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Michael J. Bustamante

was born on 27 February 1927 in Havana into a working-class family with twelve children. After completing the eighth grade and working as a bricklayer, Almeida was introduced to political activity in 1952 upon meeting Fidel Castro while employed at the beach club for students of the University of Havana. A veteran of the failed 1953 assault on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada Barracks, and prisoner of the Fulgencio Batista government until May 1955, Almeida returned to Cuba in late November 1956 from exile in Mexico, along with other insurgents of the 26th of July Movement, aboard the yacht Granma. Together with Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl, as well as Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, Almeida was among the few rebels who survived initial clashes with Batista’s forces and arrived at the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba. In early 1958 he was promoted to Comandante Commander the ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

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

Elio Leturia

was born Susana Esther Baca de la Colina in Lima, Peru, on 24 May 1944. Her parents were Ernesto Baca Ramírez, a driver for the aristocratic Nicolini family, and Carmen Eugenia de la Colina Gonzáles, a cook working in the homes of wealthy families. Her childhood was spent in the coastal district of Chorrillos, south of Lima, along with Raúl Ernesto and Maruja, her older siblings. Music entered her life at an early age, as her father played the guitar and her mother was a gifted dancer. Baca attended the 444 Public School in Chorrillos, and then the Juana Alarco de Dammert Public School. Because of incidents of racial harassment, her mother moved Baca to the Divino Maestro School, where she completed high school. She later attended the National University of Education Enrique Guzmán y Valle in La Cantuta, Lima, graduating as an elementary school teacher in 1968 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

Article

Wendy Pflug

activist and author, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Dorothy Clark, a factory worker, and Dr. Horace Scott, a neurosurgeon who never publicly acknowledged his daughter's existence. As a result Elaine was raised by a single mother.

Elaine Brown grew up in poverty in a row house on York Street in North Philadelphia. Hoping for a better life for her daughter, Dorothy Clark enrolled Elaine in an experimental elementary school Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice There she was exposed to the lives of her often privileged white Jewish classmates and from an early age she learned to assimilate their habits She learned to adopt their speech patterns and cadence of voice using words such as these instead of dese or he ll be going instead of he be goin Thus Brown lived in two worlds in which she was able to act white while ...

Article

Eleanor D. Branch

singer, songwriter, actor, activist, playwright, was born Oscar Cicero Brown Jr., the son of Oscar Brown Sr., a lawyer and real estate broker, and Helen Lawrence, a schoolteacher, in Chicago.

Growing up, Brown demonstrated an early attraction to and flair for language. He won elocution contests in school and was drawn to the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countée Cullen as well as to the music of Cole Porter and Oscar Hammerstein. He wrote songs as a teenager and by age fifteen had made his show business debut in the children's radio drama Secret City A year later having skipped two grades he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin only to find that academia was not for him he was drawn to creative writing but fell short in other subjects and as a consequence drifted from school to school never graduating Throughout this period his ...

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 ...

Article

Sharon L. Barnes

actress and writer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Daniel Marshall Gilbert, the owner of a furniture business, and Edna Earl Knott, the owner of a dressmaking business. In an unfinished autobiographical manuscript Gilbert wrote that because of her parents' jobs, she was cared for and educated by a nurse. She enrolled in the Boylan Home, a seminary for girls in Jacksonville, when she was in the fourth grade. After her family moved to Tampa, Florida, Gilbert attended a Catholic school and the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School. She went to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville and after graduation taught school in southern Florida before deciding that she wanted a different profession. She then entered the Brewster Hospital Nurses Training School and graduated three years later, staying on the staff for two more years as the assistant superintendent.

After moving to New York City ...

Article

Elliott S. Hurwitt

pianist, songwriter, playwright, and music publisher, was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His father, also named Porter, was a laborer (a “porter,” according to a Bowling Green city directory). The family name was “Granger,” without the “i,” and it is not known when the pianist changed the spelling. He and a younger sister, Ursula, were living with their grandparents, Joseph (a farmer) and Patience Coleman, and with other relatives in Hickory Flat, Kentucky, at the time of the 1900 Census. By the 1930s the Grangers appear to have left the city, although Porter Grainger still had numerous relations there and remained in contact with them.

Grainger was living in Chicago, a leading center of black music and theater, when he registered for the draft during World War I. His name was entered by the clerk as Porter Parrish Granger but he signed ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

educator and founder of Harlem's The Modern School, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the only daughter of Nora Ethel Floyd and J. Rosamond Johnson. Her father, a singer, composer, and musician, and her uncle, the lawyer and poet James Weldon Johnson, cocreated the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Her mother was a homemaker. Mildred Johnson was married once to Hedley Vivian Edwards, a wealthy Jamaican businessman and horticulturist with whom she had one daughter, K. Melanie Edwards, and whom she later divorced (1963).

When Mildred was very young, the family moved to New York City, settling in Harlem. Mildred was homeschooled through kindergarten by her Bahamian paternal grandmother, Helen Louise Billet an educator herself When Mildred was six she began attending the School of Ethical Culture an elite private school in New York City She grew up in a house ...

Article

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and trained as a lawyer, Justin L'Herison was also a journalist and a professor of national history. As a journalist, he contributed to the review La Jeune Haïti (The Young Haiti) and founded the newspaper Le Soir (The Evening). As a professor, he published a book on the history of Haiti during the Spanish colonial period (1492–1697). L'Herison began to write poetry in 1892, imitating a group of nineteenth-century French Parnassian poets (named for their journal, Le Parnasse Contemporain) in Les Chants de l'aurore (The Songs of Dawn, 1893) and Passe-temps (Hobby, 1893). In 1903, inspired by the nationalism of the novelist Frédéric Marcelin and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Haitian Revolution against France, he composed “La Dessalinienne”—named for Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a legendary black slave who proclaimed himself emperor of Haiti in 1804 La Dessalinienne ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer and musician, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of eight children of Andrew Dennis McBride, a Baptist minister, and Rachel (Shilsky) McBride, an occasional typist. The exact date of his birth is not known. Part of a tide of African Americans who left the South in search of greater freedom and job opportunities in the North, McBride's father Andrew had moved in the 1940s from North Carolina to New York, where he found work in a small Manhattan leather factory. Similarly his mother, Rachel, had emigrated from Poland as a child in 1921 and settled with her family in Suffolk Virginia where her father an Orthodox rabbi ran a synagogue and managed a store that exploited the local black population One of Rachel s jobs in that store was to watch the shvartses a derogatory Yiddish term for blacks who were always suspected ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptianvernacular poet, songwriter, and political activist, popularly known as el-Fāgūmī, was born in May 1929 in Kafr abu Negm village in Sharqiyya governorate. His father, Mohammed Ezzat Negm, was a police officer and his mother, Hanim Mursi Negm, was a farmer. His father's sudden death was a tragic event in his life. His family abandoned him when he was ten years old and he had to move to an orphans’ shelter where he stayed for seven years. From that moment, Negm lived an unstable, though rich, life. At the age of seventeen, he returned briefly to his village and worked at farming, only to move back to Cairo shortly after. Negm worked many odd jobs but failed to keep any one job for a prolonged period of time until he worked for the Egyptian railways in 1951. In 1959 he was accused of ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptiansongwriter, poet, and translator, was born on 8 August 1892 in Cairo's Nasiriyya district. His father, Mohammed Hasan Otman Rami, was a military physician in the Egyptian army, and his mother, Fatima al-Ghazouly, was a housewife. Because of his family's continuous travels, Rami lived an uneasy childhood. His father left him for years under the custody of his aunt and grandfather. At the age of thirty, he suffered a smallpox infection that left traces on him both physically and spiritually. After graduating from the Higher Teachers College (Cairo) in 1914, he worked as a high school teacher until 1920 when he was appointed a librarian at the Higher Teachers library for two years Then he took a scholarship to study librarianship in France for two years When he returned he was appointed to a position at Dar al Kutub the Egyptian National Library and ...