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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

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

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 ...