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Leticia Franqui-Rosario

was born Wilfred Robert Adams, in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), the son of Robert Adams, a boat builder. He was educated in Georgetown at St. Stephen’s Scots School, and St. Joseph’s Intermediate. He studied engineering drafting, but then trained as a teacher at the leading British West Indian teachers’ training college, Mico College in Jamaica. After his marriage broke down, he left for England, arriving there in September 1930. Failing to study law because of a lack of the necessary qualifications, he did a number of menial jobs and even became a professional wrestler with the name “The Black Eagle” (there is a 1934 painting by William Roberts of one of his bouts).

Acting then took over. His stage debut, with Paul Robeson in Stevedore, received favorable reviews. A year later he played Jean-Jacques Dessalines to Robeson’s Toussaint Louverture in C. L. R. James’s Toussaint Louverture ...

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Elisa Larkin Nascimento

whose full name was Aguinaldo de Oliveira Camargo, was probably born around 1916 in the midsize city of Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil, where he was raised from early infancy. He had access to an education of exceptional quality for a black child, at Salesian institutions following the philosophy of the Italian Catholic educator Don Bosco. He obtained his degree in agronomy early in life and became respected in the field, traveling to various states on research missions. As a youth, he was friends with Geraldo Campos de Oliveira, who had moved with his family to Campinas from Franca, where they were close to the family of the black activist Abdias do Nascimento. Visiting his friend Geraldo Campos de Oliveira, Nascimento met Aguinaldo Camargo in Campinas, where racial segregation was common in clubs, movie houses, and public places. The three young men organized the Afro-Campineiro Congress in 1938 bringing ...

Article

John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

radio personality and conservative pundit, was born Laurence Allen Elder, the middle of three sons of Randolph Elder, who owned a local café, and Viola Elder. The family called the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles home, and it was in Los Angeles that the young Elder attended school. Both his father and mother placed a heavy emphasis on education and hard work. Elder's father had scrimped and saved and faced years of prejudice before being able to open his own business. Elder's mother urged her son to pursue a life of education. Elder took their lessons to heart, graduating from Crenshaw High in 1970 near the top of his class and matriculating to Brown University. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science in 1974. He continued his education at the University of Michigan Law School, from which he earned the J.D. in 1977 ...

Article

Reid Badger

(b Mobile, AL, Feb 22, 1880; d Boston, May 9, 1919). American bandleader and composer. A champion of black American music and musicians, he played a significant role in the transformation of orchestral ragtime into jazz. As a teenager in Washington, DC, Europe studied the violin, the piano and composition. After moving to New York in 1903, he continued his studies informally with organist Meville Charlton and singer/composer Henry T. Burleigh. By 1909 he had achieved considerable success as a composer of popular songs and as music director for several important theatrical productions, including Red Moon (1908–9) and Mr Lode of Koal (1909). The following year he organized and was elected president of the Clef Club, the first effective union for black musicians in the city’s history. He also conducted the club’s symphony orchestra. On 2 May 1912 ...

Article

Reid Badger

music administrator, conductor, and composer, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Henry J. Europe, an Internal Revenue Service employee and Baptist minister, and Lorraine Saxon. Following the loss of his position with the Port of Mobile at the end of the Reconstruction, Europe's father moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 1890 to accept a position with the U.S. Postal Service. Both of Europe's parents were musical, as were some of his siblings. Europe attended the elite M Street High School for blacks and studied violin, piano, and composition with Enrico Hurlei of the U.S. Marine Corps band and with Joseph Douglass, the grandson of Frederick Douglass.

Following the death of his father in 1900 Europe moved to New York City There he became associated with many of the leading figures in black musical theater which was then emerging from the ...

Article

Bill Egan

musician. James Reese “Jim” Europe was born in Mobile, Alabama, the fifth of six children. His parents were Henry J. Europe, a former slave and a Baptist pastor employed in various public positions, and Lorraine Saxon Europe, a teacher. Europe learned music from his mother, playing violin and later mandolin.

In 1889 the family moved to Washington, D.C. John Philip Sousa was a close neighbor, and Europe received tuition on piano and violin from Enrico Hurlei, the assistant director of the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Around 1903 Europe moved to New York and studied with the noted African American composer and spirituals expert Harry T. Burleigh. Though aware of his traditional religious heritage, Europe embraced secular black music—ragtime and the show music of entertainers like Bert Williams and George Walker, Ernest Hogan, and Bob Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson He joined Hogan ...

Article

Norman Weinstein

Prince Far I was born Michael Williams in Spanish Town and grew up in the Waterhouse area of Kingston, Jamaica. His musical career began in 1970 when he convinced the Reggae producer Coxsone Dodd (who employed him as a security guard at Studio One, Jamaica's most famous recording studio) to let him record when a scheduled musician failed to appear for a session. Dodd was so taken by Prince Far I's talent as a DJ (someone chanting or talking-singing spontaneously over prerecorded rhythm tracks) that he released several Prince Far I recordings under the name he created for the performer, King Cry-Cry As he gained confidence and sought other producers for his recordings Williams changed his name to Prince Far I Distinguishing features of his recordings under the name King Cry Cry or Prince Far I include a thunderously deep bass delivery of intensively personal lyrics laced ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

drummer, producer, and member of Booker T. and the MGs, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Little is known of his mother, but his father Al Jackson Sr., led one of Memphis's most popular big bands, and it was with his father that Al Jr. first played professionally, beginning as a drummer at age ten. This apprenticeship proved fulfilling for the young musician: he got to play the jazz of his musical idols, and his tenure with his father won him gigs with the prominent dance groups led by Ben Branch and Willie Mitchell, respectively. These bands, which bridged the gap between postwar jazz and 1950s R&B, performed regularly in black clubs around the region, like the Flamingo Room and Plantation Inn. Aside from his steady gig, playing with the highly talented Mitchell soon brought Jackson into contact with Booker T. Jones a prodigious keyboardist ...

Article

Regina N. Barnett

hip-hop and DJ pioneer, was born Jason William Mizell, the youngest of Connie and Jessie Mizell's three children. The family lived in Brooklyn, New York, where his mother Connie was a teacher and his father Jessie was a social worker. Moving to the Hollis neighborhood of Queens from Brooklyn in 1975, Mizell quickly became a respected and powerful force in that small neighborhood. While Mizell was a student at Andrew Jackson High School, teachers and students alike would ask him to stop altercations between students because of his dominating presence and amiable nature. Mizell dropped out of high school but eventually obtained his equivalency diploma. Drumming, playing the guitar, and socializing with friends took up most of Mizell's free time. Mizell credited a desire to be “part of the hottest thing” as one of the main reasons for becoming a DJ in an interview with DJ Times ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Nehemiah James in Yazoo County, outside Bentonia, Mississippi, the son of Eddie James and Phyllis Jones. His father, reputed to be a musician and a bootlegger, moved north to Sidon, near Greenwood, to evade the law, leaving Skip with his mother on the Woodbine plantation, where she worked as a cook. After an attempt to reunite the family in Sidon failed, Skip and his mother returned to Bentonia, where he attended St. Paul School and Yazoo High School. At the age of eight or nine, inspired by local musicians—particularly the guitarist Henry Stuckey—Skip persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar. At the age of twelve he took one piano lesson from a cousin. Unable to pay for more lessons, he continued learning on an organ owned by an aunt.

After dropping out of high school at about age fifteen James went to ...

Article

Robert Farrell

hip-hop artist and performer. Born Christopher George Latore Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G. released only two full-length albums during his lifetime. His work under the names “Biggie Smalls” and “Notorious B.I.G.,” guided by the producer Sean Combs, had a lasting stylistic influence on late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century rap music. With the aid of Combs's shrewd executive productions and canny sense for hit making, Wallace's recordings blended street-level gangsta raps with a pop sensibility, a formula similar to that of the West Coast rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg.

The son of a Jamaican immigrant, Volleta Wallace, and a Jamaican father, George Letore Wallace was born and raised in Brooklyn New York His parents soon separated leaving Wallace to be raised by his mother in the Clinton Hill Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn Wallace was doted on by his mother who after attaining her GED went on to ...

Article

Notorious B.I.G. was born Christopher Wallace in New York City. His debut album, Ready to Die, appeared on Sean “P. Diddy” Combs's Bad Boy Entertainment music label in 1995. The record was a critical and commercial success, exhibiting the rapper's lyrical talents through a series of taut, first-person narratives chronicling life as a hustler on the streets of New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The grim humor of B.I.G.'s lyrics emphasized the claustrophobia of his ghetto universe. On “Warning,” he raps, “There's gonna be a lot of slow singing / and flower bringing / If my burglar alarm starts ringing.” Songs like “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Things Done Changed” helped create one of “gangsta rap's” most sophisticated personas, a strange brew of subdued self-loathing and energetic violence. In B.I.G.'s world, the sexual boasting typical of Rap and Hip-Hop became an occasion for self parody as on Me Interlude ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

journalist and prisoner, was born in Lawtell, Louisiana, to Gladys a and Rideau's family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he was six years old. His parents divorced before he became a teenager. He attended the Second Ward Elementary School, followed by the W.-O. Boston Colored High School until he dropped out.

Rideau worked a series of menial jobs from age thirteen to nineteen, when he was convicted of robbery and murder. On 16 February 1961, he robbed the Gulf National Bank. During thefourteen-thousand-dollar heist, he kidnapped three of the bank's white employees and killed one of them, Julia Ferguson, a forty-nine-year-old woman. An all-white, all-male jury convicted him and sentenced him to death that same year. He would be tried again by all-white, all-male juries in 1964 and in 1970 and he would remain in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola known nationally for being ...

Article

attorney, was born in Navasota, Texas, the daughter of Frank and Sarah E. Reinhardt Durden. Her birth year is chronicled in some sources as 1880 and in others as 1883 (and erroneously listed as 1909 in yet others). She completed high school in Parsons, Kansas, and received a degree from Quincy (Illinois) Business College (reportedly in 1906, although Who's Who in Colored America listed 1919 as her graduating year). She moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1907, where she married James B. Rush on 23 December of that year. She subsequently obtained a BA at Des Moines College in 1914 and prepared for the Iowa bar exam by reading law with her husband, a successful criminal trial attorney; she also took some courses at Drake University Law School in Des Moines. Her husband passed away prior to the completion of her studies.

When she was admitted ...

Article

Akil Houston

rapper, actor, poet, and activist. Born Lesane Parish Crooks in East Harlem, New York, Tupac Amaru Shakur was the son of Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams), a Black Panther acquitted of a hundred counts of conspiracy against the government a month before Tupac's birth, and William Garland. His mother initially gave him his name Crooks to obscure his connection to her, but she changed it to Tupac Amaru Shakur a few months later, after her marriage to Mutulu Shakur. Tupac's godparents were the well-known Black Panthers Assata Shakur and Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt. With his family so active in the Black Panther Party, Tupac was surrounded by a political atmosphere in which he developed a sense of awareness and self-expression. In 1984 his family moved to Baltimore where Shakur enrolled at the Baltimore School for the Arts there he studied drama ballet and dance and ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Tupac Shakur was one of the most influential and controversial voices to emerge from Hip-Hop's much maligned club of so-called gangster rappers. Criticized for their violent lyrics and misogynistic claims, gangster rappers became symbols of the best and worst of American musical creativity. Over a six-year period in the early 1990s Shakur became the voice for a generation of young, often frustrated, African Americans.

Through his music and his life Shakur embodied many of the harsh realities of ghetto life His raps addressed the difficulties of being young black and poor in the United States and as a promising actor he captured those realities on the screen True to the thuggish lifestyle that he rapped about Shakur was arrested and served time in jail on more than one occasion and often foreshadowed his own death in his songs and videos Shakur s predictions of his violent death came true ...

Article

Marcyliena Morgan

rapper, was born Lesane Parish Crooks in New York City to Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams), a Black Panther, and Billy Garland, who had very little contact with his son. Tupac was named after the last Inca chief, Tupac Amaru—Tupac meaning “he who shines” and Amaru meaning “large serpent,” often translated as “shining serpent”; Shakur is Arabic for “thankful to God.” Raised by their mother, with some help from their stepfather, Jeral Wayne Williams (also known as Mutulu Shakur), Tupac and his sister, Sekyiwa, had to learn to cope with their mother's drug addiction, abandonment by their father, and scrutiny from law enforcement. The family was often destitute and moved numerous times throughout Tupac's childhood.

Although Shakur s family life was often in disarray his mother encouraged him to develop his interests in the arts and he continued his creative arts education even ...

Article

O.J. Simpson was born in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the third of four children. His father left the family when Simpson was a child. At a young age Simpson wore leg braces to correct weakness in his legs, but as a teenager at Galileo High School, he was a star athlete, participating in baseball, track, and football. At the same time Simpson received several suspensions from school for misbehavior. He graduated from Galileo in 1965, but his grades kept him from attending a major university. Instead, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco, where he had a remarkable first season of football and was offered several athletic scholarships. He remained another year at City College before meeting the admissions standards for the University of Southern California (USC), which he entered in 1967. That same year, he married his first wife, Marguerite.

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Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...