Duse Mohamad Ali (November 21, 1866 – June 25, 1945) was born to an Egyptian father who served in the army and a Sudanese mother during the French and English occupation of Egypt.
Ali was expected to become a doctor but his love for writing and acting pushed him into the arts.
When his father died in battle during the Urabi Uprising and the British Bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, Ali was traveling back and forth between Egypt and England. At only 16, he stayed in England to attend King’s College and eventually went on to the University of London to finish up his education. In his early years of being in England, Ali began to get involved with the arts and political scene. He saw firsthand the damage English colonization had on Egypt, courtesy of his father’s death.
By the 1900s, Ali established himself as a actor and playwright, producing his original plays, The Jew’s Revenge (1903), A Daughter of Judah (1906), A Cleopatra Night (1907) and Lily of Bermuda (1909). However, this time was the beginning of his foray into journalism and politics. In 1912, The African Times and Orient Review was created by Ali and funded by West Africans who agreed with his political leanings.
The publication, which covered issues in the United States, the Caribbean, West Africa, South Africa and Egyptm was the first Black-owned newspaper in England.
It eventually attracted the attention of people like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke.
The African Times and Orient Review also attracted a young Marcus Garvey, who was studying in London at the time.
In 1913, the two worked together writing articles about English colonization and Ali served as a mentor to Garvey, shaping some of his world views. The English shut down the paper because they feared it would incite a revolution, preventing the distribution of the paper to India and Africa in 1918.
However, in 1920, Ali restarted the paper after WWI and renamed it, African and Orient Review.
Ali was inspired by the work of his protégé, so he moved to the U.S and joined Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
He would go on to became the foreign secretary and the head of African Affairs until Garvey’s deportation from the United States in 1927.
By the 1930s, Ali was plagued by failure and could not find any financial success from his many business ventures. So, he moved to Lagos, Nigeria to start another newspaper called, The Comet. It had a circulation in the thousands and came to be the financial boost he needed.
At the height of the paper’s popularity, it was one of the top ranked papers in Nigeria. He managed the paper for 11 years until it was sold.
After finding himself stereotyped and typecast in offensive acting roles, Ali persevered and challenged the racist imperialistic system that killed his father and brother. He went on to become a famous Black journalist and his articles were translated and published in Germany, France, Austria, Turkey, Egypt and Japan. Following a protracted illness, Mohamed Ali died at the age of 78 in the African Hospital, Lagos, on June 25, 1945. Attendees at his funeral numbered well over 5,000, including political, social and religious leaders.