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Alice Bernstein

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 ...

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Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

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Lester Tomé

also known as Carlos Junior Acosta Quesada, was born on 2 June 1973 in Havana, Cuba. Acclaimed as one of the most brilliant ballet performers of his generation, Carlos Acosta has been a principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, and the Houston Ballet, as well as a guest star of the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet, among other ensembles. He has also performed with his own country’s premier troupe, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

No other black ballet dancer has enjoyed a career marked by so many first-rate engagements and prestigious awards. His status as a glittering ballet celebrity, vastly popular with audiences, critics, and the media, is rare for an Afro-descendant, as blacks are underrepresented in this dance form. Through his success and public declarations, Acosta has contributed to eliminating prejudices about blacks’ abilities and suitability for ballet.

Acosta ...

Article

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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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 ...

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Ethan R. Sanders

intellectual, pan-African thinker, educator, and Christian preacher, was born in Anomabo, Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 18 October 1875. His father was Kodwo Kwegyir (1816–1896) of the Fante people who was the Omankyiame or hereditary spokesman for the paramount chief of Anomabo, and his mother was Abna Andua, scion of a chiefly family. At the age of eight, Aggrey left his home to attend the Methodist school in Cape Coast. In 1890 he started teaching in a rural village school and the following year returned to Cape Coast to become an assistant teacher at the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School where he soon advanced to a senior position At this early stage in his life Aggrey became interested in Christian ministry He began preaching at sixteen and later assisted in the translation of a Fante language New Testament During this time Aggrey also became involved with the ...

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Jonathan Morley

Africaneducationist, variously called the Father of African education, the Booker T. Washington of Africa, and, in the title of Edwin W. Smith's1929 biography, Aggrey of Africa. Born in Anomabo in the Gold Coast, the son of the chief linguist in the court of King Amona V, Aggrey was an able pupil and in 1898 travelled to America, where he joined Livingstone College in North Carolina. In 1903 he was ordained an elder of the African Methodist Episcopalian Zionist Church.

A compulsive learner, aside from his Master's degree (awarded in 1912), Aggrey also gained through correspondence courses a doctorate of Divinity from Hood Theological College and a doctorate of Osteopathy from the International College of Osteopathy, Illinois, before going to Columbia to undertake a Ph.D.

In 1920 the Phelps Stokes Fund sent Aggrey to Africa the only black member of the Commission to investigate the ...

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David Dabydeen

African‐Americantragedian and Shakespearean actor who emigrated to England and performed extensively in Europe. Aldridge was born to Daniel and Lurona Aldridge on 24 July 1807 in West Broadway, New York. There has been some confusion concerning his genealogy. One suggestion of his lineage was that he was a descendant of a princely line of the Fulah tribe in Senegal. This version is probably a romantic tale fabricated to accentuate an exoticism that would have boosted his dramatic persona. What is known, however, is that Daniel Aldridge was a straw‐vendor and a pastor, who might have been a slave. There are no records to verify that Daniel was indeed a slave, but the name Aldridge was most probably that of a slave master.

Although Daniel had intended his son to join the ministry the young Aldridge was already passionate about the theatre After his education at the African Free School ...

Article

André Willis

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 ...

Article

Melissa Vickery-Bareford

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Christine Matzke

Eritrean comedian, theater artist, musician, and sports teacher, was born on 1 February 1925 during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea in Abba Shawl, the poor segregated Eritrean quarters of the capital Asmara. His father was Kahsay Woldegebr, and his mother, Ghebriela Fitwi.

At the age of ten he attended an Orthodox Church school and then received four years of Italian schooling, the maximum period of formal education for Eritreans under Italian rule. Thereafter Alemayo worked as a messenger for an Italian lawyer and, at the age of seventeen, found employment as a stagehand in Cinema Asmara, then Teatro Asmara, an imposing Italian theater and center for Italian social and cultural life. Here Alemayo was exposed to European variety shows, operas, and cinema that fascinated him greatly, particularly the genre of comedy, such as the works of Charlie Chaplin and the Neapolitan comedian Totò.

Italian colonization was characterized by strict ...

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David Dabydeen

Africanjournalist and nationalist born in Egypt of Egyptian and Sudanese parentage. At the age of 9 or 10 Ali was sent to England to be educated. He never returned to Egypt and spent most of his time between 1883 and 1921 living in Britain. During this period, he was poverty‐stricken, attempting to earn a living through his pen and tour acting. Ali published Land of the Pharaohs in 1911, an anti‐imperialist book that became a significant contribution to the decolonization efforts in the United States and West Africa.

In 1912Ali and John Eldred Taylor, a journalist from Sierra Leone, inaugurated the African Times and Orient Review (1912–20), a magazine that sought to deal with anti‐colonial issues that not merely embraced Pan‐African matters, but incorporated Pan‐Oriental topics as well. The journal was inspired by the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 which advocated ...

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J. Ayo Langley

In his lifetime (1866–1945), Duse Mohamed Ali, actor, historian of Egypt, newspaper editor, Pan-Africanist, Pan-Islamist, and promoter of African American and African trade and investment, was known to African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute, and Washington’s successor, R. R. Moton. He was also known to Arthur W. Schomberg, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founding father of African American history, and W. T. Ferris, author of The African Abroad (1913). He was known to African nationalist leaders, public intellectuals, merchants, and lawyers, particularly to West Africans. His book In the Land of the Pharaohs (1911) and monthly journal The African Times and Orient Review, “a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the colored races of the world,” played an important role in increasing his public outside Britain.

According to his autobiography serialized ...

Article

Darshell Silva

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 ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

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 ...

Article

Donna Waller Harper

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 ...

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Kathleen Thompson

Ambitious, talented Debbie Allen has broken ground for black women in a variety of roles, primarily behind the scenes of the entertainment industry—directing, producing, writing, and choreographing television shows, films, and musical theater.

Debbie Allen was born into a remarkable family in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist, and her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sister, Phylicia Rashad, is a well-known actor, and one of her brothers is Andrew “Tex” Allen, a jazz musician.

Allen decided early that she wanted to be a dancer She began her training when she was three and by the time she was eight she had decided to go into musical theater When she tried to enroll in the school of the Houston Foundation for Ballet she was rejected for reasons her mother considered discriminatory As a ...

Article

Zaida Corniel

was born in Santo Domingo on 9 August 1947. His parents were Bartolina Almonte, a maid, and Enrique de León, a shoemaker’s assistant who was also a driver and sold bread and ice on the street, among other jobs. Though as of 2015, Almonte had never married, he fathered a daughter Lily Geraldine, who was born on 1 November 1980.

Almonte’s initial childhood education started in his neighborhood, where teachers from the community usually set up schools in their own homes. He continued his education in the public schools República de Haití (Haitian Republic) and El Palacio Escolar Angelita (The Palace School Angelita) in Santo Domingo.

Interested in art and acting even as a child, Almonte started making and selling portraits at the age of 8, and every Sunday he danced son with a girl who lived next door in an improvised stage in his backyard ...

Article

Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...