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Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

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Rebecca L. Hankins

journalist, educator, lecturer, and actress, was born Marguerite Phillips Dorsey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child of Joseph A. Dorsey, an architect and real estate broker, and Mary Louise Ross. Marguerite Cartwright's early education was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She later earned her BS Ed. and MA degrees from Boston University in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Her master's thesis was on the African origins of drama, contending that the Greek god Dionysus was an African. She married the chemical engineer Leonard Carl Cartwright in 1930, an interracial union that lasted over fifty years, until his death in 1982.

Cartwright combined her academic interest in theater with an application as an actress in a number of plays and films, including the play Roll Sweet Chariot (1934) in New York City and the film Green Pastures (1935 Simultaneously working as an actress and a ...

Article

Chuck D  

Alice Knox Eaton

rapper, educator, and music entrepreneur, was born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Queens, New York, to Lorenzo and Judy Ridenhour, both political activists. Lorenzo worked as a warehouse manager before starting his own trucking company at age forty. Ridenhour's home was full of the sounds of jazz and R&B, and he grew up with an acute awareness of the political events of the 1960s as they unfolded: the murder of Medgar Evers, the 1963 March on Washington, and the assassinations of the Kennedys, Black Panther leaders, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. The family, including his sister Lisa and brother Erik, moved from predominantly black Queensbridge to another largely black community in Roosevelt, Long Island, when Ridenhour was eleven. He spent the summers of 1970 and 1971 attending programs at Adelphi and Hofstra universities on the African American experience further shaping his early sense of the ...

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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 ...

Article

Aida Ahmed Hussen

musician, author, and educator, was born Maud Cuney in Galveston, Texas, to Norris Wright Cuney, a prominent Republican politician and entrepreneur, and Adelina Dowdie Cuney, a public school teacher, soprano vocalist, and community activist. Both of Cuney's parents were born slaves of mixed racial parentage, and both gained freedom, education, social clout, and considerable financial advantage as the acknowledged offspring of their fathers. This, in addition to Norris Wright Cuney's political success with the Texas Republican Party, situated the Cuney family solidly among the Texan black elite. Cuney describes her early home life as one that was comfortable and markedly pleasant, and she praises both of her parents for instilling in her and in her younger brother, Lloyd Garrison Cuney, the values of education, racial pride, and social obligation.

Following her graduation from Central High School in 1890 Cuney moved to Boston Massachusetts where she enrolled ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Maude Cuney was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Norris Wright and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. After graduation from the Central High School, Galveston, she received a musical education at the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts. Later she studied under private instructors such as Emil Ludwig, a pupil of Russian pianist and composer Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein, and Edwin Klare, a pupil of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. She then served for a number of years as director of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute of Texas and at Prairie State College in Prairie View, Texas. In 1906 she returned to Boston and married William P. Hare, who came from an old and well-known Boston family. She died there in 1936 and was buried in Galveston in the grave between her father and mother in Lake View Cemetery (Houston Informer ...

Article

Lynda Koolish

Maud Cuney-Hare is remembered for her literary accomplishments as a gifted playwright, biographer, and music columnist for the Crisis. Born in Galveston, Texas, on 16 February 1874, to teacher and soprano Adelina Dowdie and Norris Wright Cuney, an important Texas political figure who was the (defeated) Republican candidate for the 1875 Galveston mayoral race, Maud Cuney-Hare was educated in Texas and became musical director at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute in Austin, Texas. She held other church and college teaching positions before returning to Boston and devoting her life to performance, scholarship, and literary pursuits. She championed the 24 May 1917 Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaging of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel (1916), which, according to critic Robert Fehrenbach was the first time a play written by an Afro American that dealt with the real problems facing American Blacks in contemporary white racist society was ...

Article

LaVerne Gyant

actress, activist, and elocutionist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mansfield Vinton Davis, a musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Davis's talents as an actress and elocutionist were apparently inherited from her father, while her inclination toward activism came from her stepfather, George A. Hackett, who was a recognized leader within the African American community in Baltimore. Both Mansfield Davis and George Hackett died while she was still young After her stepfather s death Davis and her mother moved to Washington D C where she had the advantage of attending the best schools and with her fondness for books made rapid progress in her studies At the age of fifteen she passed the necessary exams to become a teacher and began teaching in the Maryland school district During this time she was recruited by the Louisiana State Board of Education who tendered her ...

Article

Jean Smith

was born on 28 May 1953 in Clarendon, Jamaica, to Eckford Ellington, an educator, and Mary “Mae” Williams, a homemaker. She had three brothers from other unions. It was her mother’s interest in community associations and volunteerism that laid a foundation for Ellington’s future work in community service.

Fae attended St. Hugh’s High School in Kingston, Jamaica, where she discovered her interest in the performing arts. At St. Hugh’s she was a member of the drama society, the school choir, and orchestra (playing the recorder and the triangle). She also rose to the position of president of the debating society. Her talents earned her one of four places in a television commercial when she was in third form, earning her twenty-one shillings.

A strong interest in drama led her to the Jamaica School of Drama, where she was a foundation member, and a career in theater that began in 1971 ...

Article

Joanna Davenport

It was a historic moment. In the 1990 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Martina Navratilova won her ninth singles title, a record held by no other person, when she defeated Zina Garrison, the first black woman to play on Wimbledon’s center court since 1958, when Althea Gibson won her second of two Wimbledon crowns. Being first has been a common occurrence for the professional tennis player Zina Garrison.

Zina Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was born in Houston, Texas, to Mary and Ulysses Garrison Her father died before she was a year old so Garrison was raised by her mother who worked as an aide in a nursing home When Zina was ten she began playing tennis at the local public park courts where she received instruction from the resident coach Impressed with her talent he entered her in local tournaments where she did well By the ...

Article

Adam W. Green

tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children, to Ulysses Garrison, a postal worker, and Mary Elizabeth Garrison, a nursing home aide. Though initially diagnosed with a stomach tumor, Garrison's mother discovered she was pregnant at 42 years old, ten years after her previous child. Her parents chose to begin her name with “Z” to emphasize that she would be the last of their children.

Garrison grew up in the working-class African American neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens in Houston. When she was eleven months old, her father died of a stroke; three months later, her oldest brother Willie, a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves minor league system, was struck by a baseball, developed a tumor, and died two years later.

Garrison was ten years old when her older brother Rodney introduced her to a free tennis program at nearby MacGregor Park Two months ...

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

Lisa E. Rivo

singer, musician, educator, and advocate for African American music and musicians, was born Emma Azalia Smith in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Henry Smith, a blacksmith and native of Murfreesboro, and Corilla Beard, the daughter of Wilson Beard, an escaped slave who began a profitable laundry business after fleeing to Detroit. Following the birth of Azalia, as she was called, Corilla Smith opened a school in Murfreesboro for newly freed slave children. In 1870, just after the birth of Azalia's sister Marietta increasing hostility from local whites forced Corilla Smith to close the school The family moved to Detroit Michigan where Henry Smith opened a curio shop and Corilla Smith taught school In the early 1880s the couple separated and Corilla raised her daughters on wages earned by private tutoring In Detroit the Smiths were the first black family in their neighborhood and ...

Article

Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, the daughter of Corilla Beard and Henry Smith, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where the family moved after her mother's school was closed due to opposition from the white community. She started taking piano lessons at age three, later studying violin and voice, and played professionally after school.

In 1883 Hackley became the first African American to attend Washington Normal School, taking education classes and supporting herself by teaching music lessons. After her graduation, she taught second grade until 1894 when she eloped with journalist Edwin Henry. They moved to Denver, where Hackley organized a branch of the Colored Women's League and earned a music degree from the University of Denver (1900). In 1901 she separated from her husband and left Denver.

Hackley settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served as a church musical ...

Article

Marva O. Banks

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on 7 November 1936, to Nathan E. and Gladys Fruitt Heard (a blues singer), Nathan Cliff Heard was reared by his mother and maternal grandmother in Newark's inner city; he dropped out of school at fifteen, drifted into a life of crime, and spent the next seventeen years (1951–1968) in and out of New Jersey State Prison at Trenton where he served time for armed robbery.

While in prison Heard distinguished himself as a talented and award-winning athlete. It was not until fellow prisoner Harold Carrington introduced him to the masters—Langston Hughes, Samuel Beckett, James Baldwin, Jean Genet, Amiri Baraka, and others—that Heard began to write, at first about music and African history. In 1963, encouraged by his fellow inmates, he wrote the manuscript for To Reach a Dream Although the novel did not sell ...

Article

Justin David Gifford

author, professor of creative writing, actor, television host, and key figure in the black crime fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Gladys Pruitt Heard, a blues singer, and Nathan E. Heard, a laborer. Heard was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, and, at the age of fifteen, he dropped out of high school. Heard spent much of the 1950s and 1960s in reform school and then in New Jersey State Prison at Trenton for armed robbery and parole violation.

Like his fellow African American crime writers Chester Himes and Donald Goines, Heard began his literary career while behind bars. It was while he was serving eight years in prison for armed robbery in the early 1960s that Heard began reading the fiction of the Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs and other ...

Article

Jeff Berg

was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ruby Nottage, a child psychologist, and Wallace Nottage, a schoolteacher. She describes her parents as “black bohemian folks” since her childhood home was often visited by artists, writers, and musicians (Iqbal). Her mother and maternal grandmother, who was from the Barbados, both worked in support of civil rights and women’s rights, ultimately serving as sources of inspiration for Nottage and her work.

Nottage attended St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn and the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, where she also studied piano, graduating in 1982. Following her graduation from Brown University in 1986 and the Yale School of Drama in 1989, Nottage went to work for Amnesty International as its national press officer until resigning in 1993 to pursue a full time career in writing Her interest in writing began at age eight when she was motivated by ...

Article

David De Clue

entertainer, pianist, organist, lecturer, television and radio personality, was born John Roland Redd in St. Louis, Missouri, to Doshia O'Nina Johnson and Ernest Samuel Redd, a minister. His ancestry is both black and white, the white lineage through his maternal grandmother, Frances Maria Lankford-Johnson, stemming from Langfords who first came to Virginia from England in 1645.

Pandit's family is unusually rich in musical and creative talent. Pandit's great-uncle Philip Benjamin “PB” Lankford taught jazz to numerous musicians who went on to careers in orchestras led by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Singleton Palmer, Fate Marable, Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, and Cab Calloway. Another great-uncle, John Anderson Lankford, was known as “the Dean of African American Architects,” and others in the family—Arthur Edward Lankford, Robert Bumbary Sr., and Robert Bumbary Jr. also ...