves by the plantation system and British colonial education Educated at Cambridge in history Brathwaite then worked in the ...

Article

Rodney Saint-Eloi

was born into a bourgeois family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 5 December 1902. His father, the businessman and public official Rafaël Brouard, and his mother, Cléomie Gaëtjens, had four children. The young Carl spent his childhood in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bizoton, and from an early age he fostered a particular passion for literature from the Middle Ages. When the US Marines disembarked to occupy Haiti (1915–1934), the aspiring writer was bruised: “28 July 1915. The Americans have trespassed on our soil. Melancholy has dilated our vision,” he wrote. This was an inquisitive young man who discovered with enthusiasm the nationalist ideas of Haitian intellectuals like Jean Price-Mars, which emerged in response to the occupation.

An alcoholic Carl Brouard led a bohemian existence in the Port au Prince of the early 1920s which contributed to a tense relationship with his father Around that time his ...

Article

Simon Gikandi

Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been the dominant figure in the study of African American literature and culture since the 1980s He has had a long and profound interest in Africa its history culture and institutions Through his writings documentaries and electronic publications he has been central in shaping debates about the continent in the American academy and public culture A prolific writer social commentator and builder of institutions Gates has influenced a range of debates on African and African American life from the meaning of blackness in the cultures of slavery the nature and form of the canon of black letters in the modern period and the relationship between the continent and its diaspora in Europe and the Americas Gates has done more than any other critic in the post civil rights era to bridge the gap between forms of knowledge that are produced in elite and exclusive ...

Article

Erin D. Somerville

Trinidadian historian, novelist, philosopher, and cricket fan credited with extending Marxist philosophy to black politics. Cyril Lionel Robert James was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, to Robert, a rural schoolteacher and son of a sugar plantation worker, and Bessie, an avid reader. James won an exhibition to Trinidad's Queen's Royal College at the age of 9 and taught history at the College after graduation. Teaching was coupled with a semi‐professional cricket career and the publication of two early novels, La Divina Pastora (1927) and Triumph (1929).

At the age of 31 James immigrated to England to pursue a career as a novelist. The Trinidadian cricketer Learie Constantine, with whom James lived in Lancashire after a short stay in London, aided his move. James's bond with Constantine was encouraged by a mutual interest in West Indian independence, which climaxed in the publication of The Case for West ...

Article

Cyril Lionel Robert James was born into an educated family in Tunapuna, in colonial Trinidad. At the age of nine, James earned a scholarship to Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and graduated in 1918. He taught English and history at that college and later taught at the Government Training College for Teachers. During this time he met Alfred Mendes, who with James led an informal group of young intellectuals. James began writing and developing his political and literary ideas with this group. In 1927 his short story “La Divina Pastora” was published by the British Saturday Review of Literature, a significant achievement for both James and Caribbean literature. “La Divina Pastora,” in which a Cocoa worker pleads with her patron saint for help with her romantic life, was notable for its clear portrayal of the rural poor.

James and Mendes founded and ...

Article

Amani Morrison

to Jessie Rowell, a gardener and storyteller, and Hosea Rowell, a farmer two generations removed from slavery. At an early age Rowell identified with his mother’s spirit of freedom and love of beauty as opposed to his father’s desire for land ownership and material gain.

Rowell lived and was educated in the segregated schools of Alabama before earning his degree in English from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, also segregated, in 1961. He completed his Master of Arts degree in English at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1962, after which he taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. In 1964 Rowell began pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Ohio State University, which he completed in 1972 after teaching at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena, Mississippi and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he worked until 1977. In 1976 just before leaving Southern ...

Article

James Jankowski

Egyptian teacher, scholar, and publisher, was born on 2 April 1885 to a peasant family in the village of Kafr Dumayra, Daqahliyya Province. His educational background was unusually diverse. He received his early education at his village kuttab, from which he moved on to study at al-Azhar. While working as a teacher of Arabic at the École des Frères in Khoronfish from 1907 until 1914, he also studied at the new Egyptian University in Cairo and at the Law School in Cairo, from which he received a license in 1912. He later continued his legal studies in Paris, where he received his license en droit in 1925. Fluent in French and Arabic and with experience in both the indigenous and the western educational systems, Zayyat was well situated to serve as a cultural commentator and interpreter.

From 1922 to 1929 Zayyat headed the Arabic Department at ...