Literature

Venice Tipton Spraggs

Chief of the Chicago Defender’s Washington Bureau, in 1947 Spraggs was initiated into Theta Sigma Phi, the national professional and honorary fraternity for women in journalism, the first black member in the 37-year history of the organization.

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica on 15th September, 1890. He began writing poetry as a schoolboy. He worked as a policeman in Spanish Town and when he was twenty-two had his first volume of poems, Songs of Jamaica (1912) published.In 1912 McKay moved to the United States where he attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and Kansas State University. He continued to write poetry and in 1918 his work was praised by both Frank Harris and Max Eastman. The following year, his poem, If We Must Die, was published in Eastman’s journal, The Liberator.

Frank Harris encouraged McKay to obtain writing experience in England. In 1919 McKay travelled to England where he met George Bernard Shaw who introduced him to influential left-wing figures in journalism. This included Sylvia Pankhurst, who recruited him to write for her trade union journal, Workers’ Dreadnought. While in London McKay read the works of Karl Marx and becomes a committed socialist.  Continue reading

W.E.B. DuBoise

W.E.B. DuBoise

(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

Stokley Carmichael

Stokley Carmichael

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

Lorraine Hansberry

(b. May 19, 1930, Chicago, Ill., U.S.–d. Jan. 12, 1965, New York, N.Y.), American playwright whose Raisin in the Sun (1959) was the first drama by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.

Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry

Hansberry’s father, a prosperous real-estate broker, fought a lengthy legal battle in the late 1930s against restrictive covenants that kept Chicago’s black inhabitants in ghettos. As part of this struggle the Hansberry family moved into a white neighbourhood, where Lorraine met daily hostility in her walks to and from school. Although her father took the case to the Supreme Court and won, he became disillusioned with the prospects for black equality in the United States and moved to Mexico.

Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin for two years and then studied painting in Chicago and Mexico, before she decided she had no talent for it. Moving to New York in 1950, she held a number of jobs, meanwhile perfecting her skill as a writer.  Continue reading

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