• An Ancient Figurine's Unknown History

    A perfectly matched intimacy of scale and subject resides in this remarkable image from the ancient past. A young black man sits on a low mound, looking down with puffed cheeks as he extracts a thorn from his foot. He is dressed simply in a cap and a short cloak pinned at the shoulder with a gem. Some of the original skin color remains on the youth's face, and the cloak crossing his chest bears slight traces of yellow stripes. Less than 7 inches high, the figurine preserves the subtlety of a larger, lost original of the third century B.C. The type is known as the Spinario, or "thorn puller." The terra-cotta version shown here dates from circa 135 B.C., a good deal later than the original but still much earlier than other surviving copies. The engaging candor of self-absorbed, fleeting everyday activity typifies the Hellenistic culture of the last few centuries before the common era....

  • Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

    In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India. It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common. “I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.

  • Why the next pope should be African

    Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, was asked last week at the celebration of Black History Month in Toronto if he thought that the time was ripe for an African pope. His answer attracted much cheering from the crowd of over 500 Catholics of African descent. He said: "The time for an African pope was ripe even in the time of the Apostolic Fathers in the first century of the church. "I am not saying that I wish to be considered for the papacy, but the fact that the Gospel is to be preached to all peoples, languages, and races means that the highest leadership of the church should be open to anyone from any race, language and nation. I will not be surprised to see an African pope in my lifetime."...