1-20 of 36 results  for:

  • Performing Arts x
  • 1929–1940: The Great Depression and the New Deal x
Clear all

Article

Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Mark Steven Maulucci

singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother died when he was five years old, and he moved to the L. C. Haves plantation in Hollindale, in southern Mississippi, to be reared by his grandmother. He never knew his father. Jones was interested in music and sang in the church choir. He made his living working in the cotton fields and visited the local juke joints to sing and dance with the bands passing through. His accomplished dancing skills would serve him well as he developed his stage act. Jones began working with fellow Greenwood native Willie Warren's band and started playing guitar at Warren's encouragement. He was deeply moved by the slide guitar playing of Robert Nighthawk. Jones met his first wife, Virginia Dumas when he was eighteen years old but the marriage was short lived as he spent time in ...

Article

T. Dennis Brown

jazz drummer, was born Joseph Rudolph Jones in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Amelia J. Abbott, a piano teacher and church organist. His father, whose name is unknown, died shortly after he was born. During his early childhood Joseph was featured as a tap dancer on a local Philadelphia radio program, The Kiddie Show. Interestingly, several other important jazz drummers, including Jo Jones and Buddy Rich, were also tap dancers. Joseph's sisters studied violin and piano, and his first organized musical experience began in grade school, where he played drums. In 1941 he left high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a military policeman until his release in 1943. His wife's name was Eloise (maiden name and marriage date unknown), and they had one child.

After being discharged from the army Jones played in local Philadelphia bands before moving in ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz pianist, was born Kenneth Lyons Kersey in Harrow, Ontario, Canada. His parents' names are unknown, but Kersey's father was a cellist, and as a child Kersey studied with his mother, who taught piano. During further studies at the Detroit Institute of Musical Art, he took up the trumpet.

Kersey went to New York to work as a trumpeter and pianist in 1936, but physical problems made him give up the brass instrument. He replaced the pianist Billy Kyle in Lucky Millinder's big band in February 1938; later that year he was a member of Billy Hicks and His Sizzling Six. By the year's end he had left Hicks for a brief stay with the singer Billie Holiday for the opening of a second Café Society in Greenwich Village. While continuing to work there with the trumpeter Frankie Newton's band in 1939 he made ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

singer, was born Frank Joseph Lymon in Washington Heights, New York City, to Jeannette and Howard Lymon. His father was a truck driver and part-time vocalist with a group called the Harlemaires. At twelve Lymon joined his brothers Lewis and Howie in a group they had formed called the Harlemaires Jr. While working as a grocery clerk in Harlem in 1954 and practicing drums with his brother at Stitt Junior High School, Lymon joined another group that called itself either the Ermines or the Premiers, or sometimes the Coupe de Villes. Lymon sang backup and duets with the group, which included Jimmy Merchant, Sherman Garnes, Herman Santiago, and Joe Negroni.

Exactly how the group was “discovered” is the subject of some conjecture. According to the most romantic version, the Premiers practiced under the apartment window of Richard Barrett lead singer of a group ...