(b. February 23, 1868, Great Barrington, Mass.; d. August 27, 1963, Accra, Ghana), writer, social scientist, critic, and public intellectual; cofounder of the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Pan-African Congress; editor of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis.
Along with Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, historians consider W. E. B. Du Bois one of the most influential African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Born only six years after emanicipation, Du Bois was active well into his nineties, dying in 1963, on the eve of the March on Washington. Continue reading →
Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. A leading poet of the Black Arts Movement, Giovanni’s work reflects her radical politics. In 1967 she graduated from Fisk University and published her first poetry collection, Black Feeling. It was followed by the poetry collections Black Talk (1968) and Black Judgment (1970). Truth Is on Its Way, a recording of Giovanni reading poems set to gospel and other black music, was a bestseller in 1971.
After the birth of her son in 1969, Giovanni’s work became more personal and less political. In 1989 she began teaching English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni was published in 1996 and Blues for All the Changes: New Poems appeared in 1999.
Over the past thirty years, Nikki’s outspokenness, in her writing and in person, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely read American poets, she prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” Continue reading →
Barbara Clementine Harris made history in 1989 when she became the first woman bishop in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. She was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts on February 11, 1989
. As the first woman bishop and an African-American, she received death threats and obscene messages. Though urged to wear a bullet-proof vest to her ordination, she refused. A contingent of the Boston police were assigned to her consecration. Her comment was merely, “I don’t take this in a personal way.” Continue reading →
Thurman, Wallace (1902–1934), novelist, editor, poet, playwright, and literary critic. After leaving his native Salt Lake City, Utah, for the University of Southern California, Wallace Thurman established the Outlet, a magazine similar to those being published as part of the artistic renaissance then blossoming in Harlem, New York.
When it failed after just six months, he himself headed for Harlem, arriving in September 1925. The younger Thurman became a scathing critic of the bourgeois attitudes that motivated the Harlem Renaissance old guards like Alain Locke and W. E. B. Du Bois, charging that they professed their intellectual and artistic freedom while seeking white approval with slanted portrayals of African Americans. Continue reading →
Original name: KWAME TOURE (b. June 29, 1941, Port of Spain, Trinidad–d. Nov. 15, 1998, Conakry, Guinea), West-Indian-born civil-rights activist, leader of black nationalism in the United States in the 1960s and originator of its rallying slogan, “black power.”
Carmichael immigrated to New York City in 1952, attended high school in the Bronx, and enrolled at Howard University in 1960. There he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Nonviolent Action Group. In 1961 Carmichael was one of several Freedom Riders who traveled through the South challenging segregation laws in interstate transportation. For his participation he was arrested and jailed for about 50 days in Jackson, Miss. Continue reading →