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Brenna Sanchez

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 ...

Article

Luca Prono

lyric coloratura soprano, was the youngest of seven children born in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Grady Battle, a steelworker from Alabama who belonged to a gospel quartet, and Ollie Layne Battle. Together with her six older siblings, Kathleen Deanna Battle experienced the gospel music of her African Methodist Episcopal Church from a very early age. Battle studied at Portsmouth High School with Charles Varney and began piano lessons at the age of twelve.

She considered using her National Achievement Scholarship, which she was awarded in 1966, to study mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, but she graduated instead from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music with a degree in music education in 1970 The following year Battle received a master s degree from the same institution After graduation Battle worked as a music teacher for fifth and sixth graders in a Cincinnati inner city school for two ...

Article

Peter Hudson

While Louise Bennett was not the first writer to use Jamaican dialect, the facility with which she reproduces it in her writing and performances has marked her as a pioneer. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bennett was the daughter of baker Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who died when she was seven years old, and dressmaker Kerene Robinson. Bennett, known as Miss Lou, studied social work and Jamaican folklore at Friends' College, Highgate, Jamaica. In 1945 she received a British Council Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

Bennett began writing in dialect in the late 1930s, inspired by the language she heard spoken by Jamaicans on the streets of Kingston. Soon after she began writing, she staged public performances of her poems. In 1942 her first collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was published. Starting in 1943 Bennett contributed a weekly column to ...

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Malinda Williams

poet, short story writer, mythologist, and folklorist, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Cornelius A. Bennett, a baker, and Kerene Robinson Bennett, a seamstress. Bennett's father died when she was just seven years old, leaving her mother to support the family. Bennett received a typical colonial education at St. Simon's College (1933–1936) and Excelsior High School (1936–1938), which greatly influenced her later interest in elevating and legitimizing traditional Jamaican culture. Though in high school Bennett began writing poetry in English, she later switched to writing in West Indian English, which linguists would eventually come to recognize as a language rather than just a dialect.

Bennett also began performing versions of her poems to audiences in high school and her success caught the attention of Eric Coverley who would later become Bennett s husband Coverley a draftsman and impresario organized a popular Christmas concert ...

Article

Casey Kayser

teacher, poet, playwright, and artistic director of a theater company, was born Nora Brooks Blakely in Chicago, one of two children of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and Henry Blakely, a poet, auto mechanic, and insurance adjuster. Blakely's mother was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, the poet laureate of Illinois, and the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, which she did in 1950, just a year before Nora's birth. Nora's father was the author of A Windy Place, a 1974 collection of poetry, and he later founded the Perspectivists, a group of black Chicago writers. As a child, Nora displayed a natural ability and love for reading and writing, no doubt cultivated by her parents' passion for the same.

A propensity for teaching emerged early as well at the age of three Blakely rounded up the children of her South Side Chicago neighborhood and ...

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Joy Elizondo

Domingos Caldas Barbosa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to a white father, Antonio de Caldas Barbosa, and a black mother, whose identity remains unknown. From an early age Caldas received a Jesuit education. He showed a predilection for poetry and musical composition.

While still a young man Caldas was drafted into the military and sent to serve in the Portuguese colony of Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata. Subsequently, Caldas obtained his discharge, returned home to Brazil, and then boarded a ship bound for Portugal. He arrived in Lisbon in 1763 and shortly thereafter enrolled at the University of Coimbra. It is unclear at what point Caldas's university studies were discontinued, but author Jane M. Malinoff asserts that the young poet took leave shortly after learning of his father s death Unable to independently support the cost of his education Caldas recalled ...

Article

James C. Hall

John Coltrane's immersion in modern jazz took place in bands led by Eddie Vinson, Dizzy Gillespie, and Johnny Hodges. In 1955 he joined the Miles Davis quintet and was soon identified as one of the most talented tenor saxophonists of the era. The story of Coltrane becoming a major African American cultural icon really began, however, in 1957 In that year he underwent a spiritual conversion concomitant with his overcoming a drug addiction A brief but salient collaboration with Thelonius Monk followed and Coltrane was on his way to becoming one of the major innovators in jazz Associated with the radical improvisatory style called Free Jazz or pejoratively anti jazz Coltrane s own contribution was sometimes referred to as sheets of sound a lightning fast style of improvisation with great attention given to melodic freedom His mid 1960s recordings were increasingly complex and dense often ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

writer, performer, and teacher, was born Barbara Davis in Hampton, Virginia, the youngest of four children of Willie Louise Barbour and Collis H. Davis. Her parents were educators at Hampton University, the traditionally black college once attended by Booker T. Washington. Her mother died in 1955, when Davis was only seven years old. Davis graduated from the Putney School in Vermont in 1966, received her bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1970, and did graduate work at both Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

By the age of twenty Davis was publishing and performing her poetry. While living in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, she wrote and performed with Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn and other spoken word artists all members of a group called the Third World Artists Collective During this time she also worked as a reporter for the San Francisco ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Harmony A. Teitsworth

symphonic conductor, composer, and poet, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Henry DePreist and Ethel Anderson. Ethel's sister, James's aunt, was the distinguished singer Marian Anderson, a contralto who became the first African American to appear with the New York Metropolitan Opera. In Philadelphia, DePreist attended Central High School, the second-oldest high school in the country. One of the best college preparatory schools in the country, it is also a public magnet school renowned for its strong music department. During high school DePreist played percussion and timpani in the all-Philadelphia high school band and orchestra. The orchestra's director, Louis Werson, became a significant musical influence on DePreist and used his musical background to help his student start the Jimmy DePreist Quintet, a jazz band.

In 1958 DePreist received a bachelor s degree as a pre law student at the Wharton School of ...

Article

Eileen Julien

Senegalese poet and storyteller, stands out in the constellation of African writers as a unique and gifted raconteur of traditional tales. In Les contes d’Amadou Koumba (1947), Les nouveaux contes d’Amadou Koumba (1958), and Contes et lavanes (1963), Diop recounts, in a style evocative of oral performance, narratives heard in his youth and during his travels as a colonial veterinarian in then French West Africa.

Diop’s initial literary passion was poetry, and it was in this genre that he began writing as a high school student. Some of his first poems, modeled on classical and romantic French poetry that he was studying in school, were to appear in his collection Leurres et lueurs (1960 Despite what Léopold Sédar Senghor called the nonblack character of these poems this youthful apprenticeship in poetry was an important step in Diop s becoming a sophisticated author ...

Article

David Borsvold

actor, writer, and director, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, to William Henry Duke Sr., a machinist, and Ethel Louise Duke, a domestic worker who later became a practical nurse. He had one sister. As a child Duke was tall and big for his age. Introverted by nature, he preferred to write about his feelings rather than talk about them with other kids. Duke's parents, neither of whom finished elementary school, emphasized to him the importance of education. During his school years he developed an interest in writing poetry. When his high school English teacher caught him writing poetry in a textbook during class, she confiscated the book and secretly submitted Duke's poems to the National Poetry Contest. Duke's work won first place.

Duke s parents hoped that he would go into medicine or teaching and after earning an associate of arts from Dutchess Community ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born in Rochester, New York, to Cornelius Eady, Sr., a schoolteacher, and Alveta Hayes, an activist.

As a teenager Eady spent a great deal of time at Rochester’s Rundel Public Library, where he was first introduced to the works of poets Allen Ginsberg and Pablo Neruda. The library also afforded him a place to listen to records, which would foster part of the musical cadences of his writings to come. After attending Rochester Educational Alternative for his junior and senior years, Eady remained in Rochester to attend Empire State University, where he pursued English with a concentration in creative writing during the years 1977 to 1979. Although he never formally graduated from the program, it was during this time that he was introduced to the works of Yusef Komunyakaa a poet whose own acclaim in African American arts and letters had at once opened the door for ...

Article

Nicola Cooney

Hermes Fontes was born in Buquim, in the state of Sergipe, Brazil, a son of rural laborers. He was orphaned at an early age. A highly precocious child, he studied in his hometown and in Aracaju and made such an impression upon the governor of Sergipe that the governor took Fontes to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and sponsored his education in the humanities.

As a student Fontes was involved in journalism and literary pursuits, publishing his poetry in journals by the age of fifteen, and his first book, Apoteoses (1908), at age twenty. He continued to pursue journalism, working for the Diário de Notícias, became a civil servant, and took part in the civlilist campaign of Rui Barbosa, earning acclaim for his oratorical skills.

A greatly esteemed poet in his time his work is representative of a phase of transition in Brazil from Parnasianism ...

Article

Klara Szmánko

poet, novelist, film producer, activist, and radio talk show host, was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Sam Greenlee Sr., was a chauffeur, and his mother a singer and dancer. Greenlee, who identifies himself as a second-generation immigrant from the Deep South, has claimed that he made up for his “non-education in Chicago ghetto non-schools at three universities: Wisconsin, Chicago and Thessalonikki, Greece” (Afterword, Blues for an African Princess). Greenlee received his BS degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1952. He studied at the University of Chicago between 1954 and 1957 and at the University of Thessalonikki for one year (1963–1964 Greenlee professes fluency in Greek Indonesian and Malay and a much more limited knowledge of Arabic French and Italian the languages he mastered while working as a foreign service officer in Iraq Pakistan Indonesia and Greece ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Mark Allan Jackson

songwriter and labor activist, was born to George and Vinna Handcox on their farm near Brinkley, Arkansas. Unlike many African Americans in the rural South at this time, the Handcox family owned their own land. However, it was not very productive, so they had to rent land on which to grow cotton, the area's dominant crop.

Because of his responsibilities, young Handcox could not devote much time to education. Five months a year were all that most farm children in Arkansas could spare to attend school, a schedule dictated by the cotton-growing season. But Handcox thrived there, mainly because of his interest in poetry. His father bought him a book by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar who became Handcox s model for his own writing Often he was asked to recite his work during school events and when he graduated from the ninth grade the end to his ...

Article

Farah Jasmine Griffin

Like many jazz musicians, Billie Holiday (“Lady Day”) began her career in brothels and after-hours clubs. After an apprenticeship at late-night jam sessions, she became one of the most significant figures in the history of jazz. Since her death she has become an American icon, perhaps better known for the stories surrounding her drug addiction and her personal life than for her artistry.

Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956), coauthored with William Dufty, has become a classic African American autobiography. The text is one of the first to contribute to the myth of Holiday as the tortured but talented jazz and pop singer. The myth is elaborated on the pages of the autobiographies of some of the twentieth century's most significant African Americans including Malcolm X's The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), Lena Horne's Lena (1965), and Maya Angelou's The ...

Article

Jessica Falconi

Angolan poet, storyteller, and political activist who also wrote under the pseudonym “Orlando Távora,” was born in Luanda on 28 September 1924. His father, José Trindade Martins, along with his mother, Maria Cecilia Amaral, were both Portuguese from the Trás-os-Montes region in northern Portugal, who had settled in Angola around 1912, where his father worked as a trader and businessman. His full name was António Jacinto do Amaral Martins.

Jacinto spent his early years in the small settlement of Cambombo and, a little later, in Golungo alto in the province of Cuanza Norte in northern Angola, eventually settling in Luanda with his family. There, he attended the Liceu Salvador Correia, the institution which most Angolan intellectuals attended and which functioned as a cultural gathering place.

There, Jacinto began to dedicate himself to the collection of Angolan oral literature. In 1946 he wrote his first work of fiction ...

Article

Philip Nanton

Nickname of Ellsworth McGranahan Keane (1927–1997), internationally established jazz flugelhorn player born into a family of musicians in St Vincent. His nickname derived from his great love of Shakespeare and literature in general. He established a reputation locally as a trumpeter but it was after he emigrated to England in 1952 that he began to consider himself as a jazz musician. In the 1960s he became one of a select band of musicians who, because of the clarity and quality of his playing, was rarely out of work. He played with the Joe Harriott Quintet, the Michael Garrick Quintet, and later, in a move to Germany, with bands led by Kurt Edel Hagen, Francy Boland, and Kenny Clarke.

But poetry was equally his passion. L'Oubli, his first collection, was published in 1950 when he was 23 years old, followed by Ixion in 1952 ...