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Tasha M. Hawthorne

Angelou’s creative talent and genius cut across many arenas. One of the most celebrated authors in the United States, Angelou writes with an honesty and grace that captures the specificity of growing up a young black girl in the rural South.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey, a doorman and naval dietician, and Vivian, a registered nurse, professional gambler, and rooming house and bar owner, Angelou spent her early years in Long Beach, California. When she was three, her parents divorced, and she and her four-year-old brother, Bailey Jr., were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou recalls in vivid detail this lonely and disconcerting journey to Stamps.

Under the watchful and loving gaze of her grandmother Angelou lived a life defined by staunch Christian values and her grandmother s ...


Elizabeth Brown-Guillory

Alice Childress was never flattered by the litany of firsts that were used to refer to her works She believed that when people have been barred from something for so long it seems ironic to emphasize the first Instead Childress looked to the day when she would be the fiftieth or one hundredth African American artist to accomplish something Long regarded as a champion of the masses of poor people in America Childress wrote about the disparity between rich and poor underscoring that racism and sexism are added burdens forced upon women of color A reticent and private person Childress boldly spoke out in her works against an American government that either exploits or ignores poor people in the name of capitalism One of Childress s strongest convictions was that black authors must explore and include black history in their writings Her sagacity and commitment to preserving black culture and ...


Robert W. Logan

The illustrious career of Carmen DeLavallade began at the midpoint of the twentieth century and continued into the twenty-first century. In that time she graced the arenas of dance, theater, movies, and television as one of the great dancers of her time, as well as a distinguished choreographer, actor, and teacher.

Carmen Paula DeLavallade was born in Los Angeles, California, to Leo Paul DeLavallade, a bricklayer and postman, and Grace DeLavallade She was a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles when she won an apprenticeship in the Lester Horton Dance Theater Horton a pioneer of modern dance believed that a dancer s education should be well rounded and his apprentices were taught ballet modern and ethnic dance forms as well as painting sculpture and acting Being a Horton apprentice also meant learning from experience the rudiments of scenic design costuming and stage lighting With ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were founded in 1867 by George L. White, the treasurer and vocal-music teacher at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Fisk had been established two years earlier to educate newly freed black slaves. Few students could afford Fisk's tuition, so the school needed other sources of revenue. White came up with the idea of a performing choir as a way to raise money.

After several successful local appearances, the reputation of the eleven-member choir began to spread. In 1871 the Jubilee Singers embarked on a tour of the Northeast, performing mainly in churches before all-white audiences. Their repertoire included anthems, popular ballads, and operatic excerpts, but their most popular pieces proved to be African American spirituals and work songs Many people in their audiences were hearing these songs for the first time Highlights of the tour included a performance before 40 000 people at the ...


Jaime McLean

Judith Jamison has spent most of her life perfecting her craft. As a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and artistic director of the internationally renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jamison has attempted to foster an appreciation for modern American dance and African American cultural expression in both her audiences and her students. She stresses the universality of dance and its ability to promote cross-cultural understanding through the expression of human experiences. “When you come to the theater,” Jamison says, “you open your head and your heart and your mind because we are there to transform you. I’m a human being who has seen the world, so I’m giving you that perspective.”

Jamison, the younger of two children, was born in Philadelphia Her parents instilled in her a passion for the arts As a young child Jamison studied piano and violin before shifting her focus to dance At age six Jamison ...


Sowande' Mustakeem

Undoubtedly one of the few professors of history to have a second career as a singer-songwriter, Bernice Johnson Reagon continues to focus her work on sharing the historical legacy of the African American experience amid the relentless quest for freedom and justice within America.

Reagon was born in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children of Jessie Johnson, a carpenter, and Beatrice Johnson, a housekeeper. On days off from her housekeeping job, Beatrice Johnson picked cotton. Jessie Johnson served onSundays as minister at four different rural Baptist churches. Reagon’s musical foundation was largely shaped by the influence of the southwestern Georgia choral tradition in her father’s church, which was part of a tradition dating back to the nineteenth century. Reagon entered Albany State College in 1959 where she studied Italian arias and German lieder as a contralto soloist During this time she became active in the civil ...


Marc Mazique

Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Georgia, Mary Lou Williams began playing piano professionally at age six in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her early influences included Earl Hines, Jelly Roll Morton, and Lovie Austin. As an adolescent, Williams performed in the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) black vaudeville circuit alongside such figures as Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Willie “The Lion” Smith. In 1926, she married John Williams, a saxophonist and band leader.

Williams began arranging in 1929 after she joined the Andy Kirk Band, first based in Oklahoma City and later in Kansas City, composing Blues-based works which influenced the development of 1930s Swing. During the 1930s, she performed and arranged for Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ellington, and others. Williams moved to New York in 1942 and joined Duke Ellington s band as principal arranger ...