entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...
Glenn Allen Knoblock
dancer, jazz band leader, and businesswoman, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Eddie Briscoe, a meatpacker, and Neliska Thomas, a cook and housekeeper born in Mexico. She had two half brothers and a sister who died young. Briscoe's career as an entertainer began early, at about the age of nine, when she performed in a club where her uncle, Escaliere Thomas, was employed part time in the evenings. Soon thereafter Briscoe acquired the nickname “Baby” (sometimes “Babe”), a moniker she retained in her entertainment career even as an adult.
Briscoe performed in New Orleans at the St Bernard Alley Cabaret known for its talented jazz band as an acrobatic dancer in a floor show in which she was the sole child performer accompanied there in the evenings by her mother after work A natural on the stage Briscoe continued to perform as a popular ...
the first woman to lead an otherwise all-male orchestra, was the older sister of the well-known bandleader Cab Calloway. Born in Rochester, New York, Blanche and her three younger siblings moved to Baltimore when she was a teenager. She grew up in a comfortably middle-class family; her father, Cabell, was a lawyer and her mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, taught music. Calloway's father died in 1910, and her mother married insurance salesman John Nelson Fortune a few years later and had two more children.
Calloway s mother likely instilled a love of music in all of her children Calloway s brother Elmer also briefly pursued a musical career Martha made sure that young Calloway took piano and voice lessons as a child but Martha never imagined music as a career for a proper young woman She expected that her daughter would pursue a respectable career as a nurse ...
curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.
As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.
Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...
Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz
Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...
Lolita K. Buckner Inniss
aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.
Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...
Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.
She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...
buffalo soldier, pioneer settler, and entrepreneur, was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, to a Native American mother and an African American father. At the age of fourteen he boarded a riverboat on the Mississippi River and became a cabin boy. During the Civil War, Garland served as a Union volunteer. After the war, in 1867, he joined the Tenth U.S. Cavalry and was assigned to Company F at Leavenworth, Kansas. Leavenworth became the first headquarters for the Tenth U.S. Cavalry. In 1866 the U S Congress designated the Ninth and Tenth Cavalries and the Twenty fourth and Twenty fifth Infantries These regiments were composed solely of African Americans except for their white officers the soldiers of these regiments were the first to officially serve in the military after the Civil War After training Company F was assigned to forts in western Kansas responsible for a ...
Sholomo B. Levy
songwriter, entrepreneur, and filmmaker, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the seventh of eight children of Berry Gordy Sr. and Bertha Fuller. After Reconstruction, Gordy's paternal grandfather, who was born a slave, managed to acquire 168 acres of land where he and his wife, Lucy Hellum, raised nine children, one of them being Gordy's father. Gordy's mother was of direct African descent on her father's side and of African and American Indian heritage on her mother's side. She was a schoolteacher in Sandersville, Georgia, and married Berry Gordy Sr. in 1918, when he returned from service in World War I.
In 1922 Gordy's parents left Milledgeville, Georgia, and settled in Detroit with their three oldest children. Unlike the majority of black migrants to the North, the Gordys owned their own home. Seven years and five children later, Berry Jr. was born on Thanksgiving Day ...
G. Robert Hohler
film and television producer, writer and social entrepreneur, born in St. Louis, Missouri, the only son of Julia Veva and Dr. Henry E. Hampton, a prominent physician and surgeon. Hampton's parents were leaders in efforts to change a city that was still racially segregated in the 1940s. They joined the Catholic Church because of its commitment to desegregation and enrolled their children, Henry and his two sisters, Veva and Judi, in Catholic schools. The young Hamptons were the first black students to be enrolled at an all-white suburban parochial school.
The Hamptons created a family environment that emphasized the arts trips to Sunday Symphony were a regular occurrence and intellectual accomplishment Both parents were strong willed and held their children to high standards of personal behavior and academic achievement Henry s older sister Veva went on to Wellesley College attended medical school and became a clinical ...
Terri L. Norris
radio and television broadcasting entrepreneur and entertainment personality, was born Catherine Elizabeth Woods in Omaha, Nebraska, the eldest of four children of William Alfred Woods and Helen Jones Woods. Both of Hughes's parents had notable accomplishments. William Woods was the first African American to receive an accounting degree from Nebraska's Creighton University. Helen Woods was a trombonist with Mississippi's Piney Woods orchestra at Piney Woods Country Life School, an African American boarding school founded by her father, Laurence C. Jones, in 1909. This female orchestra, called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, famously ran away from Piney Woods in pursuit of musical creative freedom; they sought to play swing music, not gospel. Her mother also earned a master's degree in Social Work.
Hughes spent her childhood in a low income housing project She was the first African American to attend Omaha s Duchesne Academy of the Sacred ...
Karen Beasley Young
philanthropist, entrepreneur, syndicated radio and television talk show host, and activist was born Thomas Joyner in Tuskegee, Alabama, the second son of H. L. Joyner, an accountant, and Buddy Joyner, a secretary. He attended Tuskegee Institute and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1970. At Tuskegee he met and married Dora Chatmon in 1970 while both were in their senior year of college. The couple had two sons, Thomas Jr. and Oscar, and divorced in 1996.
During his time as a student at Tuskegee, Joyner developed both a social consciousness, born of his involvement in the civil rights movement, and a passionate sense of social responsibility, born of the mission and vision of historically black colleges and universities. These elements, when combined with his love for music, were instrumental in shaping his life into one of altruism and advocacy.
While growing ...
Clifford Edward Watkins
circus minstrel, vaudeville bandleader, soloist, and entrepreneur, was born Perry George Lowery in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of eight children of Rachel (Tucker) and Andrew Lowery. “P. G.,” as he was known, was so proficient on the cornet that he was called the “World's Greatest Colored Cornet Soloist” by his teacher, Boston Conservatory Professor H. C. Brown (Indianapolis Freeman, 22 Feb. 1896).
During Reconstruction land promoters led wagon trains of newly emancipated black citizens to settle the recently opened former Indian Territory The Lowery family was among these and settled in Reece near Eureka Kansas on a 180 acre plot on Spring Creek in Greenwood County Soon after their arrival the Lowery family who were singers and instrumentalists organized the Star of the West Brass Band which became popular in the area How P G learned to play the cornet so well ...
professional boxer and actor, was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, to George Florence, a World War II veteran, and Ruth Norton, an activities director at a hospital, who would later marry John Norton a fireman and police dispatcher From an early age Norton excelled in sports which he claimed protected him from much of the racism that pervaded his hometown In high school Norton became a star in football baseball and track and field Although gifted intellectually Norton did only the work required of him and as a result did not do well in school However his athletic achievements led to scholarship offers from over ninety institutions Fearful of venturing too far from home Norton accepted a football scholarship from Northeast Missouri State University later Truman State University a teacher s college where he played basketball and football During his sophomore year Norton got into an argument ...
Mary Krane Derr
physician, pianist, and baseball-team owner, was born Hilda Mae (or May) Bolden in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Nellie Bolden, a homemaker and civic volunteer, and Edward Bolden, a postal clerk, owner of the all-black Philadelphia Stars baseball team, and founder of the Eastern Colored League. Taught by her mother, Hilda Bolden demonstrated early talent as a pianist. At age three, she gave her first public performance. Her parents encouraged her to excel also at school. The first African American valedictorian at Darby High School, she had some white students walk on her when she gave her speech, but she continued nonetheless.
Hilda Bolden earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and then attended Meharry Medical College On a Rosenwald Fellowship she studied pediatrics at the University of Chicago She completed her pediatrics residency at Provident Hospital There as reported ...
entrepreneur, music executive, and promoter, was born in Queens, New York, to Daniel and Evelyn Simmons, both graduates of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Simmons's father was a politically active schoolteacher who worked for the New York Board of Education; his mother was an artist and recreation director for the New York City Department of Parks. Simmons had two brothers; his older brother, Danny, became an artist, while his younger brother, Joey, became the rap artist popularly known as “Run” (Reverend Run) of the music group Run-D.M.C. Simmons and his brothers grew up in the middle-class Queens neighborhood of Hollis attending integrated schools in the politically charged 1960s and were influenced by their father s social activism protesting racial discrimination and promoting black empowerment Simmons s mother encouraged him to embrace both the arts and entrepreneurship but despite his sound upbringing and his ...
entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, author, and model, was born Barbara Smith near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William H. Smith, a steel worker, and Florence Claybrook Smith, a part-time maid. She has described her parents as the original Bob Villa and Martha Stewart referring to the television handyman and the multimedia domestic guru respectively and was greatly influenced by the home her parents established She assisted them in the family s vegetable and flower gardens While in high school Smith studied cooking sewing nutrition and fashion During the same time she took classes at the John Robert Powers modeling school in Pittsburgh on the weekend She completed her modeling studies shortly before she graduated from high school After graduation Smith moved to Pittsburgh where she worked hard to launch her modeling career It was not easy but in the late 1960s after a national ...
Amy L. Lively
musician and entrepreneur, was born Benjamin Franklin Spikes in Dallas, Texas, the youngest child of Madora and Monroe Spikes, the latter a barber. Spikes was nicknamed “Rebel,” later shortened to “Reb,” by his father. The family relocated to Los Angeles in 1897, and when Spikes was in his late teens his older brother, Johnny, bought him a drum set, sparking his interest in music.
In 1907, Spikes moved to San Francisco. Ragtime, a precursor to jazz, was frequently heard in local clubs and saloons and was an important influence on the music that Spikes would write, perform, and produce. As Spikes developed his musical skills, he and Johnny went on the road as performers. In approximately 1910, they formed a traveling vaudeville group called the Spikes Brothers Comedy Stars. A notable member of the troupe was Hattie McDaniel whose portrayal of Mammy in ...
Melinda Bond Shreve
performer, entrepreneur, and cultural leader, was born in east St. Louis, Illinois, to Fred L. and Lila B. Teer. Teer has been recognized for her exceptional talent as a dancer and actress, and most notably for founding the National Black Theatre, located in Harlem, New York, on historic 125th Street.
Teer was born into a family that was well known as both educators and community leaders. Her parents provided a nurturing home environment for her and her older sister Fredrica and they both went on to excel.
Teer graduated from Lincoln High School at age fifteen. She studied at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Connecticut College, and the University of Wisconsin. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Dance Education in 1957 from the University of Illinois at age nineteen.After graduating Teer studied dance with Mary Wigman in Berlin and ...
WBA heavyweight boxing champion, entertainer, and businessman, was born in Belzoni, Mississippi, one of ten children of Lovick Terrell, a metal dipper, and Annie Terrell. Terrell's family moved to Chicago in 1953. As a teenager, Terrell discovered the Midwest Gym, on the corner of Madison and Hamelin streets near Garfield Park, and became interested in watching big-name professional fighters—men like Rocky Marciano, Kid Gavilan, Sugar Ray Robinson—train. Observing great fighters sparked Terrell's desire to become a boxer, and while enrolled in Farragut High School, from which he would graduate in 1959, he began to enter amateur tournaments.
Terrell won the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament and later captured an intercity Golden Gloves championship. In 1957 while still in high school Terrell turned professional Also that year while organizing a talent show to celebrate his high school graduation Terrell purchased his ...