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Article

Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born Geraldine Molly Leotaud on 29 May 1933, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, into a mixed-race, middle-class, single-parent, devoutly Roman Catholic family. Her mother, however, was also a keeper of Shango religion, a legacy of the Yoruba peoples brought to Trinidad during the African slave trade.

She grew up in a hybrid cultural milieu of Christianity and Yoruba religious tradition (called “Ifa” today). She later recalled her early life as a Roman Catholic, with its elaborate ceremonies, and her love of participation in them, when she was allowed to carry the censer. Beginning in her teens, she was an avid student of dance, and met Beryl McBurnie, founder of the Little Carib Theatre, which first opened at Port-of-Spain in 1947. McBurnie, herself a dancer of some repute, was very interested in the traditional dances of the descendants of the formerly enslaved Africans. From 1952 to 1965 Molly ...

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Theodore Cohen

was born in the town of Hopelchén, Campeche, on 7 January 1892 to Francisco José Baqueiro and Teodosía Fóster. Probably of Mayan and not of African descent, he was a relative of the famous nineteenth-century Yucatecan musician Chan Chil (Cirilio Baqueiro Prevé). Baqueiro Fóster attended primary school in Hopelchén before moving to Mérida, Yucatán, to continue his education. He learned to play the guitar, mandolin, violin, oboe, and flute, his instrument of choice. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City, and the following year he enrolled at the National Conservatory, where he studied with the renowned musical theorist Julián Carrillo. He later married Eloisa Ruiz Carvalho (1925–1980), a music critic and educator.

Baqueiro Fóster began to make a name for himself during Mexico’s First National Congress of Music in 1926 With fellow Carrillo disciple Daniel Castañeda he argued that Mexican composers could study indigenous music more accurately ...

Article

was born in Woodbrook Trinidad Bishop s deeply engrained love for music undoubtedly started with hearing her father Sonny Bishop who had been a choirboy sing Anglican and Methodist hymns in a high tenor as he did his chores When Bishop was a child Sonny encouraged her interest in music by taking her to hear classically trained African American singers such as Dorothy Maynor Paul Robeson and Robert McFerrin perform in Trinidad and sending her to piano lessons Her mother designed and made dresses that combined bright colors and bold textures and also hosted exhibitions in their family home in De Vertreuil Street Woodbrook This combination from an early age led Bishop to express an immense passion for music painting and poetry She received a national scholarship after her secondary school education at Bishop Anstey High School Port of Spain which allowed her to attend King s College University of ...

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Kip Lornell

gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Lucy's mother was widowed several months after Lucy's birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, Tennessee, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother's meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family's insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child, Campbell's older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora.

Lucie Campbell was a bright student who easily mastered elementary school and middle school, winning awards in both penmanship and Latin. Even before graduating from Kortrecht Senior High School (later Booker T. Washington High School as the class valedictorian she ...

Article

Kip Lornell

Campbell, Lucie E. (1885–03 January 1963), gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Her mother was widowed several months after Lucie’s birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother’s meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family’s insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child: Lucie’s older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora.

Lucie Campbell was a bright student who easily mastered elementary school and middle school winning awards in both penmanship and Latin Even before graduating from Kortrecht Senior High School later Booker T Washington as the ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...

Article

Andrew M. Fearnley

musicologist, opera singer, and diplomat, was born Zelma Watson in Hearne, Texas, the daughter of Samuel Watson, a Baptist minister, and Lena Thomas, a domestic worker. Zelma's parents attached a great deal of importance to education. As the former principal of a boarding school, Samuel Watson instilled into each of his six children an understanding of the value of education; until sixth grade their mother taught all the Watson children at home. The Watsons were also keen musicians, and family music-making sessions were a staple of Zelma's early life. As the eldest of the children, Zelma clearly took note of both of her parents' pet projects and made scholarship and song central to her own life.

Due to her father s job as a preacher Zelma s early life was rather peripatetic At age five she moved to Palestine Texas and then to Dallas Texas at ...

Article

was born at East Dry River, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 28 April 1924. When he was ten, his family relocated to the west Port-of-Spain suburb named New Town close to a place named Calvary Road or “The Big Yard,” at the corner of Tragerete Road and Woodford Street.

New Town in 1934 was mainly populated by the lower classes and characterized by barrack yards, high unemployment, poor housing and sanitary facilities, and crime. A form of musical expression, induced by the colonial ban on the Africans and their descendants from playing drums, was emerging. The first recorded stage of this development was “tamboo-bamboo.”

Aware of tamboo bamboo before New Town Goddard encountered a similar but different type of musical expression musical instruments fashioned out of discarded biscuit and paint drums and automobile hubs the latter of which gave it its distinctive sound and name the steel band His parents ...

Article

Edward T. Washington

scholar, theater historian, editor, playwright, and director, was born Errol Gaston Hill in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of Thomas David and Lydia (Gibson) Hill. Hill's father lived away from the family throughout the boy's childhood, but his mother, a singer and actress in the local Methodist Church, strongly influenced him to pursue a theatrical career. Hill's involvement with drama took a major step forward in the mid-1940s when he co-founded, with the international actor Errol John and others a local amateur theater group called the Whitehall Players While writing acting and directing in that group Hill developed an interest in Trinidadian carnival and steel band music By the early 1950s with the assistance and support of the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Council Hill was among the first Trinidadians to air steel band music on the radio Given the worldwide popularity of ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born on 7 May 1918 in Havana. He began his musical studies at the age of 8 at the Municipal Conservatory of Havana. León studied at various national and international institutions and earned several degrees, including a degree in music pedagogy from the University of Havana in 1943, and one in composition from the Municipal Conservatory in 1945, where he studied with such celebrated composers as José Ardévol. He received a grant to study folklore at the University of Chile in 1951, and in 1957 he completed his musical education in Paris with famed composer Nadia Boulanger.

Along with other prominent art music composers such as Ardévol and Harold Gramatges, León formed part of the influential Grupo Renovación Musical, whose goal was to advance and promote contemporary Cuban classical music. He incorporated many elements of folkloric music into his compositions—in his piano composition Akorín for ...

Article

Together with sociologist Fernando Ortiz and anthropologist Lydia Cabrera, Argeliers León is regarded as one of the most influential scholars of Afro-Cuban culture. From 1961 to 1971 he directed the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore of the Cuban Academy of Sciences and taught African art and Afro Cuban ...

Article

Christopher Phelps

writer and activist, was the second of two sons born to Reverend W. D. Lester, a Methodist minister, and Julia (Smith) Lester in St. Louis, Missouri. When he was two years old the family moved to Kansas City, Kansas. His father, seeking dignity, invariably wore a suit and tie, teaching his sons that separate “colored” facilities were demeaning and never to be used. The family spent its summers in the South at the rural home of Lester's maternal grandmother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Lester's early precocity manifested itself in his love for reading and a propensity to challenge teachers. A childhood spent deep within the folds of the black community did not shield him from terror and anger. He later wrote that under segregation, “Hope was the name some dreamer bestowed on a daughter, … change was what the white man at the store might give you ...

Article

John Wriggle

composer, trombonist, writer, and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George Thomas Lewis, originally from North Carolina, and Cornelia Griffith of Georgia. George attended public elementary school before enrolling at the University of Chicago Laboratory School at age nine, at which time his parents bought him a trombone to assist with what he called “social development.” By age twelve George was listening to the music of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane, learning solos from jazz recordings such as Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio, and studying improvisation with the trombonist Dean Hey.

At Yale University, from which he earned a BA in Philosophy in 1974, Lewis found company in the sextet of the pianist and fellow student Anthony Davis After becoming dissatisfied with the artistic boundaries imposed by the music department at ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

journalist and social commentator, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. It is known that Lomax was an only child, and attended local schools. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, an MA from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1944, and a PhD in Philosophy from Yale in 1947. After working briefly as an assistant professor of philosophy at Georgia State College, Lomax wrote freelance articles, including several for Chicago'sDaily News. Although Lomax denied that he had a criminal record, FBI reports showed that he was incarcerated from 1949 to 1954 in Joliet Prison in Illinois for selling a rented car. He was paroled on 28 September 1954 and returned to Chicago to work as a lecturer at writers' workshops, as a reporter for a local nightclub magazine called Club Chatter ...

Article

Wallace McClain Cheatham

college professor, musicologist, pianist, and writer, was born Doris Valean Evans in Washington, D.C., the second daughter of Vallean Richardson Evans and Charlie Evans. Her mother worked for the federal government, and her father was a tailor. McGinty, encouraged by her pianist mother to pursue music, began the study of piano at age seven. At age twelve she gave her first public recital. She continued the study of piano with Andres Wheatley in the Junior Preparatory Department at Howard University and played for Sunday school at the District's Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Among her treasured mementoes were the dress and shoes she wore to the historic 1939Marian Anderson command performance at Washington's Lincoln Memorial.

Two baccalaureate degrees, in music education and German, were completed at Howard University in 1945 and 1946 respectively McGinty then went to Radcliffe College in Cambridge Massachusetts ...

Article

Jennifer Lynn Headley

cultural critic, historian, performance and installation artist, photographer, writer, and activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Lena, emigrated from Jamaica to Boston in the 1920s. She earned a BA from Wellesley College in Spanish and Economics and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Iowa, studying-in its renowned Writers' Workshop. From Iowa, she moved to New York City and began writing for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone as a rock critic. She changed her career course with her first performance pieces in the 1980s and her critical writings about art and its effect on students and peers.

O'Grady's first performed as Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire, loosely translated into Ms. Black Middle Class; her alter ego was a rowdy uninvited guest to numerous high-profile art exhibitions. Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire Goes to JAM (1980), Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to ...

Article

Navneet Sethi

dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and teacher. Along with Katherine Dunham (1909–2006), Pearl Primus is regarded as the mother of modern African American dance. Dunham and Primus used their vision as anthropologists to revolutionize African American concert dance by valorizing the African heritage in the African American experience.

Pearl Primus was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1919 and came to New York City with her parents in the early 1920s. A 1940 graduate in biology from Hunter College in New York Primus had her first brush with racism when she was unable to get a job in a laboratory Taking classes with the New Dance Group a subunit of the Workers Dance League that was dedicated to social change Primus recognized her passion for dance and the need to graft this passion with her sense of outrage at social conditions Primus ...

Article

James Briggs Murray

In the early 1920s Primus's parents brought her from their native Trinidad to New York City, where she attended Hunter College High School and Hunter College, graduating in 1940 with a degree in biology and premedical sciences. Her aspiration to be a physician was thwarted by racial discrimination, which blocked her from being hired by New York's medical laboratories. Turning to the National Youth Administration, she was given a wardrobe position in a dance demonstration unit, despite having no particular interest in dance. She later became a dancer's understudy, and the National Youth Administration assigned her to demonstrate everything from the minuet to the lindy.

Becoming more seriously interested in dance, Primus won a scholarship offered by New York City's New Dance Group in July 1941. She studied and absorbed the techniques of Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm, Charles Weidman, and Beryl McCurnie ...

Article

C. S'thembile West

Primus, Pearl (29 November 1919–29 October 1994), dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and pre-medicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in 1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution.

During Primus’s tenure at the New Dance Group, she began to do research on African culture. She visited museums, consulted books, articles, and pictures for months to produce on 14 February 1943 her first significant dance work, African Ceremonial for which she had ...