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Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

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Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Marshall Edward Wallace, was a porter and waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad; her mother, Emma Wallace, was a schoolteacher. They moved to Harlem in New York City when Ruby was a baby. She was educated at Public School 119 and Hunter College, and her formal education was supplemented by instruction in classical literature and music at home. Although asked to leave Hunter College when her activities at the American Negro Theater—a Harlem group which also included Hilda Simms, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier—took up too much of her energy and time, Dee graduated in 1945 with a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish. She worked briefly as a translator for an import company, but her extracurricular activities soon became her career.

Dee s work has run the gamut of entertainment media ...

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Samuel A. Hay

actress and writer, was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, the third of four children of teenage parents, Gladys Hightower and Edward Nathaniel Wallace, a Pullman car porter. After Gladys ran off to follow a preacher, the couple divorced in 1924, and Edward married Emma Amelia Benson, a former schoolteacher, who lived in New York City. Emma, whom Ruby called “Mother,” reared the Wallace children in Harlem, New York, where family lessons included picketing white-owned Harlem businesses that refused to hire African Americans.

Ruby graduated from Hunter College High School in 1939 and entered Hunter College, in New York City. Her professional theater career began in 1940 during her sophomore year, when the writer and director Abram Hill cast her in his social satire, On Strivers Row (1940) at the American Negro Theater (ANT), which he had cofounded with Frederick Douglass O'Neal ...

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Hilary Mac Austin

A true Renaissance woman—poet, writer, director, adaptor, actor, activist, philanthropist, wife and mother—Ruby Dee summed up her approach to life in I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America: “You just try to do everything that comes up. Get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, make the time. Then you look back and say, ‘Well, that was a neat piece of juggling there—school, marriage, babies, career.’ The enthusiasms took me through the action, not the measuring of it or the reasonableness.”

Article

Brittney L. Yancy

actress, writer, philanthropist, activist. Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents, Marshall and Emma Wallace, worked as a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher, respectively. As a baby, Ruby along with her family moved to Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Ruby's parents supplemented her education with exposure to the arts. Ruby married Frankie Dee Brown, a promoter for Schenley Distiller's Corporation. Frankie dropped his surname because Ruby preferred the name Dee. They divorced in 1945. Ruby began acting in the 1940s through an apprenticeship with the American Negro Theatre—which included Hilda Simms, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and her future husband, Ossie Davis. Dee's first stage performance was in On Strivers Row in 1940 Dee acted in a series of plays and made her Broadway debut at the Cort Theater in a ...

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Joshunda Sanders

journalist, writer, and television producer was born in Washington, DC. His family moved to Lanham, Maryland, when his childhood home in Northeast Washington was destroyed by fire. He had two sisters and a brother. The professions and names of his parents are unknown.

One of his sisters, Gloria Johnson, told the Washington Post that Mills “had a knack for writing that was noticed very early … [she] recalled that when Mills, then 10, and her son, then 5, played with G. I. Joe toys, Mills wrote their dialogue on 3-by-5 cards” (De Moraes and Trescott).

Mills went on to earn a four-year scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park, where he met his future collaborator and producer of the popular HBO series, The Wire, David Simon. Mills and Simon met at the student newspaper, the Diamondback When Mills graduated from college ...

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Jason Philip Miller

actor and comedian, was born Paul Gadney in Shreveport, Louisiana, to George Gadney and LaVoya Ealy. When he was seven, his family relocated to Oakland, California, and there Mooney spent the remainder of his childhood. His father was not a stable figure in his life, and soon disappeared altogether. Throughout his youth, Mooney was closest to his grandmother, Aimay Ealy. It was she who gave him the nickname “Mooney,” though Mooney himself later claimed that she never bothered to explain what it meant. However, the name stuck, and, perhaps eager to relieve himself of his father's name, Mooney adopted it as his professional moniker. While in his teens, Mooney dropped out of school and left home to join the tiny Charles Gody Circus working in various roles until he was promoted to ringmaster According to Mooney himself this made him the first black ringmaster in the ...

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Marcella L. McCoy

educator, leader, and writer, was born Jeanne Laveta Noble in Albany, Georgia (although some reports suggest she was born in Palm Beach, Florida), to Aurelia and Floyd Noble. She was reared primarily by her grandmother, Maggie Brown who was a first grade teacher and owned a florist shop Her mother was young and her father left the family before Noble reached five years of age Noble the eldest child with three younger brothers took her grandmother s advice to pursue a career and an education in order to secure her economic independence Noble like many children in the Jim Crow South had a rude awakening to the contradictions of American society She was sent home from a visit to a church affiliated camp for presuming that she could engage in church activities alongside white children As a result Noble refused to associate with the church until ...

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Vincent F. A. Golphin

was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Belvin Norris, Jr. and Elizabeth J. Brown. Her parents were postal workers who believed in the promise of America so much that they pushed Michele and her siblings to be role models of excellence wherever they were, particularly in their largely white, Oakland Avenue neighborhood on the city’s south side. Like many parents during the civil rights years, Betty and Belvin Norris urged their daughter to push beyond the barriers that African Americans faced and to grasp the advantages opened by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Michele Norris’s career shows a commitment to that goal, and to creating opportunities for Americans to better understand themselves and their society.

After graduation from Minneapolis’s Washburn High School in 1978 she planned to be an electrical engineer mostly because she liked the idea of being able to build something She nearly completed an undergraduate degree in ...

Article

Jeff Berg

was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ruby Nottage, a child psychologist, and Wallace Nottage, a schoolteacher. She describes her parents as “black bohemian folks” since her childhood home was often visited by artists, writers, and musicians (Iqbal). Her mother and maternal grandmother, who was from the Barbados, both worked in support of civil rights and women’s rights, ultimately serving as sources of inspiration for Nottage and her work.

Nottage attended St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn and the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, where she also studied piano, graduating in 1982. Following her graduation from Brown University in 1986 and the Yale School of Drama in 1989, Nottage went to work for Amnesty International as its national press officer until resigning in 1993 to pursue a full time career in writing Her interest in writing began at age eight when she was motivated by ...

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Lisa C. Lakes

author, was born Frances Delores Ross in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest child of Bernetta Bass, a store clerk, and Gerald Ross, a welder. The Ross family, which included Fran's two younger brothers, lived on Pearl Street in Philadelphia in a home owned by the children's maternal grandmother, Lena Bass. Ross attended George Brooks Elementary School and Shoemaker Junior High School, both predominantly white and Jewish. In spite of attending schools where she was one of few blacks, Ross was an active participant in West Philadelphia's black community, attending church five blocks from her home. As a member of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, located at 5732 Race Street, she played basketball for different church and youth centers. Just prior to her sixteenth birthday, Ross graduated with honors from Overbrook High School, where the famed professional basketball player Wilt Chamberlain played varsity basketball She enrolled at Temple ...

Article

Steven R. Carter

and contributor to the Black Arts movement and regional theater. Soon after Ted (Theodis) Shine's birth in Baton Rouge, he and his parents, Theodis and Bessie, moved to Dallas where he grew up. At Howard University he was encouraged to pursue satiric playwriting by Owen Dodson, who tactfully indicated Shine's limits as a tragic writer. His play Sho Is Hot in the Cotton Patch was produced at Howard in 1951. Graduating in 1953, Shine studied at the Karamu Theatre in Cleveland on a Rockefeller grant through 1955 and then served two years in the army. Earning his MA at the University of lowa in 1958, he began his career as a teacher of drama at Dillard University in 1960, moving to Howard University from 1961to 1967 and then settling at Prairie View A M University where he became a professor and head ...