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Samuel W. Black

stationary engineer, labor union president, was born John Lincoln Black in Burgin, Kentucky, the second child of Robert Lincoln Black, a laborer, and Bertha Ann Ball Boggs Black. After his birth the Black family moved to Keene, Kentucky, to live with John's paternal grandmother. Within a few years Bertha Black became ill with tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia, so young John was sent to live with his father's relatives while his older sister and younger brother remained with the family. After the death of his mother in 1934 Black continued to live with his great‐aunt Martha while his two siblings, Anna Mae and Wallace, lived with their paternal grandmother. After the death of his great‐aunt, John moved to Cincinnati and joined his father, stepmother, and siblings. John Black attended the Cincinnati public schools—the all‐black Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School founded by Jennie Porter Bloom Junior High and ...

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Suzanne Cloud

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and educator, was born Cecil Vernon Bridgewater in Urbana, Illinois, into a family of musicians. His mother, Erma Pauline Scott Bridgewater, was the daughter of Ramon Mack Scott, who sang, played saxophone, piano, and drums, and led a band called Mack Scott and the Foot Warmers, in which Erma played piano for a time. Bridgewater's father, Cecil Bernard Bridgewater, played trumpet in the U.S. Navy band during World War II, and he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base with other African American musicians such as Clark Terry, Marshall Royal, Jerome Richardson, and others. Bridgewater's grandfather, Preston Bridgewater, played trumpet and cornet professionally with the circus.

When Cecil Bridgewater was a student at Marquette Grade School in Champaign Illinois the school s band director noticed his potential and encouraged his parents to find a private trumpet teacher for ...

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Christopher Paul Moore

writer, was born in La Grange, Texas, the son of James Browne, a farmer and carpenter, and Mary Elizabeth Dowell Browne. He attended public schools and entered the first class at Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas, in 1900. Established by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, this all-black college was where Browne developed an early interest in teaching, civil and human rights, and religion.

As a student leader, Browne served as Texas representative to the Young People's Religious and Educational Congress in Atlanta in 1902 and campaigned to repeal the poll tax amendment to the Texas state constitution in 1903. After graduation he was elected vice president of the Texas State Teachers Association and taught at schools in Austin and Fort Worth over the next decade.

In 1904 Browne married Mylie De Pre Adams of Corsicana Texas with whom he had ...

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Virginia Whatley Smith

W. E. B. Du Bois argued in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) that African Americans possessed a unique “double consciousness” because of their “twin rooted” heritage of being both African and American. For William Demby, this dichotomy of racial and national oppositions became an asset rather than a handicap. Born 25 December 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Demby spent his formative years in a middle-class, multiethnic neighborhood where its three African American families resided harmoniously with first-generation immigrants. Individualism prevailed concomitantly with nationalism so that people felt proudly ethnic, but still American, recalls Demby. He never felt divided because of nationalistic practices of discriminating against blacks.

Demby's parents, however, experienced the color problem that Du Bois predicted would be facing the twentieth century. William Demby and Gertrude Hendricks had been aspiring architectural and medical students to Philadelphia s colleges but were denied entrance They lived during the ...

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Charles Johnson

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 21, 1840, Christian Fleetwood was the son of Charles and Anna Maria Fleetwood, who were both free blacks. Fleetwood received his early education in the home of wealthy sugar merchant John C. Brunes and his wife, the latter treating him like her son. He continued his education in the office of the secretary of the Maryland Colonization Society, went briefly to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and graduated in 1860 from Ashmun Institute (later Lincoln University) in Pennsylvania. He and others briefly published, in Baltimore, the Lyceum Observer, which was said to be the first black newspaper in the upper South. After the Civil War (1861–1865) disrupted trade with Liberia, he enlisted in the Union Army.

Fleetwood enlisted as a sergeant in Company G, Fourth Regiment, United States Colored Volunteer Infantry, on August 11, 1863 He ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II veteran, Bronze Star recipient, musician, and educator was born in Anderson, South Carolina, the eldest child of Reverend Charles Francis and his wife Hermena. In 1934 the Francis family moved to Keysville, Georgia, where his father accepted an assignment to lead Boggs Academy, a Presbyterian college preparatory school for African Americans founded in 1906. Charles Francis Jr. graduated from Boggs Academy in 1936 and subsequently attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, earning a degree in history in 1941.

Following his graduation, Francis briefly worked as a traveling salesman and also may have worked as a railroad porter, but with America's entry into World War II in 1942, Francis enlisted as a soldier in the US Army. His early military career is unknown, but by early 1943 Francis was assigned to the divisional staff of the all ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer, college and music conservatory professor, composer, activist, and genealogist, the youngest of seven children, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, and reared in Louisville, Kentucky, where his family moved in search of suitable employment and better schools. Andrew's mother, Lue Vergia Esters Frierson, was a homemaker. His father, Robert Clinton Frierson, was a laborer.

At age three Frierson first dramatically showcased his musical talent. One afternoon he accompanied his mother to the home of an old family friend where there was a piano. Frierson saw the instrument, went to it, and instinctively began to play recognizable songs. Frierson's mother and her friends were astounded because he had never even seen a piano. By the age of five Frierson was playing all over the town.

After four years of piano study with William King and graduation from high school Frierson went to ...

Article

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, educator, and screenwriter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the three children of Lillian (Anderson) and Charles H. Fuller Sr., a printer who instilled in his son the love for words. Fuller was raised in northern Philadelphia in an integrated neighborhood. When he was thirteen he saw his first theatre performance at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The experienced made a lasting impression on him. Later, he became a voracious reader. His readings made him aware of the cultural and racial biases he made his life's mission to correct.

Success did not come easy to him, though. After graduating high school in 1956 Fuller attended Villanova University in hopes of becoming a writer There he was confronted with racism for the first time as a student being told by his professors that writing was not a good profession ...

Article

Suzanne Cloud

pianist, arranger, and composer, was born Clifton Edward Green Jr. in Abington, Pennsylvania, the son of Clifton Edward Green Sr., a paper hanger and carpenter, and Carrie Townes, who worked as a domestic. Self taught, Eddie Green began playing piano at five years of age and became active in music in public school. His formal secondary education ended at Abington High School when he was in the tenth grade. At age sixteen he came under the tutelage of the hard bop pianist Richie Powell and his brother, the bebop legend Bud Powell. During this time, Green learned the essentials of jazz by listening to and absorbing the lessons of his mentors. Green also formed a band and regularly played a local African American venue in Willow Grove called the Three C s Like many African American communities that supported young musicians and vocalists the ...

Article

John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

actor and performer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of seven children of George Gunn, a blue-collar laborer, and Mary Briggs Gunn. He attended local schools and had a relatively uneventful upbringing until, when he was twelve, his mother died of complications related to asthma, and the family imploded. Gunn ran away and drifted, riding the rails and generally living an unmoored life, until he at last returned to St. Louis and fell in with a foster family headed by Jewel Richie, an English teacher and diction coach. Richie recognized Gunn's nascent dramatic talents and encouraged him to pursue training and further education.

Gunn was an able student and upon his graduation from high school he found himself with a veritable raft of scholarship offers He attended historically black Tennessee State University TSU in Nashville paused for a three year stint in the army ...

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David Borsvold

composer and university professor, was born Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III in Rochester, New York, the only child of Phyllis Hailstork, a civil servant in the State of New York Estate Tax Department, and Adolphus Hailstork II, whose occupation is unknown. He grew up primarily in Albany, New York, his musical education beginning with childhood piano lessons. Hailstork also studied the organ, the violin, and voice. As a student at Albany High School, he conducted a boys' choir and began to compose music. He received his high school diploma in the spring of 1959.

Hailstork continued his musical education at Howard University. Entering in the fall of 1959, he studied composition under Mark Fax and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1963. In the summer of that year he received a Lucy Moten Travel Fellowship and went to France ...

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John Harris-Behling

jazz saxophonist, pianist, and composer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Walter Harris and Alice Harris. When his parents moved to the city in 1913, his father, originally from Cuba, worked in the stockyards, while his mother, a native of New Orleans, worked as a laundress. Harris lost his father when he was young and was raised by his mother. He began singing with South Side church choirs when he was five and also began taking piano lessons from his cousin, Bernice Benson.

Like many African American musicians in Chicago, Harris attended DuSable High School. He studied with the band director Walter Dyette, whose students included jazz musicians like Johnny Griffin and Gene Ammons as well as Harris's classmates the bassist Richard Davis and the saxophonist John Gilmore Dyette first taught Harris the marimba and the vibraphone and later the clarinet But ...

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Leonard Mustazza

singer, was born John Maurice Hartman in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of the six children of John Hartman, a civil service employee for the city of Chicago, and Louisa Barner. At DuSable High School in Chicago, Hartman took singing lessons and sang with the school band and the glee club. His vocal skills were already evident at this time, and at sixteen he won a college scholarship to the Chicago Musical College. U.S. entry into World War II at the end of 1942 forced him to interrupt his studies. Hartman joined the military in 1943 and had his first semiprofessional experiences singing with the U.S. Army's Special Services Division. By the time of his discharge in 1945, Hartman was determined to become a professional singer.

Hartman's first break came in 1947, when he joined Earl “Fatha” Hines and His Orchestra. When Hines's group disbanded in 1948 ...

Article

Kofi Natambu

pianist and composer, was born Hampton B. Hawes Jr. in Los Angeles, California, the son of Hampton B. Hawes Sr., a Presbyterian minister. The name of his mother, who played piano in her husband's church, is unknown. When Hampton was eight, he learned how to play piano by watching his sister, who was training to become a concert pianist, and by listening to records by his favorite jazz musicians. His intense study of such prominent jazz pianists as Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines during the 1930s and early 1940s had a profound influence on him during his youth. He began playing regularly while attending Polytechnic High School. He later recalled going straight from his high school graduation ceremony to a jazz gig with the Cecil James McNeely Big Jay McNeely band Throughout the 1940s Hawes played at a wide range of clubs on black Los Angeles ...

Article

singer, composer, and actor, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. One of seven children, Hawkins was placed in an orphanage by his mother while still an infant, and information about his parents is scant, though Hawkins believed his father to be of Middle Eastern descent. Accounts vary as to how he spent his childhood. By some accounts he was adopted by a member of the Blackfoot tribe at eighteen months, by others that he spent his childhood in the foster care system. Hawkins was a musical prodigy, playing the piano by age three, reading music by age six, and playing the saxophone by age fourteen. He did not graduate from high school; however, he did attend the Ohio Conservatory of Music for one year in 1943 where he studied opera His goal of becoming an opera singer endured his entire life He was also a boxer winning ...

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Judith Weisenfeld

actor, singer, and minister, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Charles Haynes, a bricklayer, and Mary (“Mollie”) Leech, an office cleaner. Haynes was educated in the Atlanta public schools and graduated from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church–affiliated Morris Brown College.

Haynes worked as a porter in Atlanta and as an itinerant preacher before securing a job in the records division at the Standard Life Insurance Company in Atlanta around 1915. Founded by Heman Edward Perry in 1913, Standard was one of the nation's few black life insurance companies, and Haynes gained valuable business experience working with one of the most active black entrepreneurs in America. While at Standard, he also met Harry Herbert Pace, the company's secretary-treasurer, with whom he would later work in New York. Haynes registered for the draft in 1917 and according to one source ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

child actor, was born Allen Clayton Hoskins in Boston to Florence (maiden name unknown) and Allen C. Hoskins Sr. He had one sister, Jane Florence. His parents’ occupations are not known.

Silent film director Hal Roach signed Hoskins to star in his Our Gang short comedy films when Hoskins was between twelve and eighteen months old. Roach had asked the father of Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, a black child actor in the series, to find a dark-skinned child actor with long hair to play Sammy's younger sister. Morrison returned with Hoskins; Roach liked the toddler immediately and felt that he could play either a boy or a girl because of his long braids. Initially, the studios remained vague about Farina's gender in the earliest Our Gang shorts he sometimes wore dresses and at other times pants After several films his character Farina was established as Sunshine Sammy and ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz singer, lyricist, and tap dancer, was born Edgar Jefferson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Information about his parents is unknown. It is known that he started dancing around age eight. He also played tuba in a school band and taught himself guitar and drums, experience that later gave his singing a firm musical foundation. In Pittsburgh he was accompanied by the pianist Art Blakey, before Blakey took up drums, and he danced and sang with the Zephyrs at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. In 1937 Jefferson danced in the Knockouts, a trio that included Dave Tate and Irv Taylor (Little Irv), and he worked in a dance team called Billy and Eddie in 1939. Around 1940 he performed with Coleman Hawkins's big band at Dave's in Chicago. While in the army, around 1942 he was in charge of a drum and bugle ...

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Richard Smith

was born on 28 September 1893 in Mandeville, Jamaica, to the Reverend Matthew and Lillian Johns (née Hendricks). Matthew Johns was an Anglican minister and the head of Manchester High School (1910–1927), which Vere Johns attended before joining the Jamaican civil service as a Post Office clerk in 1912. Johns had been named in honor of the Vere Trust, which funded the school.

When World War I broke out in August 1914 Jamaicans of all backgrounds came forward to support the imperial cause Marcus Garvey s Universal Negro Improvement Association formed on the eve of the war issued a proclamation of loyalty praying for a speedy British victory Johns was among hundreds of Jamaicans who sailed to England to volunteer He was accompanied by a Post Office colleague Alan Edgar Belgrave Shirley and both received a rousing send off as worthy representatives of the Land of ...