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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 ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Katherine Dunham helped shape modern dance as both a dancer and a choreographer, a designer of dance pieces. Trained in anthropology, the study of cultures, she researched the African roots of Afro-Caribbean dances and incorporated African-based dance moves, traditions, and meanings into modern American dance.

Dunham was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Fanny June Taylor, who was French Canadian and Native American, and Albert Dunham. She attended school in Chicago and began to dance at a young age. After a short time at Joliet Junior College, she attended the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. degree in cultural anthropology. To help finance her education, she worked as a librarian and taught dance. Dunham eventually opened a dance school and established a black dance troupe later called the Chicago Negro School of Ballet.

Dunham obtained a Guggenheim Award from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation for travel to ...

Article

Marilyn L. Geary

performing arts educator, was born in the Fort McPherson Army Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of an air force serviceman, George Gaston, and a U.S. Post Office worker, Roberta Lofton. Roberta Lofton Gaston later married and became Roberta Lofton Hayes. The same day Gaston was born, Rosa Parks made history in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to let a white bus rider take her seat. Parks's refusal and subsequent arrest made a crack in the wall of segregation that ultimately caused the inequality barriers to crumble, yet segregation was still very strong in the South when Gaston was a child.

Gaston's parents separated when she was a year old, and she and her mother lived with her grandmother, Estelle Lofton, in Marietta, Georgia. Her mother worked long hours at the U.S. Post Office, and Grandmother Estelle became Gaston's primary caregiver.

In her grandmother s care ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Eric Gardner

also known as “Millie-Christine,” entertainers, were conjoined twins born to an enslaved couple named Jacob and Monemia, who were owned by Jabez McKay, a Columbus County, North Carolina, blacksmith. The twins quickly became a local sensation in the wake of the success of the original “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker (conjoined twins made famous by showman and entrepreneur P. T. Barnum) and the growth of the national circus movement. Before the McKoy twins were a year old, McKay and his partner John C. Pervis arranged for them to be exhibited throughout the area; soon after, their career was taken over by a manager named Brower, and they were sold to North Carolina businessman Joseph Pearson Smith. By this point, though, Brower, who was in possession of the young girls, had been swindled and the girls were stolen away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where, in 1854 ...

Article

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 ...