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Shennette Garrett-Scott

cabaret and vaudeville singer and performer, was born Eliza May (or Mae) Alix in Chicago, Illinois, to Rossetta (or Rasetta) Hayes and Ernest Alix; her parents’ occupations are not known. When Alix was a teenager, her mother remarried; it is not known if Alix's father died or if her parents divorced. Alix lived with her mother; stepfather, Arthur Davis; older sister, Josephine Alix; and younger stepsister, Ellen Davis, in Chicago.

Alix probably began her career singing and performing in chorus lines and local shows. By the early 1920s, she had already established a modest local name for herself when jazz clarinetist and bandleader Jimmie Noone took notice of her in 1921 She continued her collaboration with Noone s Apex Club Orchestra for a series of recordings for Vocalion Records in the late 1920s and early 1930s including recordings of My Daddy Rocks Me and Birmingham Bertha a song ...

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Kathleen Thompson

Ambitious, talented Debbie Allen has broken ground for black women in a variety of roles, primarily behind the scenes of the entertainment industry—directing, producing, writing, and choreographing television shows, films, and musical theater.

Debbie Allen was born into a remarkable family in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist, and her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sister, Phylicia Rashad, is a well-known actor, and one of her brothers is Andrew “Tex” Allen, a jazz musician.

Allen decided early that she wanted to be a dancer She began her training when she was three and by the time she was eight she had decided to go into musical theater When she tried to enroll in the school of the Houston Foundation for Ballet she was rejected for reasons her mother considered discriminatory As a ...

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Sarah Mosher

was born on 22 April 1910 in the city of Fort-de-France in the French Overseas Department of Martinique. Born into an upper-middle-class, bourgeois mulatto family, Alpha’s childhood was one of considerable socioeconomic privilege and ease. The names and occupations of Jenny Alpha’s parents are not listed in any written sources. During her youth, she knew the writer and founder of the Negritude movement, Aimé Césaire, who attended school with her brothers in Fort-de-France. Her father, who was known for his passion for the stage, introduced his daughter to the theater arts at a young age.

In 1929 at the age of 19 Alpha moved to Paris to study history and geography at the Sorbonne with the ultimate goal of becoming a teacher She soon left her studies however to pursue a career as an actress in classical theater But her skin color in addition to the political tensions between ...

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Sharina Maillo-Pozo

Báez was born in 1960 in La Romana, Dominican Republic, the youngest of ten children of working-class parents Luis Báez and Luz Maria Pérez. She arrived in the United States in 1972 at the age of 12. After attending elementary school in La Romana and high school in New York City, she pursued an independent path to learning her crafts, beginning with theater and dance. Since 1980, she has traveled to Russia and India to research theater biomechanics, a method of actor training developed by director and producer Vsevolod Meyerhold in the first half of the twentieth century, and classical Kathak and Kuchipudi dances, respectively.

Báez s career as both writer and actor is deeply influenced by her native Dominican culture and its expressions in the diaspora The elaborate Catholic Holy Week rituals and processions in the streets of La Romana were the first sources of inspiration for her ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Pearl Bailey was born in Newport News, Virginia, but soon moved to Washington, D.C. and later to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her stage-singing debut came when she was fifteen years old. Bailey's brother Bill was beginning his own career as a tap dancer, and at his suggestion she entered an amateur contest at Philadelphia's Pearl Theater, where she won first prize. Several months later, she won a similar contest at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater, and she decided to pursue a career in entertainment.

Bailey began by singing and dancing in Philadelphia's African American nightclubs in the 1930s, and soon started performing in other parts of the East Coast. In 1941 during World War II (1939–1945), Bailey toured the country with the United Service Organizations (USO), performing for American troops. After the tour, she settled in New York City Her solo successes as a nightclub performer were ...

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Bernard L. Peterson

actress, singer, and entertainer, was born Pearl Mae Bailey in Newport News, Virginia, the daughter of the Reverend Joseph James Bailey and Ella Mae (maiden name unknown). Her brother Bill Bailey was at one time a well-known tap dancer.

While still in high school, Bailey launched her show business career in Philadelphia, where her mother had relocated the family after separating from Reverend Bailey. In 1933 at age fifteen she won the first of three amateur talent contests with a song and dance routine at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia which awarded her a five dollar prize In a second contest at the Jungle Inn in Washington D C she received a twelve dollar prize for a buck and wing dancing act After winning a third contest at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem she began performing professionally first as a specialty dancer or chorus girl ...

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Robert W. Logan

Bailey graced the worlds of movies, television, musical theater, nightclubs, and recordings with a dazzling smile, an engaging personality, and the sense that she was communicating personally with each individual member of her audience. An entertainer who methodically worked her way up the show business ladder, she was unassuming and unpretentious, but nevertheless a star whose charismatic presence illuminated stages and screens for more than fifty years.

Pearl Mae Bailey was born in Newport News, Virginia, to Joseph James and Ella Mae Bailey. Her father was a revivalist minister, and at the age of three she was already dancing and singing in his church. When she was four, the family moved to Washington, DC. When her parents separated, Bailey, the youngest of four children, stayed with her father, but eventually she joined her mother and siblings in Philadelphia, where her mother had remarried.

Bailey attended William Penn High ...

Article

was born in Buenos Aires on 3 July 1959 in the Floresta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. She was the daughter of Jorge Hugo Balbuena, a prominent musician, and Adelina Isabel Soto. Silvia married Ciro Pizzatti in 1983, and they have one daughter, Cinthia Romina, who was born in 1987.

Silvia graduated as a dental hygienist from the University of Buenos Aires Dental School in 1984, making her the first college graduate in her family. She worked as a dental hygienist for twenty-five years, until the practice where she worked was privatized. She went on to graduate as a professional beautician from the Colegio de Formación Profesional de la ciudad de Buenos Aires (School for Professional Development/Technical Training School of Buenos Aires), in 2002 and then as an event planner from the Instituto de Investigación y Perfeccionamiento de la ciudad de Buenos Aires Institute for Research and ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Etta Moten was born in San Antonio, Texas. The daughter of a minister, she married at age 17 and had three children before divorcing six years later. After her marriage ended, Barnett attended the University of Kansas and in 1931 received a B.F.A. degree in music. Her senior college recital led to an invitation to join the Eva Jessye Choir in New York City.

In New York Barnett appeared in the Broadway musicals Fast and Furious (1931), Zombie (1932), Sugar Hill (1932), and Lysistrata (1933). She also sang on the soundtracks of several motion pictures and appeared in the movies Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) and Flying Down to Rio (1934).

In 1934 she married the founder of the Associated Negro Press (ANP), Claude Barnett During the next several years Etta Moten Barnett gave concerts ...

Article

Angela Bassett was born in New York City, New York, and grew up in Saint Petersburg, Florida. She decided to pursue acting after seeing African American actor James Earl Jones perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Bassett was visiting the city on a trip with Upward Bound, a program for academically gifted low-income students. She was the first African American student at her high school to be accepted into the National Honor Society.

Bassett attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, on a full scholarship. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in African American studies in 1980. After earning a master of fine arts degree in drama at Yale, Bassett moved to New York City, appearing in several off-Broadway productions. She made her Broadway debut in a 1985 production of playwright August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom which was ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

television, stage, and film actor. The Oscar-nominated actor Angela Bassett has managed to attain success while maintaining personal integrity and social conscience. Although her principles have cost her some measure of fame, she has appeared in more than forty television movies and films.

Bassett was born in New York City and was raised in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Her mother, a civil servant, raised Angela and her sister to value hard work and education. After an eleventh-grade Upward Bound trip to see a James Earl Jones performance, Bassett took up acting and was awarded a scholarship to Yale University. In 1980 she earned a bachelor's degree in African American studies, and she earned an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in 1983.

Bassett's screen career began in 1985, and F/X (1986) marked her feature-film debut. She gained recognition in Boyz in the Hood (1991 ...

Article

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Los Angeles, California, Louise Beavers began her career in the silent film Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927 She appeared in over 120 motion pictures always typecast as a Southern mammy or a source of comic relief Although her portrayal of the ...

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Paul K. Sutton

was born on 23 September 1949 in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad, the second of six children. Her father, Roy, was an estate security officer and jazz musician who emigrated to England when she was 8. Floella followed two years later to join the family in London where her father had found work as a garage mechanic. In later years she spoke of the difficulties she had in adjusting to life in London, including racism, which were chronicled in her autobiographical children’s book Coming to England (1995). This was adapted for a BBC television program, which won a Royal Television Society award in 2004.

Benjamin left school at the age of 16 to work as a clerk in Barclays Bank. In 1973 she won a part in Hair, a successful musical, and so began a theatrical career. Appearances in the London West End musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and The ...

Article

Mervyn Morris

popularly known as “Miss Lou,” was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 7 September 1919. Her father, Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who had owned a bakery in neighboring Spanish Town, died when she was only 7. Her mother, Kerene Robinson, was a dressmaker. Louise Bennett grew up with her mother and grandmother, and often acknowledged their influence on her career. Her mother sewed for a wide social range of clients, and taught her to respect them all. Her grandmother, “Mimi,” introduced her to Jamaican folklore.

Her mother and grandmother often talked of their ancestral connection with St Mary a parish north of Kingston When Louise was about 10 years old she was invited by Mimi to travel with her to St Mary a trip Louise identified as her introduction to rural Jamaica It was there that she attended for the first time a Dinki Mini a traditional function held to cheer ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

film actress and model, was born Halle Maria Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Jerome Berry, a hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins, a psychiatric nurse. Her father, an alcoholic, abandoned the family when she was four, leaving her mother to raise Halle and her sister Heidi, first in predominantly black inner-city Cleveland and later in that city's white suburbs. Berry's childhood was troubled, in part because of the economic hardship of growing up in a single-parent household. But as the light-skinned child of an interracial couple—her mother was white, her father African American—she also endured racial taunts from both blacks and whites. Fellow students called her “zebra” and on one occasion left an Oreo cookie in her school locker. Berry never had any doubts about her own identity, however, and states on her Web site that her “race” is African American and English.

An extremely shy teenager ...

Article

Charmaine A. Flemming

In 2002 the highest honor for a film actor, the Oscar, was awarded for the first time to an African American female, Halle Berry, for her work in Monster’s Ball. Berry is considered one of America’s most beautiful women, a first-rate performer, and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies.

Born to Jerome and Judith Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, Halle Berry was the second daughter of this interracial couple. Halle and her older sister, Heidi, lived their early childhood years in an inner-city neighborhood. When Berry was four, her abusive father left the family, leaving his daughters to be raised almost totally by their mother, a psychiatric nurse. Some time later, Judith Berry moved Halle and her sister to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.

When discussing the family s move to Bedford Berry said it was there that her growth as an interracial child and teenager was ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

actor. Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Jerome Berry, an African American hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins Berry, a white psychiatric nurse. Leaving an abusive relationship, Judith Berry moved Halle and her older sister Heidi to the Cleveland suburb of Bedford where, despite many racist attitudes, Halle flourished in high school.

In 1985 Berry won the Miss Teen All American pageant, in 1986 she was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, and also in 1986 she represented the United States in the Miss World competition in London. After her pageants she enrolled in Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College to study broadcast journalism. She moved to Chicago and then to Manhattan, where she managed to get small roles in several television programs.

Berry first gained widespread recognition as Vivian, a crack addict, in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), and she won roles in The ...

Article

Shelle Sumners

Halle Maria Berry was born on August 14, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Jerome, was an African American hospital attendant and her mother, Judith, was a white psychiatric nurse. When Berry was four years old her parents divorced and her mother was left to raise Halle and her older sister alone. Initially they lived in a predominantly black area of inner-city Cleveland, but by the time Berry was a teenager her mother had moved the family to the suburbs, where Berry attended Bedford High School. She felt she stood out as a racial minority in her mostly-white school, and was determined to participate fully in school activities. She became a cheerleader, an editor of the school newspaper, and class president. Berry was voted queen of the prom, but because of suspected voting irregularities had to share the title with a white student.

At age seventeen Berry represented ...

Article

To date, little is reliably documented about Bissainthe’s life until she moved from Haiti to New York in 1950 at the age of 17, after which she moved to Paris, in 1953. In 1956 she joined a new theater company in Paris, Les Griots, an important institution in the Francophone Négritude movement, which promoted black actors and playwrights in white-dominated French society.

Bissainthe’s first notable acting success was in Les Griots’ 1959 production of Les nègres (The Blacks), by the playwright Jean Genêt, and directed by Roger Blin, at the Theatre du Lutece. She also participated in Les Griots’ first public reading of the highly acclaimed Martinican playwright Aimé Césaire’s La tragédie du roi Christophe (Tragedy of King Christophe), which was remarkable for its anticolonial stance and celebration of cultural hybridity. Bissainthe also performed in numerous plays directed by Roger Blin and Jean-Marie Serreau, among others.

While acting in ...

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Born in New York, New York, Anita Bush was introduced to the world of theater by her father, a tailor whose clients included many New York actors and performers. At the age of sixteen she joined the Williams and Walker Company as a dancer.

In 1915 determined that ...