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Clare J. Washington

pilot, who made aviation history when she became the first African American woman to fly for a major passenger airline in the United States, the first to be admitted to the U.S. Navy's flight school, and the first in U.S. military history to qualify as a pilot.

Brown was born in Millersville, Maryland. Her family had taken up aviation as a hobby, and she learned to fly small planes with her parents—Gilbert Brown, who was a former U.S. Air Force instrument mechanic and also owned a building construction business, and Elaine Brown, an art resource teacher in the Baltimore public schools—when she was seventeen years old. For her eighteenth birthday, she received a Cherokee 180D airplane. In 1967 Brown flew her first solo flight in a Piper J 3 Cub She had always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot but her mother advised her otherwise and ...


Peter Gammond

A 19th-century African-American dance. It originated among plantation slaves (c.1850 reputedly to parody the promenades that opened the plantation owners formal balls In the 1890s it became commercial entertainment and it was used for social dancing at the turn of the 20th century The music is a ...


Sibyl Collins Wilson

dancer, choreographer, and university professor, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sally Yancey and Joshua Milton. He was their only child. After Arthur's mother and father separated, Sally Yancey raised him with the help of her mother, Emma Yancey, and then moved to Washington, D.C., where she married her second husband, Patrick Hall. Arthur eventually took Hall's surname and joined the family in D.C. In 1950, Hall made his dancing debut in The Ordering of Moses, a production sponsored by the National Negro Opera Company.

The following year, 1951, Hall and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he continued studying and performing as a dancer at the Judimar School, which had been founded in 1948 by Marion Cuyjet Hall studied modern dance at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Malvina Tase Some of his mentors and instructors included Cuyjet a ...


Tarice Sims Gray

dancer, choreographer, educator, and social worker, was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to a racially mixed father, Hank Witt, who had been a buffalo soldier, and mother, Pearlie (Pryor) Witt, a black woman. Before settling in Cheyenne the family lived in Missouri, where Marjorie's older brother was born. It is not known what brought them to Cheyenne. Hank was a fair-skinned biracial man with a deep love for his dark-skinned wife. Marjorie Hayes Witt their first daughter and the second oldest of five children took after her mother and was the only one of her siblings to have Pearlie s mocha coloring Early on Marjorie learned that this legacy would be a burden Her mother found that her own complexion was a handicap and went so far as to bathe her dark skinned daughter in buttermilk in the belief it would lighten her Marjorie ...


Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...


Cuban ethnomusicologist Fernando Ortiz wrote that the word bamba means “a lucky move,” and “success obtained without working,” tracing its origins to a similar word— mbamba—from the Congo, meaning “play”. Bamba has also been traced to the Gabonese word bumbua, which means “to do something with improvisation, without preparing to do it.” African elements were introduced into the dance by enslaved Africans who worked the haciendas (large estates) in Mexico. African influence was particularly high in the urban areas, such as Mexico City, Puebla, and the port city of Veracruz, where Afro-Mexicans taught music and dancing, and where the dance reportedly originated.

“La Bamba” is also the name of a popular song, performed in a traditional Mexican musical genre called huapango—a complex mix of Spanish melodic influences that integrates Amerindian and African cross-rhythms. As for its etymological origins, huapango may have derived from a ...


Jeffrey Green

Musical and humorous entertainment style popular from about 1850 to 1970. The entertainers blacked up, a grotesque parody of black Americans in the Southern slave states. When African‐descent entertainers participated, they too wore burnt‐cork make‐up. Minstrel shows were musical, vibrant, amusing, and capable of swiftly adapting to new circumstances.

Most societies have entertainers who use masks and gaudy clothes, speak with false accents, dance in exaggerated ways, and play musical instruments with visible enthusiasm. The minstrel show did all these. A minstrel show was a self‐contained entertainment.

Minstrelsy originated in the United States, where it once showed both the evils of slavery and the allegedly happy plantation slave. The best‐selling anti‐slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin added dramatic elements; then Negro spirituals, brought to England by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1871 added songs including Go Down Moses and Steal Away to Jesus Costumes ranged from ragged hand me ...


C. S'thembile West

dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and premedicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution.

During Primus's tenure at the New Dance Group, she began to do research on African culture. She visited museums and consulted books, articles, and pictures for months to produce on 14 February 1943 her first significant dance work, African Ceremonial which she had asked continental Africans to judge ...


Germaine Ingram

dancer and educator, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of fourteen children of David Robinson, a construction worker, and Katherine Griffin, a homemaker. Robinson's South Philadelphia neighborhood pulsed with percussive street dancing, an example of vernacular culture that became the springboard for his distinguished career. When he was seven years old, his mother took a break from preparing supper to teach him his first tap step, which he practiced on the wooden floorboards of the family's kitchen. He expanded his repertoire by watching and imitating rhythm dancers who entertained themselves and challenged each other on street corners along Philadelphia's South Street corridor, where, according to Robinson, tap dancing was a common pastime for men, women, and children.

By his early teens Robinson was a street dancer himself busking dancing for money in Philadelphia s downtown He and two or three other youngsters became what was ...



Aaron Myers

To Brazilians, samba is many different things: abandon and solace, celebration and exuberance, national identity and pride. Though samba is most closely associated with the pre-Lent festivities known as Carnival, there are several forms of samba that are played year-round in various contexts. Percussive instruments dominate samba and give it a highly syncopated, layered sound. Technically, a 2/4 meter with the heaviest accent on the second beat and a stanza-and-refrain structure characterize samba.

Samba is rooted in the music and dance traditions of Angola, the African kingdom (now country) that was home for many of the slaves brought to Brazil. The word samba is believed to have derived from the Kimbundu word semba, a circle dance that features a navel-touching dance step. Many historians trace the musical roots of samba to the lundu music tradition brought to Brazil by slaves from Angola This African dance and ...


Pamela Lee Gray

tap dancer, was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, but spent most of his youth in Los Angeles. The ten children in the Sims family made extra cash by “street tapping.” Street tappers danced on plywood or cardboard on street corners and took pride in creating unique tap combination steps; the more difficult the step, the better the audience reaction. The best dancers kept the choice corner stages where the tips were best, and Sims learned to protect his sidewalk dance stage by performing extremely complicated steps and challenging other tappers to repeat the step sequence.

Sims began boxing as a child and made money in the sport until the second time he broke his hand. After a tap dancing tour of South America, Sims left Los Angeles for New York in 1947 where his image became familiar to visitors at the Apollo Theater in Harlem His performances won ...


Melinda Bond Shreve

performer, entrepreneur, and cultural leader, was born in east St. Louis, Illinois, to Fred L. and Lila B. Teer. Teer has been recognized for her exceptional talent as a dancer and actress, and most notably for founding the National Black Theatre, located in Harlem, New York, on historic 125th Street.

Teer was born into a family that was well known as both educators and community leaders. Her parents provided a nurturing home environment for her and her older sister Fredrica and they both went on to excel.

Teer graduated from Lincoln High School at age fifteen. She studied at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Connecticut College, and the University of Wisconsin. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Dance Education in 1957 from the University of Illinois at age nineteen.After graduating Teer studied dance with Mary Wigman in Berlin and ...


Ben Penglase

At the end of the nineteenth century, just at the time of the abolition of slavery in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro's Praça Onze was the center of a neighborhood composed largely of Afro-Brazilians. Many of these people were recent migrants from the state of Bahia, and the Praça Onze neighborhood became known as “Pequena África” (or small Africa). Tia Ciata moved to Rio from Bahia at the age of twenty-two, and during the day worked selling home-cooked food at a food stall. Tia Ciata was also deeply involved in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. At night and on the weekends she hosted gatherings at her home in Praça Onze that united some of the most famous black Brazilian musicians and composers, probably serving as one of the birthplaces of Samba music.

See also Afro-Brazilian Culture.


American composer, arranger, orchestrator, lyricist, and musical director, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Henry Bennett and Selina (Buthanna) Vodery. His father, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, was a minister and a graduate of Lincoln University (1883); he continued graduate studies at the Theological Department of the College and later taught classes there. In September 1884, Vodery's father died unexpectedly; his mother later remarried.

Vodery's mother came from a musical background, and he was exposed to music as a young child. He studied the piano and violin while in the public schools of Philadelphia and graduated in 1902 from Central High School. His music education was supplemented with study of harmony and counterpoint, and private composition lessons at the University of Pennsylvania with Professor Hugh A. Clarke (1839–1928 A notable musical figure composer conductor and writer on harmony and ...


known as The Walkers, song and dance entertainers and actors, were both born in Chicago. It appears that at some time in 1902 the two juvenile dancers, brother and sister, traveled to Europe in the company of their mother, Ella Walker, herself an artist, born in Chicago in 1960 or 1964, according to her own conflicting statements. That they traveled with their own mother is mentioned in June 1903 and again in the winter 1904/1904 in Vienna, December 1906 in Stockholm, in November 1907 in Berlin, and again in February 1908 in Copenhagen Billed as Les Enfants Nègres their presentations of the cakewalk dance attracted a lot of attention at the Nouveau Cirque at Paris and paved the way for a long career in Europe They became so popular that they inspired a composer a sculptor and a movie film director as well as cartoonists Their portraits ...