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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

Pamala S. Deane

radio, stage, and screen actor, was born in Muncie, Indiana, and raised in Hammond and, later, Anderson, Indiana. He was the eldest of nine children born to James Valley Edwards, a laborer, and Anna M. Johnson, a domestic (she would earn a degree in theology in 1949). He graduated from Anderson High School, and after a brief career as a prizefighter, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1938. He was employed for a time in the department of industrial personnel at the Calumet Steel Mill and also worked for two years as a district representative for the War Production Board.

Edwards either enlisted or was drafted (his service records were later lost in a fire) in the U.S. Army sometime around 1944 starting as a private in the all black 92nd Infantry Division of the 370th ...

Article

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, educator, and screenwriter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the three children of Lillian (Anderson) and Charles H. Fuller Sr., a printer who instilled in his son the love for words. Fuller was raised in northern Philadelphia in an integrated neighborhood. When he was thirteen he saw his first theatre performance at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The experienced made a lasting impression on him. Later, he became a voracious reader. His readings made him aware of the cultural and racial biases he made his life's mission to correct.

Success did not come easy to him, though. After graduating high school in 1956 Fuller attended Villanova University in hopes of becoming a writer There he was confronted with racism for the first time as a student being told by his professors that writing was not a good profession ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Kofi Natambu

actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and novelist, was born William Harrison Gunn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of William Gunn, a songwriter, musician, comedian, and unpublished poet, and Louise Alexander, an actress, theater director, and community activist. Gunn grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and attended integrated public schools in Philadelphia, graduating from high school in 1952.

After serving two years in the U.S. Navy, Gunn moved to New York City's East Village in 1954, intending to become an actor. At twenty, he won critical acclaim in 1954 for his portrayal of the young boy in the New Theatre Company's revival of Take a Giant Step. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he continued to appear in plays on and off Broadway, including The Immoralist with James Dean and productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida in 1956 and 1957 ...

Article

Teishan Latner

novelist, journalist, playwright, actor, civil rights activist, was born in Greer, South Carolina, the first child of Hudson and Annie Mae Mayfield. While he was still a boy, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended the city's segregated public schools. Mayfield evinced an early interest in drama and literature, avidly reading Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright, and won awards in his high school drama club. Ironically, given his later distinguished journalism career, Mayfield was denied an entry-level job at the Washington Post shortly after his sixteenth birthday because, a receptionist told him, “we don’t hire any colored copy boys” (Mayfield 1984). Graduating from the city's Dunbar High School in 1946, Mayfield enlisted in the U.S. Army but received a medical discharge a year later. Mayfield instead devoted himself to theater, traveling to New York in 1947 to attend classes including ...

Article

Bernard L. Peterson

actor, producer, and writer of plays and films, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Alexander Muse and Mary Sales. He was educated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he became interested in music and participated in choral groups; although he graduated with a bachelor's degree in International Law in 1911, he immediately embarked on a musical and theatrical career. In 1907 he married Frieda Belle Moore; the marriage was apparently dissolved soon after the birth of their son in 1910.

Muse sang with a hotel employees' quartet in Palm Beach, Florida, for one season. In 1912 he helped organize the Freeman-Harper-Muse Stock Company at the Globe Theater in Jacksonville, in partnership with comedian George Freeman and choreographer Leonard Harper. The company toured in Stranded in Africa in 1912, starring Muse in the role of King Gazu.

By ...

Article

Malcolm Womack

film writer, director, and actor, was born in Vidalia, Louisiana, to Spencer Williams Sr. and Pauline Williams Tatum, the president of the local Woman's Relief Corps. At the age of seventeen, he moved to New York City and found work backstage in the theater for the producer Oscar Hammerstein. As a “call boy,” the stagehand who is responsible for giving the performers a five-minute warning before their entrances, Williams met several celebrities, including Bert Williams, the African American star of the Ziegfeld Follies, who served as something of a mentor to the young man.

After serving in the army during World War I and attaining the rank of sergeant, Williams returned to find employment in the newly burgeoning film industry, both as a performer (notably in Buster Keaton's silent classic Steamboat Bill, Jr and behind the camera He was hired by Paramount s Christie ...

Article

Michael Adams

football player, sportscaster, actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, was born in Gary, Indiana, where his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker. Williamson earned a track scholarship to Northwestern University, where he studied architecture, but football coach Ara Parseghian recruited him for an additional spot. After college Williamson played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960 before jumping to the National Football League's new rival, the American Football League. In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and three with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning the nickname “The Hammer” for his practice of hitting opposing players in the head with his forearm while tackling them.

Williamson's “unsportsmanlike” play earned him great notoriety. Before the first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, he boasted that he would knock Green Bay Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale ...