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Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

Article

Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and songwriter, was born in Forest, Mississippi, between Jackson and Meridian, the son of Minnie Louise Crudup, an unmarried domestic worker. His father was reputed to be a musician, but Crudup recalled seeing him only twice. Raised by his mother in poverty, Crudup began singing both blues and religious music around age ten. In 1916 he and his mother moved to Indianapolis. After she became ill, Crudup dropped out of school and took a job in a foundry at age thirteen.

According to his own account Crudup did not start playing guitar until around 1937, by which time he had returned to the South, married and divorced his first wife, Annie Bell Reed and taken work as a farmhand Supposedly he found a guitar with only two strings and one by one added the other four while picking up rudimentary chords from a local musician ...

Article

Laura A. Lewis

was born in 1923 in San Antonio Ocotlán, a small town north of Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Mexico. His mother was an indigenous Amuzgo woman from Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca, and his father was of African descent, from San Nicolás Tolentino on the Costa Chica of Guerrero state. Melquiades was a sickly child, and when his parents separated, soon after his birth, his father brought him back to San Nicolás, where his paternal grandmother and aunt raised him. His paternal grandmother was Zapotec. Thus, Domínguez is indigenous on both his mother’s and his father’s side. He is also one of the most well-known residents of the African-descent community of San Nicolás.

Domínguez’s paternal grandmother and grandfather never married. The Costa Chica is a strongly patrilineal region, but in the tradition of the era, “illegitimate” children—who were said to be “of the wilderness” (del monte inherited their mothers surnames Domínguez s father ...

Article

Fernando Cajías de la Vega

was born the son of the farmers Francisco Gemio and Braulia Medina in Tocaña, part of the municipality of Coroico, located in the province of North Yungas in the department of La Paz, Bolivia. Yungas, an agricultural region, lies on the borderlands between the Andean and Amazonian parts of the country and is home to a significant proportion of Bolivia’s African-descended population.

Gemio is also known as a songwriter famous for his compositions of saya, a uniquely Afro-Bolivian form of music and dance, which combines drumming and traditional folk songs sung by both men and women of the Bolivian Yungas. Saya has played an important role in the efforts of Afro-Bolivians to highlight their distinct culture and secure recognition of that culture from the broader Bolivian society. In the 1980s, Gemio was a pioneer in the revival of saya and popularization of Afro Bolivian music throughout the country ...

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

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues musician, was born Robert Lee McCullum (or McCollum) in Helena, Arkansas. Almost nothing is known of his parents except that his father's surname was McCullum, that his mother's maiden name was McCoy, and that they were sharecroppers. When still in his teens Robert left home to travel and work. He began his musical career as a harmonica player but switched to guitar around 1930 when he and a cousin, Houston Stackhouse, were working on a farm in Murphy's Bayou, Mississippi. Stackhouse, who had traveled with and learned from the Delta blues legend Tommy Johnson, recalled that he taught McCullum to play guitar, passing along much of the Johnson repertoire. At the same time McCullum taught his brother Percy to play harmonica, and the three began playing locally, eventually branching out to such Mississippi venues as Crystal Springs and Jackson.

After a mid 1930s altercation one that ...

Article

Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs, musician, singer, poet, and wit, was born in Minjar in eastern Ethiopia in 1876. He was the son of Ato Eshete Gobe, a servant of Ras Mekonnen, Emperor Menilek II’s governor of Harar, and Weyzero Woleteyes Habtu. Young Tesemma spent his early childhood in Harar, where he learned reading and writing in a church school, but upon his father’s death he moved to Addis Ababa. Later in 1908, at the age of thirty-one, he was chosen by Menilek to go to Germany with two other Ethiopians. They accompanied a departing German visitor, Arnold Holz, who in the previous year had driven to Addis Ababa in a Nache motor car, the second car to reach the Ethiopian capital—the first, a Wolseley driven by Bede Bentley, had arrived in the Ethiopian capital only a few months earlier.

While in Germany where he spent ...