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Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little is known of Foster's life before he began boxing. Foster himself admitted that he got into numerous fights as a child and a high school student and was once taken to court for fracturing the skull of another young man with one punch. With few options open to him and a close scrape with the law motivating him, Foster signed up for the U.S. Air Force in 1957, shortly after graduating from high school.

Foster's tremendous punching power soon became evident to his air force commanders during informal inter- and intra-unit boxing matches, and they put him on the service's boxing team. For four years Foster traveled with the team all over the United States and the world. He engaged in well over one hundred fights, losing only three. In 1960 he won the light heavyweight title at the ...

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Michael Adams

actor, director, and educator, was born Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr. in San Antonio, Texas, to Albert Cornelius Freeman and Lottie Brisette Coleman Freeman. His parents divorced when Freeman was nine, leaving him to shuttle between his mother in San Antonio and his father, a jazz pianist, in Columbus, Ohio. Freeman later said that he regretted never getting to know his father, who died in 1968.

Freeman entered Los Angeles City College in 1951, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and returned to college in 1954, studying theater, broadcasting, and speech. He made his stage debut in a 1954 Ebony Showcase Theatre production of Sidney Kingsley'sDetective Story. Freeman also studied acting in Los Angeles with Harold Clifton, Jeff Corey, and the legendary black actor Frank Silvera. In an interview with Ebony he joked ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

writer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Joseph Leonard and Myrtle Baugh Goines, business owners. He attended parochial schools, and his parents expected him to work in the family dry cleaning and laundry business. Donnie, as he was known, first had difficulties in his studies at school in the third grade and was held back that year. He lost interest in classes, dropped out after finishing the ninth grade, and, beginning in 1952, served three years in the U.S. Air Force, having used a fake ID to enlist because he was too young to serve. It was during his overseas assignments in Japan and Korea that he became addicted to heroin.

Goines s street legend finds him returning to the United States becoming a street hustler running numbers and bootleg liquor and pimping prostitutes All of this he purportedly documented in his later autobiographical works In ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

painter, printmaker, and illustrator, was born in Gardens Corner, South Carolina, the second of seven children of Ruth J. Green (a home manager) and Melvin Green (occupation unknown). Green is possibly the first person of Gullah descent to train at a professional art school. The Gullah are the descendants of West African slaves who lived on and near the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.

Great things were expected of Green from the time of his birth. He was born with an inner fetal membrane covering his head and for this reason was considered a “child of the Veil” (Green). In Gullah culture the Veil marks children “touched by uncommonness and magic that will bring inordinate grace to the community.” Traveling to New York seeking employment, Green's mother left Green in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eloise Stewart Johnson Green was interested in art ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

jazz musician and Tuskegee airman, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Arelethia and Percy Heath Sr. Heath was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as in his parents' native North Carolina, and graduated from Williston High School in Wilmington. The Heaths were a musical family; his mother, a hairdresser, sang in a church choir, and his father, an automobile mechanic, was an amateur clarinetist. Heath studied violin as a child and sang in the church choir. Both of his younger brothers, Jimmy Heath and Albert “Tootie Heath,” were also well-known accomplished jazz musicians. During World War II, Heath volunteered for the army, but was rejected (which Heath attributed to racism). He was eventually drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, an elite group of black fliers, from 1943 to 1945 He did not fly combat missions ...

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Lois Bellamy

baritone, choral conductor, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York City, the eighth of eleven children of Samuel Alexander Henderson of St. Kitts in the Caribbean and Ruth Rebecca Waites of Florence, South Carolina. Both of Ruth Henderson's grandmothers were slaves. Samuel Henderson worked for the New York City subway system, and Ruth was a piano teacher and a seamstress. Henderson said that his mother insisted that the children learn to play the piano or find somewhere else to live. His early education was in the New York City public schools.

In 1940 Henderson graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City Afterward he went to school at night to learn typing and stenography For one semester he attended Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery Alabama against his mother s wishes The discrimination in Alabama was so intense that Henderson could not withstand it ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

painter, graphic artist, and archivist, was born William Richard Hutson in San Marcos, Texas, to Mattie Lee (Edwards) Hudson, a homemaker and employee at Texas State University, and Floyd Waymon Hudson, a laborer, bandleader, and pianist. He grew up with three siblings, Floyd Waymon Jr., Ellen Ruth, and Clarence Albert. When his father died in 1942 his family moved in with his grandmother. In 1949 he entered San Marcos Colored High School. With no art classes at school or in the segregated community, he took a drawing correspondence course in 1951 from Art Instruction, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, working odd jobs to cover costs. His mother died in 1952 at thirty-nine following a long illness, and Hutson moved to San Antonio with his siblings to live with aunts Jewel Littlejohn and Milber Jones in the East Terrace Housing Project, his uncle Wilbur ...

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Willie Hobbs

visual artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Alyce and Edward Love, about whom little is known. After attending Manual Arts High School, Love, a baseball standout, was slated to be recruited by the San Francisco Giants. The U.S. Air Force proved more attractive to Love than baseball. While serving a five-year stint in the military that ultimately took him to Japan, Love became deeply influenced by Japanese culture. He also developed an affinity for the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the discourse of the Black Arts Movement, as well as a fascination with architectural design.

After an honorable discharge, Love earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1966 and an MFA in Design in 1967 from California State University Los Angeles A postgraduate fellowship to study humanities and fine arts at Uppsala University in Sweden soon followed While there ...

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Minna Zeesy Philips

was born in Eastman, Georgia to Connie Nappier, Sr. and Lutha Ophelia (Jones) Nappier. Public school was permitted only for white children, so Nappier was first educated by a Ms. Rose, a black woman in Eastman who taught in her own home. His family moved to Hartford, Connecticut before he was five years old, where he attended preschool on Wooster Street. At age six Nappier was walking with his father in Hartford’s North End when he heard a plane flying overhead. At that moment he decided he wanted to be a pilot. Nappier enjoyed golf and music, and studied guitar and alto saxophone at the Drago School of Music in his middle school years. He joined the Clyde Board Band, and traveled up and down the East coast playing music. By age fourteen he was being paid as a musician.

In 1939 Nappier started ninth grade at Hartford s ...

Article

Dália Leonardo

golf-course designer and owner, was born William James Powell to Berry and Massaleaner Powell in Greenville, Alabama. He was one of six children. When Powell was still a child, his family relocated to Minerva, Ohio, where his father found employment in a pottery factory. When he was only nine years old, Powell began playing golf and serving as a caddy at the Edgewater Golf Course. He attended Minerva High School, where he was captain of both the golf and football teams. After graduating from Wilberforce University, where he and his brother Berry founded the school's golf team, he began working as a janitor for the Timken Company in Canton, Ohio, and was subsequently promoted to security guard. On 22 November 1940, he married Marcella Olivier, who later passed away in 1996. The couple had five children: two sons, William and Lawrence and three daughters Mary Alice Rose Marie ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

athlete, was born Wilmeth Webb in Washington, DC, the son of Elias, a pharmacist, and Pauline Miner. In 1925 Elias died of stroke, and Pauline subsequently remarried. Her new husband was Samuel Sidat-Singh, a medical doctor of West Indian descent. He adopted Wilmeth and moved the family to Harlem, New York, where Wilmeth was raised and attended school. Even as a young man, Wilmeth showed great promise as an athlete. By the time he was attending high school at New York's DeWitt Clinton, he was a basketball star. In 1934 he led his team to a New York Public High School Athletic League championship. He was offered a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, to which he matriculated in 1935. He was also recruited by the school's football coach, and soon he was playing on the gridiron as well as the hardwood.

College sports at the ...

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James I. Deutsch

film actor and athlete, was born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in Los Angeles, the son of Baylous Strode, a brick mason whose mother was a Blackfoot Indian, and Rosa Norris Strode, whose ancestors included Cherokees. Because of his imposing size—6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds at his peak—and his physical strength and coordination, Strode first achieved renown as an athlete. At Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, he earned honors in both football and track and field (shot put, high jump, high and low hurdles), which resulted in an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. However Strode's scholastic credentials were insufficient, so he first had to prove himself academically. Over the next two years he took special classes, while also training for the Decathlon event at the 1936 Olympic Games though he was not selected for the team He finally ...

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Shanteé Woodards

ventriloquist, radio personality, and emcee, was the oldest child born to Bertha and Arthur Takeall in Annapolis, Maryland. His father worked at the Navy Experimental Station, and his mother was a homemaker and community activist. Takeall was a sickly child who stuttered and developed rheumatic fever in the seventh grade. To regain strength from his illness, he ran track at Wiley H. Bates High School, the area's all-black school. He also learned ventriloquism to cope with his stutter. Takeall continued to participate in a variety of sports throughout his life and learned karate from U.S. Marine Corps gunning sergeant Howard George. By the time he was seventeen, Takeall had a black belt and gave lessons to others at the nearby white school, Annapolis High School, in 1964 He also held a variety of jobs including one as a cashier at Dairy Queen which was an ...

Article

Kenneth H. Williams

basketball entertainer, was born Reece Tatum in Union County, Arkansas, the son of a farmer who served as a traveling Methodist preacher on the weekends. Tatum admitted that the 1921 birth date was “an estimate,” and claimed not to have a birth certificate. Some guessed that he was as much as ten years older.

Although gangly, Tatum was an athletic youth while growing up around the Arkansas towns of Calion and El Dorado. He got his nickname as a teenager when he leaped to catch a pass during a touch football game, prompting an onlooker to yell “look at that ol' Goose fly.” He also played a little basketball, but his best sport was baseball, and after high school he took a job with a sawmill in the Ozarks that fielded a semiprofessional team.

The origins of Tatum s professional baseball career are unclear but one story is that ...

Article

Lisa C. Lakes

author, businessman, and inspirational speaker, was born Clifton LeMoure Taulbert in Glen Allan, Mississippi, the eldest child of Mary Esther Taulbert, a schoolteacher who later became a Head Start Center director, and Willie Jones, a Baptist preacher. Because his mother was unmarried at the time of his birth, Taulbert's great-grandparents, Joe and Pearl Young, raised him so his mother could continue her education. When his great-grandmother became too ill to care for him, Taulbert moved to live with his great-aunt, Mrs. Elna Peters Boose, or “Ma Ponk.”

Taulbert s childhood memories included patronizing the black minstrel show working with his uncle in an icehouse and being the first black hired to work in the white owned Hilton Food Store Before graduating from high school Taulbert worked the cash register in addition to his duties of stocking cleaning and delivering groceries A bright and ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist partnered by Lester, was born Willie Tyler in River Falls, Alabama, one of ten children (three sisters and six brothers) of James Otis Tyler and Georgia Tyler. His father worked at a Ford Motor Company plant just outside of Detroit. His mother stayed home to raise the children. Seeking better economic opportunities, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, while Tyler was young. He grew up in on Adelaide Street around the city's Hastings Street neighborhood.

Tyler became interested in ventriloquism at the age of ten when he saw an advertisement for the Maher Home Study Ventriloquism Course on the back of a magazine With the help of a teacher he signed up for ventriloquism lessons Between delivering newspapers Tyler began performing at clubs variety shows and talent contests in Detroit Michigan At the age of thirteen a teacher helped Tyler purchase his first ventriloquist dummy out of a ...

Article

Roxanne Y. Schwab

painter and instructor, was born in Oakland, California, the son of Anson Weeks, a pioneering West Coast bandleader, and Ruth Daly Weeks, a classical pianist. When his father's band was booked for a seven-year engagement at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, the family enrolled Weeks at the Pacific Heights Grammar School in San Francisco and, a few years later, into children's art classes at the California School of Fine Arts. His junior high and high school years introduced him to fellow students and artists William Wolff and Richard Diebenkorn, who eventually would achieve celebrity as a woodcut printer and an abstract painter, respectively.

Following graduation in 1940, Weeks enrolled in evening painting classes at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), while supporting himself by working days at Wells Fargo Bank. He studied under traditionalist painter William Gaw but he was drawn ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Archie Franklin Williams in Oakland, California, the oldest of three children of Wadsworth R. Williams and Lillian Wall Williams. His father worked at the United States mint and died in 1925; his mother worked as a housekeeper and cook. Educated in the Oakland public school system, Williams attended Cole and Peralto elementary schools, Claremont and Edison junior high schools, and University Senior High School. After graduating high school in 1933, Williams entered San Mateo Junior College, completed the two-year degree in one year, and transferred to the University of California Berkeley in 1934.

Beginning in high school Williams participated in track and field, primarily as a quarter-miler, competing in the 440-yard dash and the 4 × 440-yard relay. He began the 1936 track season at UCB with a personal best time of 49 7 seconds in the 440 At the Pacific Coast Conference Championship ...

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Chris Elzey

track coach, teacher, and administrator, was born Stanley Van Dorne Wright in Englewood, New Jersey, the son of Spencer Wright, a sanitation worker and truck driver, and Mildred (Prime) Wright, a seamstress and cook. Growing up in a northern city proved no shield from racism. In junior high and high school, Wright had little option but to follow a curriculum for black students that de-emphasized academics. His parents, however, taught him to value education.

Unfortunately, America's involvement in World War II interrupted his schooling. Soon after Pearl Harbor, Wright joined the Army Air Corps. However, he failed to complete pilot training, and his responsibilities at an airbase in Kansas consisted primarily of office tasks. While in the Air Corps, in late 1944, he married Hazel Mathes and they would have four children. In 1945 Wright was reassigned to an airbase in Massachusetts He ...