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Catherine M. Grant and Margaret Rose Vendryes

American printmaker, film maker, installation and conceptual artist and writer.

Green, of African descent, has worked primarily with film-based media, and has published criticism and designed installations that reveal her commitment to ongoing feminist and black empowerment movements. She earned her BA from Wesleyan University in 1981 and also spent some time at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, returning in the late 1980s to study in the Whitney Independent Study Program, graduating in 1990. At the age of 24 she began exhibiting her comparative compositions containing found objects, images, and texts that question recorded history.

Green’s work deals with issues of anthropology and travel. By undertaking projects via the methodology of the 19th-century explorer, she exposed the arbitrary and prejudiced nature of classification, as in Bequest (1991; see 1993 exh cat an installation she made at the ...


Klara Szmánko

poet, novelist, film producer, activist, and radio talk show host, was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Sam Greenlee Sr., was a chauffeur, and his mother a singer and dancer. Greenlee, who identifies himself as a second-generation immigrant from the Deep South, has claimed that he made up for his “non-education in Chicago ghetto non-schools at three universities: Wisconsin, Chicago and Thessalonikki, Greece” (Afterword, Blues for an African Princess). Greenlee received his BS degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1952. He studied at the University of Chicago between 1954 and 1957 and at the University of Thessalonikki for one year (1963–1964 Greenlee professes fluency in Greek Indonesian and Malay and a much more limited knowledge of Arabic French and Italian the languages he mastered while working as a foreign service officer in Iraq Pakistan Indonesia and Greece ...


Wanda Macon

Sam Greenlee has employed the Black literary tradition to produce such masterpieces as The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1969) and Baghdad Blues (1976). Greenlee was born on 13 July 1930 in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. As a young man he attended the University of Wisconsin, where he received his BS in 1952. Greenlee further studied at the University of Chicago (1954–1957) and the University of Thessaloniki, Greece (1963–1964). His career started as a United States Information Agency Foreign Service Officer in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece. His military service included time in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1952 to 1954. Greenlee received the London Sunday Times book of the year award in 1969 for The Spook Who Sat by the Door and the Meritorious Service Award from the United States Information Agency He currently resides in Chicago Illinois ...


Shelia Patrice Moses

comedian, civil right activist, nutritionist, and actor, was born Richard Claxton Gregory in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up on North Taylor Street with his mother, Lucille, and his five siblings. His father, Presley Sr., abandoned the family when Gregory was very young. On North Taylor Street, Gregory told jokes to the neighborhood children, jokes that would later lead to his fame as a comedian. For most of his childhood, however, he faced poverty and racism. His first brush with segregation came at an early age when he raised his hand and volunteered to give five dollars to needy children after the teacher asked his class if their parents would be able to make donations for Christmas. His teacher told him to “put your hand down, Richard this money is for your kind The entire class laughed at him as he ran out ...


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Dick Gregory demonstrated a strong sense of social justice from an early age. While he was a student at Sumner High School, in St. Louis, he led a march protesting segregated schools. His first forays into the world of comedy came later, while serving in the United States Army. Gregory would eventually combine his comic talent and thirst for justice in a wide-ranging career as a prominent comedian and social activist.

Gregory was attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on a track scholarship when he was drafted in to the army in 1954. It was during this tour of duty in the military that he began performing comedy. He returned to school after being discharged in 1956 but felt that the university didn t want me to study they wanted me to run Gregory left school without earning a degree deciding instead ...


Rachel Westley

playwright and director, author, and educator, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, to Thelma Inez Harrison and Paul Randolph Harrison. Although he was reared in the North and nurtured by the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, his roots are from below the Mason-Dixon Line, in North and South Carolina.

In the South the Harrison family was strongly immersed in Gullah culture and Marcus Garvey s Back to Africa movement Harrison s grandfather in fact was a major leader of and played an active role in the Garvey movement in North Carolina The household was also greatly involved in the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church in the Carolinas and much of the mystical curiosity in Harrison s work can be attributed to his grandmother s spiritual influence He was embraced by this richness as a young man and it created the resonating aura of self ...


Zachery R. Williams

African Americanactor, director, writer, and producer. Woodie King Jr. was born in Baldwin Springs, Alabama. He moved with his mother to Detroit after his parents separated. His mother supported the family, working as a domestic. King attended Cass Technical High School, cultivating an early interest in theater. He was awarded a scholarship that afforded him the opportunity to attend the Will-o-Way Apprentice Theatre School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1961. From 1959 to 1962 King began his career as a drama critic for the Detroit Tribune, a predominantly African American newspaper.

In 1961 he undertook graduate studies at Wayne State University in Detroit Disenchanted with the lack of significant roles afforded African American actors King and some fellow students created a theater called Concept East out of an abandoned bar There he directed and starred ...


Steven R. Carter

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Woodie King, Jr., moved to Detroit with his parents, Woodie and Ruby King, when he was five. From 1955 to 1968 to help out his family, which was supported by his mother's housework, King worked as a model for church fans and calendars. He attended Michigan's Will-O-Way School of the Theatre on scholarship from 1958 to 1962, studying every element of the theater while immersing himself in black literature. In 1959, he married casting agent Willie Mae Washington with whom he would have three children. From 1959 to 1962, King wrote drama criticism for the Detroit Tribune.

Both at Will-O-Way and at Wayne State University and the Detroit School of Arts and Crafts, where he did postgraduate study in theater, King lamented the lack of acting opportunities for blacks and, with Ron Milner cofounded the Concept East Theatre As its manager ...


Ruby V. Rodney

The son of Hudson and Annie Mae Prince Mayfield, Julian Mayfield was born on 6 June 1928 in Greer, South Carolina, but grew up in Washington, D.C., where his parents relocated when he was five. After graduation from high school in 1946 and army service in the Pacific, he attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His choice of political science as a major was a logical outgrowth of his acknowledged fascination with words and the power of words, both written and spoken.

This fascination with words led him into another role, on the stage. Before graduating, he participated in several Off-Broadway productions, including his own one-act play 417; he later made his Broadway debut playing the lead role in Lost in the Stars, a musical about apartheid.

In 1954, he married a physician, Ana Livia Cordero Relocating to Mexico his new role was that of cofounder ...


David Todd Lawrence

critic, theorist, poet, dramatist, essayist, editor, and folklorist, was born Lawrence Paul Neal in Atlanta, Georgia. Soon afterward, his parents, Woodie, a railroad worker, and Maggie Neal, a domestic, moved Larry and his four brothers to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they spent their formative years. Neal graduated from the city's Roman Catholic High School in 1956 and went on to pursue a degree in history and English at Lincoln University, a predominantly black university near Philadelphia. After completing his formal education with a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963 and teaching briefly at the Drexel Institute of Technology (later Drexel University), Neal moved to New York City, where he married Evelyn Rogers. They settled in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem and later adopted a son, Avatar Though Neal lived in Washington D C and other cities ...


Elizabeth Sanders Delwiche Engelhardt

Born Lawrence Paul Neal to Woodie and Maggie Neal in Atlanta, Georgia, on 5 September 1937, Neal grew up in Philadelphia with his four brothers. Larry Neal graduated from Lincoln University and then completed a master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent most of his adult life in New York.

Although he was a prolific essayist, Neal is perhaps best known for editing Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing with Amiri Baraka. This collection, published in 1968, was among the early attempts to define the aesthetic of the new Black Arts movement. Neal's essays included in Black Fire and elsewhere are recognized as some of the most cogent statements of that aesthetic. Neal was committed to politics in his life and writing; but he insisted on artistic rigor as well as revoluntary intent in literature.

Neal produced reviews of artists ranging from Lorraine ...


Frank León Roberts

performance artist, playwright, and cultural critic. Anna Deavere Smith is one the most important figures in contemporary African American theater, drama, and performance art. Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her BA from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) near Philadelphia in 1971. She received her MFA in 1977 from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

The contribution that Smith offers to the history of twentieth century African American performance art is not only her unique thematic focus on the politics of interracial violence but also her compelling methodological approach for representing the historical events that she reenacts Smith s performance method is considerably more ethnographic than traditional acting techniques are Rather than simply memorizing a script or simulating the feeling of a specific reality Smith prepares for performances by videotaping and closely observing historical events interviewing various people who were there and engaging ...


Hilary Mac Austin

Anna Deavere Smith rejected the ubiquitous “naturalism” of American acting while still moving audiences as few actors can. She also challenged and changed America’s perceptions about race and brought two of America’s late-twentieth-century tragedies to the public in a way that no television news crew ever could.

Growing up light-skinned in the era of segregation, Smith experienced race at the line that separated white from black. A child of the middle class, she was born in Baltimore, Maryland Her parents were a coffee merchant and an elementary schoolteacher She received her BA from Beaver College in Pennsylvania where she was also introduced to the civil rights movement and black activism After college she moved to San Francisco to live with her aunt who was a dancer and sometimes passed for Spanish to get work The aunt encouraged Smith to attend the American Conservatory Theatre ACT where she earned her ...


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Anna Deveare Smith was the oldest of Deveare and Anna Smith's five children. Her father owned a coffee and tea business, while her mother was an elementary school principal. In 1971, after receiving a bachelor's degree in linguistics from Beaver College (now Arcadia University), Smith left for San Francisco, California, where her acting talent earned her a place at the American Conservatory Theater and enabled her to work as an actor and director. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1976, and left for New York City in the same year. There, Smith played minor roles in soap operas and worked for KLM Airlines before becoming a drama teacher at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Though a casting agent had once told her she was too pale to convincingly portray black characters, Smith launched a one-woman performance, On the ...


David L. Dudley

Piri Thomas was born Juan Pedro Thomás, in New York City's Spanish Harlem on 30 September 1928 of Puerto Rican and Cuban parentage. His early life was marked by involvement in violence and drugs, culminating in his arrest and imprisonment for attempted armed robbery. Thomas served seven years (1950–1956) of a five–to–fifteen year sentence. Upon his release from prison, he began working in prison and drug rehabilitation programs in New York City and has subsequently written three volumes of autobiography, a collection of short stories for adolescent readers, and a play. Latterly Thomas travelled, presenting a program entitled Unity Among Us, stressing human dignity and people's relationship to the earth.

In 1967Thomas published Down These Mean Streets, a chronicle of his youth. In crude but forceful language, Down These Mean Streets recounts Thomas s life on the streets his experiences with sex drugs and ...