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John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

blues and vaudeville songwriter, publisher, and musical director, was born John Henry Perry Bradford in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Adam Bradford, a bricklayer and tile setter, and Bella (maiden name unknown), a cook. Standard reference books give his year of birth as 1893, but Bradford's autobiography gives 1895. Early in his youth Bradford learned to play piano by ear. In 1901 his family moved to Atlanta, where his mother cooked meals for prisoners in the adjacent Fulton Street jail. There he was exposed to the inmates' blues and folk singing. Bradford attended Molly Pope School through the sixth grade and claimed to have attended Atlanta University for three years, there being no local high school. This is chronologically inconsistent, however, with his claim to have joined Allen's New Orleans Minstrels in the fall of 1907 traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras ...

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George A. Thompson

theater manager and playwright, was born in the West Indies, probably on Saint Vincent, before 1780. Little is known about Brown's early life. He worked for some years as a steward on passenger ships, then left the sea and settled in New York City, where he worked as a tailor. The 1820 census shows him as middle-aged and free, living with his wife and daughter. At about this time he opened a public garden in the grounds behind his house on Thomas Street, between West Broadway and Hudson Street. An open-air cabaret offering light refreshments and music, the African Grove, as he called it, served the city's African American population, which was excluded from the other larger public gardens in the city.

The African Grove presumably opened in the spring of 1821, but the only knowledge of it comes from a story in the National Advocate of ...

Article

George A. Thompson

Brown, William Alexander (fl. 1817–1823), theater manager and playwright, was born in the West Indies, probably on St. Vincent, before 1780. Little is known about Brown’s early life. He worked for some years as steward on passenger ships, then left the sea and settled in New York City, where he worked as a tailor. The 1820 census shows him as a middle-aged free black man, living on Thomas Street with his wife and daughter. At about this time he opened a public garden in the grounds behind the house in which he lived on Thomas Street, between West Broadway and Hudson Street. This was a sort of open-air cabaret, offering light refreshments and music. The “African Grove,” as he called it, served the city’s African-American population, which was excluded from the other, larger public gardens in the city.

The African Grove presumably opened in the spring of ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the eldest of the two children of Jetta Clark and Dr. Joe Louis Clark. The Clarks lived in Newark, a short distance from her birthplace, until moving to South Orange after the 1967 riots. Her father, who served as the principal of Eastside High School, in Paterson, New Jersey, gained national attention for enforcing discipline and improving academic achievement at Eastside, one of the state’s toughest inner-city schools, and became the subject of the 1989 film Lean on Me, in which the award-winning actor Morgan Freeman portrayed him.

Clark performed with the Alvin Ailey Junior Dance Company until the age of fourteen, when she began to participate in track, concentrating on the half-mile (880 yards), the distance at which her father excelled at William Patterson University (then known as the Paterson State Teachers College) in Wayne, New Jersey. Interviewed for the Best ...

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Hilary Mac Austin

Suzanne de Passe learned from her mentor, Berry Gordy, that “a business based on principles is more important than a business based on revenue.” She has held true to that motto. Amazingly, in the cutthroat, white-male-dominated world of Hollywood, she has not only survived but succeeded magnificently.

One of the first and still one of the only African American women powerbrokers in the television and film businesses, Suzanne Celeste de Passe grew up middle-class in Harlem. Her parents, both West Indian, were divorced when she was three. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father worked for Seagrams. He remarried six years after the divorce and is credited with providing de Passe with a strong role model. De Passe attended an elite, integrated private school in Manhattan, the New Lincoln School. While still young, she began modeling clothes designed by DeVera Edwards.

De Passe entered Syracuse University as ...

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Claranne Perkins

music executive, television and film producer, and screenwriter, was born in New York, New York. Her father worked for Seagram's and her mother was a schoolteacher. Her paternal grandfather was a physician in Harlem.

Her parents divorced when she was three but managed to maintain a supportive environment for their daughter. She spent the week with her mother and the weekend with her father. He remarried when de Passe was nine, and the three adults formed a supportive alliance that continued to nurture de Passe.

She lived the elite life of prominent black families in New York. She summered on Martha's Vineyard; attended the private, progressive, and integrated New Lincoln School; graduated from Manhattan High School; and entered Syracuse University in 1964 She found the university and its extremely small African American student body not to her liking so transferred to Manhattan Community College to major ...

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Stephanie Y. Evans

advertising executive, magazine publisher, and radio network founder, was born in Louisville Kentucky, to W. Leonard Evans Sr., an executive with the Urban League, and Beatrice, an executive with an insurance company. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to suburban Chicago, where he was raised. Evans attended the Chicago public schools, after which he graduated from Wilberforce Academy in Ohio in 1931. It was a family tradition to go to college at Fisk in Nashville, which he did for several years, studying sociology and learning to do research. He then transferred to the University of Illinois, where he received a degree in business in 1935. He also studied law at Chicago's Kent College of Law.

In 1943 Evans married Maudelle and the couple would go on to have two sons Evans became interested in researching the black consumer and after working for such ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to an ex-slave, Gabino Ezeiza first picked up a guitar at the age of fifteen. Drawing from a rich oral tradition of earlier payadores, he gradually attracted an impressive following by taking his improvisational virtuosity on the road. The payada, a duel-like exchange in which singer-guitarists spontaneously compose formulaic refrains, is derived from both Spanish versification and African traditions of musical contests. In Argentina, it is considered “popular literature,” inextricably tied to the most symbolic of national figures: the gaucho of the pampas (roughly equivalent to cowboys on the range). While still a teenager, Ezeiza began writing for La Juventud, a Buenos Aires newspaper for and by members of the black community. From 1876 to 1878, while still building a reputation as a payador, publishing poetry, and writing news, he became the editor of La Juventud.

Before the twentieth ...

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Genevieve G. McBride

newspaper publisher and multimedia owner, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Mary Ellen Shadd Jones, later Mary Ellen Shadd-Strong, a journalist. A descendant of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first female African American publisher, his mother was a correspondent for the Chicago Defender and World in an era of an only intermittent presence for the black press in Wisconsin after the loss of the legendary Wisconsin Enterprise-Blade in the 1940s under J. Anthony Josey.

Lacking a stable local black press, African Americans in Wisconsin seemed almost silent amid the civil rights movement for most of the next decade. Several attempts at a black press in the state failed until Shadd-Strong founded an affiliate of the Defender in 1956; she maintained her Milwaukee Defender until 1960 McBride 343 344 The silence was deceptive however as struggling publishers of the period were literally and figuratively ...

Article

John R. McKivigan

James Redpath was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the English-Scottish border, the son of Ninian Davidson Redpath, a teacher, and Maria Main. The young Redpath immigrated to the United States in 1849 and soon found work as a reporter for the New York Tribune, published by the antislavery advocate and reformer Horace Greeley. In the mid-1850s Redpath made three journeys through the South, secretly interviewing slaves and publishing their accounts of slavery in abolitionist newspapers. After the third trip Redpath published the interviews and his impressions of the South in a book titled The Roving Editor; or, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States. The book proved controversial because Redpath allowed the slaves to voice their discontent and willingness to revolt. Frederick Douglass, a leading voice for abolition and himself a former slave, published lengthy excerpts from Redpath's book in his weekly newspaper.

In 1855 ...

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Phillip A Cantrell

Rwandan writer and the subject of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, was born in 1954 in Gitarama, Rwanda, to a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father, although Rusesabagina himself claims to be a Hutu. Rusesabagina separated from his first wife, Ester, in 1981 following the birth of three children. He remarried in 1987 to Tatiana, a Tutsi, and fathered two children, a son and a daughter who died in infancy. Rusesabagina graduated from Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya, with a degree in hotel management and worked as an assistant to the general manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, from 1984 to 1992. In 1992, he was promoted to general manager of the Diplomate Hotel in Kigali. Rusesabagina gained international acclaim as the subject of the film Hotel Rwanda, which was released in 2004 and nominated for an Academy Award Rusesabagina s ...

Article

David Michel

gospel singer and group leader, was born Gertrude Willa Azalee Murphy near Anderson, South Carolina, the eleventh of twelve children born to David and Hannah Murphy, both being farmers and Baptists. Gertrude completed eighth grade and, like millions of African Americans, moved north. In 1920 she settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and married George Ward, with whom she had two daughters, Willa(rene) and Clara Mae, born in 1922 and 1924 respectively. In Philadelphia, Gertrude did domestic work while her husband joined an iron company, where he remained for forty-two years. The Ward family soon joined Ebenezer Baptist Church at Tenth Street and Girard Avenue and would remain active there for years. Both Ward and her husband joined the senior choir. In 1931 Ward claimed to hear the voice of God telling her, “Go sing my Gospel.”

Ward aggressively pursued a singing ministry She familiarized herself with gospel ...

Article

Harvey Cohen

blues and jazz musician, publisher, and music producer, was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. In 1906 his family moved to New Orleans. Williams's first instrument was the guitar, which he abandoned before he reached his teens to concentrate on the piano. Most of his learning was done by ear or by watching others, although he did receive eight lessons in the early 1910s, at the end of which he believed he knew all he needed to know about piano playing. At the age of twelve he left home to join Billy Kersands's traveling minstrel show as a pianist, master of ceremonies, dancer, and comedian. Williams spent most of his teenage years in the clubs of New Orleans's legendary Storyville district as a pianist and songwriter. During this time he met the pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton ...

Article

Harvey Cohen

Williams, Clarence (8 Oct. 1898 or 1893–06 November 1965), blues and jazz musician, publisher, and music producer was born in Plaquemine Louisiana information on his parentage is unavailable In 1906 his family moved to New Orleans Williams s first instrument was the guitar which he abandoned before he reached his teens to concentrate on the piano Most of his learning was done by ear or by watching others although he did receive eight lessons in the early 1910s at the end of which he believed he knew all he needed to know about piano playing At the age of twelve he left home to join Billy Kersand s traveling minstrel show as a pianist master of ceremonies dancer and comedian Williams spent most of his teenage years in the clubs of New Orleans legendary Storyville district as a pianist and songwriter During this time he met pianist ...