dancer, choreographer and actress, was born Deborrah Kaye Allen in Houston, Texas, to Andrew Allen, a dentist, and Vivian Ayers-Allen, a poet and librarian; her parents had two other children, the actress Phylicia Rashad, and Hugh Allen, better known as Tex. Although she exhibited an early interest in dance and desired to join the Houston Foundation for Ballet, she was denied admission when she applied in the 1950s in what her mother saw as a clear example of discrimination. Her parents were able to pay for private ballet lessons with the Ballet Russes. She later traveled and trained in Mexico City with the Ballet Nacional de Mexico. In 1964 she returned to Houston where she once again auditioned for the Houston Foundation for Ballet This time she was not only accepted to the prestigious organization but was awarded a scholarship Her talent won her ...
Donna Waller Harper
actor and director, was born Levardis Robert Martyn Burton Jr. in Landstuhl, Germany, to Levardis Robert Burton Sr., a career army photographer, and Erma Christian. The couple separated when their son was three. Erma returned to the United States with her son and his two elder sisters and settled in Sacramento, California. The family were devout Roman Catholics, and Burton decided at thirteen to enter a Catholic seminary to become a priest. While there, he changed his mind and decided to become an actor instead.
Burton's big break came while he was a drama student at the University of Southern California's School of Theatre. While playing Ali Hakeem, the Persian rug dealer in the musical Oklahoma!, he tried out for the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley s landmark book tracing the generations of his family through America and back to Africa Burton landed the part ...
Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of a railway engineer, and grew up in Waycross, Georgia. The harassment of his parents by the Ku Klux Klan impelled him early on to become a writer so that he could “truthfully portray the black man's experience.” At Howard University, under the tutelage of drama critic Alain Locke, Davis developed his theatrical talent, performing in a 1941 production of Joy Exceeding Glory with Harlem's Rose McClendon Players. Following his theater debut, however, he received few job offers and for nearly a year found himself living on the street.
Davis never lost his sense of purpose. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to New York, New York, where he won the title role in Robert Ardrey's play Jeb (1946). In 1948 he married fellow performer Ruby ...
Samuel A. Hay
writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.
Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...
Born in Cogsdell, Georgia, Ossie Davis grew up in nearby Waycross. He studied at Howard University for three years, then traveled to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the encouragement of Alain Locke, Davis obtained a position with the Rose McClendon Players of Harlem, while writing in his spare time. The following year, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Medical Corps and in Special Services. While stationed in Liberia, he wrote and produced Goldbrickers of 1944, a musical variety show. Discharged in 1945, Davis returned to New York and gained the lead role in the play Jeb, which propelled his stage career. Also starring in the play was Davis's future wife, Ruby Dee, with whom he would continue to costar in plays and later in film. Among Davis's stage, film, and television credits are The Joe Louis Story ...
actor, playwright, producer, director, and civil rights activist. Ossie Davis, though commonly known for his work in the dramatic arts, was a humanitarian and activist who used his talents and fame to fight for the humane treatment of his people and for recognition of their contributions to society.
Raiford Chatman Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, to Kince Charles Davis and Laura Cooper Davis. Though neither parent was formally educated, Davis's father was a preacher and a railroad construction engineer. Davis's name “Ossie” came from a clerk's misunderstanding the pronunciation of the initials “R. C.” when recording his birth.
In 1935 Davis graduated from Central High School in Waycross, Georgia. He then attended Howard University, where he met Alain Locke a professor of philosophy who had been the first black Rhodes scholar Locke recognized Ossie s talent introduced him to black theater and encouraged ...
G. Robert Hohler
film and television producer, writer and social entrepreneur, born in St. Louis, Missouri, the only son of Julia Veva and Dr. Henry E. Hampton, a prominent physician and surgeon. Hampton's parents were leaders in efforts to change a city that was still racially segregated in the 1940s. They joined the Catholic Church because of its commitment to desegregation and enrolled their children, Henry and his two sisters, Veva and Judi, in Catholic schools. The young Hamptons were the first black students to be enrolled at an all-white suburban parochial school.
The Hamptons created a family environment that emphasized the arts trips to Sunday Symphony were a regular occurrence and intellectual accomplishment Both parents were strong willed and held their children to high standards of personal behavior and academic achievement Henry s older sister Veva went on to Wellesley College attended medical school and became a clinical ...
executive producer of the award-winning public television series Eyes on the Prize. Henry Eugene Hampton Jr. was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. Stricken with polio as a teenager, Hampton suffered from some paralysis into adulthood. After graduating from Washington University in 1961, Hampton went to work for the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association as spokesperson and media liaison. In 1968 he served as press officer for an international peace delegation, meeting with political and religious leaders. It was in that same year that Hampton founded Blackside, Inc., a film production company that over subsequent years produced more than sixty films, including the landmark series Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years which documented the struggles of African Americans to gain civil rights in America The documentary series was completed at great personal and financial cost to Hampton who nearly went bankrupt producing it mortgaging his house to keep ...
(b Chicago, March 14, 1933). American producer, arranger, composer and entertainment entrepreneur. He was raised by his father and stepmother in Seattle from the age of ten, and learned various brass instruments before settling on the trumpet. He performed in dance bands with early musical associates including Charlie Taylor, Bumps Blackwell and Ernestine Anderson, and at 14 met the 16-year-old Ray Charles, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship and from whom he first received instruction in jazz harmony and arranging. While in high school, Jones performed with Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine, and studied the trumpet with Clark Terry. He studied briefly at Seattle University and at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, but left to tour. He first toured Europe and made his first recordings while with Lionel Hampton, playing a solo on the 1951 recording of his own composition, Kingfish ...
jazz musician, composer, and record, television, and film producer, was born Quincy Delight Jones Jr. on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Sarah (maiden name unknown) and Quincy Jones Sr., a carpenter who worked for a black gangster ring that ran the Chicago ghetto. When Quincy Sr.'s mentally ill wife was institutionalized, he sent their sons, Quincy Jr. and Lloyd, to live in the South with their grandmother. In his autobiography Jones writes of growing up so poor that his grandmother served them fried rats to eat. By the age of ten he was living with Lloyd and their father in Seattle, Washington. “My stepbrother, my brother, and myself, and my cousin … we burned down stores, we stole, whatever you had to do,” Jones said (CNN Online, “Q and A: A Talk with Quincy Jones,” 11 Dec ...
jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, music impresario, and music, film, and television producer. Quincy Delight Jones Jr., or Q, as Frank Sinatra dubbed him, is an international icon in the music industry. From producing Leslie Gore's multimillion-selling soft-rock hit single “It's My Party” (1963) and Michael Jackson's all-time best-selling record album Thriller (1982) to working with rappers like Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and others, Q has had a pervasive impact on contemporary music. Astoundingly, many African Americans born during the 1970s know little of his prowess as a jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger or that he jammed with many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.
Jones was born in 1933 on the South Side of Chicago to Quincy Delight Jones Sr and Sarah Jones Jones spent his early years learning about life on the mean streets of Chicago ...
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., has had several careers in popular entertainment, including roles as a big-band musician, composer-arranger, record company executive, producer of films and music videos, magazine publisher, and partner in a television production company. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures in Hollywood. He commenced his music career in Seattle, Washington, where his family moved during the mid-1940s from Chicago, Illinois, where he was born. He sang in a vocal harmony group directed by Joseph Powe, who had once been with Wings over Jordan. After trying various instruments in high school band, Jones settled on the trumpet.
As a teenager, Jones played in local Jazz and Rhythm and Blues groups. He became acquainted with Ray Charles, an early musical influence, who moved to the Seattle area in 1950 Besides leading his own trio Charles wrote and arranged for the five ...
Pamela Lee Gray
actor, comedian, movie director, producer, and writer, was born into a family living on the west side of Chicago. His mother raised the family alone. Growing up as the second of four children, Townsend had his sights set on a professional baseball career, but he was also interested in acting from an early age. He was selected to join the Experimental Black Actors Guild at the age of sixteen. He attended Illinois University and Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. While going to school in New Jersey, he took acting lessons in New York City from the noted teacher Stella Adler and acted in the Negro Ensemble Theater. Townsend's stage debut was in a 1979 New York production of Take It from the Top, starring Ruby Dee and directed by Ossie Davis. He also studied acting with Milton Katselas ...
film writer, director, and actor, was born in Vidalia, Louisiana, to Spencer Williams Sr. and Pauline Williams Tatum, the president of the local Woman's Relief Corps. At the age of seventeen, he moved to New York City and found work backstage in the theater for the producer Oscar Hammerstein. As a “call boy,” the stagehand who is responsible for giving the performers a five-minute warning before their entrances, Williams met several celebrities, including Bert Williams, the African American star of the Ziegfeld Follies, who served as something of a mentor to the young man.
After serving in the army during World War I and attaining the rank of sergeant, Williams returned to find employment in the newly burgeoning film industry, both as a performer (notably in Buster Keaton's silent classic Steamboat Bill, Jr and behind the camera He was hired by Paramount s Christie ...
Born in Vidalia, Louisiana, Spencer Williams Jr. attended the University of Minnesota, dropping out to join the Army. Returning South after his 1923 discharge, he got his start in movies by writing for a series of short black films based on stories by Octavus Roy Cohen. These films were made by an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, and Williams soon moved to an office on Paramount's lot in Hollywood.
A talented actor, he appeared in some of the first African American talking movies of the 1920s, including The Lady Fare, Oft in the Silly Night, and Music Has Charms. His work as a producer included silent films such as Hot Biscuits (1929) and the earliest black Westerns, Bronze Buckaroo (1938) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Films that Williams wrote, directed, and starred in range from the comedy Juke Joint ...
Lisa E. Rivo and Julie Wolf
talk show host, actor, and entrepreneur, was born Oprah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to eighteen-year- old Vernita Lee, and Vernon Winfrey, a twenty-year-old soldier. Vernita intended to call the baby “Orpah,” after the biblical figure, but accepted “Oprah” when the name was misspelled by a clerk. Shortly after her daughter's birth, Vernita left Mississippi for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving her newborn under the watchful eye of Oprah's paternal grandparents, Hattie Mae Bullock and Earless Lee, who were pig farmers. In 1960 Oprah went to Milwaukee to join her mother, who was working as a maid and who had given birth to a second daughter, Patricia. Another child, Jeffrey followed a few years later and Vernita struggled to support herself and her three young children Bright and precocious Oprah skipped several grades in elementary school but despite her siblings and her early academic ...