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Article

Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson

was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.

Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...

Article

Beth Kraig

model, singer, performance artist, and actress, was born in Spanishtown, Jamaica, the daughter of Marjorie and Robert Jones. Her mother was a clothing maker whose design skills influenced her daughter's eventual reputation as a fashion trendsetter. Her father was a minister whose charismatic preaching influenced his daughter's sense of drama. Jones, a twin, was one of seven children, and the large family shared an enthusiasm for music that shaped her childhood ambition of becoming a singer.

Like thousands of people of African descent from the Caribbean, the family relocated to the United States to seek more opportunities. They settled in Syracuse, New York, in the 1960s, with the parents preceding their children to the United States and then reuniting the family in 1964 in their new home. Jones continued her education in Syracuse and enrolled in Syracuse University in 1968 where she focused on ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili poet, scribe, calligrapher, woodcarver, performer, tailor, musician, and dance master, was born in Lamu on the northern coast of Kenya. Nicknamed Kijum(w)a, “little slave,” by his mother at his birth (hoping this nickname would be auspicious), his full name was Muhammad bin Abubekr bin Omar Kijumwa (also Muhamadi bin Abu Bakari, Mohamed Abubakar Kijumwa, and other possible transliterations from the Arabic script). He studied at the qurʾanic school, made the pilgrimage to Mecca three times, and became a renowned and versatile artist, who handed to his son Helewa the craft of carving the beautifully ornamented doors in Lamu. Among other skills, he made musical instruments and was a famous player of the kibangala a seven stringed lute He passed most of his life in Lamu but in the 1890s he worked as a scribe in the small protectorate of Witu inland from the Kenyan coast which was part ...

Article

Lara Allen

South African singer, film actress, and fashion model, was born on 2 April 1928, in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. Rathebe’s mother was a domestic worker, and initially Rathebe was brought up by her maternal grandparents. When her mother remarried, Rathebe moved to the Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown, where she went to school. Born Josephine Malatsi, she changed her name to Dolly Rathebe at the beginning of her performance career.

In her late adolescent years Rathebe sang jazz standards as an amateur at private parties and in jazz clubs. In 1949 her vocal abilities and performance acumen were noticed by recording company talent scout Sam Alcock, and she was invited to audition for the second film to be made in South Africa with an all-black cast: African Jim (later retitled Jim Comes to Joburg Rathebe won the leading female role that of a nightclub singer Her performance launched her ...

Article

Samuel Autman

actor and model, was born Richard Roundtree in New Rochelle, New York. His father, John, was a garbage collector and caterer; his mother, Kathryn, worked as a housekeeper. Even while attending New Rochelle High School, Roundtree's physical prowess, affable personality, and good looks made him a standout. In high school he was captain of the track team and played end on the nation's third-ranked high school football team; he graduated in 1961. While on a football scholarship at Southern Illinois University, Roundtree became a model for an Ebony Fashion Fair tour. Upon returning to New York he began acting lessons, and then joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967 for a series of Off-Broadway roles for two years. That experience paved the way for him to star as boxer Jack Johnson in the stage presentation of The Great White Hope.

Roundtree s struggle to find ...

Article

Glenn Caldwell

innovative Harlem hair stylist and jazz/pop songwriter, was born in Timmonsville, South Carolina, the second eldest of thirteen children of Floyd Sr. and Ethel Simon. Simon's formative years were spent in the segregated and racially tense era of the Jim Crow South but his parents never allowed him or his siblings to hate whites based on unequal laws and hostile treatment toward blacks. His positive nature and sense of style—traits that he learned from his mother—allowed him to be respected by all and would be a major part of his character for the rest of his life. He did not know, in his youth, that the “sense of style” part of his personality would play a major role in his life of hair, song writing, and entertainment.

In 1940 Simon completed his early education at the segregated Brockington School in Timmonsville He made several attempts to further his ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

actress, seamstress, and model, was born Donessa Dorothy Van Engle in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City to Fred Van Engle, a tailor, and Mynita Duncan. Her mother was born in Massachusetts to Willis and Mabelle Duncan, with whom the family lived at the time of Van Engle's birth. Her father, Fred Van Engle, was born on the island of Saint Kitts and worked as a tailor.

Van Engle was born during the Harlem Renaissance and lived in the same apartment building as the boxer Jack Johnson and the actress Lena Horne with whom she was friends The Harlem Renaissance represented a creative boom and a period of recognition for African Americans in music art literature politics dance theater and business for those from and living in Harlem considered the cultural haven for African Americans In her Harlem neighborhood Van Engle mingled with ...