Black History Biographies
Black History Month often focuses on the American (US) story, but as we know in Modern Languages & Literatures, the history of people of color extends beyond the borders and language of Anglophone countries. During Black History Month, the LLC will highlight stories of black history that go beyond the English speaking world. Will you contribute a biography? We will post these stories through the LLC Black History Month Portal and link them with a photo and a brief (50-100 word) story or biography. Links to other external resources are strongly encouraged. We would love to collect many voices (both students and professors) writing about the diverse experiences and lives of black people, art, and writings around the globe.
Whose story will you tell?
To contribute, email Dr. Patrick Brugh (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the name of the biography you want to submit and a date when you can submit it.
Aimé Césaire (1913-2008)
Born in Martinique, Aimé Césaire was a French and Francophone author, poet, and politician. Césaire attended school in Paris where he helped to create L’Étudiant Noir, a literary review. In Paris, Césair also began work on one of his long poems, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, which was focused on life in the Carribean. Césair then returned to Martinique, where he wrote some of his most famous pieces, such as Une Tempête and Discours sur le colonialisme. - by Meghan Nichols ('19)
Maryse Condé (b. 1937)
Maryse Condé, a Francophone historical-fiction author, was born in Guadeloupe in 1937. She attended Lycée Fénelon and majored in English at Sorbonne in Paris. After finishing college, Condé became a teacher in Guinea, Ghana, and Senegal. She divorced her first husband in 1981 and married Richard Philcox, an English translator who translated most of her books, the next year. Condé received the Fullbright Scholarship in 1985, which allowed her to teach in the United States, and she is now a professor at Columbia University. Condé is most celebrated for her novel Segu. - by Meghan Nichols ('19)
Igiaba Scego (b. 1974)
Scego was born in Rome in 1974, both of her parents of Somalian descent. Always intrigued by literature and history, she received a degree in Foreign Literature at the First University of Rome. She went on to obtain her doctorate and in 2003 published the novel La Nomade che amava Alfred Hitchcock, which was awarded the Eks & Tra prize. She is also famous for her autobiography, La Mia casa è dove sono, published in 2010. Interview and blog by Afro-Europe. - by Alexa Maratos ('19)
Marie Nejar (b. 1930)
Born in 1930 in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Marie Nejar grew up in the shadow of the Nazi rise to power in Germany. As the only black child in a community of white Germans, she soon learned that others had a hard time reconciling her German-birth with her skin color. Notably, as she spent time with other girls who were becoming well-indocrinated Nazis, it took Nejar a few failed attempts to participate in typical events and groups held for Nazi German girls before she realized: "Oh, my grandma is right. Adolf Hitler doesn't love me." Yet, soon she found out that Hitler - or rather Goebbels - did want her! Goebbels personally excused her from school to act in his propaganda films under the stage name: Leila Negra. During the 1940s and 1950s (well after the defeat of the Nazi regime), Nejar acted in 8 films and recorded several popular songs. For an interview (with English subtitles) visit the Afro-German project website for Schwarz, Rot, Gold. Click the cover of her book Mach nicht so traurige Augen, weil du ein Negerlein bist to see her Amazon page. - by Dr. Patrick Brugh
Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989)
Nicolás Guillén was an Afro-Cuban poet, journalist, and activist. He was best know as the national poet of Cuba during the revolutionary period, as he used his poetry to portray his social and political ideas. He drew on both his African and Cuban heritage to write his poetry, the most famous being Motivos de son. - by Allison Gavin ('18)
Totó La Momposina (b. 1940)
Totó La Momposina’s life has been dedicated to represent the music of Afro-Colombians. Due to La Violencia in the 1950’s, Totó was forced to move to Bogotá as a child. During that time, she learned some of the musical skills that enabled her to become the legacy she is today. Being an innovator, she embodies the diverse cultures of her homeland, since the music she plays incorporates the Indigenous and African roots of her ancestors. She is known worldwide and has been artistically active for nearly 60 years. - by Dr. Margarita Jácome