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Article

Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Juan Carlos Estenssoro

was born in 1788 to Rosa Rudesinda Retuerto, a free mulatto woman. On his certificate of baptism, he is documented as a son without a father; however, on his marriage certificate, his father is identified as the surgeon and pharmacist José Isidoro Alcedo. He began his studies in the Augustine music academy in Lima, which was run by the friar Cipriano Aguilar; he later moved to the Santo Domingo convent, where he received his true musical education under the direction of Friar Pascual Nieves. In 1807 he took simple vows as a third-order Dominican for three years, having worn the friar’s habit the year before. At that time he began to teach music at the convent. In 1821 he was among the signatories of Peru s Declaration of Independence and he presented two compositions to the competition led by General José de San Martín to select a national march ...

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Amy J. Buono

Born around 1780 in Rio de Janeiro, Amaral was best known as an artist employed by the Luso-Brazilian Court in Rio. Details of Amaral’s early life and training are scant, including his parentage, but he lived and worked in Rio, where he studied under the artist José Leandro de Carvalho (c. 1770–1834). Amaral continued his studies at the officially sanctioned course of painting and drawing in Rio created by the Marquis of Aguiar (Fernando José de Portugal e Castro, viceroy between 1801 and 1806 The school was administered by the painter Manuel da Costa de Oliveira with whom Amaral studied stage design He also worked as the assistant of José Leandro at the São João Theater Amaral s talents were quickly recognized and he was summoned to do decorative work for the court leaving the theater behind Amaral s oeuvre is especially noteworthy in that it bridged the ...

Article

Patrick Brode

fugitive slave and abolitionist, was originally named Jack Burton after his enslaver, a Missouri planter. His parents are unknown. Raised in his master's household, Anderson (the name he used in later life) eventually supervised other slaves and farmed his own small plot. In 1850 he married Maria Tomlin, a fellow slave from a nearby farm, and devoted himself to buying their freedom. In the meantime he had become accustomed to visiting Maria at her plantation and was growing impatient with the restrictions of slavery. His master tried to curb his wandering, but Anderson refused to submit to the lash. When this resulted in his sale to a planter on the far side of the Missouri River, Anderson resolved to run off.

On 3 September 1853 the third day of his escape he encountered a planter Seneca Digges and four of his slaves By Missouri law Digges had the ...

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Genaro Vilanova Miranda de Oliveira

better known as Lereno freeborn in Brazil from a Portuguese father and an Angolan mother rose to be a celebrated eighteenth century artist of the Portuguese Empire Details about Barbosa s childhood are largely unknown He was probably born in Rio de Janeiro just after his merchant father arrived from West Central Africa Barbosa s mother initially brought as a slave by his father was manumitted after giving birth so that the mixed descent child could be raised in freedom Because of his Iberian father Barbosa was able to enroll at a Jesuit school where he received instruction in liberal arts and philosophy including rhetoric and music He eventually moved to Portugal to study law at the prestigious University of Coimbra However following the death of his father and sponsor he was forced to prematurely abandon his studies and move to Lisbon Penniless he turned to the lyrical and poetic ...

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Michael Mizell-Nelson

jazz guitarist and banjoist, vocalist, and author, was born Daniel Moses Barker in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Moses Barker, a drayman, and Rose Barbarin Barker. Barker grew up in New Orleans with a largely absent Baptist father of rural origins and a mother whose familial connections to the Barbarin family, famed in New Orleans music, rooted him in the city's Creole of Color musical community. His childhood experiences immersed him in the cultures of both sides of his family: rural Protestant and urban Roman Catholic.

Barker's uncle, the drummer Paul Barbarin composer of the jazz standard Bourbon Street Parade started Danny on drums after trying the clarinet Danny decided to play multiple string instruments guitar banjo and ukulele A teenaged Barker played in spasm bands children s bands that featured rudimentary instruments often created from discarded objects Playing ukulele Barker led a spasm band named ...

Article

Baptiste Bonnefoy

was born Mariano de la Cruz on 14 September 1749, the illegitimate son of an unknown father and Feliciana Barros, who was described on her son’s baptismal certificate as a parda, a designation commonly applied in eighteenth-century Chile to free men and women of African descent. In 1769, at age 20, he married Josefa Guerrero Morales (1748–1842), a mixed-race slave of Inés Echevarría Portillo.

Barros established his candle making workshop with the financial assistance of someone named José Baeza and with the earnings from this shop he was able to buy his wife s freedom They would ultimately have ten children Barros s status as a master candle maker allowed him to join the black militia a group of free men of African ancestry who were charged with patrolling the city at night and protecting its stores and warehouses He soon became an officer in ...

Article

Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Alias of Thomas Wiggins (1849–1908), famous slave pianist, described by Mark Twain as a musical prodigy. He was born in May 1849 in Columbus, Georgia, being blind, and in today's terms an ‘autistic savant’. The renowned lawyer James N. Bethune bought Wiggins's parents as slaves. Recognizing that Wiggins was a musical genius capable of imitating noises, improvising, and composing at 6, Bethune's daughter Mary taught him to play the piano.

In 1857 Bethune paraded Wiggins's talent across Georgia, meeting rapturous responses. Consequently, Bethune had tours organized by Perry Oliver (concert promoter) earning them $100,000 a year. Wiggins would play European classical music, improvisations, popular ballads, and his own compositions, examples of the last being ‘The Rainstorm’ (1865) and ‘Cyclone Gallop’ (1887).

The Bethune family forced him to tour the South performing to raise funds during the Civil War for the confederacy and its army ...

Article

William Lichtenwanger

minstrel performer and composer, was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him Instead he was attracted to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s He played the guitar danced the steps sang the minstrel songs and most important composed songs for the shows A free black man who attended college for two years Bland had to learn ...

Article

John Davis

pianist and composer, was born John William Boone in a Union army camp in Miami, Missouri, to Rachel Boone, an army cook and former slave to descendants of Daniel Boone, and to a white bugler for the Seventh Missouri State Militia, Company I, suggested by the historian Mike Shaw to have been Private William S. Belcher (Shaw, 2005). Although Boone's early biographer, Melissa Fuell, referred to Boone as having had five brothers—Ricely, Edward, Sam, Tom, and Harry (Fuell, 137)—according to Shaw it is likely that, except for a half brother, Edward (alternately referred to in census records as both Wyatt and Edward), all were step siblings via Rachel Boone's 17 May 1871 marriage to James Harrison Hendrick (a.k.a. Harrison Hendrix).

Little Willie as the newborn John William was called and his mother soon moved to Warrensburg Missouri where at the ...

Article

also known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, one of the most accomplished musicians, composers, and fencing masters of eighteenth-century Europe, was born on 25 December 1745 on the plantation Saint-Robert in the town of Baillif, near the region of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. (Some sources give his birth year as 1739 Born a slave he was the son of Georges de Bologne de Saint Georges a wealthy white planter who had purchased a title of minor nobility and his black concubine Nanon a Senegalese house slave The ancestry of Joseph Bologne de Saint Georges places him from his earliest childhood at a precocious juncture of influences in the theater of revolutionary change in the Antilles encompassing multiple debates over slavery Although slavery had been abolished in France in the late eighteenth century it remained institutionalized in the colonies Created to normalize the life of slaves in the Antilles Le Code Noir initiated ...

Article

Blackviolinist who performed extensively in Britain. Bridgetower was born in Biała, Poland, the son of John Frederick Bridgetower, who might have come from the Caribbean, and his wife, Marie Ann, a Polish woman who died when their son was young. Bridgetower was said to have been a child prodigy, having made his debut as a soloist in April 1789 in Paris. The environment in which he was brought up was a significant factor in the development of his talent. His father was employed by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, and John and his son lived at the back of the opera house with the court's musicians. Haydn was also an employee of the Prince, and it is possible that the young Bridgetower studied under him. A few years later, in England, Bridgetower would play the violin in Haydn's symphonies at concerts commissioned by Johann Peter Solomon where ...

Article

Mark Anthony Phelps

was born in Baila, Galicia, in modern-day Poland. The precise date of his birth is uncertain. Some sources give 29 February 1780, while others state 11 October 1779. He was the son of a black Barbadian father, John Frederick Bridgetower, and Maria (or Marie) Sovinski, a Polish mother. Though his father told a number of stories about his background, including being an Abyssinian prince, he likely was an escaped slave from Barbados.

The elder Bridgetower (who was fluent in five languages) was valet of the Hungarian house of Esterhazy. They were patrons of music, and Franz Josef Haydn was the house conductor. Thus, George was discovered as a prodigy. His first public performance was at the Concert Spirituel in Paris in 1789 He performed early the next year in England coming to the attention of the English royal family The Prince of Wales who would become George ...

Article

Called the Abyssinian Prince by an admiring public, George Frederick Polgreen Bridgetower gained renown throughout nineteenth-century Europe as a violinist of exceptional talent. As a youth, he became the prized violinist of the Prince of Wales, and he is said to have studied with Joseph Haydn. In 1803 he gave the first performance of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for violin—written expressly for him—with the great German composer accompanying him at the piano.

Bridgetower grew up in London, England, the son of an African father and a European mother. At the age of ten, he debuted publicly as a violinist in Paris and soon after gave his first London performance, at the Drury Lane Theatre. His violin playing so impressed the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) that he was taken into the royal retinue. He also received extensive musical instruction from such noted violinists as Giovanni Mane ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born Willie L. Brown in New Haven, Connecticut, to Willie L. Brown Sr. and Dorothy Seay. At the age of thirteen, Brown began watching the situation comedy Soap, in which ventriloquist Jay Johnson played the character Chuck, with his wooden dummy Bob. This-was one of Brown's early inspirations to become a ventriloquist. His other influence was the legendary African American ventriloquist Willie Tyler Brown s mother purchased her thirteen year old son s first ventriloquist dummy as a Christmas present and he practiced three to four hours a day in front of the mirror to develop his skills before he made his first public appearance Brown felt that if he was not a good ventriloquist he would be made fun of for playing with dolls His rigorous practice schedule went on for several months until Brown performed in the annual talent show at Nationwide Insurance his ...

Article

Tony Thomas

was a black banjoist of the early 1800s who played for coins (picayunes) in the streets of New Orleans. Butler was celebrated as far away as Louisville and Cincinnati. Possibly from the French-speaking Caribbean or Louisiana, Butler may not have been his real name. Already described as “old” by 1830, there are no reports of Butler from after 1830. The popular minstrel song “Picayune Butler's Coming to Town” created an international legend about him.

The closest thing to what may be a contemporary New Orleans account of Picayune Butler is music historian Henry Kmen's conjecture that the words “old Butler's banjow [sic]” in the 24 December 1830Louisiana Advertiser refer to Picayune Butler.

In 1860 T. Allison Brown wrote in the New York “sporting” newspaper The Clipper that in 1834 George Nichols a white Cincinnati circus clown learned the song Jim Crow from a French darkie a ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Domingos Caldas Barbosa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to a white father, Antonio de Caldas Barbosa, and a black mother, whose identity remains unknown. From an early age Caldas received a Jesuit education. He showed a predilection for poetry and musical composition.

While still a young man Caldas was drafted into the military and sent to serve in the Portuguese colony of Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata. Subsequently, Caldas obtained his discharge, returned home to Brazil, and then boarded a ship bound for Portugal. He arrived in Lisbon in 1763 and shortly thereafter enrolled at the University of Coimbra. It is unclear at what point Caldas's university studies were discontinued, but author Jane M. Malinoff asserts that the young poet took leave shortly after learning of his father s death Unable to independently support the cost of his education Caldas recalled ...

Article

Eric Gardner

musician, educator, and activist, was born to free parents in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia. His father died when Carter was about eight, and his mother, whose maiden name was probably Drummond, cared for Dennis. When one of his cousins, Henry Drummond, was bound out to an area slaveholder named Thomas R. Joynes because of his status as an orphan, Carter's mother began to fear that her son would also be enslaved should something happen to her. Determined that her son stay free, she moved with him to Philadelphia in about 1825. There Carter's musical talents flowered, in part under the tutelage of the famous black Philadelphia bandleader Francis Johnson.

Carter toured with Johnson's band sporadically during the 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s, reportedly joining Johnson's 1837 trip to Great Britain and an 1851 trip to Sulphur Springs Virginia In addition to working as a musician Carter ...

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David A. Gerber

educator, politician, and civil rights leader, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Michael Clark, a barber, and his wife (name unknown). Clark was the product of a complex, mixed racial ancestry that formed the basis for a lifelong struggle to find a place for himself in both the white and African American worlds. The oral tradition of Peter Clark's family and of the Cincinnati African American community contends that Michael Clark was the son of the explorer William Clark, a Kentucky slaveowner who had children by his biracial slave Betty. Major Clark is said to have freed Betty and their children and settled them in Cincinnati. There she married and started another family with John Isom Gaines an affluent black man who owned a steamboat provisioning business Though it was never authenticated there is little doubt that Peter Clark himself believed the story of this ...