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Christine Rauchfuss Gray

playwright, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, the only child of Willis Wilder, a laborer, and Agnes Ann Harper. In 1898, when Richardson was nine years old, a white mob burned down the newspaper offices of a Wilmington newspaperman named Alexander Manly and precipitated a coup d'état in North Carolina's largest city, which resulted in the deaths of at least sixteen blacks. Many African Americans left Wilmington in the months that followed, among them Richardson and his family, who moved to Washington, D.C., because of the riots and the threats made on his father's life. Richardson would live in Washington until his death in 1977.

After completing elementary school, Richardson attended the M Street School (later Dunbar High School) from 1906 until 1910. At the school, Richardson had contact with people who would later be important in his development as a dramatist. Carter G ...

Article

Helen R. Houston

Willis Richardson's interest in the theater was encouraged when he viewed a production of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel and by his belief that African American life was richer in theme and character than was being portrayed on the stage in musicals, comedies, and “serious” plays by whites. These were limited to stereotypical roles and one-dimensional representations. Added to this, theatrical groups were without plays by African American writers. With Richardson, all of this changed.

He began to write one-act plays; his early plays presented heroes such as Crispus Attacks, Antonio Maceo, and Simon the Cyrenian for children's edification and were published in The Brownie's Book. In 1920, he published his first adult play, The Deacon's Awakening, in the Crisis. In 1923, he became the first African American playwright to have a nonmusical production on Broadway: The Chip Woman's Fortune; and in 1924 ...

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Cheryl Black

actress, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, but grew up, from the age of one, in Boston. No information about her parents is available. At the age of sixteen she married Lloyd Thomas, the owner of a custom tailoring business. It is not known when the couple left Boston, but by 1918 they were living in Harlem, where Edna Thomas performed in a benefit performance for Rosamond Johnson's music school at the Lafayette Theatre. The elegant Thomas, who looked much younger than her thirty-two years, was pursued by the Lafayette manager Lester Walton to become a member of the stock company. Despite her husband's objections, Thomas finally succumbed, making her professional debut in Frank Wilson'sConfidence at the Putnam Theatre in Brooklyn. Thomas quickly became a Lafayette favorite, appearing over the next several years in Turn to the Right, The Two Orphans, Nothing But the Truth ...