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Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and minister, was born in Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown. For the first twenty-five years of his life Cooper was known as “Notly.” He escaped to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 1800 and took the name John Smith. Employed at a lumberyard, he married a free black woman and had four children. Around this time Cooper's identity was betrayed by a friend. He was separated from his family and sent to Washington, D.C., to be sold at auction. He managed to escape and, with the help of a friend, return to Philadelphia, where he was reunited with his family. Still in danger of recapture, Cooper concealed himself at the home of a Quaker, where he stayed for a week while his master attempted to locate him.

Cooper fled to New Jersey where he was hired by a farmer His whereabouts were again discovered and Cooper escaped by ...

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David Borsvold

composer and university professor, was born Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III in Rochester, New York, the only child of Phyllis Hailstork, a civil servant in the State of New York Estate Tax Department, and Adolphus Hailstork II, whose occupation is unknown. He grew up primarily in Albany, New York, his musical education beginning with childhood piano lessons. Hailstork also studied the organ, the violin, and voice. As a student at Albany High School, he conducted a boys' choir and began to compose music. He received his high school diploma in the spring of 1959.

Hailstork continued his musical education at Howard University. Entering in the fall of 1959, he studied composition under Mark Fax and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1963. In the summer of that year he received a Lucy Moten Travel Fellowship and went to France ...

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Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, actor, singer, and educator, was born Jester Joseph Hairston in Belews Creek North Carolina the only son and first of two children born to his parents names unknown He was the grandson of former slaves When Hairston was a year old the family moved to Kunersville Pennsylvania where his father obtained work in the steel mills His sister was born about six months later and when she was three days old their father died of pneumonia As a child Hairston is said to have loved music Although he was a small framed boy he played basketball and football in high school and college His church presented him with a scholarship to attend Massachusetts Agriculture College now known as The University of Massachusetts in Amherst Massachusetts where his educational aspirations were to study landscaping design After his scholarship ran out ...

Article

Devra Hall Levy

composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and pianist, was born Luther Lincoln Henderson Jr. in Kansas City, the second child and only son of Florence Black, a public school teacher, and Luther Lincoln Henderson Sr., a professor of education, both of whom had musical aspirations.

In 1923 the family moved to New York City. Living first on Strivers Row and then in Sugar Hill, Henderson found himself surrounded by the rhythms and sounds of 1920s Harlem. His love of music embraced both jazz and classical. After hearing Ignace Paderewski at Carnegie Hall, his passion for the piano increased and the neighborhood children nicknamed him Paddy.

Luther also loved to read, and even at a young age he was a moralist, a philosopher, and a seeker of commonality and acceptance. He attended Evander Childs High School, along with his best friend Mercer Ellington son of ...

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Gayle Murchison

clarinetist, composer, and conductor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Daniel Jenkins, a former slave, minister, and founder-director of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, and Lena James. Jenkins attended the Avery Institute in Charleston. As a child he learned to play violin, clarinet, and piano. His first music teachers were his father and other instructors at the orphanage, which was founded in December 1891 and formally incorporated as the Orphan Aid Society in July 1892. By the time he was fourteen years old, Jenkins had learned to play all the instruments of his father's brass band. In 1908 he entered Atlanta Baptist College (now Morehouse College), where he studied violin with Kemper Harreld Jenkins participated in the symphony orchestra glee club and other musical activities During vacations he performed directed and toured with the orphanage band Jenkins left college during the ...

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Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter, was born Richard C. McPherson in Norfolk, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. He studied at the Norfolk Mission College and at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and set his sights on the study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At first music was merely an avocation, but he gradually found his musical interests crowding out his medical ones; he began serious music studies in New York with the eminent Melville Charlton, the organist at some of New York's leading churches and synagogues for several decades. His activities during the years around 1900 were manifold evincing a considerable degree of energy In addition to his musical activities he was an enthusiastic member of the New York Guard rising to the rank of lieutenant He was also later active in the African American entertainment brotherhood known as the Frogs together with the ...

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Mary Frances Early

gospel pianist, composer-arranger, and singer, was born Roberta Evelyn Winston in Helena, Arkansas, the daughter of William Winston and Anna (maiden name unknown). One of six children in the Winston household, Roberta showed an early proclivity for music. When only a toddler, she climbed onto the piano bench and picked out melodies that she had heard. This interest and talent was nurtured by the wife of her oldest brother, who became her first piano teacher.

When Martin was ten years old, her family moved from Arkansas to Chicago. She continued her piano studies with Mildred Bryant Jones in standard keyboard literature and pointed her career toward that of concert pianist or professional accompanist. She graduated from Wendell Phillips High School and was encouraged by Jones to pursue a career in music. Why Roberta chose “Martin” as her surname is not known.

Martin began playing for churches at ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

Roberta Evelyn Martin was one of six children born to William and Anna Winston in Helena, Arkansas. She began taking piano lessons from her oldest brother’s wife at the age of six, at which time she played the piano for the local Sunday school. When she was eight, the family moved to Cairo, Illinois, and later to Chicago. Roberta graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, where she studied piano with the choral director, Mildred Bryant Jones. While preparing for a career as a concert pianist, she accepted her first church position as pianist for the Young People’s Choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Martin initially was not attracted to the new gospel music being sung in Sanctified churches. In 1932, when Thomas Dorsey and Theodore R. Frye organized one of the first gospel choirs at Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church, Martin was recruited as pianist. However, in 1933 ...

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Mary Krane Derr

gospel singer, music publisher, and philanthropist, was born in the rural black hamlet of Pittfield, Georgia, to a farming family. Very little is known of her parents or her early life. As a young child she lost her father. She was raised by her grandparents and her mother, a gospel singer who toured small Southern churches. Sallie enjoyed singing at Pittfield's combination schoolhouse-Baptist church, although her formal education ended with eighth grade. When Sallie was sixteen, her mother also died. Sallie then moved to Atlanta in search of work and found jobs in childcare, housework, and laundry. After hearing the expressive, high-energy, frequently spontaneous singing style beloved in Pentecostal congregations since the 1890s, Martin joined the Fire Baptized Holiness Church. Her contralto voice's dramatic power soon made her a popular song leader.

In Atlanta she met and married Wallace Martin also a Georgia native with Georgia ...

Article

Leonard L. Brown

musician and school founder, was born in Braidwood, Illinois. His parents' names are unknown. He spent his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, where his family moved when he was a young child. Matthews early expressed an interest in music, and historical accounts credit his mother as his first piano teacher, although he later took lessons from local teachers. A trip to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 exposed Matthews to the major African American performers of ragtime, the dominant popular music then. Upon returning to Springfield, Matthews learned ragtime from local performers.

Sometime in 1907 or 1908 Matthews settled in St Louis where he remained for the next seven or eight years with some excursions to Chicago While in St Louis he studied theory arranging composition and organ at the Keeton School of Music He developed into an excellent pianist composer and arranger and his reputation led to his being ...

Article

Margaret E. Wright-Cleveland

writer, film producer, and director. Oscar Micheaux was the most prolific African American filmmaker of the twentieth century, having produced thirty-eight films between 1913 and 1948. He also wrote seven novels, including three best sellers. Though Micheaux experienced foreclosures and bankruptcy, ultimately he was financially successful. He worked only for himself, as a homesteader, book publisher, and filmmaker, and marketed his own novels and films broadly. His silent films are more critically respected than his sound films, though his use of light-skinned African American actors and caricature is controversial.

Micheaux was the fifth of eleven children born to the former slaves Bell Willingham Micheaux and Calvin Swan Micheaux in Metropolis, Illinois. He had no formal education beyond high school, working as a Pullman porter before purchasing a relinquished homestead in the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1906 Even though he lost land to ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Russell Parrott was prominent in Philadelphia's black circles in the early 1800s. A lay reader at the historically important Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, Parrott became an assistant to the pastor in 1812. Parrot was a close ally of James Forten's, and these two members of the Philadelphia African Institution were both notable activists of their day.

Parrott saw the colonization of America as a desire for gain and believed that this greed had led to the slave trade. Parrott's writings were filled with vivid descriptions and strong phrases that illustrated the conditions of slavery. He decried the emotional scarring that resulted from the brutal capture of Africans and their voyage to America, the tragic separation of families, and the cruelty of the slaveholders. In 1812 in an address at the traditional New Year s Day celebration of the abolition of the slave trade Parrott expressed sympathy for ...

Article

Eunmi Shim

songwriter and vaudeville performer, was born Christopher Smith in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Henry Mirtry, a shoemaker, and Clara Browne.

A baker by trade, Smith learned to play the piano and guitar by himself and showed much interest in and took part in local entertainment. He left Charleston with his friend Elmer Bowman to join a medicine show while they were “still in short pants,” as he told Edward B. Marks. Smith and Bowman went to New York sometime in the 1890s and formed a vaudeville act billed as Smith Bowman. Smith began to publish songs in the late 1890s, and his “Good Morning Carrie!” (1901), written with Bowman, was his first major hit.

In the late 1890s and the 1900s Smith was an important member of the community of black entertainers in New York home to a flowering of black ...

Article

Marian M. Ohman

music educator, conductor, performer, and composer. Accounts of Smith's early life frequently contain unconfirmed or erroneous information. Leavenworth, Kansas, was his probable birthplace, and its 1870 census identified a three-year-old Clark Smith. The “N” does not stand for Nathaniel, as it is frequently cited, but for Noah (1880 census and Leavenworth Herald, 28 Aug. 1897). His parents were Kentucky-born Daniel Smith, and Missouri-born Margaret (Maggie) Davenport Smith. City directories identify Daniel's occupation as blacksmith and laborer. Smith indicated that his father had served in the military, but the National Archives could not verify this assertion. Educated in Leavenworth, Smith initially pursued a career in journalism. The 1880 census identified the fourteen-year-old as a “printer,” and in 1888 he co-founded the Leavenworth Advocate newspaper He also demonstrated his musical talent and capable leadership in community activities and established a connection ...

Article

Richard Carlin

ragtime pianist, composer, and bar owner, was born Thomas Milton J. Turpin in Savannah, Georgia, the son of John L. “Jack” Turpin, a bar owner and amateur wrestler, and Lulu Waters. The Turpin family was prominent in Savannah's African American community, but by 1880 they had relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, where John Turpin opened the Silver Dollar Saloon. Young Tom began playing piano at an early age and was employed at one of the best-known bars in the city, the Castle Club, by the early 1890s. By 1893 he had opened his own saloon, which eventually became known as the Rosebud Bar, with Turpin grandly proclaiming himself “President of the Rosebud Club.” The bar became a meeting place for local pianists, including Louis Chauvin.

Along with his brother Charles Turpin performed locally at the bar and in tent shows The duo became ...

Article

Joel Gordon

Egyptian actress and publisher, was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, on 15 January 1898. She is also known as Rose al-Youssef. Yusuf’s mother died in childbirth and her father relocated to Alexandria, Egypt. Soon after, he traveled to Brazil, leaving Yusuf with friends, and was never heard from again. At age seven Yusuf ran away to Cairo, where she began frequenting the theater district. Aziz Eid, leader of an acting troupe, “adopted” her, teaching her to read and write and giving her minor parts. Her break came when she was fourteen. She filled in as an understudy playing a seventy-year-old grandmother and never looked back. Taking the stage name Rose al-Youssef (she would also be known as the Sarah Bernhardt of the East), she played with other leading companies, including the Ramsis Theater Company directed by Yusuf Wahbi, and became the first lady of the Egyptian stage.

In 1918 ...