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Drusilla Dunjee Houston

Born on 1-20-1876. She was born in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. She later died on 2-11-1941.
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In 1999, the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc. was established in Buffalo, New York in honor of Drusilla Dunjee Houston. The Institute is named after Houston's 1917 poem entitled America's Uncrowned Queens. Like many African American women writers swallowed up and languishing in the historical gap, Houston is one of the most prolific and all but forgotten African American women writers of the 20th century. Considered a â??historian without portfolio" and dismissed as a serious historian and writer by leading Black male historians of Post Emancipation and the Harlem Renaissance, e.g., W.E.B. DuBois, Alaine Locke, Carter G. Woodson and others, Houston burst on the historical literary scene in 1926 with Volume I of her magnum opus Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire Book 1: Nations of the Cushite Empire, Marvelous Facts from Authentic Records thought to represent the crowning achievement of Drusilla Dunjee Houston's literary life. Houston is remembered as the earliest known and possibly the only African American woman to write a multi-volume study of ancient Africa where she unapologetically proclaimed in 1926, an African origin of civilization and culture during one of the most turbulent periods for black Americans in American history.

Through this work, Houston left her own mark as a pioneering advocate of the study of Africa, especially ancient African history and is credited with creating a Pan African framework proclaiming the African origin of civilization. Obadeli Williams in a review of Houston's second book noted that: â?? the Cushitic background and origin of the ancient Egyptians recorded by Dunjee Houston has been confirmed by Cheikh Anta Diop's 12 categories of evidence of their African origins. Fifty years before Martin Bernal's Black Athena (1984) and a generation before George G.M. James Stolen Legacy (1954) while predating Diop's African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality? (1974) by 40 years; Dunjee Houston pioneered African-centered historiography. Dunjee Houston is indeed the fore mother of Africana historical writings and research. She sought to burst asunder vestiges of notions of the â??Dark Continent" in both academia and among the lay populace. Her second book Wonderful Ethiopians Book II: Origin of Civilization from the Cushites created a wedding between the adherents of the Garvey movement and the Harlem Literary Renaissance. It shared its birth with the Negro Society for Historical Research, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the global researches of Arthur A. Schomburg, Joel A. Rogers and Willis N. Huggins.

Books I was only the beginning. Houston often reported that she had written at least six volumes in what she referred to as the Wonderful Ethiopians Series. All appear lost with the exception of Book II, Origin of Civilization from the Cushites which was recently discovered and published by a long time Houston researcher and scholar, Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram. Asa G. Hilliard, III in a commentary on this long lost manuscript describes Houston thusly: "When the roll is called of the great Africans who corrected the errors and defamation in the ancient story of African people, the list will include, Arthur A. Schomburg, John G. Jackson, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Theophile Obenga, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Jacob Carruthers, and many others. However, with this and other masterworks, that roll of masters must never be called without the name of one, whose love for her people, and whose model of excellence we now know even better than before, Drusilla Dunjee Houston."

Aside from her writings on ancient African history and later American history, Dunjee Houston was a multi-faceted figure, who, at one time or another during her wide-ranging career was an educator, elegist, racial uplift theorist, institution builder and journalist. Her writings cross multiple literary periods including the race writers, the Black Women's Era (1890-1900), and the Harlem Renaissance or the New Negro era. Still, despite voluminous writings for more than four decades --including editorials, pamphlets, poetry, elegy, screenplays and historical texts Houston remains one of the most overlooked African American women writers in African American women's history and is also one of the most important African American women in the American West. Houston was a lover of children and from her early days teaching in the segregated schools of pre-Territorial Oklahoma,barely fifteen years of age--devoted her life to providing the correct historical information on Africa to the black children she regarded as â??acres of diamonds."

Houston was born into an extraordinary family. Her father, Rev. John William Dunjee was one of the most exciting and productive ministers of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society. One of ten children, only five of whom lived to adulthood, Drusilla Dunjee was born in 1876 in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Her father was a Baptist minister commissioned to travel across the country to establish Baptist congregations in areas inhabited by poor Black rural dwellers. During these times Houston lived in numerous states on the Eastern Seaboard, in the South, the Northeast and finally the Midwest in Oklahoma. A search for Houston over decades reveals an extraordinarily private woman who felt compelled to thrust herself into the major social and political dialogues of her era. When she began writing, it was clear that Houston was eager to first take her readers Mountain Stepping, and then "moleing and mining" in the old dusty books that presented what she believed to be the true history of ancient Africa. She educated hundreds of students throughout her life but was one of her own best students as she was the consummate self-taught student fluent in French, German, Greek and Latin. These skills are especially evident in other writings, particularly her screen play, The Maddened Mob, written in elegiac verse in 1915 as a refutation of Birth of a Nation. Arguably, Houston was the very first African American to write a blow by blow refutation of Birth of a Nation, which she hoped to become a flashing photo play." Peggy Brooks-Bertram has located this material and is in the process of preparing this historic screenplay for publication.

It is with enthusiasm and exhilaration that I offer these tiny fragments of her extraordinary life and dedicate Drusilla Dunjee Houston's bio to the memory of my friend and colleague, Asa G. Hilliard, III who encouraged me for years to continue the search for the record of Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Uncrowned Queen in the African American women's literary tradition. On February 11, 1941, Houston died in Arizona after many years of illness from tuberculosis. Today, Houston is celebrated by the Association of Black Women Historians and the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc.

Baptist Convention

Position: Principal

Location: Sapulpa

Year Starting: 1917

Year Ending: 1922

Houston was the Principal of the Baptist Training School for Girls that began in 1917 in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.