carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...
classical singer, author, gay rights activist, and former literary assistant to writer Langston Hughes, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Abdul's father, Hamid Abdul, was from Calcutta, India, and his mother, Bernice (Shreve) Abdul, was able to trace her ancestry back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Abdul got his start in theater at a young age, participating in children's theater by age six. He attended John Hay High School and, after graduation, worked as a journalist for the Cleveland Call and Post. He would later go on to earn a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1962. He also studied at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.
In 1951 at age twenty two Abdul relocated to New York City There he began studying music and was ...
Ronald P. Dufour
pianist and composer, was born in Chicago. He began studying piano at age seventeen and is largely self-taught, though in the late 1940s he studied briefly at Chicago Musical College and at Governors State University in Chicago. Abrams played his first professional gig in 1948, and during the early 1950s he wrote arrangements for the saxophonist King Fleming and other rhythm and blues groups. From 1957 to 1959 he was pianist, composer, and arranger for the hard-bop group MJT+3. Throughout the 1950s he also accompanied visiting soloists like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Keith Gordon, and Max Roach.
In the early 1960s Abrams and a group of young Chicagoans that included saxophonist Eddie Harris and bassist Donald Garrett began to make plans for a rehearsal band. This initial attempt failed, but Abrams and Garrett revived the effort in 1961 and ...
James M. Salem
musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star, was born John Marshall Alexander Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of John Marshall Alexander and Leslie Newsome. His father earned his living in Memphis as a packer, but his lifework was as a commuting minister to two rural Baptist churches in eastern Arkansas. At LaRose Grammar School in South Memphis, John Jr. as his family called him displayed both musical and artistic talent He mastered the piano at home but was allowed to play only religious music Along with his mother and siblings he sang in the choir at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Becoming restless at Booker T Washington High School John Jr dropped out in the eleventh grade to join the navy and see the world His sisters recalled military police coming to the house in search of their brother and thought of his brief period ...
Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman
flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.
Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...
Born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, Adderley earned the nickname “Cannonball,” a corruption of “cannibal,” for his huge appetite. Adderley was introduced to music by his father, a cornetist, and was performing in bands by the time he was fourteen. He played in local bands as well as in the United States Army (he enlisted in 1950) and taught music before moving to New York to join his brother Nat in 1955. He immediately found success on the New York Jazz scene, joining the bands of bassist Oscar Pettiford.
The recordings Adderley made with Davis, which included John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, are some of the most celebrated of the 1950s. In 1959 Adderley and his brother Nat formed their own quintet and built on the influence of Davis and saxophonist Charlie Parker During ...
jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with the band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. Adderley then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group.
Adderley served in the army from 1950 until 1953, leading the Thirty-sixth Army Dance Band, to which his younger brother, the cornetist Nathaniel “Nat” Adderley, was also assigned. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1952 Adderley continued to play ...
cornetist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and college educator, was born Nathaniel Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the second of two sons of Julian Adderley Sr. and Jessie Adderley. Julian Sr. was an educator who played trumpet and cornet, thus becoming Nat's first music teacher. Jessie was also a teacher. Nat's only sibling, Julian Adderley Jr., nicknamed “Cannonball” because of his rotund build, was three years older than his brother. The Adderleys moved from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida, when Nat was a toddler so that Julian Sr. and Jessie could take teaching jobs at Florida A&M College (FAMC), a historically black school. The college changed its name to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1953.
Cannonball was the first of the two brothers to play trumpet He later became more interested in the alto saxophone leaving his trumpet to sit idle Nat showed no ...
Jerry C. Waters
an interdisciplinary artist and musician, was born Terry Roger Adkins in Washington, D.C., the eldest of five children of Robert Hamilton Adkins, a teacher and a musician, and Doris Jackson Adkins, a homemaker and musician. Adkins was raised in Alexandria, Virginia.
The artistic and musical achievements of Terry Adkins are linked to his formative years. Born in the racially segregated South, he attended a predominantly black primary school in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated in 1971 from Ascension Academy a mostly white Catholic high school Adkins s parents encouraged his artistic talents and academic pursuits because education was valued within the extended Adkins family His father Robert Hamilton Adkins was a chemistry and science teacher at Parker Gray High School a predominantly black school in Alexandria and performed within the community as an organist and vocalist Adkins s grandfather the Reverend Andrew Warren Adkins pastored Alfred Street Baptist ...
Michele Valerie Ronnick
linguist, missionary, sociologist, and college teacher and administrator, was born in Anomabu in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). His father, Kodwo Kwegyir, traced the family lineage to Carthaginian times. His mother, Abna Andua, was his father's third wife, and James was one of seventeen children. He was baptized in 1883 and a few years later the Reverend Dennis Kemp, a Wesleyan missionary, transferred him and a group of other students to Kemp's Mission House for schooling. Aggrey then went to the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School. There the gifted student and natural teacher traded lessons in Fanti for those in Latin and French. He would later tell his nephew in 1912 that he had ranked first in everything in school including Greek and Latin After becoming an assistant teacher he often lectured to the lower grades about Caesar s Gallic campaigns and was said to have ...
Alvin Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas. He grew up in a single-parent household headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. As a boy, he helped her pick cotton. In 1942 they moved to Los Angeles, California, where she found employment in the World War II aircraft industry. Ailey attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, primarily black schools. He went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Ailey's dancing career started in 1949 when a high school friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, his first dance instructor at the Lester Horton Dance Theater. When Horton died in 1953, Ailey became the director of the company. The following year, Ailey moved to New York City where he joined DeLavallade in the Broadway dance production House of Flowers While appearing in other stage ...
Lili Cockerille Livingston
actor, dancer, and choreographer, was born in Rogers, Texas, the son of Alvin Ailey, a laborer, and Lula Elizabeth Cliff, a cotton picker and domestic. Before Ailey was a year old, his father abandoned the family, leaving them homeless for close to six years. During that time Ailey and his mother made their way, often by foot, across the unforgiving terrain of the impoverished and bitterly racist Brazos Valley in southeastern Texas to seek shelter with relatives and find work in nearby fields.A bright curious child Ailey joined his mother in the cotton fields as soon as he could carry a sack He reveled in the sights and sounds of the gospel choirs and worshipers that he witnessed in the black Baptist churches of his youth Ailey also became acquainted with the less pious side of life through those who spent Saturday nights dancing ...
choreographer and dancer. Born in Rogers, Texas, Alvin Ailey was raised in a single-parent home headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. Ailey and his mother earned money by picking cotton and doing domestic work for local families. In 1942 Ailey moved to Los Angeles; he attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, where he developed an interest in music and literature. After graduation he went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Ailey's dance training began in 1949 when a friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, founder of the Lester Horton Dance Theater. Horton was one of the few dance instructors who accepted black students, and he became Ailey's first dance coach. When Horton died in 1953 Ailey became the director of the company The following year Ailey moved to New York City where ...
Aldridge earned international recognition as one of his era's finest actors for his moving theatrical performances throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, Europe, and the United States. Although born free in New York City, he was the son of a slave turned Calvinist preacher. Aldridge saw limited theatrical opportunities in the United States and, after training at the African Free School in New York City, left the United States for Europe in 1824. Intent on pursuing an acting career, he studied drama at the University of Glasgow in Scotland for more than a year.
Debuting onstage at the Royal Coburg in London, England, in 1825 Aldridge won widespread praise for his portrayal of Shakespeare s Othello a role that became his trademark as well as for his renditions of other leading characters during the six week theatrical run After this success he performed in the Theatre Royal in Brighton England ...
actor, was born Ira Frederick Aldridge, the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Although certain historical accounts record that Aldridge was born in Senegal, Africa, and was the grandson of the Fulah tribal chieftain, modern biographical scholarship has established that he was born in New York City. It is possible that he could claim Fulah ancestry, but his lineal descent from tribal royalty is unconfirmed. Extant evidence concerning Aldridge's life is sketchy, conflicting, or exaggerated, possibly owing in part to the aggrandizements of theatrical publicity.
As a young boy, Aldridge attended the African Free School in New York City. Although Aldridge's father intended for him to join the clergy, Aldridge showed an early attraction to the stage, excelling at debate and declamation. Around 1821 Aldridge tried to perform at Brown s Theatre also known as the African Theatre but his father ...
Graham Russell Hodges
Ira Frederick Aldridge was the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Born in New York City, Aldridge was educated at the African Free School. Although his father wanted him to become a minister, Aldridge turned to the stage when he became fascinated by the fledgling African Grove Theater, run by William Brown and starring the pioneering black actor James Hewlett. The theater closed in 1823 after the New York City government, under pressure from racist mobs, refused to grant it a license. Recognizing that his career as a serious actor was limited in the United States because of prevalent prejudice against blacks, Aldridge immigrated to England in 1824 and became an attendant to the famed thespian Henry Wallack whom he met through Wallack s brother James Aldridge and Henry Wallack would clash when the latter identified the young black man as his ...
soul and rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, was born Arthur Alexander Jr. in Florence, Alabama, to Arthur Alexander, a laborer and musician, and Fannie Scott Spencer. He was exposed to music at an early age by his mother and older sister, who sang in church, and by his father, who played weekend gigs as a bottleneck blues guitarist. After high school Alexander was working as a bellhop at the Sheffield Hotel when he met Tom Stafford, a white R&B enthusiast who introduced him to what would become the nucleus of the Muscle Shoals–area studio scene: Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Spooner Oldham, and Billy Sherrill. The men, all then working for Rick Hall's Fame Music Stafford, found Alexander's songwriting abilities every bit as intriguing as his singing, and soon made sure that Alexander became part of Fame's writing operation. In 1958Alexander and Henry Lee Bennett coauthored ...
jazz drummer, was born Robert Patterson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Poston Patterson. His talented pianist aunt was asked by the famous bandleader Lionel Leo Hampton to tour with him, but as she was not yet finished with school her grandmother would not allow it. However, Ali liked what he heard emanating from his aunt's living-room rehearsals with a local group, especially the sounds from the drummer. Although he did not graduate, Ali's high school dances provided him the opportunity to hear such luminaries as the saxophonist Charlie Parker and the big bands of Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. The young Rashied listened to the jazz drummers Max Roach and Art Blakey, but his earliest influences were his father's first cousins, the drummers Bernard and Charlie Rice Upon returning to Philadelphia after beginning his drumming career in the U S Army Ali briefly studied ...
oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.
Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.
Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...
cabaret and vaudeville singer and performer, was born Eliza May (or Mae) Alix in Chicago, Illinois, to Rossetta (or Rasetta) Hayes and Ernest Alix; her parents’ occupations are not known. When Alix was a teenager, her mother remarried; it is not known if Alix's father died or if her parents divorced. Alix lived with her mother; stepfather, Arthur Davis; older sister, Josephine Alix; and younger stepsister, Ellen Davis, in Chicago.
Alix probably began her career singing and performing in chorus lines and local shows. By the early 1920s, she had already established a modest local name for herself when jazz clarinetist and bandleader Jimmie Noone took notice of her in 1921 She continued her collaboration with Noone s Apex Club Orchestra for a series of recordings for Vocalion Records in the late 1920s and early 1930s including recordings of My Daddy Rocks Me and Birmingham Bertha a song ...