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Baker, Houston  

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

In 1982, Houston Baker wrote “[O]nce I had abandoned my graduate school plans to write definitive critiques of British Victorian literature and turned to black American literature, ‘cultural nationalism’ became the ideologically determined project in my intellectual life.” Thus, Baker began a groundbreaking career that would take him through the cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement, the post-structuralist and deconstructionist discourse of the 1980s, and black feminist criticism in the 1990s to studies of masculinity, rap, and the Academy. With works like Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory, Baker shaped black aesthetic discourse, becoming one of the most incisive theorists of African American literature and culture.

Born in 1943, Houston Baker was educated at Howard University (BA in 1965) and the University of California–Los Angeles, where he received his PhD in 1968 He has taught at Cornell Yale Duke ...


Béji, Hélé  

Jeremy Rich

was born in Tunis, Tunisia. She came from a very prosperous family that opposed continued French colonial rule in the early 1950s. She took pride in the liberal politics of her family and she later noted in the 1990s how her grandfather had encouraged his children to stop wearing the veil (hijab) worn by many Muslim women in the 1930s. Béji was the niece of Wassila Ben ‘Ammar, the second spouse of nationalist and first Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba. She attended primary schools in Tunis, and completed her graduate study at the well-respected Carnot secondary school there. After Béji passed her baccalaureate examination, she entered Université de Paris I La Sorbonne, and completed her doctorate there in 1973 Béji returned to Tunisia where she taught literature at the University of Tunis She began to gain renown in the early 1980s Her long study of the authoritarian state and society ...


Cruse, Harold  

Yusuf Nuruddin

Harold Cruse (8 March 1916–20 March 2005), an iconoclastic social critic and a largely self-educated cultural historian, achieved distinction as the preeminent African American dissident public intellectual of the 1960s. Although he authored several books, his reputation rests largely on his monumental work The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), a flawed yet brilliant, imaginative, sweeping, and provocative polemic. A thematically united collection of essays, Crisis presents a withering assessment of the black intelligentsia for its self-defeating embrace of both liberal and radical integrationist politics, especially its involvement in the Communist Party, of which Cruse was once a member.

Within the Communist Party and other leftist organizations black political interests according to Cruse historically have been subordinated to white political interests including Jewish and white ethnic nationalisms As a remedy Cruse calls upon the black intelligentsia to abandon its bankrupt integrationist strategies and embrace its ...


hooks, bell  

Frances B. Henderson

Born in 1952, Gloria Watkins later changed her name to bell hooks. Raised in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, by working-class parents (her mother was a homemaker and her father a custodian), hooks is one of six children and an advocate of antiracist, antisexist, and anticapitalist “policies” (Daughters of Africa). hooks identified the struggles and the volatile relationship she witnessed between her parents during her childhood as products of American patriarchy and racism. This early view of relationships was a factor that influenced her perspective and writing on love and relationships, perspectives that she articulated in her later works such as Salvation: Black People and Love (2001) and Communion: The Female Search for Love (2002).

hooks s school experience also was saturated by the challenges of living in rural Kentucky an area facing the same issues around race and gender that American society at large faced ...


Hove, Chenjerai  

Kizito Muchemwa

Zimbabwean essayist, novelist, poet, editor, translator, writer-in-residence, visiting lecturer, and cultural critic, was born to Ruvaro Muza Hove, a farmer, and Jessie Hove, his wife, in rural Mazvihwa, Zvishavane, a linguistic and ethnic buffer zone in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. Hove’s father, a local chief, was a polygamist who brought the family into contact with colonial modernity. The family migrated in the 1960s to Copper Queen Gokwe a district that took in the colonially displaced from different parts of the country following the enactment of many laws dispossessing Africans of their land Hove s time in Mazvihwa and Gokwe explain the writer s ability to speak more than one local language a significant achievement in a racially and ethnically polarized country The aspects that have shaped the writer s sensibility are colonialism missionary education orature war and Zimbabwe s postindependence experience He escaped political persecution at home following ...


Mazrui, Ali  

Kenneth Ombongi and Marcel Rutten

Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan academic, is an enigma. Many call him a pan-Arabist, pan-Africanist, or Muslim fundamentalist. In academia, he is a political historian, political scientist, philosopher, or commentator on diverse issues. However, there seems to be consensus that he is a prolific writer and an orator.

Mazrui is a creation of diverse influences and a creator of many ideas. In his achievements, he is a creation of countries other than his own. He was born 24 February 1933 in Mombasa, Kenya, and got his early education there. He has, however, spent his professional life outside Kenya. Educated at university in England and America, Mazrui’s achievements have been made and celebrated abroad. Whereas he started his scholarship career in Makerere University, in Uganda, he has achieved his intellectual prowess in the United States.

True, the Swahili culture constitutes Mazrui’s cultural roots but he is also Westernized Perhaps neither ...


Mazrui, Ali A.  

Ali A. Mazrui was born into the prominent Mazrui clan of Mombasa, which ruled the city during the eighteenth century. His father, Al’Amin Ali Mazrui, was chief Kadhi, Kenya's highest-ranking Islamic judge. After attending primary and secondary schools in Mombasa, he earned a B.A. from the University of Manchester in 1960. He earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1961 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1966.

While working on his dissertation, Mazrui began teaching political science in 1963 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Mazrui was named dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967, a position he held until 1973. An early favorite of Idi Amin, in 1971 Amin s first year in power Mazrui soon lost favor because of his outspokenness and was told to shut up or move out of Uganda ...


Mutahi, Wahome  

George Ogola

Kenyan novelist, actor, and newspaper humorist and cultural critic, was born in 24 October 1954 in Nyeri, Central Kenya, a place he immortalized in his newspaper column, “Whispers,” as “the slopes of Mount Kenya,” a literal reference to the region’s mountainous topography. He was Octavia Muthoni and Elijah Mutahi Wahome’s first child in a family of eight children (two girls and six boys). Mutahi attended Catholic schools, a life that graced his writings. Baptized Paul, a name he later dropped, Mutahi became an altar boy at his local church and later joined the seminary, in what should have led him to joining the Catholic priesthood. Despite being encouraged by his parents to train as a priest, Mutahi dropped out of the seminary in 1972 because he found the institution too strict for his liberal ideas Instead he joined Kirimara High School for his A level education the last two ...


Mwakikagile, Godfrey  

Ryan Ronnenberg

Tanzanian journalist, cultural critic, and historian, was born in Kigoma on 4 October 1949. Mwakikagile’s childhood in the closing stages of Tanzania’s colonial period made a significant impression on him. He witnessed colonial oppression firsthand, and the racist ideology that upheld it, evinced in “Whites Only,” “Asians Only,” and “Africans Only” signs that hung on the doors of restaurants, hotels, and public bathrooms. Indeed, the ideas of Pan-Africanism embraced by the early Nyerere government would resonate with Mwakikigale deeply, as he early on came to possess a deep and abiding respect for Africans and African Americans who preserved their culture in the face of racist ideology and institutions. In his introduction to Africa and the West (2000 he wrote Much as the conquest of Africa led to the denigration of the African personality leading many Africans to hate themselves by despising their heritage an equally intense but ...


Sebbar, Leila  

Frieda Ekotto

Franco-Algerian writer and cultural critic, was born on 9 November 1941 in Aflou, Algeria, to a French mother and an Algerian father. For Sebbar, who deals with the complex issue of what it means to have a double identity, identities are not easily bestowed by the territory into which one is born—national identities are not so clearly and discretely marked. She grew up in Algeria during the colonial period; both her parents were schoolteachers there at the heart of the Algerian war. Her overall intellectual project is to answer the question: What are the complexities of being from mixed parents, dealing with hybrid or being in between cultures? She covers political, intellectual, and cultural texts from different areas within Algeria and France; and her ongoing search for new paradigms for framing literatures of immigration makes her a cultural reader of an exceptional range of topics within France and the Maghreb.

Other ...


Talbi, Mohamed  

Salah Trabelsi

Tunisian historian and Islamologist, has devoted the best part of his career to teaching and researching medieval Maghreb and Mediterranean history. His profile is that of an atypical intellectual. After a long career teaching in primary and secondary schools, Mohamed Talbi took and passed the Arab Studies competitive examination. On the eve of Tunisia’s independence, he joined the Institute of Higher Education of Tunis. In 1955 he became the first dean of the School of Letters and Human Sciences of Tunis. He also chaired the school’s history department before devoting his full energies as director of the scientific journal Les Cahiers de Tunisie. He was born in the city of Tunis and spent most of his life there.

In 1968 Talbi defended his PhD thesis at the Sorbonne. Entitled L’émirat aghlabide 186–296, 800–909: Histoire politique (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1966; English trans. The Aghlabid Emirate, a Political History: 184/860–296/909 ...


Todd, Judith  

Lorna Lueker Zukas

Zimbabwean author and human rights activist, was born at the Dadaya Mission in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) on 18 March 1943. Her missionary father, Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd, served as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (1953–1958). His plan to extend the franchise, majority rule, and human rights to blacks led to his expulsion from political life and left the family ostracized from white society. Her mother, Jean Grace Wilson Todd, designed and implemented the Southern Rhodesian African Educational System and fully supported her husband and daughter’s political activities. Garfield Todd received a papal medal in 1973 for his peace and human rights work and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth of England in 1986. Serving as a senator in Zimbabwe’s first parliament (1980–1985), he left government service after becoming disillusioned with Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

Judith Todd likewise dedicated her life to the freedom struggles of blacks in Zimbabwe In ...


Walcott, Derek  

N. Gregson Davis

Derek Walcott (b. 1930) is a Nobel laureate poet and dramatist from the island of St. Lucia, a former British colony in the anglophone West Indies. After matriculating from St. Mary’s College, the local secondary school for boys, he attended the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. Although currently a resident in his native island, he has spent many decades of his highly productive career in the United States, where he has taught at Boston University since 1981. His literary eminence is based primarily on his poetic œuvre, but he has also composed and directed a substantial body of plays. Before he attained the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, he had been the recipient of many other literary honors, such as the Obie Award (for the play Dream on Monkey Mountain the Royal Society of Literature s Heinemann Award and the John D and ...