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Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

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Leticia Franqui-Rosario

was born Wilfred Robert Adams, in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), the son of Robert Adams, a boat builder. He was educated in Georgetown at St. Stephen’s Scots School, and St. Joseph’s Intermediate. He studied engineering drafting, but then trained as a teacher at the leading British West Indian teachers’ training college, Mico College in Jamaica. After his marriage broke down, he left for England, arriving there in September 1930. Failing to study law because of a lack of the necessary qualifications, he did a number of menial jobs and even became a professional wrestler with the name “The Black Eagle” (there is a 1934 painting by William Roberts of one of his bouts).

Acting then took over. His stage debut, with Paul Robeson in Stevedore, received favorable reviews. A year later he played Jean-Jacques Dessalines to Robeson’s Toussaint Louverture in C. L. R. James’s Toussaint Louverture ...

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Ethan R. Sanders

intellectual, pan-African thinker, educator, and Christian preacher, was born in Anomabo, Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 18 October 1875. His father was Kodwo Kwegyir (1816–1896) of the Fante people who was the Omankyiame or hereditary spokesman for the paramount chief of Anomabo, and his mother was Abna Andua, scion of a chiefly family. At the age of eight, Aggrey left his home to attend the Methodist school in Cape Coast. In 1890 he started teaching in a rural village school and the following year returned to Cape Coast to become an assistant teacher at the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School where he soon advanced to a senior position At this early stage in his life Aggrey became interested in Christian ministry He began preaching at sixteen and later assisted in the translation of a Fante language New Testament During this time Aggrey also became involved with the ...

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Jonathan Morley

Africaneducationist, variously called the Father of African education, the Booker T. Washington of Africa, and, in the title of Edwin W. Smith's1929 biography, Aggrey of Africa. Born in Anomabo in the Gold Coast, the son of the chief linguist in the court of King Amona V, Aggrey was an able pupil and in 1898 travelled to America, where he joined Livingstone College in North Carolina. In 1903 he was ordained an elder of the African Methodist Episcopalian Zionist Church.

A compulsive learner, aside from his Master's degree (awarded in 1912), Aggrey also gained through correspondence courses a doctorate of Divinity from Hood Theological College and a doctorate of Osteopathy from the International College of Osteopathy, Illinois, before going to Columbia to undertake a Ph.D.

In 1920 the Phelps Stokes Fund sent Aggrey to Africa the only black member of the Commission to investigate the ...

Article

Christine Matzke

Eritrean comedian, theater artist, musician, and sports teacher, was born on 1 February 1925 during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea in Abba Shawl, the poor segregated Eritrean quarters of the capital Asmara. His father was Kahsay Woldegebr, and his mother, Ghebriela Fitwi.

At the age of ten he attended an Orthodox Church school and then received four years of Italian schooling, the maximum period of formal education for Eritreans under Italian rule. Thereafter Alemayo worked as a messenger for an Italian lawyer and, at the age of seventeen, found employment as a stagehand in Cinema Asmara, then Teatro Asmara, an imposing Italian theater and center for Italian social and cultural life. Here Alemayo was exposed to European variety shows, operas, and cinema that fascinated him greatly, particularly the genre of comedy, such as the works of Charlie Chaplin and the Neapolitan comedian Totò.

Italian colonization was characterized by strict ...

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David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

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J. Ayo Langley

In his lifetime (1866–1945), Duse Mohamed Ali, actor, historian of Egypt, newspaper editor, Pan-Africanist, Pan-Islamist, and promoter of African American and African trade and investment, was known to African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute, and Washington’s successor, R. R. Moton. He was also known to Arthur W. Schomberg, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founding father of African American history, and W. T. Ferris, author of The African Abroad (1913). He was known to African nationalist leaders, public intellectuals, merchants, and lawyers, particularly to West Africans. His book In the Land of the Pharaohs (1911) and monthly journal The African Times and Orient Review, “a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the colored races of the world,” played an important role in increasing his public outside Britain.

According to his autobiography serialized ...

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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 ...

Article

Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

Article

Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Famous pianist in the United Kingdom during the 1950s, selling over 20 million records. She was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, in February 1914. She studied the piano as a child and had a local following. It was hoped that she would eventually work for the family business, after her training in pharmacy.

To gain further musical training, Atwell moved to the United States in 1945, and then came to London in 1946, to the Royal Academy of Music, to become a concert pianist. To sustain her studies, she performed piano rags at hotels, theatres, and clubs in London. By 1950 she had attained national celebrity, and signed to record with Decca. She recorded such hits as Let's Have a Ding‐Dong, Poor People of Paris, Britannia Rag, and many others. The Black and White Rag became the signature tune for the BBC's Pot Black ...

Article

Roxanne Y. Schwab

singer and actor, was born in Mangum, Oklahoma. Neither the exact date of her birth nor her parents' names are known. An only child, Margaret quickly developed a sense of independence that provided the foundation for a number of the strong characters she later played in her career as an actor. Her father's naval career took the family to San Diego, where Avery attended high school and performed in several drama competitions.

Upon graduation she enrolled in San Francisco State University, where she was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. s commitment to cultivating and mentoring the next generation of black leaders She fostered King s notion of preparing African American youth for a brighter future by attaining her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher Her interest in the stage never waned however despite the scarcity of roles for African American women and she continued pursuing performance ...

Article

James Clyde Sellman

and a figure in the boisterous nightlife of pre-Revolution Havana. Neris Amelia Martínez Salazar (Bacallao’s name at birth) was born in the tough, crowded Cayo-Hueso section of Havana, on 26 May 1925, according to most sources. She was the only child of poor, working-class parents; her father was a longshoreman. At age 6, she was orphaned and sent to a convent school sponsored by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order of nuns founded by and for women of African descent. Young Neris Amelia developed no sense of religious vocation while under the nuns’ tutelage. Rather than turning her toward God, the adversities she faced seemed to redouble her self-reliance. “I grew up alone,” she has said in interviews. “And when you don’t have anyone, you have to be a fighter” (Lagarde, 2002).

By the early 1940s the teenager had left the convent school and found ...

Article

Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

Article

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 ...